Wednesday, 6 July 2016

RAS de Cymru: Stage 6 - The Tumble

So it's here, the final stage of the RAS. Similar to last year, in that it was fairly flat circuit, with a mountain top finish. All pretty epic really. Although similar to last year, this stage was held on a different circuit which was based around 3 laps of a 17 mile course and then finishing on The Tumble. I'd never ridden The Tumble, i'd heard it was quite tough at 2.6 miles and 8%, around a 15 minute effort, so my aim was to stick with the bunch and be in a good position for the climb, and then hopefully, make up some times/places on the climb.

We rolled out of Abergavenny, with all the riders looking quite tired now, myself included. Out of the town, and after a 3 mile neutralised section the hammer went down, at precisely this point I herd the unmistakable sound of carbon and wheels hitting the floor. There had been a crash at the back of the field, around 10 riders down perhaps, I didn't want to look over my shoulder too much... apart from this the bunch rode quite well, the pace certainly was too hot and for the first of three laps nothing much happened. A few attacks and sprints for the KOM and sprint primes, but nothing else really. I stayed in a good position, and coming into lap two felt strong. As with previous days my heart rate was getting lower and lower, with an average of around 138 for the 3 laps. I was pretty fatigued now. Again, nothing much happened on lap two really, people saving themselves for the final lap and final climb. Onto the final lap now, I was feeling good, rode well upto the KOM, but certainly kept some energy back...

3 laps done and we were on the way to The Tumble. The pace was high now, the road wide and riders were jostling for position, all the usual shouts as somebody touches their brakes were heard. Just before the climb we touched the village of Govilon, I was in a good position now, maybe in the top 30, riders were already starting to peel off, clearly having done the work for the team. Now onto the climb, the bottom sections are steep, and two hairpins and subsequent ramps around 12%. There was a flurry of attacks, all of which I managed to stay with. 3 riders had a pretty large gap at the front, a few bridged over to join them, but I was concentrating on distancing myself from the bunch and trying to make up some time. I was riding well, it bloody hurt, but I was reeling people in, who dare I say it, had gone out far too quick. I was on my own now, and could see a group of 5 up the road, I had to pass these. The climb opened up and we were on the moors, I passed the 2km to go mark and just after passed the group of 5, they jumped on my wheel, but i'm pleased to say they were dropped! 500m to go now, there was another group of 5 up the road, but I didn't have the legs to get across. I look around and see an NFTO rider on my wheel, where did he come from? I clicked down and sprinted within the last 200m and distanced him. Crossing the line I was empty, had nothing left and proceeded to just stand there in a daze. Great ride by Paul Double who got the stage win, very impressive climbing.

That's it. The RAS is done for another year. I'd done better than I had thought, thanks mainly to the TT and this final stage. On Stage 6 I had placed 20th, which rewarded me with some valuable time on GC. I finished in 17th overall on GC at 2:49 to yellow. The RAS has a reputation for being seriously hard, and this year was no exception, the number of junior & U23 teams is impressive as is their ability. I did wonder if after 5 stages some might crack on stage 6, obviously not the case! 17 of the top 20 in GC were either juniors or U23, serious riding ability.

Thanks again for reading and hope you enjoying following my posts. Huge thanks finally to all the BC comms, organisers, NEG and static marshals, timing judges etc... you were all brilliant, the race was a huge success.

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