I started the final stage sitting in 8th place just over a minute down on the GC leader. My goal was to try and gain some time on the riders in front and hopefully finish 6th, which was about 30 seconds infront.
The course was a long 85km loop and featured a KOM early on within the first 20 kilometres or so. The start of the race was very slow paced, no one wanted to do any work with such a long distance remaining.
Just before the KOM the pace picked up and I found myself on the front of the pack going up the hill. I soon realised I had a few metres back to the bunch and I wasn't putting in a huge amount of effort. I picked up the pace a little and started to pull away even further, although I didn't want to burn myself up the climb so wasn't going 100%. With a hundred metres to go two riders jumped and pushed hard to take the 1st and 2nd places for the KOM and I picked up 3rd spot with some energy in reserve.
Once over the top of the climb the riders all sat up, resting and waiting for the peloton to catch them; I decided to get into a tuck and still not pedal, but found myself pulling a few metres off the front of the rest of the lead bunch. Shortly afterwards a rider who hadn't contested the KOM climb (Alain) flew past by and had a reasonable gap to the rest of the bunch and no one was following. I put in a measured effort to grab his wheel and started resting.
I was still trying to recover from the effort up the KOM climb and was finding it difficult to recover sitting on Alain's wheel as the pace was high. I considered if we would be able to stay away for the remaining 60kms and decided that we wouldn't. I let Alain know I was going to sit up and wished him the best of luck. That was the last that I saw Alain until after the end of the race.
With 60kms remaining the bunch wasn't too fussed chasing Alain, as we all thought he would come back. After a while our following car let us know that the gap was out to a minute, the pace started to pick up in the bunch then. At this point I was starting to get hurt going up the climbs and was fearful of dropping off the back. I tried to rest as much as I could near the back of the bunch.
A while later we had a report of the gap pushing out to 2 minutes now, after this the pace very quickly increased. The rolling hills meant that I was toast by the top of the climbs and managed to recover on the downhills, it was very difficult to stay on the pack.
With around 15kms to go we had to perform a right turn, some of the pack went through immediately, the others had a red flag for a short amount of time, maybe 5 seconds. I had to put in a big effort here to catch the head of the peloton now and things were starting to thin out, the peloton broke into two and I was able to sit with the front of the bunch, there was around 6 others there. Unfortunately everyone that was ahead of me in the GC standings was in that bunch, so no time to be made up.
The pace was blisteringly quick the last 10kms, the road was very flat and we were going fast. I sat at the back of the bunch, not taking any turns. One of the GC riders was furiously pulling us to catch Alain by this point. Alain was 40 something seconds down on the GC lead so they knew it was going to be tight.
On the home stretch with 500metres to go I jumped from the back; I'm not a very quick sprinter, I really struggle to get over 50km/h but I can hold a good speed for a long time so I jumped early. I gapped the bunch and held a lead for 200-300 metres when a rider (Grant) went past, I grabbed his wheel but only managed to hold it for a few seconds. Another rider went past and I rolled over the line 3rd in our bunch but 4th overall.
Alain ended up finishing 51 seconds in front of us and won the GC by 4 seconds in total.
I'm very proud of my result, it was super hard to hold onto the bunch all day so taking 3rd in the KOM and 4th overall today was awesome. I finished the tour in 7th place 1 minute 27 seconds behind the leader.
|Average Speed:||32.81 km/h|