Since everyone had earned a wild card yesterday morning after the swim race, most of the campers appreciated the extra half hour sleep, and by 8am several were queueing outside the dining room to ensure they had enough time to at least partially digest breakfast before the early starts of the day’s ride. 180km for most, and 200km for the fastest group would require 8-9 hours to allow stops,
This has been a very windy camp and the final day just backed it up with some of the strongest winds we can remember riding through on a camp. It’s definitely the hardest conditions we’ve had for the final day. With tired legs, this would be an even harder day for everyone.
I was leading the Ironman Plus, 200km ride, which was most of the “fast” group except Jon who preferred to ride with Jo around the standard Ironman course. As we whizzed along the bypass road with a tail wind it was clear how strong the winds were. There wasn’t much talking as I tried to get us through this first bit around down quickly and up on to the Femes climb. We turned in to the wind and the seven of us started a rotation doing 1 min in every position.This is a nice social way to ride as you get to ride next to every one in the group as it rotates round. We’d decided that rather than have several stops we’d push on all the way to Teguise (over halfway in distance, ascent and definitely effort) and have a proper lunch, but the pace of the group at this stage made it clear that there were some very tired legs at the end of the week, and it would be necassary for the group to work together to get everyone round. This meant we crested Fire Mountain together in a nice formed group (and we even having acquired a few extra on the back of our line looking for an easier ride). As we rode through La santa, we saw Emmas group having a break – and later learned that Jo’s group had only just departed the same stop a few minutes previoulsy, just after Emma arrived with hers. We always try and plan the start times so the groups will leap-frog each other on the road, as as it was we got to see Emmas group three times but didn’t see Jo’s at all having just missed them there – they kept ahead all day long.
Finally we made Teguise after 4:30 of riding. Mel had suggested a cafe for lunch and what a success. The sun came out, we were in the shade and the burgers were fantastic. It was rounded off by seeing Emmas group come up the hill right by us. We treated them to a mix of “Allez Allez Allez!!”, “hop! hop! hop!” and “go Go GO”. This stop had me think about my approach to long rides – it was very nice to do a big chunk non stop and have a proper lunch. Not only fun but we felt great after it. Conversely, Jo’s group had agreed that whilst stops would be made along the way as necessary to replenish water, use the loo or buy coke and food, these were brief stops to avoid “cafe legs” and breaking the rhythm of the ride too much.
We then managed to crest Mirador Del Haria all together and flew down the switch backs with out splitting up and in Haria we saw Emma again and found out her group was down to just three as the others had decided to call it a day earlier in the ride. A sure sign of just how tough the conditions were.
Again we rode as a group up towards Mirador Del Rio. Nearing the top I decided it would be nice to get photos of every getting to the top. I probably should have said this to the group first, however as Phil is ready for any “attack’ and reacts immediately to any change in pace, and my move caused a race to the top as he and Wayne had to buried themselves to the top – thus entertuanong for me , but no time for that photo!
A fast decent down to Orzolo for ice cream before the fast return home along the LZ1. We attempted to chain gang again but with a strong tail wind it was so much more difficult to judge efforts with the bigger stronger guys rolling off the front sometimes even if they freewheeled. With a smooth road ahead and a massive tail wind, powerhouse Wayne our TT specialist, was clearly itching to go full gas but many in the group would not have been able to keep up! Since he’d been nursed through the first couple of hours as he didn’t feel well and paced up the major climbs by Phil it was only fair for him to hold himself back for the group. He did a great job with Matthew towing us a good 20 or 30k.
For the first time it took us over 8 hours to complete the ride. It was tough!
We never saw Jo’s group. That middle group has been a very strong group this week and they showed this today with a better average speed than the “fast” group and riding round the Ironman course 15 minutes quicker than last year, in far worse conditions. This was mostly due to a very well matched group of riders, who got along well and enjoyed a “mostly steady” paced ride, in a close group at all times. There was no formal working together, but whilst each of the 6 seemed to have a spell of feeling low, when they’d drift a little behind, or strong when they’d push on a little ahead on a climb, there was very little waiting to re group required. Knowing that both of the other groups would be on the road for at least an hour after they’d completed the 180, there was no feeling of rush…and that consistency of pace meant that everyone remained pretty fresh through the whole ride. Jon did a great job on his maiden ride with the middle group, sitting up front to break the wind a bit and set a pace, which is something he’d not really been able to do in the fast group all week. They stopped to celebrate Aines’s longest ever ride as they clicked over 100miles, asking a couple of bemused tourists to take a group picture at the side of a very un-remarkable stretch of road! In last few kms into town, Jon joked that if they pushed they could beat his bike split from the Ironman last year (in probably the toughest conditions the race has had). They got back in just under 7 hours, and had sunk 2 pints in celebration of Paul’s camp completion before any sign of the other riders returning.
Emma’s group arrived back not long after mine. They were buzzing at having toughed it out with ride times of between 8:10 and 8:30. Thats a big day in the saddle and will provide some serious mental toughness for their races this season. Emma always leads this steady group round on the final day of camp, it’s always fun as the campers tend to shuffle about through the groups each day during the week depending on how they are feeling, and often this is a large group, containing one or two very tired riders. It can be a long day, but always fun and rewarding for the ride leader. This year they set off as a small group with Linda, Greg, Julia, Anthony and Martin. A couple of them had already told us that they planned on doing a reduced version of the route, so by the time they’d reached La Santa ( at about 65km) it was just Linda and Martin. Poor Martin, if the wind wasn’t enough, he had to endure Linda and Emma chattering away for the rest of the day! With only a small group they had chance to stop and have a lovely tapas lunch at Haria and by the top of Mirador del Rio Martin had even decided he liked hills! After 130km of battering wind, after that point they finally got to whizz down the island with the wind on our backs to complete the day and for Martin to complete his first camp…..which he claims has been way harder than any of the Ironman races he’s done in the past! Chapeau!
With everyone having had a great day on the bikes, and buzzing from their achievements not just on this ride, but throughout the week the final night party, again, did not disappoint. We had 100% turnout for the cocktails and only lost a few (wiser heads!) when we moved to this camps’ second home: Ruta 66. It’s always great to see the great friendships created through the week and a real sense of bonding in the group. Most were dancing like there were camp points at stake.
Paul has been strong all week and having completed the Ironman ride, completed camp and confirmed himself as the winner of camp. He proudly wore his winners t-shirt on the dance floor.