Race From Kanchanaburi to Vachiralongkorn Dam: A Punchy Race!
Today’s stage was on a 125 km long rolling route that takes us to Vachiralongkorn Dam. The area where we are put up is surrounded by forests with small hills and greenery all over. It is extremely beautiful and extremely hot. We were lucky today with only 39 C.
The action was also got hot right out of our resort with people taking the pace up right into high 40s. After the initial surging pace to shell a few people, pace eased up a bit. The roads through the forests were a bit narrow and the race marshals were doing a great job controlling the traffic allowing safe overtaking etc.
Although the pace settled into a manageable level after the initial surges, they were hitting the rollers quite hard. The first set of rollers at 2ok mark were taken at a manageable effort with occasional surging at the front. We crossed the first big bunch of riders from open/women at about 30 km mark where the pace picked up. The next 10 km were over in a jiffy and we hit the first of the long rollers at 40 km. The pace went a bit crazy and I began to go backwards soon. Within no time, I was at the back and the elastic snapped at 41 km. I watched the peloton slip away with my teammates, Rajesh, Arvind and Mohan in it. The top end of my fitness is just not there to deal with those hills that need 4-5 min VO2 efforts repeatedly to hang on to the main bunch.
We still had 85 km to go and I wasn’t really looking forward to the prospect of riding it all alone in that heat. Thankfully, Michael Pryde of Chapter2 bikes, Fedrico Masin of Project852 and a couple of others came from behind and we began to work together. It took a while to get the pace line organized but we began to work smoothly after a bit.
The thing about losing the peloton is, the water support will become a bit sparse as they are usually with the lead bunch. But thankfully, Michael had his support van following him and we took on water from his van at 60 km mark before continuing to work together.
We rolled smoothly till 80km when a couple of guys from the 30-39 group went past us. It was their break away riders and we knew that the main bunch of 30-39 and 50-59 should be close behind. I was at the front of our pace line and hesitated a bit to jump on to catch that group as it went past. But, Michael, Fredrico and a couple of others quickly jumped onto that peloton and disappeared into the horizon.
I was left with James Chee Seng Chu of Project 852, Satrah Karim(pretty strong Master’s rider with a ‘Slow Rider Please Overtake’ written on his jersey; Team Turtle), another rider and a couple of lady riders. James and I were taking doing the lions share of work with Satrah taking an occasional pull. At one of the inclines, when James was at front and I was on his wheel, we ended up moving away from the rest of them. We both kept working together from then on.
I kept eating and drinking to keep my energy levels up. The dark chocolate energy bar I made myself for the tour felt heavenly at that point. The FastAndUp energy gels I was carrying came in handy to keep the energy levels up. I was doing one energy bar and one gel per hour along with electrolytes(FastAndUp reload berry). Thankfully, a couple of water support guys came by and we took on water, drinking a bit and dumping the rest on our heads to cool our bodies. It was hot and sweltering and we needed all the help we could get. The headwind didn’t help the pace but we kept rotating regularly and kept progressing.
After 120k, we saw the marking on the road that read 5k to go. I was not sure if I felt elated or dejected. After a couple of more km, I saw a board by the road side saying 5k to finish. At that point, I felt like giving one tight slap to the guy who put the board there and give him some math lessons.
At that point, a small bunch from 30-39 group were passing and James jumped onto their wheels. I didn’t have anything left to change my pace and kept going at my own pace. When I finally saw the 1 km to go mark and the road started pointing down, I found some energy and rode hard to cross the line as fast as possible. Never felt so relived to cross the finish line!
Once we got dropped from the bunch, it was hard work and the heat was sapping. Tomorrow’s stage is even longer than today and has 1000 m more elevation than today. So, in effect, today was just a trailer to what is in store for us tomorrow. I’m really not looking forward to it!
Although I had a tough race today, it was a good day for most of our Indian contingent. In Open category, Anubhav Karmakar and Naveen Raj did well not only stay with the main bunch but finished in the top 20. Although, Anubhav believes he finished in top 5 for the day, the results put him 15th and 18th for Naveen Raj. Naveen is at 17th spot in GC and Anubhav is 21 on GC. Both should be able to move a few places with a climbing route tomorrow.
In 40-49 category, Rajesh Nair, rode a brilliant race and finished 9th on the day. He moved a couple of places in GC and is now at 19th. Tomorrow is the stage he can do much better with some more climbing on the cards.
In 50-59 category, Craig Raynes rode exceedingly well to finish 5th for the day and retains the 5th spot in GC so far. He should be able to do well the rest of the two stages and hopefully move up on the GC.
In Master’s category, Russell Bell, put the bad day yesterday behind and rode brilliantly today to finish 4th today. He gained back his podium spot for the GC where he is 5th now. He should move up in the next two days if he rides like the way he did today.
In Open Category, Paulo Caputo, of Allied World Campion Systems Team took the sprint win! The finale in open was a bit chaotic with a big crash on the sharp right turn towards the damn from the main road that comes just 800m from the finish. Whoever took that turn first got away while the mid-pack saw a bit of skin lost and broken forks. The rest of top riders in GC escaped the crash and finished safely in the bunch and hence there is no change in GC podium spots. With only 41 seconds separating the top 5 in GC, tomorrow could see a shake up.
Carina Newman took the win in Women’s category followed by Chiho Miura and Fung Winglee!
The GC in Junior remains the same.
Adrian Halkes took another win in Master category and built on his lead in GC. Russell Bell made it back to GC podium by finishing 5th overall.
Pavol Krizan continues to impress by adding another win to his list in 40-49 category by taking the sprint on the day and retains a 3o sec lead in GC. Will be interesting to see how the big guy fares in the climbing stage tomorrow. Tomorrow could see a bit of shake up of GC.
In 30-39 category, Chatchai Teerathajaruphong of Nich won the sprint. The GC positions remain the same with everyone else finishing in the bunch. Again with 1:18 separating the top 5 in the category, tomorrow might see a bit of shake up of GC positions.
In 50-59 category, Satoshi Fujiwara of Maximo Sigma won the sprint. Spectrum Racing’s Craig took another podium by finishing 5th on the day. He still retains the 5th spot in GC as well.
Complete results can be found here.
Tomorrow’s Erawan national park loop is the queen stage of the tour. It is the longest and hilliest stage with nearly 2000 m of elevation gain overall in 130 km. The first climb at 40 km will likely break the peloton into pieces. However, the winners and the time gaps would likely to be determined by the last set of climbs from 100km mark. It is basically the same hill being climbed from two different sides as it is an out and back loop. So, whoever survived the hill on the way out will fight it out on the way back.