8hrs 30min target time
12hrs maximum time
After each stage while I am recovering myself Ben from Wiggle gives my bike a full clean and check over. After the first 2 stages it was just a few adjustments needed but after stage 3 the Felt Nine bike needed a few new parts. Both front and rear brake pads needed replacing and both tyres, all of which was new on for the race all needed replacing. The terrain here is so harsh that the side knobs get ripped off and the rear tread wears down very quickly!
Waking up this morning I was feeling pretty awful, my chest was tight and heavy, my throat was sore and I felt very lethargic. If I was back home with training planned I’d probably have sacked it off, but that was out of the question, I had a stage of Iron Bike to ride! The first 9km was on the road and I tried to get my legs warmed up but they were feeling rubbish, making things worse it was already 24 degrees and getting hotter quickly. Arriving at the start of the first special stage I tried to kick it up a few gears but I was really struggling. The tarmac turned to a very steep dirt road that went on for ages, technical in places and occasionally too tricky to ride. The 4 people ahead of me on GC flew past me, I couldn’t respond. Eventually at 1600m up, after climbing for 45min or so I reached a neutralised feed station. I didn’t stop long as the lead veteran was just setting off, so I followed. It was a descent and although I started about a minute behind him I caught him within 1km. The descent was amazing, fast, technical and exactly the type of riding I like.
Unfortunately there was a big steep climb to follow and I kept looking back to see if he would catch me. The climb seemed never ending and he did catch me right at the very top, but no sooner had he past me the next descent started and he jumped off and started walking. It was technical but I rode down fine so soon opened a gap back up. It went down for ages, turning into a very long sequence of rocky stepped switchbacks. They were ace, but my hands and arms were killing me so I was limited by the amount of pain I could withstand. Reaching the bottom it was the end of the first special stage. A long climb to Pramollo followed, which was going to be the finish town.
Being evil IronBike instead of stopping here we now had the massive 2700m Colle Cialancia. I remembered it from last year and it was murderous. There was a long push/carry section near the start where the trail was too narrow and technical to ride. By now it was well above 30 degrees and sweat was flowing like a river from my face. There was no breeze at all and I was cooking! Eventually we reached an old military road and I was able to start riding again. It was a long road and climbing quickly. Above 2000m it was harder to breath but at least it was cooler! The road topped out at 2400m and it was back on foot to the top. It was difficult to push or carry at times as the rocks were massive.
I was very glad to reach the top and knew how good the descent on the otherside was, simply perfect alpine singletrack. After about 5km of descending there was a short climb which took us to the top of a ski lift that had a MTB Downhill course running down. Last year I loved this section, but this year my arms were shot and I found it difficult to hang on. I wasn’t sure if it was my body or maybe the different brakes that I have on the bike this year, I certainly seemed to have to pull much harder to slow down and that seems to be taking its toll! I was actually glad to reach the bottom, but looking at the time already gone with only 65km ridden and 7hrs gone making the target time was going to be impossible.
A long descent to the valley floor where it was mid 30’s and I was sweating like mad again. 20Km to go, it looked like a 10km climb and 10km descent. The climb was as expected, I was pretty slow but it wasn’t technical and I reached the top after 8hrs 30min, already outside of the target time. I was hoping for a nice fast, easy descent to Promollo, given that we were just a few kilometers above it would have been easy to do. But this is Iron Bike, nothing comes easy! The next 2km was uphill and I was so tired that I was having to push most of it. It finally started to go downhill, it seemed ace but it was the type of trail that required a bit of energy input to get the most out of it. I had no energy and it made it agonising! It went on for ages, eventually reaching 800m altitude I knew we had 300m to climb, hopefully on the road or a jeep track. Nope, it was up an unrideable, steep and horrible. It took forever and it took every last ounce of energy out of me. I crossed the line a broken man after 9hrs 55min.
Just 3 days to go…