Monday, 22 February 2016

ABR - The big day and the mass start

The mass start
Yesterday was a pleasant time trial start, just me and Sally bumbling down the road at our own pace. Today was the mass start and our category was gridded about a third of the way down the field. When the hooter went the chaos began as hundreds of Masters Men sped past us as we made our way around the narrow, twisting start roads. How ten cyclists fit across one road lane, riding within inches of one another at 20mph+ always astonishes me, considering the varying abilities. Soon the peloton was snaking out in front of us as far as the eye could see; a thousand riders strong, five times the size of the Tour de France.

Then came the inevitable bottle neck on the first climb and from then on it was a constant stream of riders grinding up the hill when gears would allow and walking when the going got tough. After an hour and a considerable amount of hike a bike we were almost at the top of the first climb. Last night we’d decided today would be the ‘hardest day’ at 76km and 2,400m of ascent, topping out at around 1,300 metres twice, so it would be a case of head down and just get through it.

I’d previously joked with a friend that by the end of stage 2 I’d be shattered and at the end of stage 3 I’d be on my knees, sobbing and in need of a hug. With 40km to go I’d already entered the stony cold silent phase, when there’s nothing but emptiness inside; too tired to speak and look up, never mind moan or cry and you just want it to be over. Some might joke this is the point at which people have a sense of humour failure, but really it’s just your body shutting down all non-essential functions such as the need to process human speech, never mind action an appropriate response to witty comments.

Hike a bike
Even the descents were taking their toll – burning glutes, aching arms and weak hands having to grab the brakes with two fingers – a momentary lapse of concentration could lead to disaster. Having not ridden off road since Christmas it’s amazing how quickly your descending techniques come back to you when faced with 10 steep, rocky switchbacks in a row. This is when 20 years of experience of riding a variety of bikes comes in very handy.

The last 10km contained a colourful selection of expletives followed by “this isn’t on the bloody profile” until finally, after almost 6 hours, we reached the finish line and somehow managed a short sprint to make sure we were under the magic 6 (it mattered to us). Done. Well and truly done. One of the hardest days I’ve ever had on a mountain bike.

To our surprise we were met by an organiser telling us we’d actually come third and were needed for the podium in ten minutes – clearly this was met with hysterical laughter and the best high five we could muster which wasn’t very impressive. Stage 2 results for the Andalucia Bike Race are here.

No comments: