A small-ish group of riders left the front very soon but we had sufficient riders in it to let it go. It was a hilly race though and I was feeling well so for some time I was very attentive, trying to seek an opportunity to jump across and the gap only hovered around 30 seconds for a long time. However my attempts failed in a nasty headwind and I had to stay put. But the group already seemed smaller and people seemed to be struggling around me while I was feeling superb. I liked that.
But, like all races until now this year, a tiny little moment ruined my whole race.
On a stretch of road with a lot of traffic circles and islands, I was a bit further behind as I misjudged a traffic circle before and afterwards tried to eat something.
The peloton split, but I didn't panic because it was only a small split and there were still many guys with me. But after a few riders jumped across on their own, everyone else seemed only to have an interest in chasing the following riders down who tried to jump across, but not actually closing the gap. I myself tried too, but once again sat up because of a blistering headwind. The gap was still only around a 100m, but no one was willing to work together to get across.
The gap opened up and soon the first group was out of sight. Now suddenly some teams started to wake up and started chasing. About three times the gap came down to 30 seconds before everyone was sitting up again and starting to look at each other.
So the next time we came that close I decided to take matters into my own hands and attempted to cross with 2 other riders and leave the rest of the group behind. We came desperately close, but then I realized I had gone too deep and started paying for it. I got dropped alongside another rider and to my frustration the lonely rider who was left actually made it across.
From there on I was in the hurt box. Many times the group was still in sight but still everyone seemed to struggle those last 30 seconds.
The blazing cross wind wasn't helping my tired legs and soon I was dangling at the back, trying to hold on for dear life.
Then the elastic broke and I was out.
Again I didn't panic, let a few cars pass and then jumped in their slipstream. I made it back 2 times just to get spit out again, but the 3rd time I made it back (wonder what the commissaire was thinking) the group had split in two and the remaining riders decided that this would be the grupetto for the day. I was saved.
Safely tucked in the grupetto I rolled onto the finishing circuit, did one lap of 8 km (of 4) and abandoned because I was shivering all over. Abandoning is not my thing at all, but doing another 25km being this cold just increases the risk of getting sick. And since I have another race the following day I decided not to play with my health.
Benjamin finished a solid 4th for the team though (only the photo finish separated him from 3rd and were still sure the photo was taken from a wrong angle) and Norman in 7th.
As much as I'm mostly trying to see the positive in everything, and I'm happy about my progress in bunch skills, finishing a race in the winning group would make me so glad. I haven't had the greatest start until now. And it's not because of the legs.