Trofeu Joaquim Agostinho

This race is the last tune up for the Portuguese peloton before the biggest race of the season, the Volta a Portugal.

A lot of the teams turn out very strong for Agostinho, as it’s known. The amateur teams also turn out strong since the race is a 2.2 and the pinnacle of their calendar, aside the ‘Volta a Portugal do Futuro’.

British teams have had good performances in this race. Last year Endura lost the yellow jersey of Iker Camaño only on the last day. And the year before that Ian Bibby had an excellent showing but fell apart under the onslaught of the Portuguese teams on a very hard circuit race on the last day.

My team won the last two editions of the race.

I was very happy with my form before the race. I was setting pb’s on pretty much every long climb I passed in training and expected to go well.

I had a fall on the first day, caused by some anxious idiot cutting in for no reason; this type of thing was happening all the time during the first stage. I had a deep cut on my leg that required fixing, so I spent a few minutes getting mended before taking to the race again. I didn’t except to reach the peloton, but was going at a fairly good rate (I was averaging 45kph) and actually ended up catching them after about 40km, since the peloton was going slowly.

I was quite chuffed, I had never had the peace of mind to do such a thing before. I finished with the same time as the winner.

The cut ended up needing four stitches and the race doc and his team did an excellent job of fixing me up so I could continue racing. They did such a good job I didn’t need antibiotics and ten days latter I’ve only got a scar.

The rest of the race didn’t go so great. I developed an inflammation behind my knee due to an uneven cleat, worn on one side by the fall on the second stage. I wasn’t ridding badly though, always able to make the cut on the climbs. I managed to attack at a good time and got in a good little breakaway for 25km or so on the hard Torres Vedras circuit.

We got reeled in, but the break right after, instigated by two of the people who were in my break actually got away and stayed away. I lost touch with the speeding peloton on the descent near the finish when a team mate of mine went for off the road and our group disorganised and didn’t glue back on to the peloton.

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The Basque rider Larrinaga won the race with an amazing solo ride at the end.

The teams controlling had misspent their energy. I saw a bike shop near the finish and off I went immediately and bought new cleats.

The final stage was worse again. I was feeling good, new cleats, I’d put all the crap of the previous two days behind me when my bike kept getting out of tune… I went back to the car three times, to get it fixed and at 80km into the race the gear cable snapped, so back I went and changed bikes.

The replacement bike got that inflammation nagging and I kind of lost my enthusiasm at this stage, but the ‘engine’ was good and I stuck with it. I got up a cat 1 climb, (one of the deciding parts of the race,) in the front group.

And just when the descent started my gears broke, the rear mech catching on a spoke or something and brought me skidding to a halt. I was so pissed off standing by the road for four minutes by the time my team car rocked up.

The manager gave me a choice continue on another spare bike that’s not mine, or go to the broom wagon. I was about to continue when I said “no, someone else might need the bike”, and sure enough, David Livramento, one of the key guys for the race also breaks the gear cable on his bike.

Not much else to say about that race apart from that I did my part without fault… Oh well.

Circuito de Getxo

Getxo I in the Basque country, it’s part of Bilbao or right beside it.

The thing is the Basque country is 1100 km away. Fine if you’re flying on one of the many low cost flights from Seville to Bilbao. Not fine if you have to get up at 4:15 and drive there, two cars and a caravan.

It’s madness, why so early in the morning? Why drive? So we go there, then with legs like sausages race 177km against an always killer Spanish peloton, then drive back, I get in at 03:00 in the morning.

Taking it easy, training well, staying relaxed would have been my preference.

However, the race itself was brilliantly well organised. I really struggled in the first half hour. Somewhere between the 08:30 in the morning start and all that time in the car meant that I had nothing in the legs and could barely stay in the peloton.

The race also started cold with out the normal neutralised start. I wasn’t expecting this and was right at the back of the peloton relaxed, but thinking “Bloody hell, they’re taking the piss a bit going at 50kph in the neutralised part of the race!

Anyway I suffered like a dog till the break went away.

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Working away at Getxo.

An anxious team mate of mine decide to set the rhythm at this point and I went asked what was up.

He just felt like it then another went back to the car and asked if we could control the race: I wasn’t fussed, I enjoy riding fast and was feeling good after a bad start. I and another two hit the front and I stayed there for the next 6 laps (out of 10) trying to average 43kph, my team mates working with me quite, but I was joined by Euskaltel and Euskadi (amateur -it’s the old ‘Orbea’ continental feeder team to Euskaltel) and only began to feel bad two laps from the end.

I went bad, rested a bit and was able to get over the nasty little climb every time without much fuss. On the last lap however loads of people began opening up in front of me and I didn’t have the gas to pass all the people and close all these gaps. I chased at about 20m off the back of the group for the next six km or so but just couldn’t rejoin, so I just pottered home in the group behind.

My form is unbelievably good… Nearly, nearly made it the front group despite drilling it on the front at 43 kph for 100km.

Still I the journey took it’s toll.

Hopefully I’ll go well at the Volta and be seen.