Friday 5 June 2009

TransPortugal Day 6

Portugal: 4.  Erik: 2.  Like a spring classic?

Today was very windy (straight headwind for 6 hours) and Portugese flat - no elevation change but a hundred rollers along the way to sap your strength.  I have no idea what the spring classics are like, but I picture them like this.  Overcast and riding around fields, on not smooth roads for 5 hours, so you just hurt real bad, break up into groups, and then 2km out wind it up for a finish.

About half way in we crossed a river, I was with the leaders and they rode the river bad, don't know why I thought it would be a good idea to stay on their wheels ; )

Up the hill on the other side, I rode with them.  At the top they looked back, saw me, and were like WTF.  I sort of felt the same when I shoulder checked and the rest of the group was a minute down the hill.  We rode off.

A while later, the TT types had caught up to us and we had a good group going for the wind.  When I say wind, this was like riding into a Chinook on a mountain bike all day.  It was horrid, and I usually don't mind a good wind challenge.

Over a few rollers the group broke up, and the leaders pulled away by a couple meters.  My mistake of the day was that I didn't tag onto their wheel again.  They rode a survival pace today and I could have done it.  Only fear is if they blow me off somewhere and I'm left alone.

Rest of us went along, but slower.  With the handicap starting system, we had caught everyone except Tom and Matt, and I now knew that once the leaders caught them, they'd stay away in 4 man group, as even Joao and Frans want some respite from the wind... Rest of us were riding for 5th.

I stopped for water at some point where nobody else did and TT'd back on.  I should have got more, man these guys are like camels.  Some cranky Belgian got on my wheel when I was chasing.  I gave him the arm flick to ask for a pull twice, didn't get one.  I verbally asked (nicely) and that didn't work either.  Ok so I figured this was dead weight, attacked, and left him in the wind on his own.  I wonder if he's having fun, haven't seen him smile yet this week.  I wouldn't be enjoying it if some jackass canuck just left me out to dry in the hurricane!  I quit being philisophical at that point as I knew he'd do the same to me if he could, such is racing.

Somewhere in the next 40 mins I lost my GPS.  With the group and farm roads, I didn't have to look at it much, so no idea where.  Sucks... I think finishing without one is a 3 hour time penalty.  Oh well, I'll just ride out the race.

We do enough fields until I'm about to lose my marbles.  It's like mental torture.  I'm sitting at the back for a minute and eating something light as I've been out of water for the last 25km of the race, and things start going fast.  I thought we might be coming up to a fountain as guys want to be first to fill and depart.  I ask buddy next to me and he says 2km left.

Well... I look up and the two nicest Belgian dudes (Dries and Thomas) have the group strung out into ones and they're 15m ahead.  Some people didn't even try the acceleration out of our group of 9 I think so it was delayed getting back to me.

Ok, I know this drill.  Head down and hammer.  I pick all but 2 Portugese and the two Belgians off easy.  Takes me a few seconds to catch the Portugese, then I blow by.  Head down and hammering, I look up and don't see the Belgians, even though I'd re-closed it down to probably 15m (they're working together and opening it up).  Right... I don't have a GPS, and the last system of turns I have no idea how to make... kind of anti-climactic to wait in the last hot section after dropping most of them... anyway I wait for the Portugese and they attack each other and seperate.  I go with the fast one, and tell him I'll follow him in as I have no GPS, he doesn't have to worry.  We hammer up a road like there's no tomorrow since he's afraid the other guy will gain, but I don't know why as he's losing ground.

There's a bunch of people shouting, and he starts sprinting like mad.  I stay on his wheel pretty easily, then see a big arrow on the pavement, and the banner far away.  I ride past him and make it for the banner pretty easily ahead of him, shoulder check for good measure, and see the poor dude for no apparent reason take a wrong turn, he must have not seen the green finish setup.  Either way didn't really change things.

Antonio is at the line and tells me I got 7th, the Belgians had just rounded the corner and were slowing down at the back of the finish area.  I told him I may have finished 7th, but you're not going to be happy because that GPS I rented is out in some farmer's field, so I'll really be last or whatever.

And he said what matters more - "but at least we see you have good legs".

I'm going to err on the side of carrying more water (I'm already carrying a lot) but these guys just run dry, and I want to save those TT's for the end, I want to duke it out with those Belgians... they're not on that big team and are fun guys. 

On the training side, I'd say today was a high quality effort.  This race is 1,000+km long, and it seems like they've planned it all out to give you about as few "free" kilometers as possible.  It's just work from go to finish every day, geez.  If it isn't heat, it's a 143km into a fierce headwind and endless rollers!

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