Today was good day! It was a longer stage at 60 miles and 9,500ft of climbing, however I measured my effort better (mostly – see below!) and really enjoyed the race.
I stood on the start line with Richard Lilly, Mark Spratt and Jon Roberts, basking in the sunshine, chewing the fat, enjoying the moment but was quietly worried about what lay ahead. I didn’t know how my legs would react today after such an effort the day before. This was new territory for me. I was told by some experienced folk staying at the same B&B that the start today would be less frantic and more measured due to everyone being tired from Stage 1. That was not the case. Everyone smashed it from the start and up the first long climb. Thankfully, my legs had recovered well and I could manage the pace, without expending too much effort. My heart rate was slightly lower than during yesterday’s start, which was a good sign and I planned to try and keep it within threshold for as much of the day as I could.
The profile for today’s route was insane. You were either going up a stupidly steep climb or coming down one. There didn’t seem to be any flat sections to allow you to recover. After about ten miles, I settled in and hooked up with a few guys who were going at a pace I could manage. I made sure that I drafted where I could and did my share on the front, but not for too long. We must have stayed as a group for ten to fifteen miles, until I took everyone the wrong the way! Not too far though and when we corrected ourselves, we caught up with another group about 30 strong. The trails were dry and the dust created by 30 or so riders barrelling along, made it hard to breathe.
Sally Bigham was part of this large group, on her first race back after having a baby. Two other girls from the elite cat were also in the group and they were all keeping a close eye on each other. This large group kept stretching out and then coming back together. At this point, I was feeling strong and had just had a double expresso gel, so was feeling a bit more alive. So my plan for having a measured approach went out of the window and I went to the front of the group and pushed on. The group got smaller and nobody came to the front, so it carried on like this for some time.
The last feed station was at 54 miles, 7 miles from the end, where there was a full bottle waiting for me. It had been hot all day and with the effort I had just put in, I ran out fluid and with a couple of miles to go until the feed station, I blew up! My speed dropped as well as my head and I just went backwards as people caught and passed me.
It felt like a long time before I made it to the feed station, where I drank a whole bottle, filled up on Jaffa Cakes and left as quick as I could to limit my loses. The drink worked almost instantaneously and I was firing again for the last 6 miles. I caught a few people and made it over the line after about 5 and a half hours.
That was a great stage. The route was more interesting than the first day and there was some technical descents to keep you interested. Two down, one to go. Let’s see how I feel in the morning!