So a week passed by. Royal Cycling was a new event in my cycling calendar and I was really eager to be racing again. The alarm sounded at 5 am and the morning procedures are at this point quite well trained. It took me less than an hour to eat and pack the things I'd need during the day. And I had plenty of sleep during the night ( 4 hours), so I was ready to go.
The car ride to Lahti took us almost 3 hours, and we arrived an hour before start. The weather was perfect, +30 and sunshine. And soon we found ourselves at the starting line.
I started at the rear of the main peloton, and at 5 km from start the pace car left the front and it was all out. There was a breakaway immediately and the main group split into several smaller groups. Together with a teammate we started chasing groups and worked our way to a group of maybe 20 riders. Not long after that our group was mislead to take a right turn where we should have taken a left turn. This cost us some minutes and we had to work again. The pace was then settled to somewhere around 36 km/h.
One hour into racing we faced a pretty strong headwind. This section would keep up for quite a long time and pretty soon the group we were in was slowing down. There was not enough cyclists willing to work in the headwind, and the speed dropped a bit. We made a couple of turns as pacekeepers with teammate Sebu, but really didn't want to kill our legs at an early stage. Somewhere around 70 km I started feeling a bit tired, and for a moment a feeling of maybe having to ease up the speed was crawling upon me. Fortunately the headwind eased as we turned east, towards Lahti again and there was a 10 km section of easy terrain. I managed to recover and somewhere around 100 km I started feeling good again.
The long hill at 125 km was approaching as we worked as pacekeepers in the group. I looked down at my Garmin computer as I left the pacekeeping and took a couple of steps back in the line. 123 km. And there it was. The pace was easing and I shifted down a gear, then two and three gears, the climb had started. Sebu took the pacekeeping. "we'll meet at the finish line, just do your own speed" I shouted to him as I felt I couldn't keep up his pace. "No way, just hang on!" he shouted. Well, that's what I did. 300 meters into the climb I realized it wouldn't be that bad. Actually it wasn't all that steep and not that long either. We kept a good pace with Sebu and a couple of other guys, and found ourselves quickly at the top. And then the final kilometers. Sprinting, speeding, chasing down, keeping up a high pace. Was fun. My legs felt pretty good actually and it was easy to make fast sprints.
500 meters before finish I made an increase in speed and took the lead of the group. Seconds later I heard the announcer shouting to the radio for a final sprint. Well, what the heck, lets go for it, i thought. As I rammed the pedals I heard a loud cracking sound. Sh*it, was I hit by a puncture? Looked down at the wheels. No. Started pushing again. Same cracking sound and at that time I was passed by another sprinting cyclist. My chain and rear hub were so worn out that they slipped when I put all in. So, I was not first to finish from our group, but anyhow all smiles at the finish! Superb day on the bike once again. We chatted with the other riders and I thanked them for a great job.
Not all had a great day on the bike. Our third team member had technical difficulties already at the 40 km mark, he had lost his freewheel. That meant he had to ride a "single-speed bike" for 90 kilometers.
I hope you managed to read all the way down here. I always try to keep the stories short, but as I write I find myself caught in that feeling of being on the bike. My apologies.
Have a good one, remember to watch the last week of the Tour!