Spain - Catilla y Leon
Having never been to Spain before, I was looking forward too the experience to visit the country and explore the vast plains our racing would take us through.
After arriving in Madrid, we drove to the small city of Zamora where we spent a day before the start of the Castilla y Leon.
One unique observation from Spain is the small villages scattered across the plains, each one nestled tight together with a historic church or castle being the standout landmark.
With Movistar, who are arguably the strongest team in the world, lining up, we were set for a solid three days of racing. Alejandro Valverde was the big drawcard for the race and he didn’t disappoint either, winning two stages and the overall GC.
Up until stage one, I had never raced (or trained) in such torrential rains before, it was a mental challenge to overcome and one that I’ll never forget.
The Castelli wet weather gear was in full use and that definitely aided my warmth, despite the miserable six degrees and rain ALL day.
It’s one thing to concentrate on the race itself, but another to keep warm, hydrated, fueled and tactically switched on whilst pushing on through the pouring rain. Throw in a puncture or two, which unfortunately I did receive, and the race can seem twice as hard as it would normally be.
A tough technical finish with some nasty short climbs didn’t aid my ability to recover in time for the finish after puncturing with 20km to go and only returning to the tail end of the bunch atop the second last category three climb when the pace was starting to heat up.
Teammate Adam Phelan spent the day in the breakaway and took some KOM points to sit in 2nd place in the mountains classification heading into stage two. He was caught on the final climb but managed to hold onto what was left of the main group which included Lachlan Norris as well.
Racing close to the Portuguese border, we actually finished stage one and started stage two in Portugal! The two countries were much the same except for the 1 hour time difference.
Another race highlight was the hailstorm during stage two which left marks on our skin from the sheer force of the hailstones. The strong winds played havoc too, splitting the race apart and seeing many teams miss the split. We were one of the teams to miss out, getting caught behind the group of 25 riders, with Adam and myself fighting on to the finish in the second main group of around 30 guys.
I was disappointed to miss the front split, having had good legs and climbing pretty strongly to support Adam and Lachy for the first part of the race.
Blue skies were a relief for stage three, but a challenging course finishing at the top of a category 1 climb saw my day end early, heading to the team bus for an early shower. The climbs simply took their toll and there wasn’t much more I could do for the boys to help in the finish.
At the end of my first month here in Europe I’ve gained some good kilometers and solid climbing and in the legs
One thing is for sure, hard tours like these only make you work harder for what’s coming next, you don’t lose them, you learn from them. By gaining new experiences and new lessons from Castilla y Leon, it will only add more fuel to my fire moving forwards into our next races in Europe.