Today the organiser rewarded us with a shorter stage after yesterday’s mammoth day; it meant we could have an extra hour in bed because we didn’t have to be at the start until 11.30. The shorter stage wasn’t really a reward though; it was a mountain top finish time trial, in just 16kms we were to ride up 1100 metres! It was like doing a cross country world cup race after doing 2 of the hardest days riding I’ve ever done! Riders were set off every 30 seconds in reverse GC order so instead of suffering the pain along with other competitors you got to experience racing up a steep mountain route all alone.
Hopefully having read that you’ll have started to understand just how painful today was. 40 minutes of warm up I hoped would be enough to prepare my tired legs for the climb which started immediately from the line. Josh opted for a shorter warm up with the idea of increasing the pace on the climb rather than going flat out from the start.
Having completed the first 3 miles along the riverside there were riders ahead of me I was catching already, had I started too fast? After some fireroad climbing we entered a bumpy slow soggy section through a field, this was tough going and required a second energy gel.
Two thirds of the way through the climb we entered a flatter (sub 10% gradient) section which could be ridden in the big ring. I kept a good eye on the Garmin as it counted up the miles and felt good as the final kilometre countdown signs began. I increased the pace over the final steep section which entered a small flat section which I rode flat out thinking the finish was at the end of the road.
Rounding the corner with 300 meters to go the course kicked up, I had nothing left in the tank and this last section was a painful 25% gradient. I slumped over the bars and turned the pedals, those final meters seemed like miles. Crossing the line I muttered to Josh “that was the worst thing I’ve ever done”!
Josh elected to ride zone 4, apparently saving himself for tomorrows final stage where he’s going to fire his way up the general classification. Josh’s time was 1 hour 4, and I finished in 59 minutes.
Let the eating commence, hopefully the legs can survive one last stage. Oh, the bakery was closed when we got to town!