Words: Mel Alexander
The debate over stage 5 was the flat 8km section at 25k – would it be the fast gravel road of 2013 or the dreaded railway track of 2012?
Today’s stage from Cordoba was 82km, the longest stage of the race by 11km though with a similar amount of climbing as yesterday with a total of 1600 metres. It was another dry day and around 15 degrees.
Mark and I had a brilliant start and managed to find ourselves surrounded by new faces, some strong riders placed higher up on the general Classification than us. This was helping to keep the momentum up. After the fast start and then the first steep climb that peaked at 16km and included a bit of hike-a-bike up a rocky gully we had a brilliant long descent which started with single track and finished with a rocky fast track which I recognised from last year. At the bottom of the descent we had completed 24km.
Next was the flat 8km and we were so chuffed that it was the flat fire road from 2013, we were by our selves as Mark had dropped a bottle on the descent and lost contention with the group we were with but after a solid effort by him and drafting by me we were soon back with them.. At 33km the second climb of the day started but unlike most of the climbs so far in the race which mainly went straight up it was an undulating climb which peaked at 61kms. The continual up and downs were gradual in places and very sharp in others, went through single track, wider tracks and a little bit of road. Looking at the profile the day before I thought this would suit me but once starting the climb I kept finding myself dropping back as riders kept slowly but continually passing. All I could do was focus on my ride and keep grinding away. We did catch up with the second placed mixed pairs at around the 40km mark, we could see them a few times up until this point but caught then when they were stopped tightening up a cleat though once sorted they were soon gone. The rest of the day was definitely the toughest for me so far in the stage race. The pace was still fast and the continual short climbs were taking their toll on my legs. There was some more fun and challenging riding through single track and fun fast tracks with technical rocky and drainage obstacles to ride over. From the peak of the climb at 61 km to the finish at 82 km we were mainly gradually descending on undulating terrain and if I had not been feeling so tired I am sure I would have really enjoyed this. But for me I just wanted to get to the end today.
Overall and looking back now we had another strong day and finished 3rd on the stage again in the mixed category. We had another mechanical free day and my Scott Scale is running super smoothly. We gained a further 2mins10 on the 3rd placed mixed team in classification and now sit 5 mins 39 behind them and off the podium. One day left and with a shorter final stage of 56km this is going to be tough to achieve, lets see what happens tomorrow – hopefully wake up with great legs.