Saturday, 3 July 2010

Four races, four Podiums: Classicas do Sotavento, Tour de Gironde, Volta ao Alentejo, Volta ao Minho

I rested a week in May. This was before the "Classicas do Sotavento" a trio of national events held in the east of the Algarve. I am not fond of these races and they did not go well for me, despite my form being exceptional. I felt I should have been given more responsibility. I displayed my form in the night time circuit on the first day. We did however win the Team classification and the great Cândido Barbosa won the main race and the Portuguese cup. So it was fantastic.

After this we went to Gironde. This Tour again didn't go well, but I did win the mountains classification. On the first stage I spent the first two hours attacking for the break. I didn't manage to get away. I then sat in and rested. The end was a flat 5km circuit. Given we had three sprinters on the team, I hit the front and did 5km flat out at 50-53kph and annulled the break. I had mistakenly though we were on the last lap however, but we were on the penultimate. Fortunately my team mates then held it together to set the sprint up perfectly for Samuel Caldeira, who finished 3rd.

The next day we were free to attack and I did. The race went off at a furious pace, but I managed to get away with eight others. We worked well together and held off a pack chasing us down with great urgency. They caught us about 50k from the end, which naturally resulted in another break going. This one I was unfortunate to miss. It arrived how with about 30 cyclists, 5min ahead of the main bunch.

The final day I was given the responsibility of winning the Mountains Classification. I and team mate Luis Silva, got away with lots of class doing a fantastic and very fast attack that bridge to the escape which was 500-600m away in an instant. In the group things went well and I seemed set to win the classification. That until, me and Luis slid out on a off camber corner. We had asked for 8bars in the tires, however, I reckon there was rather more, which meant handling was treacherous in the damp weather.

I was full of adrenaline and joined the bunch in an instant. Nervous and protected by Cândido Barbosa, I got to the front 1km from the first mountains prize of the day and put eh hammer down. 7 went on my wheel and a cheeky one nipped past on the line. He was to become my rival for the classification. This also became the winning move in the race. I bother only with the Mountains. Just as well; as I blocked my sciatic nerve in the form. My left leg would "buckle" when I tried sprinting out of the saddle. This I discovered to finish 7th in the stage...

The Volta ao Alentejo I was also in. I was suffering from "rhinitis" and sciatica, so although I finished and pulled my weight, helped form and echelon and control the final stage, I was disappointed. My team mates were on fire and we won a stage with Cândido and the race with David Blanco. Alejandro Marque came second. We also and deservedly won the team classification. As our hard work guaranteed this victory.

Volta ao Minho. I love this race. It has a lot of bad things about it; it's dangerous, badly marshaled, pathetic prize money. But I love the Minho! I love the sinewy, hilly roads. My biggest amateur victory was a mountain top finish in the Minho. It's terrain that lends itself to my characteristics. On the first day, the race was rather weak. I attacked and was followed by twelve guys, including 4 team mates. One of these is a particularly good climber; Ricardo Mestre. Knowing Ricardo Mestre was with us me and Luis Silva put the hammer down and in 20km put 2:20min into the bunch chasing behind. The idea was to bring him with some advantage to the last mountain of the day. We gave him a 40sec advantage, but he was unable to arrive isolated at the finish line, being caught near the top of the last mountain.

The next day was a dangerous transition day. This was annoying and indeed, an amateur fell in front of me. I landed okay, but got winded. I was panicking trying to breath! I changed bad on eventually. There should be a minimum standard for these "pro-am" races. Maybe a hill climb on the first day, where those not apt can be excluded.

On the last day, 16km in, I attacked to catch the wheel of a couple of guys ahead. Incredibly this gave rise to a situation rather like the first day. We were contesting the over all. I put the hammer down and off we went! We gained 6min in the next hour. Only me and a couple of team mates. We left Ricardo at the final climb with 2:40, we dully defended, loosing only 1:25m and won the race. It was fantastic. I came second int he metas voltantes pulling through, we won the team prize and I won a special sprint. Happy days!

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