MONCHIQUE - SAGRE, 12th May 2013
Length - 99km
Climbing - 2058Metres
Weather - Warm and windy with blue skies
Stage Place - 9th
Overall Place - 8th
Last day. Big day as well. We got to start at 10am today and it was going to be fast day. I completely screwed up this stage last year and was determined not to do the same this year. Marco need to make 30 odd seconds to get 2nd place on GC which meant it would be go go go right from the start. I needed to catch two people in front who were potential challenges. One was 1 min behind and another was 8 mins behind.
We hit the first 700 metre climb about 3km from the start. The plan was to stick with Marco and ride with him. Good plans don't always work all that well. It was a very steep little rocky number. At the top Marco was 30 metres in front and when I looked back there was 300 metre of empty trial behind me. Not a good start. I now had 95km to go solo as Marco had gone.
I made fairly good time but spent the next 25km chasing small little groups of riders. None of them enough to help the chase. Finally I saw Scott in the distance and caught him. He was with another SA rider called Johan who we had just passed each day. However today he stuck with us. We worked together and caught the next group who contained my main rival who was one minute behind me. Francisco was not in good shape already and we still had 50km to go. I thought I'd stay with him and try and make sure he could secure his position in 8th.
When we got to 60km it was obvious that Francisco could not make with us. Johan decided to put the pedal down and within two kilometres it was just the two of us by the beach into a head wind. After maybe 3km when I looked back we were maybe 2 mins ahead of the group we were with. Johan was riding incredible strong and I wondered where he'd been for the last 8 days. We took some turns before we came down onto the beach.
A one km run across the beach pushing the bike. First gel at the end of the beach and straight up a big climb. Down another climb where we picked up Morton who we had ridden with other days. Then another two short but sharp climbs and we were back on the flats. Johan once again stuck the hammer down. Basically he was riding me off his wheel and it was some of the strongest riding seen all week. Morton was gone within another 2kms or so. Johan was now sitting up to wait for me.
We still had 20km to go and I'd not caught the man 8 mins behind me. Johan was basically towing me all the way. I couldn't do much more and Johan was still waiting. I knew the course fairly well and the last 15km was downhill and fast. We finally hit the cliffs within the last 4-5km was a relief. I knew I could make it and secure my 7th. 2km from the finish and Johans tyre started going fizz, fizz, fizz. He started to slow down to dismount and I'm screaming at him to keep riding. Small argument followed. He was still riding but reluctantly. We turned the corner to see the finish line flag and suddenly Johan knew the tyre would now last. We crossed together but it was all Johans doing. 30 mins later Johans tyre was completely flat.
I finished 9th. Time for some well deserved beers. I found out much later my ride had not been enough. Not bad and I was ok speed wise but somebody else was much better than me that day. They jumped from 9th to 7th on GC and I went backwards. They matched my stage time but because they started twenty mins in front they had gone form 8 mins behind to 12 mins in front. Johan had spent all day trying to help me. I wish he'd had more belief in himself as he would have done much better on GC.
Losing a position on GC was really my own fault because of missing the stop sign and getting a penalty. I missed it because it didn't show on my gps. Maybe it was off screen or maybe I just didn't notice. I also didn't see the additionally stop signs they put on the road either. Also if my rear mech cable had not broken maybe that was more time and enough.
I'm in Lisbon today and have hurt myself. Ride all the way across the county on a bike with no crashes and walk 100 metres form the hotel and straight into a pot hole in the foot path. Ankle goes crunch and is now swollen and twice the size. Oh joy.
Anyway once I'm home I'll upload my tracks and compare with last year. Have to be happy with 8th but still wish it was 7th...