With the league delicately balanced and three key players away at the Tour of South Africa, we wanted to capitalise on this race, we asked a lot of all the riders and in the end it didn’t come together for us, a few mistakes crept in and we went backwards.
The day was good, a nice late start at 6:45 meant I only had to get out of bed at 4:30 am! There was little wind to start with but it would tell out in the flatlands that are wide open and exposed.
Early in the race Hels Hoogte loomed, a small escape went away from the gun, guys eager for a head start more than a climber attack. We chased it down before we started the climb and settled into a rhythm that was soon disrupted by skinny boys that are less affected by gravity, the bunch groaned and followed. Hels is long, but smooth and wide. I soon filtered back to the autobus and ground out a sustainable pace somewhere in the Red zone.. I made sure I didn’t loose too much ground and also followed some riders and took shelter, making sure I had some company on the way down, the bunch split was quite big and many riders fell off after the pace hotted up.
Over the top we were a little off but i found my big blade (now bigger in anticipation of the chase downhill) and set about a return to the peloton. I could pedal at 70km/h which was advantage me. Most followed and I asked for help only on the slower or rises of the descent. Luckily the descent has recently been retarred, so it’s fast and long. Before the pack turned off to the left we had regrouped.
It was a long interval for me and I needed to recover, but in spending energy in the big gears I had rejuvenated my piriformis muscle spasm and it set about making my life a misery from the 25km mark. it was trapping the sciatic nerve and numbing my right leg while simultaneously burning like a red hot poker in my hip. I tried massage and stretching, but it didn’t help much.
I tried to ignore it, sitting on front with Peter and putting in a bit of a gutter and chasing some attacks. Rob and Edward got into a good move and they had a nice break and were going away in the gutter, and the wind was putting the brakes on the chase. I say in and watched Daikin who had missed out. Jos tried to jump across, but only succeeded in dragging the bunch closer to the break. Alister jumped to take Moolies across and I sat on their wheel and let them take me too. The threat was now too great and the whole pack followed closing down the move that should have stayed away for the day. Back to square one.
more attacks went and came back quickly, my hip was now on fire. I had no power in it and could only spin while compensating with my left leg, and standing up was OK-ish to chase surges up rollers. I should have been on front causing havoc in the gutter but I was powerless and could only barely hold onto the tail end while praying for a peaceful ride homewards.
A lone breakaway went up the road and nobody reacted, it should have been closed down immediately but he got too much rope and we had to get organised for the chase, I spent my last matches here. Ivan and I took turns and we were closing in fast enough. Up the last two rollers i popped out the back, no power and the pain had become unbearable 30km ago and I sat up and rode home in the company of two other riders as fast as we all could go.
Meanwhile Edward had to close a counter attack when the lone rider was caught, spending too much energy to be successful in the final km. Alister found another gear and jumped very early, and managed to hold out way longer than Rob anticipated and we landed up with 5th and Jos in 7th. Daikin cleaned up in the team points ruining our weekend, and run of podiums!
Lesson learnt, and off to the next one.