Our representatives, Matt Page and Melanie Alexander, are doing well and are holding onto third place in the mixed category after a day marred by a small, yet frustrating mechanical on Mel’s bike. That’s the nature of the stage race though and with any luck they’ve got the mechanicals out the way ready to make up the time to second place tomorrow!
Read Matt’s stage 1 report here if you haven’t already.
ANDALUCIA BIKE RACE STAGE 2
Words: Matt Page
Today was very typical of the roller coaster ride that you go through during a stage race. A good, frustrating middle section, good end and a very frustrating evening!
We arrived at the start to find some great news, we had moved up from Gate 7 to Gate 2, which would make life so much easier at the start. It was still a hectic “neutralised” section, but Mel rode well, holding her ground being aggressive when needed. I stuck with her for the first 5km, then we became separated for a while as I pushed ahead a little too swiftly. Re-grouped we managed to pass the 2nd place team in the mixed category quite comfortably. Progress was slow however as riders were jumping off at the slightest glimpse of some mud or rocks, of which there were plenty. Eventually the climb widened and we could push on. Soon after Mel started struggling with her rear gears, jumping on several gears at a time. We tried everything to get it working smoothly but nothing was working.
After a long and technical climb the 2nd place team passed us while we lubed the chain, hoping that might help. Into a steep singletrack descent we managed to get back past and for about 15km we had them on our tails, just managing to keep them at bay despite Mel still struggling with the mis-shifts becoming more frequent. We seemed to be really well matched and couldn’t shake them off, neither uphill or down, which included some epic descents. Then disaster happened: just after a stream crossing the chain broke. No need to panic, I had a rather nifty Lezyne carbon multi-tool and a spare chain link that Mel had taped to the bars so it was fixed within 2 minutes, but we had lost quite a bit of ground and had lots of people to get by again.
From there we had a long and sometimes very steep climb which was very technical in places. It was great to be clearing sections that had me walking last year, the bike felt just as good going up as it did going down! With the gears still playing up we lost 3rd place on the stage and seemed to lose ground quickly. I was trying to encourage Mel to keep going, but it must have been so frustrating to not use a good chunk of the cassette. After cresting the final big climb things started to improve and we started to pass teams pretty quickly. With 20km to go we had the 3rd place mixed team in sight and this encouraged us to keep pushing on. I got a little carried away at times and bridged the gap too quickly, leaving Mel behind. One last push with 10km to go we got onto their wheel and stayed close on the upper part of the final descent. Up a short road section Mel powered away, closing right up which just left the very last section.
We changed tactics today, instead of blasting down all guns blazing I stayed closer to Mel and she could follow my lines which made a real difference and made us faster overall. The team ahead were slowly coming back to us, then we turned onto a steep pitch and they took a different line. Mel followed me and we got past and onto the shallower section. There was no way we were wasting the chance, pushing flat out up the final 500m tarmac grind and across the line.
We ended up being just 30 sec ahead of 4th, but maintain a good gap overall. We didn’t know how far ahead 2nd place were but after our strong finish I didn’t think they would be that far. After checking the results, they had finished 1min 50sec ahead of us, giving them just under 4 minutes overall. Still very much within catching distance and considering all the issues we have had today I know its possible.
I thought the drama was all over after the race, but after trying to fix Mel’s gears I was completely stuck with what was causing it. We changed the inner and outer cable, which was a mission within itself but that didn’t work. Then the chain, which was on the edge of being worn out but again no joy. Almost giving up I had a good look at the cassette to find a few cogs were bent and causing the chain to skip. Bending them back didn’t work, so a new cassette was in order. Thankfully all shops, including bike shops stay open until 9pm and with 2 shops within 200m we were in luck! New cassette fitted, hopefully that is the issue solved and we can smash it again tomorrow.
The race tomorrow is in a different location, called Priego de Cordoba, over an hour’s drive away. Logistics are a bit complicated and it means an earlier wake-up call to get over in time. We also have to get everything packed into the car and hopefully not have to dismantle the bikes completely. That, however, is a job for tomorrow!
More about Melanie Alexander.
More about Matt Page.
Meanwhile in other category news (words from the organisation):
“After a thrilling final fight with Lakata-Mennen and their Multivan Merida teammates Thomas Litscher and Ondrej Cink, Andalucía Bike Race 2012´s winner couple clinched victory in today´s stage. Bigham-Landtwing in females, Egeda-Misser in Master 30, Rothwell-White in Master 40 and Langvad-Bonne in Mixed were the other winners”