Spring League has dawned with the TDW and an awesome sunny day greeted us as we emerged from the Tunnel. The thermometer reading a scant 9 degrees, crisp and cool, and zero wind to speak of.
We are fielding a few new names, Stuart Davies joins the ranks, and Carel Bezuidenhoud too after a great MTB season. Christo Botha on loan from the Vets racing team will race with us this spring league as well.
We had a team talk and warmup, which was more like a cool down as the air was so cold, and go the tactics in line for the day.
The race rolled away at 7:35 and the pace was easy as the legs loosened up and we waited for the sun to take effect. There were a few small lunges early on as guys tested the legs. Luke, Carel, Christo and Rob kept things in check while Stu and I sat in and watched. Around 10km before the gravel section 4 riders slipped away and Luke gave chase but ended up bridging alone and he joined the break. We sat in and left it up to the other teams to take responsibility for the chase. Luke’s break made good time and they had a nice gap of about 2 minutes by the time the main peloton entered the gravel – this is considered the real racing start, and the riders piled in like nervous race horses. There was a bit of bunching and I got a little boxed in. I cleared over to the right and rode up a fantastic piece of hardpack dirt alone. The surface was good and I was now closing on the front bunch which had split from the peloton. I managed to join them as they crested and found Stuart there in a good position too. We were among the top GC contenders and we worked with them to get away from the pack on the decent and following rollers. We had a gap of around 1 minute and it stayed like that for about 20km. Our break worked well together and we started closing on the front break of 5 riders.
As we entered the town section we closed the gap and now had a bigger bunch to work with, Luke was there too and we could now work as a team. The chasing peloton had closed on us too and they were hot on our heels. We re-organized our paceline and got back to work before the last climb at around 75km. The gap was small, the chase was nearly upon us as we crested the last sharp roller and hit the descent.
We had made it over the rise still clear and it looked like we had broken the chase as we quickly opened up time over the bunch again. The short roads and twists meant they couldn’t see their target and must have slowed. We carried on in our paceline and made sure we were clear.
The last 10km was easier as we knew we’d cracked it and the tactics crept in. Guys started missing turns to recover and the urge the pull fell away.
Inside the last 2 km we started jostling for position in the sprint, I started a feint cramp and tried to drink as much as I had left to try stave them off. I was boxed in and was on the wrong side of the road, Luke was just ahead of me and inside 500to go I called on him to take me through to more right. Tim Osrin heard me and quickly switched onto Luke’s wheel, nearly putting me into the gravel. I followed the two of them round and the sprint kicked off. I could feel the legs tensing up and gave what I could but just couldn’t hit the high gears I wanted, the sprint was super tight, and I didn’t know where I came though the photo finish reveals an excellent 4th place!
Stu was just behind me in 6th and Luke rounded out the top 10 in 9th. Three of us in the top 10 meant 2nd place in the team competition.