AKA “Rio Race Report”
As you guys seemed to want a post more so about the details of the road race at the Olympics in Rio here it is. If you missed my previous post that was more so about the games themselves scroll back(https://tomashuuns.wordpress.com/2016/08/24/this-one-time-at-the-olympics/), however I’ll keep this one short and brief, but still with all the details.
The day of the race was pretty early as we started 9.30 on the beach 50min away from the village. This meant an early wake up for everyone so there’d be plenty of time to have breakfast, make it to the start and get ready for the race. I don’t love early mornings, but didn’t mind this one. Because I flew from Europe it meant 6.00am wake up was actually a 10.00am wake up. Of course I arrived to Rio with plenty of time to get used to the time change, but I think I made a right call getting used to going to bed early and waking up early. I already was waking up around 6.30/7 o’clock and going to bed bit past 21.00 to get enough sleep, so it didn’t really bother me that race day we were all up at 6.00.
However I still didn’t sleep great before the night before the race, pretty bad actually, but it’s more two nights before that matter, or so they say. Usually it doesn’t matter to me what stage or one day lies ahead, but for some reason(wonder why? Huh?) this time I was nervous. After the early wake up it was straight down to the big dining hall. I stuck to my usual pre hard single day breakfast of rice, some chicken and cereal for dessert. Most of the people eating were cyclists or cycling related personnel, but there were still other weirdos(or jet lagged people) there. Once that was done all the cyclists some still half asleep crawled into the buses that took everyone to the start at the same time. The bikes with the mechanics went on a separate bus earlier, so they’d get there on time. Team cars with drinks, directors and other spare material drove themselves there.
Just as we were approaching the start area our bus hit one of the parked motos on the side of the road, it took down three other ones with it. Everyone suddenly got awake and rushed to the windows. The bus dropped off all the athletes after the finish line on a stretch of road where the team cars were supposed to be, but there were only a couple of them. Most riders headed to the bathrooms, chaining rooms hoping the cars and the bikes show up at some point. We still walked there and back a couple of times, but saw no one from Latvia. Got dressed and signed in and only around 30min to the start did we find our car with our bikes. There was no warm up area and I was not real happy as I need a good warm up before a hard race, especially one where I want to get in the break.
They called all the nations to the start in order of the ranking, so we got called up as one of the last teams. This meant all the big nations were at the very front and would block try to block the road after they saw a move they could control sneak away if the roads were narrow enough to allow it. I saw one of the guys from New Zealand standing in front of me. His pockets were only carrying a phone. He was a trackie, he knew he wouldn’t finish and wasn’t planing on making too far into the race. Olympic RR brings all kinds of people from all kinds of places to the start line.
My first objective was to make it to the front ASAP. As soon as we started I moved to line 2 within 500m. Success. No one attacked. No one had warmed up and everyone waited, because it’s the Olympics and no early moves will be let go easy. Hesitation. Nervous riders. For now the road was wide and flat. No obstacles to talk about. Sure enough, as we hit the first incline the attacks start coming thick and fast. Everyone is trying to get away. You can tell team GB is controlling the breaks. Stannard is on the front if he doesn’t like the look of a move.
I was floating around the front as I always do and just keeping my legs fresh for a couple of moves. I sneaked in one attack. Didn’t work. After a punchy climb I was in the first 10 guys and we got a gap on the downhill, still got brought back. Then a move of 6 went clear just before several turns and the 7th guy slowed everyone else down going easy and suddenly they had a good gap. Moment of hesitation and the gap grew a bit bigger. 6 guys weren’t enough to make it to the finish. Neither would be 7 if I bridged solo. A guy from Czech republic went, 8 wouldn’t still cut it. The peloton weren’t going to let more guys go. That was it. No break for me.
A truce was called, so the break can gain some time and the field can take a nature break. We were rolling along the coast and there was no real need for fighting as the road was flat and straight. I managed to chit chat with some other riders and Ritchie Porte, the legend himself came up to me and talked with me a bit. That was pretty rad to say the least. When watching the Tour I think everyone was disappointed that he lost time on one of the early stages because of a late puncture. He was so strong that he would have made the fight for the podium spots that much more entertaining.
Back to the race. As we approached the first circuit that we’d be doing 4 times the speed heated up. Spain was on the front drilling it. The break had gained enough time and it was start to get cracking, but also everyone wanted to hit the first cobbled sector in good position as you just knew there’d be carnage no matter how well and how many times riders had ridden it before. Me and Alex were in a good spot around the first 30 people to hit it, but there were still bottles flying everywhere, riders getting punctures and dropping chains. It stretched out good. The back was suffering I know it. Right after the cobbles we hit a steep climb, so no one could move up much, which played right into my hands. I just had to hold the wheel in front and I would be in a good spot for the descend. And that’s where you wanted to be, because the steep and twisty descend had a sharp right hander at the very bottom and if you were at the back there, you’d be sprinting like for a gold medal just to stay on the wheel in front of you.
The organizers had given us bottles to use and unfortunately they didn’t fit well into my cages and I had lost one already. That meant in the first 50km I just had one bottle. With the humidity and the heat I was already on the back foot of hydration. If you forget to eat for a while, you can still bounce back, but if you don’t drink enough, there’s no coming back from that as you sweat faster then the body absorbs fluid. Looking back at it now you could have pretty much written me off then and there. I did however get a bottle in the feed zone, and took one every lap that I had the chance, but already after 3h my head started to hurt and it was too late to do anything about it.
The next three circuits continued the same way. Go hard before the cobbles, fight for position, hit the cobbles, see people puncture, drop chains, lose bottles, sprint over the steep climb, make it down the twisty descent and sprint for your next gold medal out of that right hander. I had to put my bottle in my pocket every time before the sector, so I’d be sure not to lose it. In between the right hand corner after the descent and the beginning of the fight for a good spot heading into the cobbles you had time to relax, eat, drink, that is only if you were in the first 60 guys, as the last guys were still sprinting for that gold medal.
After the 4th cobbled lap we were on the beach again, headed to where the real race would start, the three circuits with a 20min climb. I already noticed a small cramping sensation in my legs. I still didn’t give up until I had to. Yet again Alex kept me safe and we hit the first of the long climbs in great spot. Right where I wanted to be in order to fight for a result. Only problem was, I just didn’t have it. Usually I feel when I’m at my limit and don’t try to unnecessarily fight for position with the guys I know will pass me anyhow. But this was Rio, this was the Olympics, I was just trying to make my body think I’m still in the fight, maybe it would believe it and I’d fly over the climb with the front group. Of course the reality was different. In the first 500m I was already at the back. Bye bye any chance of a result, bye bye all the hard work I’d done, and see you in four years. It was pretty demoralizing.
I was at the Olympics however and there was no way I’d give up entirely. I was still going to finish. No matter how long after the winner, I was going to finish. I found myself in a group of 6 guys, funnily enough Alex was yet again there. I didn’t have much in my legs, but we worked together and picked up a few others. By the last 4km we were a group of 20 or so and finished safely inside the time limit. The climb had hurt every time we went up it, as the surface wasn’t the smoothest and the gradient was pretty steep. There were a lot of people out cheering the race on as for some of the locals this was definitely the only chance to see a spectacle, as there are no tickets required to see the race. I think this is why the road race is one of the most beautiful events of the Olympics. Everyone can see it, everyone can ride the course, everyone can participate if they just work hard enough. It’s exactly what the Olympics are about.
If you watched the mens or the womens race you might think that the descent was too horrible, too crazy and too dangerous. Actually I really enjoyed it. The surface was as smooth as a babies bottom and from the middle to the sides it was banked so that any turn you go through you have more grip and it actually felt a little bit like a race track. Yes, you couldn’t memorise it, as it all looked the same with trees and bushes all along the way with nothing else to take as a marker of sorts. However it was the riders that took the risks. When there’s no one in front of you, or next to you messing up your trajectory it is up to you to judge the speed and your abilities. I’m really sorry for everyone that crashed, but this is a true statement.
The race and the time spent in Rio will stay with me for a while. It was amazing to be part of the biggest sporting event in the world. Even without having the day I wanted I still am happy with what I achieved while at the Olympics. You always want to do better, unless you’re coming out of that turn and actually sprinting for that gold medal and actually winning.
P.s. Seems like this didn’t really turn into a short post, but hopefully you got to the end of it and enjoyed it. Also sorry, but there’s no Latvian version on this one, as most people that would enjoy a race report and understand what it’s about can read English too.