Yesterday, it was that time of year again. The first race of the season, taking place in Zumaia, a coastal town just down from San Sebastian, it was the perfect place to start as it was a fast course with not much climbing involved, over a distance of 116km, with 3 small 4km circuits to start and then 6 larger circuits around 17km to finish.
An opportunity for the Eiser Hirumet riders to test our legs, although the competition was still going to be pretty tough with teams such as Caja Rural – Serguros RGA u23 and Epuipo Lizarte (Movistar u23) lining up alongside us, plus many other strong Spanish teams.
I headed into the race with little pressure, as being a flat course, it wasn’t technically suited to me. Therefore, I knew my job was to be a team worker for the day, trying to get our strongest sprinter Alain in a good position to finish strong. This was instantly one of the biggest changes from junior racing I noticed, it was about riding together and staying as a unit, making sure everyone was doing their job and getting stuck in. It definitely felt like a professional race in that sense.
Very rapidly, the race started to take shape, and it was clear everyone was waiting for a breakaway to unfold so that they didn’t have to work on the front of the peloton. Luckily, we managed to put Adrian into it which meant we were sorted for a while and just had to focus on protecting Alain and keeping him up the front. With Caja Rural missing the break, it was perfect for us as they were forced to try and bring it back for most of the race. After doing my homework on the previous years, it was almost definite that the breakaway was going to come back, it was just a case of how fast.
Once the breakaway came back with 2 large circuits to go, we only had a few riders up at the head of the race protecting Alain… Myself, Markel and Oscar, as the short 300 metre climb to the finish was causing splits in the peloton each lap. We followed wheels and started preparing for the final lap. With 1 lap to go we had Alain in a good place inside the top 20, sheltered by other team sprint trains, with this being a new experience for me and someone who is not a sprinter, I was pleased at how it was going. We fought hard and managed to get him in a great place coming into 1km to go. I had just fallen behind him, sat just on his wheel and looking to contest myself. It was looking great, however, with 400 metres to go, we had a rider swing across very dangerously in front of Alain, which pretty much cost him the victory, also as I had to avoid it more, it caused my back wheel to hit the kerb and skid out. This, unfortunately, ended my chance of a decent result, with a lot of riders then going round me, placing me 59th instead. A very strong result of 4th for Alain did, however, make things better.
In summary, it was a great first showing from our team, and also a great new experience for myself. There is plenty for me to learn and get used to, but I am super excited for the rest of the season, especially when the races start to go uphill, which is nearly every one!! Next weekend I will be in Ereno for the first purely U23 race of the year.