Andalucia Bike Race presented itself as a great opportunity to gain some early season race form, grab some UCI world ranking points, and practise riding as a pair with Josh Ibbett who I’ll also team up with for the Cape Epic at the end of March. Pulling out of the race on stage 3 following a crash was a major blow but the trip wasn’t a complete disaster.
Day 1’s prologue took place under blue sunny skies which appeared just minutes before the start gun leaving the majority of riders stripping back to short sleeve jerseys and shorts whilst the Spanish riders rode in 25 degree centigrade heat wearing long sleeve jerseys, overshoes, scarf’s, and even leg warmers! We survived the first of the daily neutralised starts which the organisers used to tour us around some crazy little streets within the start town.
We were loosing time on the climbs but making time on the flat stuff and also on the descents so really had to push on where we could to gain the most benefit. On the singletrack passing points were rare so it was difficult to overtake, we tried to ride safely to prevent the risk of puncturing but it was fun riding some more risky lines to get past slower riders. On what on paper looked like the hardest day for the team we finished just outside of the UCI points in 28th place.
Following the neutralised section stage 1 began on a steep tarmac climb which leads onto a lengthy gravel climb which was good for spreading out the hundreds of riders. We spent much of the early stage with Wiggle.com’s Matt Page and his teammate Milton Ramos. Josh may disagree here but I think some home rivalry played a part here and we chased Matt and Milton for too long which hurt Josh towards the end of the stage. It was great to see so many people out on the course cheering on the race, there were plenty of big cheers when riders cleared technical lines on the descents or tricky uphill sections. We had a fun day but couldn’t produce the top 25 result we were looking for.
The fun factor seemed to improve each day and stage 2 didn’t disappoint with some of the best singletrack I’ve ever ridden, there was a great mix of rocky trails to smooth flowing trails. Towards the end of the stage there was a small section we had to walk where I lost my footing and took a fall putting my hand out and dislocating a finger. I was a little worried but gingerly climbed back onto the bike to finish the stage. Back at the hotel my hand was swollen and in some pain, I tried not to let onto Josh how bad I felt in the hope that all would be better for the next stage.
For stage 3 we moved host town to Priego de Córdoba, with taped fingers I successfully negotiated the tarmac neutralised section around town. Following the official start we hit a gravel climb which meandered its way up into the hills, over the top of the hill we entered a fast fireroad descent which is where my hand began to hurt.
The pain meant it was impossible to hold onto the bars so I had to slow down the pace, Josh overtook me on the descent and sailed onto the next climb with a 30 second lead. Sadly I couldn’t catch him before the first feed zone where I pulled off the course for a lift back to the start with Topeak-Ergon mechanic David Padfield. Josh didn’t know what had happened and was left out on course to make his way slowly to the finish thinking I was still behind trying to catch back up.
It was a disappointing way to finish the race, the following day I was back on the bike in training on the mountain roads around the final host town of Jaen, the legs felt fantastic but the hand definitely wouldn’t have been strong enough to race. Josh and I learnt a lot about how to race together as a pair, this I’m sure will be a major advantage in a few weeks time in South Africa. Andalucia Bike Race was a fantastic experience and hopefully some its UCI points will be ours next year.
4 days on from the fall and my damaged knuckle already feels much stronger, a few more days recovery on the road bike and then I’ll be back offroad in preparation for next weekends Gorrick Spring Series Race.
Thanks to the fellow Brits including mechanics/ supporters Keith, Dave, and Paul for helping us through the week in Spain.