Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Great Racing in the Basque Country August

Hi everyone

I’m well into my second month of racing in the Basque Country in Spain.

My best races so far have been my two most recent races last week in Elgoilbar and Guernica where I finished 8th and 5th.

During them, I finally felt the best I have been all season. When attacking on the climbs, I had good recovery and I wouldn’t blow up when keeping up with counter attacks and the strong pace from the bigger teams like Caja Rural, Seguros Bilbao and Bidelan, who have the numbers.

Working with my teammate, Adrian, in the Busturia race before bridging across to the front group

Caja Rural team then Seguros Bilbao splitting the peleton on the tough climb after Bermio in the Busturia Race
In Guernica, I broke away with 4 riders on the final climb. Our group worked well, gaining a minute on the peloton, but it was too late for bridging the gap to the four leaders that had escaped away earlier. I won the sprint for 5th beating the two Caja Rural riders in my group which was good.

In the Elgoibar race, I rode away with eleven other riders on the last climb of the day. After a few breakaways in the group came back, Caja Rural had 5 in there and formed a sprint train as the finish was just after a right hand corner. I did my best to get into corner quickly and finished 8th.

Elgoibar race - riders attacking on the 2nd last climb, 10%.

Elgoibar Race - The winning group forms on the last climb, my legs feeling really good.

Elgoibar Race - Caja Rural win, finish less than 100 metres after a corner,  I sprinted to 8th.
The racing has been fantastic, really tough with many difficult climbs, for example, in the Busturia U23 race, the finish was at the top of a 3km long, average 17% climb!

17% steep, 3km long climb at the end of the Busturia Race a few weeks ago, I finished 17th. Climbing better.
In August so far I have had plenty of Elite and U23 road races each week, 4 in the space of 8 days a couple of weeks ago. 

All this racing has gave me good fitness and toughened my legs enough so I am able to repeatedly attack to try and get in breaks early on in the races but have enough in the legs to go with the top climbers later on when the race really speeds up.

Steep uphill finish of the Muxica Race in 40 degree heat!

On one of the circuits of the Lemoiz Race.
Compared to when I first arrived here at the start of July, my form has got better and better with each race. This has really helped get me back to a level that I have lacked this season in the UK.

A big bonus is I’ve stayed healthy. The weather has helped being hot and dry,  well over 30 degrees most days, but I had a 40+ degree race three weeks ago which was just incredible! I think I went through about 10 bottles during it...

Despite missing out on a victory so far, I was pleased at how my climbing was and it bodes well for the next elite race this Wednesday and the following week, in the four day Tour of Valencia we are taking part in which will be brilliant. 

Will keep you posted how I get on.


Training - at the top of the Urkiola Climb, 700 metres high.

I spectated the Vuelta on the Arrate climb, Stage 3, which was awesome to watch.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Basque Country Racing July

Hi everyone

I've been racing in the Basque Country with Ibaigane Opel for over three weeks now.

I loved the two weeks I was here last year, as the terrain and racing suited me and my best result was 10th in the Beasain Elite Classic.

I am currently staying in the village of Igorre, about 20 km SE of Bilbao. It is where the team’s HQ is based and a local hotel, Hotel Arantza , is kindly putting me up for the 2 months I am here for.

I've had a recurring viral infection since the start of this year, so it’s been a frustrating season after my good Premier Calendar and Basque season last year. I’m hoping the better weather here will make the difference for me to stay well and perhaps get a good result before the end of the season.

So far I have had four races including three elite and one U23. Coming into racing here, I’ve had nowhere near the form I was in when I was here this time last year so it been tough going in the first few races.

My first race in Soplana went well as I got into the lead group of around 15 riders. Each of laps had two hard climbs and as it was an U23 race, it was full on attacking throughout the whole race. Eventually my fitness let me down and I blew up in the run in to the finish, crossing the line 24th.

Me 2nd from left in Soplana U23 race. Getting into an early move. (More pics here)
Crossing the finish line

The next day was the Elite Classica Beasain race. I did well in it last year, but from the gun I had nothing in the legs for the climbs what so ever. They had not recovered from the day before. Each time it went upwards I drifted back. I got dropped from the main group with many others on steep 3rd last climb of the day.

The bunch racing up one of the climbs in the Beassian Race (More Pics Here)
The following weekend was the 85 mile Pamplona Bayonna Classic, I was 14th in it last year. This time, though, it was run in the opposite direction so it was big climb to start off with, followed by a long descent from 800metres altitude, to a lumpy last 20 miles.

I punctured with a bit of glass on the long descent, then got in the break for half an hour until we got brought back just before the lumpy hills at the end. For me they were a killer. I would normally love them but the state my legs were in near the end of the race, they felt never ending! I blew up on the last hill of the day, a couple of miles to the finish in Bayonne.

The next Tuesday, I had new race I have never done before in a village near Santandar. It started in the afternoon so it was a very hot start to the race, over 30 degrees.

It was a fast flat start then half way into the race we hit 3 big climbs, the last two going over 600 metres and at 8 – 10% at times.

I felt a big improvement in myself in this race as I was recovering and climbing well.

Me near the front of bunch - Nothing stayed away on the flatter first half of race (More Pics Here)

Me approaching the finish line on the small flat laps before the long mountains lap.
At the bottom of the 2nd climb, a group of 8 of us bridged across to the leading trio. As we were climbing, the pace was fierce as the next group were not that far down on us. A few more joined us but I began to struggle at the halfway point up the climb. An injection of pace from a rider made me lose the wheel and I had to go my own pace the rest of the way.

Two guys joined me just before I hit the descent but the group were too far ahead of us to catch them and we got scooped up by a large group of 20 on the draggy valley road at the foot of the final and toughest climb.

I stayed in the group to the village finish and sprinted to 19th. The winner raced for Geox last year.

 The front group on the 2nd big climb which I was in.

Me in the front group.
I was happy with my improvement in this race and look forward to a big block of races I have got coming up in August where hopefully I will be fitter and stronger and up for the win.

Thanks for reading