I guess my description of the actual race in Trento has been a little skimpy up until now and it deserves a bit more than that. So for all of you that like to read blow by blows of bike races here we go 😉
I had taken it easy leading up to the race and felt like I had eaten well, so things were as they should be. Good nights sleep, had scouted the course, there in good time, nothing to fault. Actually there was one thing. I believe I had a good plan, and if I had believed a little more in myself the outcome of the race might have been different (better/worse I can’t say).
We got sent off and I worked my way to the front, shortly after which a fellow Kiwi, Karl Murray broke away and was soon 20-30m in front of the peloton. This was my plan! Take off early and attach myself to some good riders from another age group that had left earlier than us. It is often that it takes quite a few kms of riding before the speed really starts to pick up so the start was a good chance to close some gaps. My first instinct was to ride up to him and work together on the plan. The problem I was now presented with was that I was pulling the peloton from the front and any move made by me would be followed by others. One of the golden rules of road racing (I only just learnt the other day) is that if your team mates are in the breakaway then you most certainly don’t do any work in helping others to close the hole up to them. So I did the opposite, I slowed down. It was painful to watch Karl disappear off in to the distance with a frenchman tacked onto his rear wheel but I felt at the same time I had fulfilled my first bit of real teamwork ever. The first climb, after just 8 km, was longer than I remembered and we started to hit the slower remnants of other age groups. I had wanted to make sure that I was at the front of our group on the descent but I quickly realized that there was no ‘front’ any more as we were making our way through 40-44 and 45-49ers. It was also here that we hit the first trouble. There was a pretty big crash on the way down with riders apparently crashing on a couple of different turns. They were all on the edge of the road by now and offered no danger to us, the only remaining risk was not hitting the ambulance officers that were now on the scene and busy telling us to slow down. After the bottom of the hill there were some efforts to push the speed up and drop some dead weight. This didn’t work and we soon became 6-8 riders doing the work for 30-40. Roadies can be selfish and tiring sometimes. After the speed sank again when there was no fresh meat to lead any longer we soon got passed by the two fastest riders from the 30-34 age group. They were flying! So we quickly latched on to their back wheels and the race was on again. We sat with them all the way to the bottom of the next climb, managing to collect another large group of 40-44’s on the way. It was here that I found out that Karl was possibly another 15 minutes ahead of us, a formidable lead! I really hoped I wouldn’t see him again.
The next climb was a goodie with about 800m of vertical. This was the last time that I saw the true front of our group, including the two that had pulled us for the last 15km. I just couldn’t climb that fast and my legs were starting to get a little crampy. Other than that it went fine and I relished it when the speed went up as we hit the top and started along the flat section through the forests at 980m. The next piece was the only one that fitted the plan that I had originally laid. Be at the front on the descent. I consider myself good at going down and it is a place where you can gain some free time, put in some distance without wasting energy. I clocked a new top speed, managed to pass an extremely well tanned italian guy on the way down and a couple of riders that had dropped me at the start of the climb. For the uninitiated tans are very important, they are a sign of how much time you spend on your bike. When you are sizing up people before the race starts, bikes are nothing, they just indicate income. Legs muscles can often be more the results of genetics than anything, but tans, tans tell all. Normally you have nothing to fear from a pasty guy on a €10,000 bike, it just screams ‘desk jockey’.
My efforts had paid off in that I only had a little riding to do to pick up a new group up front. A real mish-mash of age groups and not moving very fast, but a nice shelter form the wind none the less. We stayed together till the bottom of the last climb. My legs were cramping quite badly by this stage and the number of racers on the road seemed almost to be increasing. My legs always cramp in road races and it has really left me wondering if I shouldn’t just find another sport that I am more suited to. The next 20km went very slowly. I was ok for the first 5, standing up in the pedals helped get rid of the cramps and I crawled up at an ok speed. But then I really started to go flat, used almost only the easiest gear that I had, and got passed by more than I passed myself. It was a bit demoralizing, and probably the greatest reason I wouldn’t do the race again. There were just too many people on the road that had nothing really to do with my race, they were mostly older or younger than me and so of no concern in the overall results. In fact in the whole climb I passed four from my age group and was passed by two. The actual number of cyclists that went the one way or the other I lost track of after a very short time. It was here that I passed Karl Murray. A dog had run out in front of him on the 2nd descent while he was doing about 70 km/h, he had bunny hopped it but it’s tail had clipped he derailleur and he had lost the use of his easiest gears. That combined with the fact that he had over done the start of the race resulted in him going cold. But like he said, ‘It was all or nothing’
The high point of this last section was the fact that I did have a little ‘kick’ in the last 5 km, managed to change up a couple of gears and really start passing people again. Crossing the line wasn’t as dramatic as I had hoped for and it took me way to long to get to my first, second and third beers. The Italians have a lot to learn from the Belgians about making beer. Bring on the winter…