Well after yesterdays horror and semi-terminal implosion in the final 5km today was all about survival and pacing, no real tactics just get to the end respectably!
Hard to do when you get sucked along in the vortex that is the mad UCI peloton but this faded the minute we hit the climb and my ‘save the legs, save the legs’ strategy kicked in. Matt was cool as a cucumber and from kilometre one rigidly settled into his rhythm.
Leaving Leukerbad you go up (obviously) but it was all kind of nice and picturesque and semi civilised and as my aching right leg warmed up I was feeling ok, Arianne Kleinhans and her partner Annika Langvad were like metronomes ticking along beautifully amongst the guys and seemed to add a sense of calm to proceedings as no one tried kill each other the minute the lunatic hike and bike started!
Don’t look left! Two little wires separated racers from the quickest way off the mountain and I focused on the only thing I could, Annika’s rear tyre (people please) as we all hauled our bikes to the top, man that was a brutal way to wake up.
We then proceeded to drop into the valley and break neck speeds through technical single track that was fun but demanding, you can’t stop and check the view you just aim South and try not to screw up for fear of being flattened by the masses behind you. Matt’s brake died on him and thankfully other than some ‘wooooooah!’ from the little fella he came away unscathed and assured me he’d be fine! (Watch his video)
Flat followed, plus one amazing suspension bridge where again the only view I had was ‘the other side’ I wasn’t planning on clipping a bar and finding out how far this thing was off the ground! Then came the roots, arg, I will buy a full suss right now if anyone is selling! I hate roots, you sit, you slide, you stall, punishing.
We kept coming across the Team Rwanda Cycling guys, Abraham Ruhumuriza and Nathan Byukusenge, these guys are like Adrien Niyonshuti fast up hills but damn it’s frustrating to see them losing time on the descents, they’re incredibly talented they just need some confidence in the Euro crazy drops. Anyway, we hit the flat then a climb and you don’t see ’em again until the finish but I think they’ve suffered a fatal mechanical as they don’t seem to have finished today, gutted for them!
From the valley you had to climb, oh man did we climb, it was a road climb, tarmac and all, you would have thought I’d be in heaven but something just wasn’t right, I couldn’t hold momentum, Matt was ticking along but every time I got near his wheel the rhythm would go out the window, frustration!! We were climbing from 600m to 2100m, there was so much concentration going on I was getting a headache, breathe, gel, pedal, breathe, gel, pedal ARG no more gel. We resupply at 50km, which in a sane world would be a strange place to have a refuel, but another 10km of combined climb and traverse followed, head splitting!
Dropping into the singletrack for home I was getting it all a bit left of centre, a slide here a wobble there, the colourful language got more interesting once the Flow riders started passing, SO MUCH SPEED, these guys are wicked fast in truly blind corner type death drops, much respect but my confidence was starting to take a hit.
Finally, dear sweet protein shakes and watermelon, it was over, 23rd by a minute or two, all things considered I’m very happy with that given how sub optimal my own day had been. Matt looked as fresh as a daisy, he railed the descents, paced the climbs and supported without getting all up in my face, appreciated!
Tomorrow we head to Grachen 62km, naturally this means very, VERY big climbs, I really would like a decent run tomorrow to feel more myself, failing that I’m powering this engine on mega caffeine, watch out Pagey!