637 Days To Go is my blog, which was originally started with exactly 637 days until the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. And now it's been re-started with 637 days until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Racing Update: Italy World Cup

Very quick update on the first World Cup of the year.

Flew out to Italy on the Tuesday to be greeted by some pretty warm temperatures. Even ran into fellow Para-T rider Rik Wadden in the airport!

Drove straight to the hotel, built up my bikes and headed out on the road for a quick look at the TT course. I had heard it was ‘hilly’ so was a bit concerned. But after riding it I realised it wasn’t too bad at all! Short at 12.5km and with no significant climbing, might actually give me a shot at doing well.

Spent the next couple of days getting more familiar with both the TT and road race courses and trying to get used to the heat. Heat really is my enemy and was more worried about that than the course itself.

I found it difficult to get any significant power out on the bike in the days leading up to the TT so was worried that something was wrong. When I woke up (early) on race day, I still had doubts as to how I would perform but all you can do is put them out of your mind and get into race mode.

And so before I knew it I was rolling down the start ramp and out onto the course. Even though it was only 9:30am, it was already 28 degrees. I was thankful the TT would be over quickly!

Within minutes I knew I was on form. It was a struggle to hold back the power and not overdo it from the gun. Always a good sign! I settled into my rhythm and just got on with it. It was a real pleasure to be riding a 100% closed-rode TT - so you are able to use the entire road and pick the best lines and surfaces.

As I made the final turn into the long uphill drag towards the finish (around 3km to go), I spotted 2 riders up ahead - my 1-minute and 2-minute men. I expected to catch the 2-minute man as he’s quite slow, but definitely did not expect to see the other rider (Simon Price who had beat me in the last TT in Italy). It meant I was probably having a good ride.

1km to go and I just piled it on, leaving it all out there. Onto the final few 100 meters across the cobbles and across the line. Most of the other riders were all there - collapsed at the side of the road from he heat and effort. It had been a tough ride for everyone.

A quick check of the timings and it was confirmed: I had won by less than 2 seconds! I can’t honestly say I expected to win, but it was both a joy and relief!

A couple of days later and we were back for the road race. 9 laps of the mostly flat circuit, with that same section of cobbles to negotiate each lap. I was worried about getting through some of the tight corners safely but in the end it worked out OK.

Like many of the races, it was fast and furious from the start. Several attacks straight away with a few riders initially getting away. I stayed near the front all race - and was able to help bring back the first escape, but when 2 of the riders got away again, there was nothing I could do.

From this point on, there were very few people willing to work at the front to bring back the 2 escaped riders - and so their advance grew with each passing lap. I could sense it was now a race for 3rd place - and it was going to be a bunch sprint.

With less than a lap to go I was still staying near the front but as we passed through the feed zone I felt my leg cramp up. I had to ease off the pedals to try and stop it getting worse. I immediately dropped back in the small bunch. As I moved back up, I was wary of the cramp coming back.

And so - we were into the last km - a straight road leading towards one last right hand turn onto the cobbles and a sprint to the finish line. I pushed on, trying to get to the front and into that last corned before the other riders, knowing this would be key to a high finishing position. But as we neared that turn I got boxed out - with riders on other side of me and nowhere to go.

We made the turn towards the finish and I sprinted for all I was worth, but sadly (for me) I ended up in 8th place (6th place in the bunch sprint). Nevertheless, finishing int he bunch is a step forward, especially after riding hard at the front all day.

Next up was the World Cup in Switzerland. Details to follow!