month beforehand so could refamiliarize myself with some of the battleground again.
As most racers will relate to the run in to their big event of the year is tense. 2 weeks before the race, I started to get up early in order for my body to relate to the time I’d be surfacing during race week
and programme my body to train at 8am where possible (in order to simulate the 9am race start Spanish time). Eating as healthily as possible and trying not to catch the dreaded cold also played a huge part of pre race planning. The questions getting fired at you asking how you’ll get on seem difficult to honestly answer as doubt is always there. I guess I was in as good a shape as I could be, weight exactly where I wanted and 1% less body fat than the year before so from a self critical point that was as good as I could expect.
I met the boys in Luton for the flight out to Palma 3 days prior to the race start. We went out on the Sunday for a ride to recce the mountain stage with the Southdowns-Casco lads. At the top of the Battala climb
we had the traditional coffee stop, we were waiting a good 10 minutes before any sign of Malcolm,assuming he had a mechanical no-one was in too much of a rush to head back down to assist him as it would have meant climbing all the way back up again so we let time roll by till a decision was going to have to be made. He eventually appeared and was complaining of “dodgy guts”, but the coffee and cake was swiftly eaten so we figured he couldn’t have been that bad, so back to Pollensa via Llucc we went. With the Southdown lads we had a wee open the legs session just to get the travel out of the legs but once again no sign of Malcolm…..maybe the tummy issue was the real deal. Anyway he limped home and as the day was coming to a close we realised we had an issue on our hands as the lurgy was taking a grip and food was refusing to go through the normal channels.
Monday, the day before it all kicks off, the first question from the boys to Malc was “are you feeling better”. One thing you can rely on from him is you’ll get an honest answer and probably more descriptive and detailed than required, to put it bluntly he was ill. A visit to the shop to buy disinfectant spray and go through the apartment cleaning anything he touched (or thought about
touching!) was the role for all of us for the next 24 hours and selfishly pray that he kept it to himself.
As none of us were qualified nurses we opted to go out to play on our bikes
and top up the tans. I’m convinced my stomach was gurgling out on that ride in sympathy for Malc but really it was probably pre race nerves, after all these years you’d have thought I’d have grown out of! After a miserable day in bed Malc surfaced in the late afternoon. He headed to the cafe to ensure his bike was ready for stage 1 the following day.
Team talk was held after dinner each evening with Keith at the helm. The main thing on the rolly stage 1 was not to lose any time on anyone, in order to keep in contention for the overall which was our number one aim. With all of us briefed it was time to head back to the apartment and pack ready for the 6.45am pickup. I did the ritual of preparing the team bircher cereal for breakfast before retiring for the night.
Stage 1 saw our departure in a pitch black and nippy start to the day, with a little deviation to collect the wounded soldier Malcs bike, his job being just to try and complete the stage and recover as best possible.
We arrive at the start and there is the buzz of 25 police motorbikes, a huge inflatable finish line and a real continental feel that you only get abroad.
which I would have the honour of wearing in the Queen stage tomorrow.
After the hour’s journey back to Puerto Pollensa, it was to the Procafe for some proper coffee and a bite to eat and start preparations for stage 2. Evening meal is always a great time as a cyclist’s second pastime is eating (and drinking good coffee). Plus we were sharing a table with the Southdown boys so we heard their stories of how the 30-50 year olds race went, or the ‘kids
race’ amongst other titles it was given. Stomachs satisfied, it was time for the team brief for tomorrow’s stage. As Nick was out of the gc now, the plan was to get myself or Roy up the road early with Nick and a few others to expose the other gc riders to put them under pressure to chase.
We hit km 0 and it’s all a bit hesitant for the first km then sparks fly, Roy attacks taking some of the strong Brit boys, with Nick crossing the gap over to them. The green jersey sniffs the move and puts in an impressive effort to cross the gap solo to get the points he requires with the sprint coming just before the big 500m climb to hold onto his title for another day.The break is hanging out there at 40 seconds along the bumps after Pollensa town and this forces the other gc riders to chase them. I knew Nick’s role was to get Roy to the foot of the climb with as much time as possible then just take it from there. By the time we got to the foot of the climb with 40km of the stage remaining the break had over a minute, knowing Roy was the strongest climber in the race in previous years this was looking good but it’s a long run in from the summit to the finish solo.
The bunch hit the 19 min climb with a decent tempo, on the second hairpin a Spanish lad attacked and hung out 100 metres ahead. felt comfy and thought now’s time to see who’s got the legs in the bunch, put in my attack and the reaction behind from the GC riders was zero. I kept the pressure on and caught the riders from the break who were scattered all over the mountain, Nick was hanging in there riding his own tempo with Mike Jones, but the injuries he had from yesterday were not helping his cause. With most of the climb dealt with, only Roy and Andy Eagers were in front. If the 3 of us could connect and still have 1minute over the bunch going over the top then this may hold out. I caught Andy 500 metres before the summit and we rode over the summit with a 30sec gap on a 12man group behind and 40 seconds behind Roy who claimed the big mountain points on the summit.
After the top it descends for a short period before 6kms of grippy roads then it’s 500 metres of switchbacks and full tilt, edge of the seat adrenaline run on fully closed roads, this is awesome but also scary. Bruce in the team car passed Andy and myself just as we were about to tackle this. Andy lost a bit of time on this part and dealt with it in his own way. The group behind split with 5 of top descenders catching me just at the foot of the descent.
As the road levelled off with 17km remaining, the group containing the awesome 2016 winner
Jordi Codony and the other riders in the hunt for the overall were putting in a full tilt chase to get Roy back. I had an armchair ride hiding at the back with Roy aiming to get time over the others. Although I had the easiest ride in the group it was painful to watch Roy hanging out there seeing his 1 minute lead slowly get pulled back, with 5 riders committing to seeing the end to his heroic effort.
With 5 km remaining, the 7 riders who were dropped on the descent got up to us, this then messed up the chase so bought Roy a few more kms of suffering out there solo. He was currently dangling at 15 seconds and it was painful to watch.The usual attack sit up happened in remaining 2kms and I prepped myself for the gallop. Roy hung on by 2 seconds and deservedly got every riders dream win – in the front of Tolos – and put him in yellow while I took