we were feeling good for this one, Tjarco and I, knowing after the ITT that we had decent enough legs, but the route was not exactly one to inspire confidence – not in me anyway.
the exact same route as the TT, it was 5km down a flat road to a u-turn, then back up 5km to another. i’m no sprinter and i knew it would be very hard to get away, as we were pretty much marked men in this race. the plan was for us to do nothing til the very end, when i’d try from 4km out and then Tjarco, a good sprinter, would take over if i failed.
but, as ever, the best-made plans tend to crumble when faced with the realities of bike racing…
after 105km of the 140km race we ended up in a situation where there were 5 guys up the road, two from the OCBC team and three others. they started shelling guys at the 30km to go point and still then had just over 2 minutes lead on the peloton, which was largely still together. irritatingly, they’d actually increased it by 25 seconds over the last 10km lap.
just before the turn Tjarco said to me “ok i’m gonna do a 5km chase., this lead is too big.”
i looked at him and said “no, i’ll do it, then you win – ok?”
without waiting for an answer i headed to the front after the turn and started to ride an ITT with 50 guys on my wheel. after 5km the lead was visibly down, after 10 it was under a minute, and 5 later we had them.
then the attacks began, with Tjarco covering them, sometimes me. all during the chase for those 15km i kept thinking ‘ok after we catch them i will drop off, job done’ but i couldn’t seem to do that. the legs were hurting but i wanted to help Tjarco in any way i could. that is the great thing about riding 100% for someone else, it frees you completely.
with 4km to go Tjarco says he needs a lead out. damn. well, ok, let’s see what happens! this is it boys, do or die time!
i get on the front with about 1.5 km to go and get my head down and thrash, i’m going fast but fading slightly, when suddenly my friend Adam Taylor-Campbell of the Mavericks pops out in front of me in a bid for the line. perfect timing. i chase his wheel then thrust past him and with 300 to go, still with my nose in front, Tjarco bursts past on the left and i sit up, straining like a meercat to see whose arms go aloft at the line.
and mine go up too. i catch him on the turn and we hug and he immediately thanks me for my work – i tell him it’s a good flipping job he won! or there’d have been trouble.
and there it was. after excellent early work from Stephen Ong and a teammate I just met and whose name I cannot remember, and from Michel Velasco, despite having been injured for weeks, and from Tong Yong Kun, this was truly a team win in this usually individualistic sport.
i got 20th, the pack having been shredded, but it was the most rewarding and satisfying race of my career, after the Tour de Taiwan points classification.
and a word to the OCBC guys – not a great idea to keep attacking the bunch when you have two guys up the road – that’s a certain way to make old men very grumpy indeed…
one last word to our beleagured manager, Brandon Teo. there may be raised voices, there may be stress, but at the ends of the day, when the job is done, it all comes together! great job, Mr. B! and a huge thank you to all our sponsors, including the team sponsors Lapierre Bikes, Wishbone wheels, CCN Clothing, Monotine and Bryton, as well as my personal sponsors: Lezyne, Specialized, 720 Armour, Infinit Nutrition, Ritchey, Selle San Marco and Xtreme Endurance.