February 17, 2016 0 Comments
Last week we left Macca enjoying some fun in the sun at his first race of the year, the Tour of Qatar. He was clearly in good shape - as you will read below he was very active. He's since moved on to the Tour of Oman, where there is no let up in the racing.
Where to begin..? When you're in stage race mode the days all seem to merge into one. Lets start where we left off after the first few days of full-gas crosswinding in Qatar. We finally had a start with a proper tailwind, which I thought would probably be conducive to getting in the break. So I had a few punts and followed a few wheels, and after 20 km or so I found myself in an 8 man break. Being in a break in a race like Qatar feels like what I expect a battery hen feels like escaping from the chicken farm. You don't have to elbow each other for space and you can take your time and enjoy the food you get in your feedbag, rather than inhaling it in one of the very few down moments. Slowly we built up a lead at its max of just above 2 minutes. After 75 km we turned right into a roaring tail cross wind (you may recall - the most fearsome of all the winds). We were getting time checks and reports over the radio that the peloton was split into 3 pieces and our gap was tumbling down. Just before we hit the 15 km finishing circuit we were caught by the first group of 30 or so riders, and so once again we were thrust back into the chaos of an echelon. Luckily when we hit the back of the circuit we hit a block tailwind and having the chance to sit in the wheels I'd recovered quite a bit. So I decided to follow an attack and for the second time that day I found myself escaping to freedom in a group of 4 guys. We ploughed onwards, round 4 laps of the circuit, dragging out a lead of 2:45 at one point. Alas we were doomed to fall 10 km short of the finish, being swept-up once again by a splintered peloton. My day was done and I hung on for as long as I could before cruising in for the last few km.
Then came the last stage in Qatar, which was a 115 km jaunt down the Qatari coastline, with 10 laps of 5 km on the promenade in Doha. The stage started with a bit of stress, thinking that for one last time we may be at the mercy of the wind. But it turned out to be a block headwind which made for a long slog to the finishing circuit. The plan was to set up our designated sprinter for the day Roy Jans for a result at the end. We waited until the dying laps, then as we came for the last lap we took on the race as a whole team making sure Roy was in prime position. Coming out of the last corner he ended up placing third behind two of the world's best sprinters of the moment. It was a high note to finish on.
Then we enjoyed a rare day without bikes in a posh race hotel because the staff travelled straight after the race to Oman and we didn't leave until 7:00 PM the following evening. My day consisted of a breakfast fit for a king, then some sunbathing (I say sunbathing, I was sat fully in the shade as my pasty complexion has a tendency to burn). This was followed by a lunch fit for another king, and then a few hours in the airport and a flight with an aeroplane full of bike riders.
Once arrived and settled into the hotel in Oman we had one easy day on the bike followed by pre race day where we rode an hour down the coast and searched for every cyclist essential stop - a decent coffee shop. We managed to find one and when we all ordered our fanciful brews: espressos, cappuccinos, and a couple of green teas. The waiter replied with a reassuring '8 Nescafe & 2 Twining'. Even if it wasn't up to our desired Barista quality, we made up for it in banter and good company. It was about an hour home from the cafe along the sea front, which for a moment i could have sworn it was Southport promenade! Once home we had the standard massage followed by copious amounts of rice.
Then came race day in Oman. I fancied another break today but I was beaten to it break by my team mate Kenny Dehaes. So I had to revert to the backup plan of looking after our two experienced Italians Gasparotto and Marcato. We had to to tackle two viciously steep climbs in the last 20 km. We worked well to keep them out of trouble as the speed ramped up and we turned off the big highway to the small twisty back roads. As we hit the first climb I knew it wasn't going to be a good day for me. My legs were dead. Not tired. Not sore. Just dead! It happens from time to time when you have a small gap in between races and you get your combination of nutrition and training wrong. I found myself in a small group of 20 guys rolling in to the finish around 10 mins behind the winner. Whenever I have a bad day I always remind myself one bad day doesn't make a bad bike rider... And so tomorrow is another day and another chance!
We wish him better luck for today's stage and the rest of race. We'll check-in again this time next week to see how our very own Lion of Flanders is faring.
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