Well where to start. I guess with: I survived.
Our group set of and the pace was just fast. Before we got to the first climb at 10Km or so I was out the back. I didn’t expect to be able to climb with them up the 5km hill at 10km so just let them go. I thought it was only 3-4 riders but probably closer to 7-8 got away. Maybe the right move but maybe the wrong. We picked up the first group that started 6 mins in front on the hill anyway.
The first 40Km was with the majority of the hills and I just seemed to pick up riders for a bit and then be on my own again. At 50km I caught three Portuguese riders who were together and I hung with them. Not much action apart from watching Jose try to catch up on some swimming lessons. The puddle was maybe 50 cm deep and I think the only part that stayed dry was his helmet.
We have had a heap of heavy showers the few days we have been here but thankfully not today whilst we rode. The trails however are very heavy going. Almost like someone had been spreading glue. We stopped at 80km and refuelled with water as well as bikes under a tap and cleaning the drive train as best we could.
Somewhere near 80Km I bit the dust. Flat piece of road and hit something I didn’t see. Both hands of the handlebars and the handlebars across my stomach. Was trying to eat the front wheel for 2-3 seconds before losing balance and biting the dust. We were doing a reasonable speed as well. Not a single graze which was good. That made 3 from 4 of our group who had crashed. With no injuries.
Myself and Jose lost the others on some technical slab climbs and pulled out a gap. After this the pair of us rode together and finally started picking a lot of riders up towards the end. I had energy low in the last 10km and no more Gels in pockets and had to stop for another from my bag. I lost Jose here and he finished a min and half in front of me.
Good day in all and I’m 18th. My actual time was probably in the top ten. Fingers crossed I’ll pick up a few more places the next few days. The winner of today was the ex Olympian. Rode the whole stage on his own and finished a mile in front of the anyway else. And he has handicap and starts 6mins in front of me!!!
Almost forget to mention the scenery. Lots of small villages that are very run down but so picturesque. Cobbled streets and stone buildings. Lot of run down/falling down houses in the village’s right next to normal houses. The locals almost seem to be peasant type farmers and things seem very simple.