This week the European season begins at Costa Blanca Bike Race, its the first UCI stage race of the season and therefore has attracted a strong calibre of entries. Many riders are hunting for UCI points to qualify for the Olympics before the May deadline. The event is a pair’s event which always makes things more interesting, I will be teaming up with fellow British rider Tom Bell.
The stages are on the short side for my marathon legs but it should be a great way to start the season and hopefully we can pick up some good UCI XC points. Teams which stand out on the entry list include the Rose Vaujany Team, Merida Wallonie, Trek Factory Racing, CST Superior Brentjens Team, Cannondale by Gaes, JBG Pro MTB Team and several Scott teams. Trek Factory Racing and Brentjens Team are the obvious favourite but watch out for Frans Claes and Sebastien Carabin of Merida Wallonie/ Loving Hut, they could spring a suprise.
There are also strong womens and masters categories. Riders to note include Nathalie Schneitter and Viviane Favery, Tracy Mosely and Katy Winton, Mark Spratt and Ant White, plus the legend Bart Brentjens and Abraao Azevedo.
Stage 1 and 2 are expected to be won in 2 hours 30. Stage 3 will be about 3 hours 30. Stage 4 is a short sub 10km timetrial, perfectly planned to allow an afternoon sat on the beach eating a recovery ice cream. The trails here are rocky, unforgiving and exciting! This is a real test for riders and equipment. Many of the trails overlook the amazing coastline near Benidorm, either from cliftop trails above the beaches or up in the surrounding hills. The race begins on Thursday and I will be bringing you updates each day.
This race is the start of a new chapter for me. After changes to the team I run (Mountain Trax – Vauxhall Cycling Team) I’ve been given a new freedom. With the National Marathon jersey on my back and some fantastic results over the last few months of the season including a 4th place at the penultimate European round of UCI World Marathon Series it was decided I should concentrate on my own race programme in 2016. This is only possible thanks to the support of the sponsors. It wasn’t an easy decision but hopefully one day I can return to the roll of team manager and help support another group of talented athletes.
On Thursday I’ll debut my new team kit from Kalas Sportswear. For 2016 the team has announced the additional sponsorship of Turner Bikes, Selev (helmets and eyewear), Mountain Hardwear (technical leisurewear) and USE Components. These sponsors join Mountain Trax, Vauxhall, Rotor Components, Yellow Jersey Cycle Insurance, Kalas Sportswear, Vermont Images, USN, Weldtite, Northwave, Schwalbe, Lezyne and Exposure Lights.