Rio Miera road debut
After some time at home in the UK focussing on exams and preparing for the move to Spain, it was time to get back to some road racing, starting with my first Copa España of the year in Valladolid. It was my first official road race for my new team Rio Miera so I was immersed into a team atmosphere. The race wasn’t too far from home and also took place later in the day, so I could have a chilled morning in my own flat and make my own breakfast, which allowed for the nerves to stay at bay.
I have never experienced anything so team work focussed, as racing for VCL involved more individualistic racing strategies with that being a similar case in my old Spanish team. That all was a complete contrast to last Saturday’s race, which involved a pre-race briefing, where each of us were told to do a specific job. Although it was my first Copa, there had already been two prior races while I was in the UK and one of the riders from my team was leading the series with a couple of others high in the ranks too. This meant the focus for the team in the race was to maintain the jersey and prevent any big moves of other riders high in the classification. Consequently I couldn’t race for myself like I would normally, with my role being to sprint for one of the intermediate sprint around 20km into the race while also supporting the other riders.
Unfortunately this didn’t quite work out as around this time in the race there had been a bad crash towards the back of the bunch, which meant the race had to be stopped until the ambulance could return to the race. Temperatures being in the mid 30’s, this was a good opportunity to refuel on fluids and food. As expected on a hot day like that, it was crucial to keep on top of drinking to stay hydrated. Team helpers were spread across the 80km course to grab some fresh water and these moments became decisive in upholding performance, so if a bottle was not passed over correctly, then it meant either waiting for the next possible feeding station or going back to the car.
Each of us in the team were given a race radio to communicate with each other and the team convoy. This was another level of challenging as I struggled enough to understand the brief before the race. However this was a great opportunity for me to be outside of my comfort zone and be forced to try and understand what was being said. Often the same type of vocabulary is used so hopefully by the end of the season my Spanish race language understanding should be top notch.
Around 20km to go I was told to try and go for the intermediate sprint however little did I know the hill we started climbing was a bit longer than initially anticipated so I ended up going from being ahead of the group to 50-100m behind. This meant for a chase down a long descent passing a couple of girls who overcooked it on the corners, until we eventually got back on. Unexpectedly, there had been a rain shower before this, which although refreshing, made for a slippery descent, hence the crashes. Once a few of us joined back onto the front group, regaining position was a priority especially because we were closing in on another town. I was soon hearing on the radio that I was meant to go for another special sprint (not knowing where it was and solely going off what I was hearing from the coaches). The Rio Miera girls are really good at keeping at the front of the group and we were even able to get ourselves a little lead out train. As we were gaining on the town where the sprint was, I was looking for a banner or line that indicated where the sprint finish would be, but I saw nothing so I continued to follow my team mate and then go on in search of the sprint, but little did I know we had already passed it. I found out after the race that I came second in the sprint which was a shame but my continuation to push the pace on searching for a banner initiated an attack, consisting of myself, my teammate Lucía and another girl from Portugal. I knew even if the attack stuck I would have to aid Lucía in some way, as she was third overall in the classification but managing to get a second still would have been an amazing result and a 1,2 for Rio Miera. The moment I looked around and realised the three of us had a lead, with around 12km to go, was a big surprise as I thought I was going for a sprint. I was already pretty tired from going hard so I was close to my limit but I tried to still keep coming through and we eventually got a lead of just under 20 seconds. Had I been working for myself, I definitely would have skipped or did shorter turns but I tried to help Lucía too and make the attack stick. It really felt like we were on the cusp of getting a good result but each kilometre felt like an eternity and having only seen the last kilometre of the race, everything before was all new. It consisted of long straight roads, with the group behind able to still see us all the while. The end of my race came up the 1km hill to the finish where I blew up. To my dismay I could just not do any more.
Since I had gone home in April, my fitness had dropped, doing less training to focus on exams and everything involved when planning to move. Consequently during the race, my heart rate was consistently really high, resulting in many heart rate personal bests but also reduced fitness and performance.
I was very disappointed, being so close to a result but not being able to deliver, however my coach and team members were great in reminding me that I did what I was told and Lucía was able to get the victory in the end, gaining the Copa España leaders jersey, while we also won the team classification. I can feel some comfort having contributed to the result and trying to focus more on the positives. All I can do now is continue to acclimatise and with time I should regain my fitness.
My next race is tomorrow in Sueca, Valencia, involving a slight off road/gravel section, which should make for an interesting race!
Other than racing, I can say I have nearly settled completely into my new apartment, despite it being odd being the only person in it. I have had a real problem with ants and a small invasion in my house so I have been busy cleaning but if anyone has any unobvious tricks on how to get rid of them, suggestions would be greatly appreciated! I am also starting to make more of an effort to make new friends here as being in an apartment on my own, I think it could be easy to isolate myself and stay home all day. Although it is a big effort to initiate the friendships, hopefully it will be worth it!