Race Report - Social de Bescano
The first race of any year is always an unknown. Questions of winter form and training, diet, sleep and dedication run in the back of my mind like a broken record. Doubts about myself, concerns about the competition, and the multitude of possible scenarios you can only experience in bike racing played over and over in my head. If there's one thing that punctuated the sleepless nights and anxious nerves I experienced in the lead-up to the first race of 2019, it was the desire to win. I wanted this one, and I wanted it bad.
85kms and about 1000 meters of climbing were what we were looking at for the Social de Bescano on Sunday. Not exactly the toughest course, with just a few short climbs and plenty of places to sit in and conserve. I know the roads like the back of my hand because I train on them daily, but with 193 starters and a plethora of international showings from Holland and Belgium, even having the home advantage didn’t stop the anxiety.
We rolled out under perfect blue sky in chilly 3 degree temperatures. I’d studied the weather and wind forecast in the days before and knew it was expected to reach 8 degrees within a short while, so I chose to ditch the gilet and gloves on the start line. While plenty of guys wore leg warmers and buffs, there’s one thing racing in Catalunya in 2018 taught me: you’ll heat up quickly and there’s little time for removing clothes. Over the first climb and a break had formed. They hovered at around 30 seconds for some time while the bunch decided whether to let them go or not, and while plenty of riders tested their legs for the first time in a few months trying to get across. The control seemed to be with the Dutch club team, WV de Kannibaal, who are in Girona for training this week, so various attempts to bridge to the 9 rider break failed.
Over the second climb and it looked like the break wasn’t cooperating... the bunch pulled them back and shortly after in the Vall de Llemena another break formed, this time including ex-pro and current GCN Spain presenter, Oscar Pujol. Whether the stop-start racing had taken its toll or the peloton were just happy with the composition of the group up the road I’m not sure, but the anchor was thrown out and the move quickly gained a minute advantage. As we came into the bottom of Les Encies, a 3.5 kilometre climb before a long valley descent, I knew that if the gap wasn’t reduced here or one team didn’t take up the chase down the other side, the break would have a fair shot at staying away. I decided to risk it and jumped across up the climb, knowing it was the only real place I could distance anyone trying to go with me. I knew it’d take a fair bit of energy to bridge the minute gap, but if I made it onto the group, there was plenty of time for recovery on the gradual downhill to Angles. 15 minutes of effort and I was on the back, then another 15 minutes of swapping off and I looked back to see my British moto-pacing buddy, David, coming across the gap too. He later said he’d tried to warn me of what he was planning, but I clearly didn’t pick up on it, because just a couple of minutes after he’d reached our group–before half of them knew he was even there–he whacked it up the other side of the road and put a sizeable gap between himself and the now confused breakaway.
David is a strong rider and with just 15k’s to go, I knew this might be the move. The break had begun to look around, nobody really wanting to take up the chase due to the fact we still had the gradual climb of Mas Lunes followed by the final ramp in Estanyol to go, so I thought if I could get to him we’d have a good shot. I waited for an attack, then jumped off of that and started bridging. He kept the pace on up Mas Lunes which forced me to keep my pace up as well, and when I finally reached him at the top of the climb we had 40 seconds on the remnants of the breakaway with the gap to the peloton behind them rapidly dwindling. The good thing about being off the front with a mate is that we communicated intentions straight away and weren’t playing games. If we didn’t work together we’d lose our advantage. So we set to work driving it to the final climb.
Looking back as we hit the base, we saw the break had been caught and the bunch were breathing down our necks. It would be tight! We scrambled up the 10% ramps and with 100 meters to go I gave a final dig and raised my hands across the line with David behind in 2nd, and the peloton just 200 meters further back. Timed to perfection. The previous week of reconnaissance, planning and nerves now replaced by elation and relief. Ticking off a race has never felt sweeter.
A big thanks to The Service Course for their continued support and especially to head mechanic, Rasmus Knudsen, for getting my bike tuned to perfection in the days leading up to the event. And bring on the rest of the 2019 racing season...