The final fight
- Just 8km into the final stage things were not looking good for finishing the Tour if Slovenia. -
A short (2km) climb started early the day. My hamstrings just would not let me put out much power without wanting to cramp. I just had to hold the restricted power they dictated and hope it was enough.
A breakaway of 11 riders had gotten away in the opening kms, so I was hoping the climb would be controlled. That everyone would sit up, let it go out to 5mins and ride easy. In this way, breakaways are a funny thing. It's not really that these riders are so strong they ride away from the rest of the peloton, it's more that the peloton let's them go.
But - there are conditions. Usually the peloton only wants a small number of riders in the break - too many and they are harder to bring back. Smaller teams are often desperate to get one if their riders in the break. So if they miss it, they might chase it back so they have another chance. Big teams only want to let riders get away that are not a threat to the their overall GC, a threat to take a KOM or Sprint Jersey, and so on.
This means the first part of a race is full gas, each time a small group gets off the front, the peloton makes a decision "are we happy with those riders being there?" if someone is not happy they chase it back and another group try. This goes on until everyone is rather happy or until the number if riders that are not happy are no longer strong enough to bring it back.
This waiting for the break to establish is often the hardest part of the race. And although 11 riders we're off the front by the first climb. Not everyone was happy with it so they were going full gas to bring them back. It was too much for me and I got dropped 500m from the top. It was not looking good.
However, in professional races there is a convoy of team cars that are following the race. In this instance maybe 30 cars. So, if you can get over the last part of the climb before all the cars have passed you can try to slipstream, try to jump from car to car and make your way back to the group. This is not a "get out of jail free card". It is very difficult to get back on when the peloton is going full gas. And especially so when you are only off the back because your legs are dead.
I just tried to stay with the cars as long as possible hoping that the peloton would soon catch the break, that a new one would form, that everyone would be happy with it the pace would ease. Fortunately this happened and after 10km riding amongst the cars I got back on.
In order to finish the stage and the race, I still had to make it over two more climbs, one at 95km and one at 135km. If I couldn't get over the one at 95km I would not make time cut. I moved up for the climb battling my way to around 40th. It's nice to say you need to move up and be at the front for the climbs so you have space to drift back before getting dropped. But, when your legs are dead and your in a .HC race and full of stress hoping to finish the race, it's easier said then done. I slowly slipped back through the bunch over the first 5km of climb. Fortunately, it was only 5% gradient - not that this didn't feel like 15% at the time. With 2km to go the road kicked up - I could feel lactic acid coming out my eyeballs - Again, I got dropped.
At the crest of the climb about 15 cars had passed me. I used them on the descent and came within 4 cars of the bunch when the peloton seriously increased the pace. 5 cars, 6 cars, 25 cars, 17 cars, 23 cars. I had been yo-yoing but was now nearly out of cars. Then 15 cars, 10 cars. I was making my way forward again. Just as I started to hope, it stretched yet again and I ended up back behind 20 cars. Finally, things eased just enough that I slowly pegged my way car by car back to the bunch. Having spent 20km on the fight.
The final climb started shortly after. I was able to move myself up the bunch a little and hold on until the race split into 5 groups, I made it into the 3rd. The front groups split even more before the finish while the three rear groups combined to make groupeto.
Once we hit the descent I knew I would make it the 30km to the finish. Then I was able to soak up a bit of the satisfaction of getting through the tour. Able to acknowledge the rushing air as we weaved our way down the mountain and into the finish.
Thanks for your support and following me.