The much anticipated start of Roadie season kicked off with the Orbit Tour De Worcester on Sunday. It’s a far drive from home so the night before was spent packing, and the alarm went off at 4:25am to get up and going to make the start. The morning was clear and calm and looked like awesome conditions to race in, it wasn’t even that cold and I lined up in summer gear with no warmers needed.
The route was mostly flat, and without wind to shake things up. The course had been revised and although it kept to the same loop almost, the climb was now very early on, at least I didn’t have to hit it after some hard miles. This was perfect for me as most people were still cold, and no-one would want to spend all day off the front.
We rolled up to the rise nice and easy and then expectedly the attacks shot off the front, Ed Greene covered everything, the man’s in top form and danced over to whoever was firing off the front. Once we hit the descent and twisties through town I was in my element and jumped a few times to make sure everyone was still attentive.
Through the flatlands Ed, Jos, Peter and I took turns attacking at will in random intervals. The bunch was very alert and didn’t let us have an inch to spare. Ed was relentless in his effort and I ground out some hard yards on front to try and break the tether…In the end though it was Jos that escaped after a hard effort from me and followed by Ed, which allowed to Jos get away with Theuns, Alistair Davies, Leonardo and a few others. We allowed it to go clear and gave them a long leash. Most teams were represented and the break stuck.
Intellibus were not in the break, but instead of bringing it back they tried to cross over with a lone rider. This didn’t work and several hard kilometres later he faded back into the pack. The bunch was now nearing the gravel and we wound our way along the lead-up. Nervous overtaking ensued as usual as riders tried to position themselves well before hitting the crunchy stuff. My legs had mysteriously given up their get up and go they had in the early stages and I was feeling decidedly slow, like the brakes were on…I checked, they weren’t 😦
I hoped against hope that I could regain some strength and I sat mid pack to rest…that didn’t do much good either. Then we hit the final climbs before the gravel, attacks came and I slipped back allowing myself to drift and not consume too much energy. On the dirt proper the pace leapt up as expected and my lungs and legs were getting incinerated. I could not hold the pace and I faded to almost out the back. I had a great smooth line up the right, but everyone else was on the left and I had no wind protection. Gav Rossouw, a fellow MTBiker followed me and we took turns helping each other to use the line. It worked well as we popped off the gravel in the second bunch and chased back fairly easily to rejoin the attacking bunch in time to go over the following rollers together.
I moved back up to the front of the pack, where an interesting dynamic had changed the race. Alistair had punctured. He was a firm favourite to win the sprint in the breakaway bunch and this now left Jos with better odds. We let it hang. Daikin now did the chasing and I did the policing. My legs had re-fired and I felt strong again. I rode just behind the rotating riders as they gave chase, ready to go with anyone trying to cross. Herman Fouché chased with Erik Kleinhans and David Garett, but they fell short by about 30 seconds still left to haul in when we approached the final 2km.
Rob Quinn was moving up and I saw him take my rear wheel, I was perfectly positioned for a leadout and I held the left hand line through the last bend and up to the 800m mark. I lone rider jumped away but I didn’t panic and he faded back to us at 500m, I was almost at full steam, and the sprint was hotting up behind me, Rob heard some gears clicking away behind him and he launched at 350m to go up my left hand side. I was fading and the riders blew past me but Rob hugged the left and no-one could get by, in the end winning the bunch sprint by 10m for 5th. Jos has been outgunned by track riders to sprint him into third place after trying to wear them down in the last 5km left him without enough kick to break free.
3rd and 5th was good enough to hand us the lead in the Team Competition of the league and we hope to maintain and extend it going into the double this weekend.