Last year I didn’t ride any races of the Copa España races, instead my calendar focused on the Lehendakari and Euskaldun series in the early part of the season. For the 2017 season however, the Copa España races are a major target of my new team, Escribano. This weekend, our plan was to set Cristian Torres up for the sprint and do what we could to lead him out.
As expected, the race started nervously. While tactics vary, for the Circuito del Guardiana in Don Benito all teams are given the same instructions; to be well positioned for the hill. Everyone wants to be near the front for the left hand turn up the steep climb to avoid having to stop or being caught behind a crash. Other than that race is fairly simple, 4 laps, 4 times up the climb and usually a sprint finish. The first time up the hill comes only 20km into the race meaning the start is always a battle to be at the front.
My race was going well, I was well positioned in the first 15 of the bunch for most of the first 10 kilometers. I was in the middle of the road, just behind the string of riders on the front but not quite in the mass of the bunch. In any race this is the perfect position as you are able to be near the front while still being able to draft off of the riders around you. The problem however, is this is where everyone wants to be. I was in a battle with riders from both sides and constantly jostling for positions. Inevitably after about 15 minutes I came down hard. I remember a rider on my left crashing and taking out my front wheel. Several riders hit me and my bike before I could get up and come to my senses. I had hit my head and so took a minute to compose myself and check my bike over before getting going again.
Once on the move, I stayed on the right hand side of the road waiting for an opportunity to get behind a team car and catch the race convoy. The bunch were out of sight and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get back to them before the climb. Riders and team cars were flying past me, some guys were hanging on to the roof racks while others drafted just behind. Eventually I saw an opportunity to get behind a car with a group of riders. My team were 25th in the convoy of cars so it was a while before they caught up with me, but as soon as they did I jumped behind the car and managed to get back up to the bunch just before the climb.
Each time up the climb the race would string out but come back together again before we got back into the start finish town of Don Benito. By the time we had gone over the hill on the first lap I was safely in the bunch and able to catch my breath. The next two laps were the same; a drag race the 10km before the climb, hard up the hill through the town of Magacela then a regrouping on the descent back to Don Benito. On the 2nd and 3rd lap I was able to do a turn on the front to position the team for the climb.
On the 3rd lap I received instructions from the team car that we needed to help the chase. This wasn’t something we had planned but the break of 7 riders had 3 minutes so our team director wanted some of us to help the Froiz and Contador teams with the chase. Along with two teammates I spent most of the 3rd lap doing short hard turns on the front.
The third time up the hill was hell, having been working to bring back the break and position the team, I was spent. I hit the hill in the first 10 of the bunch but on the first ramp lost about 50 places. I managed to get over the top just in touch with a group and we got back to the bunch on the descent.
As we caught the break before the last time up the climb, 50km from the finish, I tried to do my bit to help position my teammates but I didn’t have the legs. I knew my race was over, I just had to get to the finish and hope our sprinter did the business. Unfortunately for us, an attack on the final climb from Manu Sola set up a breakaway of 4 riders including his Caja Rural teammate Gonzalo Serrano. Gonzalo took the win and our sprinter Cristian Torres came in a respectable 11th, 7th from the bunch.
It wasn’t the day we were hoping for as a team but I was pleased I was able to do my job despite an early crash. Having rolled in with a gruppetto almost 8 minutes down I didn’t see the crash in the last 10km. Once at the finish I learned a teammate of mine, Janjose Tamayo had come down hard breaking his collarbone. This is terrible new for the team but Tamayo is sure he’ll be back on the bike soon.
Next week I am racing the Copa España – Klasica Aitzondo in the Basque Country. It is a hilly race on roads I know well from last season. Aitzondo has a reputation for being a hard race, most years it rains and while the course changes yearly, it always includes several hard climbs.
Look out for my next blog post for news of the race.
There will be video highlights of the race out soon. I will Tweet the link as soon as the video is uploaded.
Photos – https://t.co/VprjsTbTmK