Junior Tour of the Basque Country
The Junior Tour of the Basque Country was a race which I wanted to do well at due to it being a race that I really enjoyed the previous year and felt that the parcours was one which suited me well.
So the week started off with a fair bit of packing before the flight which was on Tuesday it was fair to say it took a while with me making sure I hadn’t forgotten anything.
Once Tuesday morning came around I put my bags and bike box into my grandad’s car as he was kindly taking me to the airport. We arrived at the airport nice and early and after a short wait for Ben we went through to the departure lounge where we decided to go and get something to eat. I went for a mango smoothie and a kind of Mexican breakfast wrap which I’d definitely go for again! Ben went for an omelette which got thumbs up. After around half an hour we were joined by the other lads who had managed to track us down on Snap maps Cal and Jamieson ordered some food and Tom decided to get his packed lunch out ha ha did order a coffee though ;). Then it was time to board the flight. Somehow me, Tom and Jamieson were sat on seats next to each other having booked our own flights. This meant the flight across wasn’t bad at all as I had some dece company. Once we arrived we got our bags then set off over to Durango which was where the hotel was where we would be staying for the next 6 nights. Then it was time to get the bikes unpacked before heading off for a little spin. We got back had a shower then went down for Tea before going to bed.
We got up on Wednesday morning to have breakfast then get ready to go out for a pre-race ride before the first stage which would start the following day. Once we got back we had a nice little café stop before heading over to the supermarket to see what took our fancy. Then we went back to the hotel to chill for the rest of the day.
Thursday morning came around and the race didn’t start until later on in the afternoon so we had a chilled morning after a decent lie in before heading off over to the first stage. This stage was 93.3km long and included 3 categorised climbs. The stage started pretty fast with lots of attacks going, Tom attacked after one but was quickly chased down so Jamieson went over the top and was able to make the break which would stay away until the finish. Cheers to Chief bottle grabber Tom for grabbing me a bottle. I rolled in, in the bunch around a minute down. This was following a hard chase back after having a puncture at a bad time with the cars being a long way back due to the bunch being split up.
Friday’s stage was 79.6km long and also included 3 categorised climbs with the biggest being in the middle. For this stage the aim was for me to get some time back on GC, the coastal roads at the beginning were a good opportunity as it was undulating along with it being technical and fast so the bunch was strung out. Ben made a break on this part with around 6 others I then saw the opportunity so soloed across to the move but as the course opened out again onto the bigger roads the peloton was able to get us in sight and close us down. After this I knew there was another good opportunity coming into the first categorised climb so Jamieson set me up well by attacking into it which strung out the group well. I kept the pace on and eventually managed to drag myself away solo before catching a rider who was up the road, I stayed on the front until the summit where I saw Harrison Wood wasn’t far behind on the decent so eased up a little which made a break of 3. We worked together well and saw a group of around 5 others coming across. So we eased up and let them get across we then worked well together, this meant we had a decent group coming into the biggest climb of the day. We stayed together with me trying to keep the group going well. Once we crested the climb the run in was quite long where we kept the pace going well, then I turned around to see Ben had bridged across the gap which was about a minute, fair play. With there now being Zappis we worked hard to keep the gap until the final climb where the pace went out of the group a little as everyone knew we had the gap to stay away. In the final few KM Ben attacked and was able to get away with one other where he rolled across the line in second, I came across the line third a few seconds back after winning the group sprint.
Saturday was a day which had two stages with the first one being 69.4km with 2 categorised climbs. I remembered this stage from last year with it being the same stage as the penultimate one in 2017. It was on circuits which featured quite a tough climb which was done twice along with a steep climb up towards the finish, last year the race split with a reasonably big break getting away so I knew that there was an opportunity for the same thing to happen again. The race started with quite a few attacks going due to it being a short stage it was raced aggressively it then calmed down a little with around 30km to go. So once I hit the bottom of a non-categorised climb which was also a decent climb I attacked hard dragging away 6 or so other riders with me including Wessel who was the race leader at the time. We all worked well together on the fast run into the bottom of the final climb before Wessel attacked hard at the bottom, a few riders from the group were getting dropped so I moved up before attacking around the outside but was passed by a rider in the last 100m and rolled in second gaining around a minute on the bunch.
Then the second stage was a 7km hill climb (Uphill TT). I vaguely remembered this climb as it was the final climb from the first stage the previous year. But to refresh our memories we went up there again in the car. Then it was time to get a warm up on the rollers before what was sure to be a hard effort. Then it was time to get lined up after having my gears checked and bike weighed. I started off at a good pace making sure I didn’t go too deep too early as it was going to be a long effort. I kept it going before the short decent inside the last 1km before the last little ramp up to the finish. I crossed the line with the fastest time before getting beaten by the next rider after me, so I finished second on the stage.
The final stage was 88.7km and included 4 categorised climbs, this was my last chance to try for the GC as I was lying in 3rd. Once the stage began Ben went on the attack with another rider before going solo on his own, this forced the Contador team to work which was a good situation to be in, coming into the first climb Ben was caught around half way up which meant no one really wanted to take up the pace setting, so we crested the top of the climb in quite a big bunch. Then on the decent I saw the opportunity to attack, I managed to get a little gap with Wessel but we were quickly brought back. The race then slowed down again meaning Ben was able to get up the road before being caught up the next climb. I then gave it a go dragging away three others but yellow was one of them so I sat up. Another group was then able to get away containing Ben again, once we hit the bottom of the penultimate climb Cal went full gas which set me up for another attack. I went hard for a good few minutes and cresting the top of the climb I’d just caught the group of 3 containing Ben with just the yellow jersey on my wheel. We descended down the other side but with it not being technical the race was able to come back together. Cal then gave it one last try for me by setting me up again but I wasn’t able to get the gap on the leader with the slopes being fairly shallow. Coming into the finish Cal was able to get a little gap with one other where he was narrowly beaten to 2nd I lead the sprint out from around 500m out with it being a fast seated finish just one rider came past me meaning I finished the stage in 4th getting just enough points to take the win in the Points classification.
Thanks to Pedal Potential and Dean Downing for the continued support.