Wednesday, 2 March 2016

GP Citta di Lugano

Although the weather has been very kind to us in Germany and the weather on the south side of the Alps is supposed to be better, it was raining cats and dogs in Lugano. The temperature rarely crawled above 4 degrees and I decided to skip the pre-race ride on Saturday. No need to take unnecessary risks, my body had enough trouble coping with the cold weather already.

Race day came and the weather was no better. On the contrary, I believe the word "apocalyptic" came up a few times. Looking back at the last 2 Italian races I had done in the rain last year and how I had struggled there, my motivation got flushed down the drain as quick as anything that day. Washed away by the tons of water.

There was no way around it though, so half an hour before start I pulled out my neoprene gloves, rain-overshoes and rain jacket and started getting dressed.
As the race got underway I realized that I was feeling surprisingly well, moving up on the climb almost seemed easy and the breakaway hadn't even left. When 2 riders got a small gap, the big teams closed everything else down so quickly that all my attempts to jump across were ineffective. The other teams realized the same and it all calmed down. 

Then the descent came... Somehow I have a little mental barrier ever since my wheels came out underneath me on a wet descent last year which I haven't been able to overcome. This time wasn't different, rider after rider after rider passed me and the occasional curse was thrown at me too for letting some gaps open up.
On the next uphill I rode back into the first 20 riders, just to be passed again on the downhill. This time it was actually worse as around 25 riders had a gap on the rest of the field and I was the cause of that gap. My apologies to everyone who had to work to close it again (Bardiani mostly).

After that little incident a little something changed in my mind. This was a 1.HC rated race (the highest I've done) and I was doing so well on the rest of the course, there was just no way I could throw it all away on the descents. So instead of finding my own line and going slower and slower I started to look at the other riders and copied their way of taking the corner. And voila... Less and less riders came past me on the wet, slippery descents and I was actually starting to look forward to the sections that tilted downwards instead of dreading them!

Except for my saddle coming loose on the first lap and changing its position every time I hit a big bump everything was going perfect so far. Almost too perfect.

Psssssssssssshhhhh. Puncture. As Murphy's law predicts it, our team car was the last in the convoy and then almost didn't see me when they came past, so it was a very slow wheel change. A sneaky sticky bidon helped a little but then we hit the bottom of a climb and the convoy wasn't of much help anymore. But I was back in the pack quicker than I thought and still had bombing legs on the next climb.

 Pssssssssssssshhhh. Backwheel puncture this time. I got a shake of the head and "what's up with you today?" from my teammate as I rolled out the pack of the group, hand held high to indicate the mechanical. Teamcar after teamcar passed me again and then.... Nothing. I was out of the convoy, but our teamcar hadn't passed me yet. The neutral vehicle came to the rescue with another slow wheel change, but it happened shortly before the finish line (which we crossed multiple times in the race) and a big cheer from the crowd motivated me to hold on tight as I was glued to the backside of the neutral vehicle at 60km/h. But the road tilted upwards again before I had even reached the last car of the convoy. Less than ideal!

As I sprinted over the top of the climb past a few cars of the convoy which I had caught by now, I saw a Lampre rider standing at the side of the road taking a nature break. I had mixed feelings about that. It was good because it meant that they were going easy upfront and I would come back quick (which I did), but it also meant I spent a lot of matches for nothing.

On the next climb I still felt good but didn't quite manage to get up to the position I wanted to be in. It wasn't that long to go anymore though, so I hoped I could regain some energy and stick to the peloton.

Then we came through the finish a final time, Lampre turned up the speed and we went single file into the next climb. I went from hero to zero in about 200m. There was just nothing left and suddenly I realized how empty I was feeling. The stiff, cold hands and feet suddenly became worse and that was it... I joined a 5 man group who had dropped alongside me, but no one had any ambitions to finish the race and as we came to the feed zone (where the hot showers were) I could barely hold my handlebars straight. So there was no use trying to finish the race.

Could be a pretty place with a little sunshine

Spirits high despite the weather

After a felt 2 hours under the hot shower I felt like a human being again and felt like I can risk it back into the real world again.

The real world greeted me with terrible news. Arnold Fiek had crashed on one of the descents, fell over a guardrail down a bridge, onto a concrete ledge and into lake Lugano. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a giggle there, it seemed like a very comical situation, however it could've ended real bad! Luckily he was still conscious, climbed back onto the ledge and waited to be rescued by boat. And I thought I was cold.... Later in the hospital it was revealed that he had a hairline fracture on his hip and bruises in many other places. But nothing severe. What a relief.

The next day he was a star. Everywhere on the internet and media his story and picture was found. We do wish him a speedy recovery!

Lucky in an unlucky situation

Unfortunately the cold weather and long trip proved to be too much for me and I had to spend my birthday in bed because I got sick. However we do have a 3 week break of racing before we start again with the Coppi e Bartali, so I should have enough time to recover and be back in shape.

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