Starting in the same location as the prologue in the centre of Cordoba as start of the prologue today was thankfully more appropriate, although it was still crazy. 4Km of roads leading us out of the city, through the streets in the “neutralised zone” it was still every man for themselves, pushing shoving, crashing into parked cars. No holds barred. I didn’t have the balls to put up a fight and as a result lost a loads of places and the leaders were in the distance before the actual racing began. When it did I managed to pick up a few places, but not enough and then we hit a rocky track that was the final descent yesterday. Although it was quite wide there was only one real line, the rest was too loose and rocky to ride and even if you could you wasted a load of energy. Milton was miles ahead again, he can start much, much faster than I can. The first 20km was a real sufferfest for me, battling to try and pass riders but finding it hard to do so.
Milton was waiting for me at the first timing point, 20km in where we were already 7 minutes down on the leaders. Not a good start! The next 20km was a mixture of fast dirt tracks, sometimes loose like marbles and some really nice singletrack. I found myself riding with Josh Ibbett and Ben Thomas again, along with another 6 or so riders. Some of them were rubbish on the descents but super fast on the climbs, the 4 of us (Brits + Milton) would get a good gap on a descents only for one pair in particular to get back to us in no time on the climbs. This continued until 45km, roughly half way where there was a feed station. I desperately needed a new bottle here, so I was glad Keith was there and handed over a big 800ml bottle of Torq and a gel. Not having to stop saved a big chunk of time.
A little while after things started to finally come together for me and I felt better and with lots of help from Milton we pushed on, dropped all the riders in the group and started catching others ahead. I felt fine on anything gradual up, flat and especially the downhills where we seemed to make up plenty of time, but the steep uphills were my weakness. The overtakes were quite plentiful, no sooner had we past one pair but another was in view. Milton was really strong and doing almost all the work on the front hauling us along. I just tucked in on the faster parts and followed his lines when I could on the descents.
By the final feed station we had caught up with a group that was full of good riders, knowing that it was just 4km uphill before the final descent I pushed as hard as I could and we past the last of the group just before the final descent started. The final descent was the same as yesterdays and it was just as much fun to ride! We blasted down to shouts of “tener cojones” from the specatators, passing another 2 pairs on the way down and with another in sight by the time we hit the final tarmac stretch. We couldn’t quite catch them, but crossed the line in 3hrs 24 minutes for the timed section, which put us in 18th for the stage and up to 21stoverall.
I have to give a huge amount of credit to Milton for sticking with me, it must have been frustrating at the beginning, but hopefully my second half will give him some hope! If I can get a better start and recover well each day we will hopefully keep moving up. With UCI points on offer for the first 25 teams overall that is the ultimate aim, but just want to finish as high up as possible.
Tomorrow is the final stage from Cordoba and it looks like a similar in terms of length and amount of climbing. It will be interesting to see if the initial pace is as crazy or if today has had an effect on some of the teams.
Garmin connect stats from Stage 1, here.