It was another beautiful day for racing. Temperatures hovering around freezing point, strong winds and snow in the forecast!!!
The course was fairly technical. Lots of turns and one solid climb to the finish line. Multiply by 18 laps in treachery weather and you have potential for mayhem.
Neutral zone be damned!! The pace was furious right from the gun, with speeds reaching 60km/hr in the tail wind. There were few chances for breakaways to succeed so it would come down to a war of attrition.
The packed stayed fairly coherent for the first half of the race but cracks were starting to show. Riders were cracking on the left, riders were cracking on the right. Sudden decelerations were causing collisions and crashes every time we hit the climb. Chains were breaking, wheels were rubbing. Somehow I managed to avoid the carnage. People were cracking left, right and center but the pace was relentless. And when it slowed I went out front to keep the pressure on.
In retrospect that was a rather foolish move. Given the cold weather I had decided to start the race with only 1 bottle and no food. But due to the fast pace and the windy conditions, I went through most of the bottle with 5 laps still to go. After leading the peleton up the climb and into the wind for 2 consecutive laps and with 3 laps to go I started running on empty. By then the pack had disintegrated and there was only a group of 25-30 riders left at the front.
I moved to the back of the group hoping to just cruise in the draft and conserve as much energy as possible. As we neared the climb for the 15th time, I could feel the pasty taste of dryness in my mouth and the complete emptiness in my muscles when your body is clamoring for sugar. All I had to do was survive the climb and hang on for 2 more laps…
And then an attack, halfway up the climb!!! Legs don’t fail me know!!! I stood up and tried to respond. LEGS???? LEGS???? HELLLLOOOOO!!!!! ANYBODY THERE?????? Alas. It was not to be on the day. As I hit the crest a gap of 30-40 meters had already formed. I valiantly tried to bridge the distance but to no avail.
A quick look back indicated that the chase group was some ways back. It was now a question of survival. Could I keep the chasers at bay?
1 lap down. 1 to go. The chase pack has made inroads to closing the gap. A few riders have broken away at the front and closing in fast. Ah, what I would give for a sweet chocolate bar right now. My legs feel rubbery, my body empty. But the hope of survival gets me to the bottom of the final climb. With great effort I make it halfway up before getting caught by a couple of riders. A few hundred meters to the finish line… The chase pack is still at bay.
I cross the finish line and go straight for the car. I quickly pillage through anything remotely drinkable or edible. All is good. Disappointing finish but by my own doing at least. No crashes this time.