Parenzana Cube Istria, 2d stagerace + 1 marathon in Croatia.
After years of “almost” going to this event at the end of the season, it finally happened! 2014 would be the year to see this race in sunny Istria! Not bad, because after some weeks of rainy cold weather in Budapest, a long weekend in the sun at the sea, well, I could imagine worse…
Day 1, Friday , Funtana, 32km 350 denivelation
Together with Mad Mike, we started Friday in the morning for a 600km ride to Porec. Thanks to Mike, it was a nice 5hr drive and for once, I could just relax and enjoy the scenery, holiday already started J. When we arrived at 13.00, we had time to register, to check in to our hotel and to do some shopping-lunch. Around 15.15 we both woke up after a short nap and so it was time for action. Quickly gathered our stuff, build the bikes and hop, to the start 5km further. Perfectly in time, I could get in the startbox. Now, the UCI-officials were calling the names to decide the starting order. Olala! When I heard these famous names, I realized, it would be tough! There were a lot of professional riders from different teams! But ok, the mission stays the same: suffering in going to the limit and having fun, what else can a man do? So, 2min later, we finally start. We are going through bumpy fields and I realize today is fully-day J. My Podium is going great and while the others are shaking all over the place, I can sit and pedal, even in the turns. And yep, that saves energy! I don’t have to brake and to accelerate all the time, I just keep going. The group is very nervous and then it happens: the guy in first position misjudges the direction and makes a wrong turn left. Sure, everybody follows, except for me…. I always keep my eyes open and so I see the signs on the right side when all the others go left. Now, I am alone and I decide to keep pushing. Sure, they were going to get back, but at least they would have to work for it. When I get to some asphalt part, I realize that my time of glory must be almost over, but… nobody is coming?? Well, I don’t understand this, but I decide just to keep my racing pace. I have to calm myself from time to time, but it’s fun. I can choose my line, my speed, perfect! And on the bumpy fast jeeptracks, I know I have an easier life than the others… Close to the finish, there are still some short nasty climbs and on 1, I even have to run on my nice carbon sidi’s L as the rolling rocks are unridable, but all goes fine and after 1hr 4min, I reach the finish in 1st position, 34 sec ahead of the peleton.
Stupid? I don’t know. 34sec on this flat fast track is good, and with tomorrow having another fast flat track, it’s perfect to have some advantage, so I will be able to control the race… Or at least to try, because these boys mean business. (or their managers do J )
Day 2, Saturday, Tar, 41km 560 denivelation
Well, today the start is 12kms from the hotel, perfect for warming up-cooling down. So, Around 10.15, I start from the hotel. The feeling is good, but I guess the 1hr yesterday couldn’t have killed anybodies legs… After 30min, I arrive in the center of Tar and immediately, I have to line up in the box. At 11hr, we start, first on fast asfaltroads, but then, soon enough, back on gravel jeeptracks. The pace is high and the Focus rider, Uwe (who became 2nd yesterday), is constantly checking how I am doing. So, I have to be in the front or I can expect an attack. Sure, on every climb, the pace goes up and the group becomes smaller. After a good 10kms, we come to a muddy part and I am too much to the back, in 6th position. Again, Uwe attacks and so I have to pass some riders quickly to jump to him. After this, we are only 4 left. Now, we arrive at the longest descent of the day and also here, no waiting! But, sitting in 4th position, to see the others fly down is a nice show and with the Ram Podium, it is not a hard job to follow. Once down, we have to follow a canal on a bumpy track. Perfect for me to relax. But I almost relax too much, as all of a sudden, I have to jump out of a gully and my rearwheel is still stuck in it. So I drift and almost crash, just managing to control it. This is a big side impact for my rear Notubes Gold wheel and after the race I would see it even cost me a spoke… But ok, I am still in the race and now everybody is waiting for the 200m deniv climb of the day. Here I expect to be attacked at full. When we arrive, Uwe sets the pace again and I decide to go ride next to him. This way I can control the speed + it’s harder for the others to jump away. And it works! No crazy escapes and we are 5 people to reach the top together. Now, without mechanical troubles, I should be safe… The remaining kms are mostly down and fast. And so I decide to make a good pace. At 1km before the finish, I move aside, as now it is their fight to decide for 2nd and 3rd place. So, I watch the sprint while relaxing and rolling to the finish. I become 5th today, but 1st overall for the 2 day race, jihaaaa!!!
Day 3, Sunday, Vizinada, 73km, 2150 denivelation
Ho, 3rd day, hardest day! A little bit strange that in a stage race the things get harder with everyday passing, but otherwise I would think it’s a real holiday and we don’t want that, do we? J. Also, as today’s marathon is separate from the first 2 race days, it is possible to get fresh racers at the start that I don’t know yet… Another detail: Mike became sicker after the Friday ride and so he has decided not to race. But he is very kind to become my helper-coach and so he will be on the track today to give me drinks, food, oil, whatever I need, waaawww! This is a very rare situation and it will really make a difference at this level of racing! Sorry that you are sick Mike, but thanks a lot for the support!!
So, Sunday, 9hr, I get in the teamcar with my manager ;) and he brings me –fast- to the hills where we will play today. It’s beautiful weather again with clouds still hanging in the valley above the river and the beautiful old towns in the sun on the hilltops peaking through the clouds, what a view!! 3km before the top and the town Vizinada, I get out and use this part to warm up. Immediately, I see the new racers and even a complete pro-looking team Italian racers, oleee… Not too much time left and so I move to the start. I find some of my new Croatian friends from trans dinara, always nice J, and then the UCI guys call the startorder and I get into first line. The start will be crazy, as it will be a descent and so I want to stay in the front! Medvedev takes the lead, I stay in his wheel. The descent is 50m, now we turn up for a small but interesting climb. First on a bumpy road – I love my Ram Podium ;)- then we turn left steep up. I realize, I need to shift to the small ring, but my front derrie jams (well, as I am standing on the pedals, too much power on it….) Ok, I decide to go on 38-36 and to run the pedals, but now, Medvedevs teammate who just passed me has chainproblems and I get stuck in his wheel. Of the bike, running and losing 15 positions… But ok, the descent that follows and that I feared is ok, all goes well and once in the valley, I can easily get into the leading group of 15 riders. I can see that the fresh Italian Trek team is controlling the situation as they put constantly 3 riders in the lead to decide the ridiculous pace. We cross the valley and now it’s time for the real stuff: the first 350m deniv climb. As today is 2150m climbing on 72kms, perhaps I should have been taking the xc race hardtail, but hey, I’ll enjoy the bumpy stuff later on, now I shall suffer. The speed is extreme, but because of the bad trails, I can stay with the group. Then we exit the forest and jump on nice shotterroads. And that’s the moment the group starts to move away. I check my HF and the feeling in my legs and I know I have to let go. If I don’t get into my own race-ritm, then this will be suicide and I am too old for that! Still it hurts to see so many riders stronger than me, but I guess that’s reality, you can be good, there will always be stronger… So, now, I need to calm down, get into my flow and start to enjoy. And, as an extra, I get Massimo Debertolis in my wheel, perfect, now we can work together! We reach the first typical town on the hilltop and after only 500m rocky descent, I see Uwe with a flat tire… Ai… Bad luck always comes to the nicest guys! We continu and now follows a great singletrack, waaaaw! When we reach the faster jeeptracks, I show Massimo I want to work with him and it clicks immediately! We make a good team and so time and kms become easier! The track is super, going from fast jeeptracks over bumby fields into nice technical and rocky singles, really good! When I get to the first waterpoint at km 27, I have my teammanager at interim waiting with a new high5 bottle, some motorex chainlube and like in F1, I am gone in some seconds on a “fresh bike”. Great work! When I get back to Massimo, we just arrive in the fastest part of the track, the old parenzana trainway. It’s nice to ride there through the old tunnels and it’s also good for recovering, because this day isn’t over yet! First we get to the longest climb of the day, and after seeing the profile of the stage this morning, I was expecting a monster, but it was easy! Just a nice 300m denivelation climb on good roads, even a part on asphalt. After this a risky descent (big rolling stones waiting for a chance to taste my maxxis rubber…) and I have to let go Massimo, incredible how fast he is flying over that single on a hardtail!! Just before I get to the bottom, I pass one of the Italian trek boys on a flat tire… I see my friend just a couple of seconds ahead and so I jump to him. Just when I reach him, waterpoint nr 2 is there. Again a quick stop and hop, chasing again J. We have now catched up with another trek-rider and so we start the next steep climb with 3. Walter, the trek-rider, is keeping a strong pace and I follow at 20m. Behind me, I hear Massimo accelerating, but then he disappears (he was on 1*11speed and apparentely the ring was too big, he got tired). So, I am left with Walter and we are riding for 5th place. Luckily there are still a lot of climbs, because, once in the faster flatter parts, Walter is not working at all… I try to talk to him and explain him I am the old guy that does the 3 days of racing, he is the young 1 day pro, but it doesn’t convince him I guess… At km 63, Mike is there again with the hard needed big Hi5 bottle + some small bottle of new energydrink from Hi5 with caffeine? I need to check that, because it did a good job! After 5 min, I started to feel better (I ran out of drinks 5km before the waterpoint, very thirsty!) and so I worked hard till the last climb, the one to the finish. Here I gave the lead to Walter. His pace wasn’t that strong and I just relaxed till the last 200m. Here, the gravel changed for asphalt and he started sprinting his hardtail. But, I had locked my machine as well and pulled hard, passing him under loud encouragement of Mike and so I took 5th place J
Good? Bad? Well, sure, it wasn’t my strongest day, but I didn’t suffer too much, had a good day of fun on a nice track and with 5th place after the nice victory on the first days, I can be very happy!!
Next week? We’ll see, no fixed plans yet…
See ya, Wouter