Stage 3 Gozo RR

6.30am START!! We all stood around looking like zombies! I’m sure this race was becoming more about who could tolerate fatigue the best! Frankie had, as we expected, seized up overnight and couldn’t race. Jon Miles very kindly offered her a lift and we set off on our coach to the ferry. It was freezing, very windy (nothing new there) and threatening rain. We placed our bikes up against the wall in the garage of the ferry (bit precarious) and headed off to find a seat. It was really rough and the majority of us spent the crossing staring out of the window trying to keep a focus on the horizon to

Knackered!

Knackered!

ward off seasickness. There was no such hope for poor Brit from GB Cycles, she had caught a sickness bug and spent the majority of the crossing in the toilet. (She then still went on to do an amazing effort in the race despite being miserably ill! Very impressive!)

We disembarked and rode our bikes up a long climb to the start of the race, we had got there very early so sat at the side of the road in a daze trying to somehow fight the accumulative fatigue. We were struggling to find the motivation to warm up but knew we had too as again the course had a long steep climb near the beginning and it was going to be very tough.

I did a couple of laps of the course and my legs were feeling very tired, again the descent was into a really strong head/cross wind as was the rolling straight towards the finish line.

We lined up at the start and at least I got my feet clipped in this time!

It again went right from the gun with riders vying for position for the climb and it was all I could do to hang on to the group. The front girls powered up the climb and riders started to get shelled out, I was struggling and nearly lasted until the top but started to fall back slightly, Annabel was in front of me and as we reached the top she came round the corner and just managed to catch them for the full on headwind descent. I couldn’t quite make it and without the shelter of the group I slowly slipped further and further back, I was disappointed but there were a lot of girls behind me so I eventually found a group of 5 to work with. Annabel and Sam then managed to stay in the lead group for the next 2 laps, getting distanced on the 3rd time up the climb with quite a few other girls; they then formed a chasing group. Both of them worked so hard and their positions in the race reflect this.

©Gin Sin Photo

©Gin Sin Photo

Meanwhile my group were working well for a while but then started to slow up.  We became fewer in number as a Maltese rider in our group came down and took a few girls with her. It was right in front of me and I was very lucky to narrowly avoid it, my reaction time obviously wasn’t that affected by the fact that I was tired out!

There were working groups of men in front of us and I thought if we could bridge across to them we’d have more chance of staying away from the leading girls. If we were lapped we had to come out and would all be given the same time. This was very unfair as some girls got lapped after 5 laps and went to sit out.  I desperately didn’t want to be lapped as our group deserved a better time so I shouted at the girls to pick it up, whenever I saw the men in front I put a huge effort in into the headwind and went after them to bridge across, I knew that if I could get us there we would have a bigger group to work into the wind. I came out of the line and onto the front and shouted at the girl to get on my wheel, it took me a while but I managed to get across to the guys, I was spent when I got there and sat on their wheels to recover but when I turned around the rest of my group had not come with me and were still quite a way back. I continued to work with the guys for a lap but when we reached the climb again they were too strong and left me.  The girls then caught up with me again and we worked together for a while. I was still concerned about getting caught so went again after some other guys and bridged across to them on my own. I worked with them for a while until I blew up on the last climb and the lead few girls caught me right at the top of the last climb! I was gutted, I only had one descent to go and I would have stayed away.

Sam in desperate need of energy after a tough stage!

Sam in desperate need of energy after a tough stage!

As it was I was given the same time as all the other lapped riders even though most had been lapped way before me and dropped out. It was the same for the girls I had been working with, they also got lapped right near the finish by the 3 leading riders so had to have the same time as the slower girls.  If there is anything that needs changing in the Tour of Malta it is these discrepancies with the times. They tend to get the top ten correct but do not seem concerned with the placing of the girls outside of that. This is disappointing as we have still paid to race and flown over from the UK and it would be nice to have verification of how we did in the race. I hope this is something that will change in the future as they are talking about bringing in timing chips. These would be very welcome especially as that night when the results came out for the stage they were quite a few mistakes. I for one was down as coming in 11th place which was obviously wrong and Annabel who came in with Sam in 14th place was down as being lapped and had been given a generic time.  It was upsetting for the team as Annabel had worked so hard in that stage to come in where she did. It was a kick in the teeth to be told you’d been lapped when you hadn’t. We went to the organisers and told them exactly where it was wrong and hoped that it would be changed.