Windy is a good word to summarize the day, with long flat roads (experienced every which-way) and some leg breaking bridges. A sketchy neutral (with two lead moto’s devoured in the pack) and then an unbelievably fast start where we averaged 53kph (a little over 32mph) the first hour. With a ripping tailwind on the massive bridge between islands in the opening 15km and a group full of Dutch crosswind specialist along with Ty up the road just kilometers in (with no belgians) causing the peloton to chase at more than 60kph all the way across the almost five minute island extension. Almost instantly the pack was destroyed after taking a right into the insane crosswinds. Guttered is another good word to describe the day. Thwack! The front riders attack and form an echelon, pinching the others into the wind. If you’re not in the top-10 drilling it on the narrow roads chances are the legs are burning, or about to be. Turn, slightly regroup, the pack slowly dwindling in size. Turn, Thwack! They hit it again, a slightly better position then the last section after learning a lesson. Again, not enough so you’re suffering centimeters away from the grass/dirt/momentum killer. Racers legs stinging so badly they somewhat relent and yell RIGHT to form another echelon and hope that the front runners will slow down a fraction. No chance. Another split with slightly less people. If you look back you’ll see riders come to terms that they’re not getting back on. The Kazakhs badly wanted to bring back the group ahead, which in turn slowly dwindled the group behind. Just before the feedzone we hit a long section of cobbles, nobody able to hide at that point. Less than 3 kilometers away from the end of the pave the was the feed zone. Another mistake, I was too far back in the group when some riders pulled off to abandon into their team cars, I then saw my soigneur and got a mussette bag right when some riders already “fed” in front decided to turn up the intensity. One too many mistakes, so I’m left to a fruitless chase into a block headwind just 50 meters behind the others. These races are so much more than having the highest power to weight ratio. You move up on the tailwind or headwind stretches, then get dived on by at least 5 guys on the corner, causing a brake-fest and subsequent 15 second sprint to get up to speed. On the crosswinds there is virtually no moving from your current spot if the front men are going. If you’re in the top-10 you still have to rotate which is no piece of cake but “easier” than being in the single file line staring at the front wheel in front of you. You need a combination of patience and pack maneuvering always being at the front sheltered from the absurdly strong winds. My day was cut short after 100 kilometers so I rode back with a general sense of direction to the finish where the van was parked waiting for us. The Algerian team along with Ryan, Connor, and a couple Euro’s caught me while I was riding back so we motorpaced off their team car back to finish the day. Another race down with many more lessons being painfully engrained into my head. I’m already looking forward to some redemption at next year’s edition! Thanks for the read!
8 minute clip of the race: