29 Feb

Tour of East Gippsland – Tough racing for GC win

Tour of East Gippsland would be my first state-level race after some 3 years. I had no idea how I would do. My thoughts about the race ranged from “I-will-absolutely-smash-it” to “I-hope-I-don’t-get-dropped” depending on training, mood and randomness of day.

The tour consisted of 3 Stages in 2 days:  
Stage 1 (Sat morning): 8km TT
Stage 2 (Saturday afternoon): 72km Road Race
Stage 3 (Sunday morning): 54km Road Race
So there was no messing around between the stages. It was a full on weekend.
Stage 1: So all racers can smell blood (probably their own) and get some nice lactate boost in their legs, we started the tour with a 8km Time Trial, 4km uphill, turn around and then 4km uphill (ok, maybe it was more downhill but man, it felt like an uphill to me!)
Result: I got fourth, 35 seconds behind the leader. And I can clearly state the reason for this slack: no TT bike (15 sec), no aero helmet (5 sec), no racing wheels (14.7 sec), no TT gloves (I am sure that counts for 300 milliseconds). (Please do not quote me on the accuracy of the times as I might have pulled them out of my BS box). But you get my point, I had a solid amount of excuses lined up.
Stage 2: To stir up the so-said lactate production from Stage 1 earlier that day, we were facing some lumpy 72km road course. If I say lumpy, I am not talking about some rollers you can push over but some never-ending minutes hills when hit right, you might end on the top by yourself (your choice if dropped or ahead of the group).
So off we went. The temperature and the terrain would produce the perfect “cyclist-BBQ”- first getting beaten up by the hills and then grilled to perfection so we will be fully smoked by the finish.
The race became interesting when two racers got away on that aforementioned hill and I was not one of them. I chased them like hell and guess what!
I caught on!
But by literally one second when a corner came and they accelerated out of it. Well, I was already in acceleration mode and my engine light was blinking wildly indicating momentarily explosion. In short: I couldn’t keep up.   
Misery sunk in. Dammit! Scheisse!
I looked back. Three riders a few hundred meters behind me. I waited.
Four of us worked together and chased the other two up and down the hills in the heat. One of the lead girls got a flat so it was one girl in visible distance to get. The chase would take another 30km.
We had one more serious hill to climb before the finish and 10km to go.
All of a sudden it hit me like a rock.
I had a good shot in winning this stage! (It might have been my delirious, exhausted melting self-confidence talking and apparently it was not connected to my legs. Because my legs told me a different story. Something like “Shit, another climb! How the hell are we getting over that one?”)
Anyway, we went up the climb together and as soon as it flattened out I started pushing some big gears and got the German diesel going.
I looked in the shadow to see if anyone joined me.
No one.
Then I saw the follow vehicle of the leader.
Passed follow vehicle.
Passed leader.
And then that time started where seconds feel like minutes and minutes like hours. I was deep in the pain cave. Heart rate maxed out.
Would they catch me?
The follow vehicle pulled up: “35 seconds gap”
Ok. That means I had a shot for General Classification (GC) if I keep that pace.
Back into the pain cave.  The kilometres didn’t pass. It seemed forever.
Finally the turn to the slight uphill finish stretch.
I shifted in the small ring. Absolutely no legs left.
And I made it! I couldn’t believe it!
Result: First place and got the GC jersey. 1:19min lead over second place. Fully exhausted but massively happy.
Stage 3: If there was something left in anyone’s legs, then that would be the perfect stage for them. 54km of more undulating terrain. I knew this would be a very different race for me than yesterday.
From offense to defence. I had to take on the role as a herd dog. Whoever tried to run away, I had to chase. If not, I am a happy camper in the herd.
Although two got away, my GC was not threatened so I rolled in with the peloton.
Result: Bunch finish. But GC lead!
Result 2: Since this was the first VRS race of the season, I got the jersey as well.
Happy ending. Getting ready for Three Peaks Challenge in two weeks.

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