Monday, September 20, 2021

Trofeu Joaquim Agostinho

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I raced the Trofeu Joaquim Agostinho this weekend past weekend.

The Prologue was very tricky, very technical. I did my best and I was very pleased.

I didn’t have any great expectation for it, which was a good thing as I missed quite a lot of my warm up, due to everyone going berserk when my team mate and Time Triallist Alejandro Marque broke a gear cable just minutes before he was due to race. I also haven’t touched the TT bike since February.

I’m going to start doing some work on it though, I might do the National TT Championships if it isn’t too complicated to do so. Iker Camaño won the prologue by quite a margin.

The First Stage could have been tricky and at one point I though it would be, as the entire peloton went down a wrong turn… I was told to reel the break in at this point also.

This would have been tricky because by the rules of cycling, the cyclist must know the route and is held ultimately responsible if he goes of course. However, we were lucky because they stopped the race and we only had to chase for 10km or so.

The rest of the stage was controlled by Endura. It’s excellent to watch a British team (that’s not Sky) racing like a professional team should.

Too often I’ve seen continental teams that are completely ineffective, it’s no surprise that they’re the top ranked continental team in Europe.

The end of the stage was very dangerous, I was comfortably in the main bunch taking it cautiously, but stopped when I saw two team mates with a puncture, to help them chase back on.

Unfortunately, Marque, whom I waited for didn’t believe he could sprint back on after getting a good bike from another domestique… Ironically I arrived with the peloton a few meters away, having soft pedalled the last 300m waiting for him; he could have made it back on.

The stage was won by Sergio Ribeiro, which wasn’t much of a surprise, being the best sprinter in Portugal at this type of stage finish.

The second stage was a very hard circuit with a tough hill in it. Passing this hill once is annoying, passing it ten times was exasperating.

It seemed we’d never finish. I was told to take it easy today and did my best, but as said, it was tough. I did some work when a team mate, Nelson Vitorino who went on a lone escape; I was marking anyone that went of the front. I probably shouldn’t have bothered, since no one else on the team did, but I did my best.

Ricardo Mestre.

At the end of the stage I turned off the engine and didn’t bother making the split to the front group since the next stage promised to be heavy going for us; one less effort today might mean one more tomorrow when it actually matters.

Usually only about 40 riders finish this horrible circuit and putting it mid race seemed to us, the riders just a nasty trick to send a whole load home early… As it was only about 40 finished outside control.

A Russian rider won the stage with an attack 20km from the line. I’ve seen the Lokosphinx guys do this a couple of times and it’s impressive.

The third stage was fantastic. It was one of those races, one of those rare events that fill me with so much joy I can’t ever even think of the day I quit professional cycling.

We had four categorized climbs on the route, including one longish 1st category climb. It was a ‘proper’ road race in other words, none of this racing round flat lanes, or crappy small hills.

Although my work is mainly as a rouleur, pulling on the front, or in the breakaway, I enjoy the mountains above all other types of racing. I usually go surprisingly well in the mountains, it also happens to be where my team (made up mostly of climbers) goes best.

Endura controlled the beginning of the stage, with the help of a surprisingly competent Greek team called ‘SP Tableware’. I didn’t envy them on bit. I’ve controlled a lot of the G.P. Joaquim Agostinho before, it’s full of nasty, short drags and very windy.

Endura had also suffered a few losses when a group including three of their riders was unfairly withdraw from the race for finishing just outside the 8% control time on the horrible circuit the day before.

Me and team mate Luis Silva hit the front at about 90km in the race, with the idea being to drive up the pace and make it very unpleasant for everyone. There was this strong head windy howling at us, so I felt that it was a bit of a wasted effort.

18 km further on we turned right towards the mountain a further 17 km up the road and here we were able to make it very tough. At the start of the mountain most people were already pretty draw out and that’s when the bunch got blown to bits, with my team sacrificing all the climbers to get Ricardo Mestre ahead and drop Iker Camaño.

I didn’t see the last hour of the race of course, I came home in a large group about 18min down. I was told it was fantastic. Arriving at the finish line there were loads of people watching, whole families with their picnics and barbecues.

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