Vuelta Palencia

Craig Wallace | Thursday 28th August, 2014

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Vuelta Palencia.

This past weekend saw myself and the team on the road once again, this time heading for the mountainous Vuelta Palencia. Covering 4 stages over some very tough terrain I was looking forward to getting some hard and fast racing.

Stage 1- Arriving at the stage start the first thing that we all noticed was how windy it was, something that, along with the various climbs, would make for a hard day in the saddle. As is the norm, the start was very fast with attacks constantly firing up the road. Eventually a large 18 man group escaped and the peleton sat up for a few kilometres allowing the gap to grow to around one minute and 30 seconds. On the flat roads the wind whipped in from the side causing some splits in the peleton and to be on the safe side I, along with some other team mates rode hard on the front to ensure we didn’t miss any gaps that were occurring. Very soon the race was scattered along the countryside with the breakaway up the road and my group of around 30 riders behind. The climbs soon started and I felt very comfortable following attacks and riding aggressively but not committing to anything as there was three of my teammates up in the escape group. On the second to last climb and with the breakaway looking sure to stay away to the finish I decided to try and cross the gap of one miniute and 20seconds. I jumped away at the bottom of the climb and immediately got a gap and with a slight tailwind on the climb, allowed me to remain in the big ring and power away up the climb. Soon I was within sight of the convoy of cars behind the break and over the top of the climb the gap was down to around 40 seconds. After a short descent there was a long section of undulating road and right at the bottom of the last climb I made the junction with the breakaway. I managed to get a bit of recovery on the wheels and soon we were over the last climb of the day with only 20kms remaining and a gap of over one minute to the chasing group. Now there was four of us from Zirauna in the breakaway and having our fast sprinter Fran Zurita amongst us meant we had a good chance of the stage win so myself and two other teamamates rode full gas to lead him out and we actually rode so hard we got a gap ourselves in the final 2km! One final push to the line ensured that we got the win with Fran crossing the line first by over a wheel. A great start to the tour!!

Stage 2- Today’s stage was going to be much the same as the previous day and we began the stage alongside some stunning mountain scenery but soon it was time to get to work. The peleton whittled down over all the climbs to a small group of around 30 riders. With the finish to be ontop of a short 4km climb It was decided after discussion with the team car that we would try and set up Imanol for the win. I rode very hard on the run into the final climb to take back a small group that was up the road and then it was straight onto the steep ramps of the finishing climb. I initially struggled with the fast accelerations after just finishing my work on the front but soon found my rhythm and was passing riders al the way up the climb. In the final 200m I was within 7seconds of the leaders and Imanol crossed the line in 2nd place. I finished in 9th but crucially with the time I had gained in the breakaway the day before, I was now up to third place on the general classification.

Stage 3- The “Queen Stage” of the race featuring a massive 26km climb was one I was looking forward to most. First we had to negotiate a rapid and twisty descent of around 30kms. Following my crash a few weeks ago I've struggled with confidence on the fast downhill's so I had two temmates to guide me down the hill. Unfortunately one of them, along with another team member crashed hard causing some splits to occur in the bunch. By the bottom of the descent and on the long valley rode I was in a group of 40 riders who had lost contact with the front of the race. I tried not to panic too much as I knew that there was still the huge mountain to climb so it wouldn’t be a smart idea to ride full gas in the valley. Fortunately David and Aitor who had crashed made it back onto our group and along with Miguel began to ride in an effort to close the gap. At the start of the climb I was soon on my own before Elias dropped back from the front and began to set a ferocious pace up the opening ramps of the mountain. At this moment the gap to the front was two miniutes and 30 seconds. Myslelf and Elias rode well together and after a huge last turn Elias pushed me off up the mountain with still over 20kms to the top. I settled into a fast rhythm and soon began to catch and pass riders who had been dropped from the front. Up ahead I could see that Fran was waiting on me so I made a big effort to get up to his wheel and he began to set a tempo that continued to see us close on the front group. It's amazing how much you recover on the wheel even going uphill and by the time Fran had finished I was recovered enough to forge ahead and close the gap to the front. By this time I was getting a lot of encouragement from my team car and even other teams who were following my progress up the mountain on race radio. After another couple of kilometres I eventually made the junction with the yellow jersey group and we rode to the top together at fast tempo. In my haste to get back onto the front I hadn’t taken on board enough fluids or food and very soon I could start to feel the effects of this on my legs. On the last climb my legs cramped up so bad trying to follow an acceleration that I had to stop pedalling for a few hundred metres. I managed to get going again but by then the yellow jersey group containing around 10 riders were gone. I soon caught two other riders and we rode the final 10km to the line together in an effort to limit our losses but unfortunately I had dropped to ninth overall by the time we crossed the line. I was very disappointed- If I hadn’t lost all the time on the descent I would have perhaps been two and a half minutes ahead on the climb instead of having to catch up!! However I was told by Gorka that all of the team managers were talking about the “exhibition de Wallace” so at least I got some recognition on what was a disappointing day.

Stage 4- The final stage was a fairly flat day but with long open roads and a very strong wind it was still going to be a super tough day, and with temperatures in the high 30's it was going to be important to remain properly hydrated during the race. Before the race we had discussed with the Alberto Contador specilized team about splitting it in the cross winds and immediately from kilometre zero it was lined out full gas in the gutter. A small group got clear which included Imanol so we could sit back and monitor the situation from the peleton while the race leaders team of Caja Rural set a tempo on the front. My legs were feeling the effect of the previous days efforts but after around 65km they started to feel a little better- and just in the nick of time as over the top of one of the small climbs a few team's started to ride full gas in the gutter and it was lined out big time. It was only a matter of time before it split and after a huge effort I made it into the front split along with Elias. With Imanol up the road we could sit tight in the wheels, only riding in the crosswinds when it was easier to take a spell rather than sit suffering in the gutter. In the closing kilometres it was touch and go weather the break would stay away but Imanol managed to holed of his breakaway companions to win the sprint and take a well deserved victroy for the team. I crossed the line in the small chasing group behind 20 seconds down but enough to move me up a few places to 7th on the general classification. It was good to end the tour on a positive note and very encouraging the way we all rode so well together as a team.


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