BANG, SMASH, CRASH!!!!! This was how stage 3 of the Ras started and this was all in the neutralized zone! With the weather looking grim once again and it already spitting with rain, the stage began with 3 miles of neutralized and with in that 3 miles there was absolute chaos as a rider punctured and went down in the middle of the bunch. As the riders around him reacted to the crash, a few riders swung out in to the opposite lane, at the same time a Motorcycle outrider was coming past the group and the rider collided with the motorcycle which flung him and his bike back in to the bunch which the caused another series of crashes. Thankfully none of our team were involved and after a bit of extended neutralized so as the race would regroup, soon the actual race was underway.
I had been feeling bad for a few days but this morning it was a whole new level for me, I felt terrible. The legs wouldn't work and my lungs were tighter than a play girls corset!! This was bad new because stage 3 was a 60 mile Road Race which consisted of 3 laps of a circuit which contained a very steep, punchy climb which kicked again as it crested the top. For the first lap I was sat towards the back as usual dreading what was to come, the rest of the team were up towards the front ready for action. This is very frustrating for me because all I want to do is be up there helping the squad but with the situation I’m in at the minute I just cant, hopefully next year things will be different.
Anyway, the time is now and and soon enough we hit the climb for the first time, I went straight to the back of the font group giving it everything to hang on, Tony and Ade were looking good at the front, Mike was at the back with me but i think this is because he had a mechanical. I got gapped slightly at the top but I managed to get back to the leaders on the descent. The second time we hit the climb it was pretty much the same situation with me getting gapped and then managing to claw my way back to the group. I was feeling it at this point and was not looking forward to the third and final time up the ascent.
As we approached the climb for the final time I tried to make my way up towards the font so as to allow myself some slipping room on the climb. I was climbing with the main group and not feeling to bad but as we crested the top our very own Adrian Bird attacked and the group accelerated over the top. Although i was feeling ok a few riders up ahead let the wheels go which meant that all of us behind had now lost contact as well. We formed up in to a group which then set to work in order to get back to the main field. I was just tapping through and not doing much work because i had no need as RPC still had 3 riders in the main filed. Eventually the group i was in did make contact with the leaders and it was then that i was informed that Adrian was still up the road.
The last few miles were all on draggy dual carridge ways with a nasty head wind, Adrian held a gap of about 15-20 seconds on the group with another rider out in front about the same distance ahead of Adrian. The bunch were speeding along and eventually they scooped Arian up but undeterred by this, Ade kept drilling it on the front all the way to the line. We all finished up in the main group and none of us lost time on GC which was pleasing. I think most people were just happy to get through the stage given the crashes that took place in the early stages. It was clearly a tough stage because there were a umber of riders which finished outside of the time limit but even so, these were allowed to continue on due to the fact that stage 2 was cancelled.
Stage 4 – The Team Time Trial, 11.8 Miles
We have all seen it in the Tour de France and other big stage races and know how crucial they can be to the overall standings, a Bad TTT can ruin the chances of even the strongest GC contender. This would be the first time that we had ridden a TTT as a team and apart from a little practise the other week after a race, we had done no specific training. However, we knew we were all descent testers and knew that this would be our chance to to make a statement on the GC and hopefully put some of our riders up there in the top 10 in the overall standings.
It would be an interesting stage for every team having ridden a hard 60 mile stage in the morning. We were off 3rd out of all the teams which meant that we had a short recovery period compared to the teams that were off much later in the day. After a 45 minute warm up trying to get the legs working again we headed off to the start ready for action. We had decided to take the Team Sky approach to this stage and considered the impact of marginal gains as we all decided to tape the vents in our helmets in order to help us achieve the best time possible.
We lined up on the start and realised that we had to self push for this TT where as in usual time trial you are held by the starter so you can get clipped in and set straight off. As we set off the inevitable happened and I couldn't get clipped in to my pedal, This lead to some panic which made things worst but thanks to Adrian's push I managed to get clipped in and we were off. Tony took the first pull with me in second, I was immediately put in the red trying to keep with Tony and then i had to come through and do my turn! The TT course was on a single carriage main road which was pretty much dead straight with a roundabout at one end which acted as the half way turn. The way out was super fast as we had a tail and wind and it was downhill, We all worked really well as a team and employed perfect communication in order to keep us all together. Tony and Adrian were putting in some big pulls and me and mike were giving it everything we had. We hit the roundabout and headed back up toward to the finish, this was now the really hard part as it was all in to a savage headwind and the last mile and a half was up a real beast of a drag, it wasn't steep but it was enough to cause big problems and see some massive time losses.
Up to the point where we hit the drag I was managing to put in some good pulls despite not feeling particularly great but as soon as we hit the drag I blew to pieces and I had to sit on the back of the train and let the others do the work. I was in so much pain; spitting and screaming my way to the line and I was beyond relieved when we had finally crossed it. The last few miles we had ridden in the rain and at the same time the had wind picked up, We were pretty sure that we had some of the worst weather as it seemed to brighten up in time for the later started. We had no idea how we had done until the results were printed on the evening but we though that given the bad conditions during our ride we had still done enough to get about 5th or so.
Hitting the big Time!
As we headed down to the sports hall after dinner to get the results we were shocked at what we saw. We had absolutely smashed the TTT and won by so much time that they had to use the time adjustments in order to keep us from getting too much of a time advantage over the rest of the field, this is the first time they have ever had to do this in the history of the Ras which just shows how hard we had ridden. We were now also leading the Team GC by over 3 minutes which was fantastic for us. But the best new was that Adrian was now leading the GC and was in the leaders yellow jersey, Tony was in 2nd place overall, Mike was in 4th and I was in 7th!!!! All 4 of us were now in the top 10 and sitting pretty.
This was the best result we could have hoped for and now we are in the position to win both the Team GC and also the Individual Rider GC. The next 2 stages will be all about defending the lead and keeping ourselves up there in the top spots. Bring it on!!