Rich Rothwell and Ant White will be pairing up and tackling The Andalucia Bike Race, a six stage mountain bike race covering 400km of technical and demanding trails. Here they give us a preview of the race as they enter final preparations – it starts this Sunday.
The Andalucia Bike Race 2012 – a great start to the year.
Next Friday Ant and I will be flying to Malaga in Andalucia to take part in the Andalucia Bike Race which starts on Sunday 26th February and ends on Friday 2nd March. Six back-to-back days of hard racing, sounds pretty tough eh?
Well throw in a dose of UCI ranking points, a field including the likes of Jose Antonio Hermida (three times World Cross Country Champion) and stages maxing out with 2741 metres of climbing jammed into 87 kilometres, and you’ve got a pretty chunky challenge on your hands!
This is going to be a fantastic experience! In my opinion, the south of Spain is one of the best places in the world to ride a bike both on and off-road and Cordoba is a stunning location. The inaugural event, held last year, received rave reviews, so with Malaga, (and some early year sun) just a three hour flight away, it was an easy decision to make.
I thought it might be interesting to ask my fellow racers some questions about the race and stage racing in general. It appears that many of us have the same ideas!
What is it that appeals to you about stage racing?
You only need to ask regular stage racers to find out what the hook is. Sally Bigham and Josh Ibbett mentioned the quality and type of riding these races include:
“I love the adventure that stage racing takes you on… Covering big miles and seeing great places and trails are what MTBing is about for me,” commented Sally.
While Josh added: “Stage racing appeals as it is a great way to see some of the most amazing places in the world whilst enjoying some great mountainbiking.”
The sheer challenge of this type of racing attracts the endurance animal in Ant:
“Stage racing appeals in respect that it is very challenging and a little scary. You will be grinding yourself into the ground by the end, like everyone else … dealing with it and coming through it is appealing”.
Stage racing appeals to Scott Cornish’s mental state:
“My mental health issues have always made it hard for me to focus on a single day event, I’ve managed it on the odd occasion, but performance is always, at best, sporadic. Stage racing is great for me as it appeals to my sense of adventure and allows my mind to settle into the rhythm of racing on a daily basis.”
What in particular drew you to the Andalucia Bike Race?
With the Cape Epic stage race starting only three weeks after Andalucia, the race provides some great stage race practice; Josh is racing in South Africa with Ben Thomas, and Sally, also racing at the end of March, commented:
“Andalucia Bike Race is perfect timing for pre-Cape Epic training and preparation. This was the initial reason I raced in 2011. I’m back for more in 2012 because the trails were so much fun and the organisation was brilliant.”
The climate, location, and chance for some quality racing is also a draw:
“Warm weather (hopefully) and some early season fast-paced racing.”
“Location – only started to investigate what Spain has to offer in the past couple of years… Some amazing riding.”
“The location of the race is great in respect of being away from the tourists on the coast in a beautiful location with plenty of culture. The locals are keen on cycling and the weather should be way better than in the UK.”
Why did you choose the partner that you have chosen?
In a stage race, working together is crucial! Andalucia provides valuable practice for Josh and Ben ahead of South Africa. Matt Page and Scott both struck up friendships with their respective partners in previous races and it seemed logical to race Andalucia together. Sally and and Milena Landtwing are both at the top of their game but will focus on having fun riding together. Ant and I? The Master of the 24-hour simply stated:
“Good friends and equally matched.”
Over ‘short’ distances, (if not 24hrs!) this has proven increasingly true; we finished within 50 seconds of each other at the 2011 Montane Kielder 100 and a similar gap at the Thetford 4-hour winter race recently, definitely a good omen for stage racing where sticking together is so important.
Do you have any tips for first time stage races?
Recovery between stages is priority as Matt Page, a rider with a real eye for detail, points out;
“Recovery is the number one most important factor. By day three or four if you are not recovering well enough it will be impossible to finish, so plenty of food/energy before/during/after each stage is vital.”
Pacing is also critical. Six days of hard riding will always catch up on you, whether you are racing or not! Josh advised against going too hard for the first few days and Ant commented that this will only cause problems later on:
“If you go too far into the red on one day even if you feel strong, you will pay for it later in the race… and you will pedal like a squirrel and lose huge chunks of time.”
Ant continued to hit the nail on the head:
“See the race as more than the race, as a great holiday, as a fitness enhancing trips; it shouldn’t just be about the result in the final classification. In pair’s races you should try to be aware of how your team mate is feeling, you should be working together rather than trying to break them.”
So there we have it; some great insights from some great riders and good friends. It’s now just a matter of some last minute prep and some short sharp final rides. Before we know it we’ll be standing in Cordoba’s historic centre, waiting for the start of the prologue through the city and up into the hills for six fantastic days riding and racing.
I’ll be providing short updates each day and a full report on my return. Many thanks to all those who have provided their views for this preview and best of luck to everyone.
A big UK presence – here’s some competition for Rich and Ant
There is a fair UK contingent attending this year too; some riding with foreign partners. Other pairings with UK riders include:
More info about the event at www.andaluciabikerace.com