Ras de Cymru, Prologue (stage 1): Wrong side of the law.
We are here and we are well and truly racing! But apparently I have already been a naughty boy...
I won’t lie, trying to sleep last night was difficult. I was nervous, anxious about the race, about the time trial, about how much I’d eaten or not eaten, Nervous. When I eventually did get to sleep it felt like a brief second before I was awake again and I was rubbing my eyes on race day.
I dragged myself out of bed, and a short train journey later I was settling into base camp for the week, Newport University Campus Caerleon. We each have a room in student halls for the duration of the race. Clearly someone in the Uni accommodation services has had a good think about what cyclists need from their sleeping quarters in a stage race. Each room has the usual things, a towel, soap, bedding, tea and coffee, lovely.
However, we also have mini fridges in every room. Perhaps they’ve been reading the cycling press too much and got wind of Ricardo Ricco’s little kidney failure issue. So instead of having to deal with an embarrassing death from vital organ failure, they provided us all with a cool box in which to keep our blood bags and EPO…
Isn’t that nice of them! I think I’ll wait till the end of the week before I inject myself with the blood I took out whilst altitude training on Cheddar Gorge. Before my door get’s kicked down in the middle of the night, I feel compelled to say that was a joke, I might slurp down a few too many Torq gels and I have been known to exceed the recommended dosages on the back of Ibuprofen packets...
The guys in the team felt like it was a good idea to arrive at the start early and get a long warm up before the start of the brutally short prologue time trial. The Course was a nasty one, 3 and a bit miles along rolling (Hilly) roads followed by a hard climb to the finish. I’d ridden the course earlier in the week so knew what to expect and was keen to get at least half an hour on the turbo before rolling to the start. I got that plan straight into action and was soon sweating like a lunatic, trying to spin some speed into my legs. Time flew by as the start came nearer and I put my heart rate through its paces. The hard warm up was broken by laughter at Matt who was enjoying only his 2nd time on rollers, dumping himself unceremoniously off the bike once or twice, I’ll stick with my turbo thank you very much!
With 10 minutes to go I hopped off the trainer and up the road to find some ‘last minute relief’, before rolling up the road and arriving behind Matt on the start line with just over a minute to spare. Off he went down the road and I settled in on the start line in his place. “30 seconds” came from the commissaire on my right as I asked the starter to give me a good shove off the line. 10, 9, 8.. etc and I was off. Sweat still pouring down my face, I was instantly fighting the temptation to unzip my skinsuit. Having never ridden a TT before I did not have a clue what I was doing! I went far too hard and paid for it a few miles down the road. I just rode as hard as I could, smashing into the first hill out of the saddle. Before I knew it I was huffing and puffing my way towards the sharp left hander that signalled the end of the rolling section and the start of the climb. There were commissaires on the bend, signalling you to slow down and directing you around it, unfortunately what I didn’t realise was that we were expected to hold tight to the left hand side of the road. Instead I drifted wide to avoid some gravel, crossing a white line and gaining myself a 10 second penalty.
Round the corner and onto the climb, I started to pay for my earlier enthusiasm. I was straight into the smallest gear and struggling. It dawned on me that I had overcooked it some what. I just kept pushing, veering all over the place trying to keep the bike going. A club mate who had come out to support was shouting enthusiasm, but I was not going to be enthused. I got over the steepest bit of the climb put it in the big ring and sprinted (limped) over the line in a time of 12:03 plus 10 seconds. I was 6 seconds behind my team mate Matt and 30ish up on the other two guys. With the penalty I am sitting in 42nd out of 101 starters, I’m happy with that for now.
The stage was won by Urban Cyclery.co.uk’s Glyndwr Griffiths. He came in with the very fast time of 11minutes and 18 seconds. From the look of it, the race will need to keep a very keen on eye him whenever the road goes uphill.
After the finish we sat up and waited for the other guys to finish before rolling back to the start for a warm down. On the way back down the hall we passed a very angry looking NFTO rider carrying his bike up the hill, a mechanical had ruined his day and his face said it all. Once back with the car, I did my best Wiggo impression and jumped straight on the turbo for 20 minutes. Matt had his 3rd ride on his new rollers, this time falling even more spectacularly onto the grass.
Now it is time for bed. Tomorrow is the first road stage and having seen some of the guys flying round the TT course today, I’d suggest it is going to be a quick one!