Until just a few short hours ago, I believed that getting through the Queen stage of Appenninica MTB yesterday would leave me with smooth seas to sail right up until the end of the event. Imagine my surprise when I took a closer look at the profile for today’s stage 3 and saw that it was almost as long, almost as difficult, and was going to take nearly as much time to complete. While yesterday’s stage was a six-hour-plus affair for me, stage 3 would definitely be a five hour deal.
Recovery was light on for the entire field of racers yesterday. The sad fact of stage racing is that while it takes us on an awesome journey and into parts of a country we’d never, ever see as tourists, events also suck up nearly every daylight hour with the breakfast->race prep (making of bidons and filling of pockets)->racing->recovery meal->bike wash->shower->pasta party conveyor belt we’re all riding day in, day out.
It was nice to take 10 minutes last night to walk around the beautiful old town of Fiumalbo, checking out ancient cobblestones, water mills, and of course the churches and towers around this gorgeous town nestled deep in the Apennines. Having spent a few days battling crowds in Florence before coming to race, I definitely preferred a quiet stroll soaking in the history of a quaint little town than fighting for a view of famous works of art.
After a terrible sleep, I struggled to get going today, and reports are I was not alone. It’s a bold move to hold the hardest stage on day 2 – most race organisers prefer to leave that hanging over our heads for at least four days, but the Appenninica MTB decided to wreak maximum havoc and see who was left standing.
My day at the Appenninica MTB Stage Race
Today started with a climb gaining 500m over about 5km. There was a bit of a battle among the women’s lesser positions but we ended up in pretty much our GC order until absolutely everything got mixed up on a tricky, though well-marked, corner of the course that saw most of the field take a wrong turn. I stopped here for a little while trying to decide which way to go, eventually choosing correctly, and inadvertently got myself into second place.
But not for long!
While it was fun riding with some of the fast masters men (who had gone wrong and caught me) down an awesome forest descent, they soon rode away with the women’s leader’s jersey and I was left on my own, oblivious to the fact that I was now in third. After messing up every part of a forest section and nearly getting hit by a car driving on the wrong side of the road, I bled time and was soon joined by two chasing women, Nina, third on GC, and Sophie in fifth. SIGH! Time to do some work. I managed to stick to Nina’s wheel up the second major climb of the day until she absolutely blew me away a few kilometres later. I thought I rode quite well across a long climbing ridgeline of 20km or so, but was caught by Sophie and Naima in sixth on GC at the bottom of the last climb. On the leg-sapping forest pinches that followed I caved. I was hitting decent numbers in terms of watts, but the competition was too tough for me today.
Today Deborah Piana won the women’s event while Hans Becking took out the men’s. Deborah and Hans are both leading GC.
Reflections on Stage 3 of the Appenninica MTB Stage Race
On my third stage race in eight weeks, I’m disappointed not to have better form. I had thought that all the time at altitude in Breck would leave me full of red blood cells and fitter than ever. Instead, after 7000km of driving across America, 40 hours’ travel including four airports to get to Europe, and some tough emotional challenges, I’m deeply tired. I think that the goal now is just for me to complete this beautiful race, and in order to do that I’m going to have to be a bit understanding that my body can’t soak up constant travelling and racing without a proper break.
Surprise surprise, tomorrow dishes up some climbing with 2350m in just 62km. I’m excited to be heading up to 1860m above sea level where I expect the views to be spectacular. Even though it’s a tough stage, I’m also hoping that the shorter length suits me a bit better and gives me more time to soak in the Apennine scenery and eat pasta.