We are now in France after a great weekend of wet racing. I must admit when I was invited to race in Spain and France I never thought to look into what the weather was going to be like. I mean bike racing in Europe is living the dream so much so I only assumed it would be sunny and 75-deg (the weather condition of my dream world). Well the surprise is on me. The weather is actually very Montana like with temps in 40 to 50's with lots of spring rain.
Due to the rain racing was a bit crazy at times with several crashes taking place as riders played the game of risk. The first race of this stage race was a time trial that started with short up hill followed by a super fast twisty downhill before turning around and racing back up to the top. As the starting line judge counted down from 10-sec to my start the heaven opened up and began unloading all they had on the roads I was about to race my 20mm wide inflated to 160-psi racing slicks down. To say I was nervous would have been and understatement. Tentative as I was on the downhill I made my legs burn on the uphill stopping the lock 24 sec off the lead comfortable in 2nd place for the race. By the time the 2nd stage time trial rolled around things had dried out and the coarse was primed for fast times. Knowing the start would be in reverse order and that I would be being chased by the winner of the days earlier time trial I was motivated to get out to a good pace. On go I was quick to get up to speed and then eased into full speed in order to prevent myself from blowing up in the first few Km. As the kilometers began to tick by I felt myself becoming more confident in my strength and consequently I dug deeper as if I was being fuelled by the burning I was feeling in my legs. By the half way mark I had caught the 3rd place rider whom had started 30 seconds in front of me, and again I twisted the throttle. As I came speeding through town to the finish line I was pedaling on fumes but also feeling pretty good about my effort. Turns out I was not just feeling like I was riding well I was indeed rolling fast, once the final riders were in it was confirmed I had won the TT for my category but I had also set the fastest time of the day on the coarse. Combing the times from the first two stages I was 2nd in the general classification and only 8-seconds back from first.
Eight seconds seems like a short time on the surface but when you are the only US rider in the race and their are 15+ Spanish riders and one of them is beating you by only 8-seconds those become a long/hard seconds to overcome. Sunday was the road race and on que the rain began in full tilt 30 minutes before the start of the race. As we rolled out of town a pack of 80+ plus riders the number one question was not are there going to be crashes rather when and who....and it did not take long. By the time we had completed the first of five laps there had been two crashes and several avoided in the group, hence there was only one safe place to ride the front of the race. Fortunately for me I had no choice, I had to be on the front in order to cover the endless attacks from the Spanish as they tried to unseat me from 2nd place, I was a marked rider to say the least. Try as the did I bridged and covered each attack despite the fatigue building in my legs and as if putting salt in my own wounds I attacked over the final climb 3-km to the finish in hopes of gaining back the 8-seconds I need to win the general classification. I was able to get a gap over the final climb only to have it pulled back by the Spanish Armada in the final 500 meters. With tank on empty and my legs heavy like cement I sprinted for the finish but could only muster a 4th place. As the rain slowed, I was left gasping for air having secured my 2nd place overall. Not a bad start to the year I would say.
In other news I was fortunate enough to bump in to David Stone, the PF sponsored rider. He had an incredible weekend dominating his field in all three races and walking away with the overall win. It would seem David is pretty used to winning as he has a magnificent aim and timing with the victory Champagne completely soaking one of my teammates, I hope to take some lessons from him later this year.
More racing this weekend...I will keep you posted. Sam