Volta a Portugal UCI 2.1
The Volta a Portugal was the biggest tour I’ve done thus far. It was 11 days of racing over a duration of 12 days, taking a little bit over 40 hours and covering a little bit under 2,000km. Oh, there was also lots of climbing, and the standard of the racing was extremely high. There weren’t any World Tour teams, however for many of the local Portuguese Continental teams it’s the biggest race of the year and therefore lots of effort is put towards it.
I was coming off a solid performance in Austria with my first professional win on stage three, and a top 10 on the general classification overall. I was therefore disappointed with my own performance in Portugal. I was feeling good for the first three stages, and finished well in the front group during these days. It was stage 4 and 6 where things fell apart for me. Fortunately, I started feeling better again and finished strong in the remaining stages, although the general classification was out the window.
At this race, most teams were full of good climbers. But that didn’t stop teams from racing down nearly every single descent. The first stage set the tone, and from then on, we had to be cautious every time the road went downhill as well as uphill. It was usually strung out single file, and nervous gaps would open up, even near the front end of the peloton. There were plenty of crashes too. I’d see a rider attack, (one time through the feed-zone before a descent, a common strategy we experienced here) and five minutes later we’d see him laying on the road after crashing around a corner.
I have to say, the temperatures were VERY hot… and I’m usually pretty happy to ride in the heat. I even did a few sauna sessions to help acclimatize with the heat (and also because I find them therapeutic), but it still got to me at some points. There were plenty of fans (spectator fans) to help cool us down however, as they had hoses spraying on the roads or buckets of water. Most of the time it was welcome, except for that one time a guy was spraying water on a corner down a fast descent…
One highlight would have to be descending alongside a donkey in the peloton. Fortunately he/she didn’t cause any crashes, and actually to be completely honest I never actually saw it. So really it wasn’t a highlight for me at all, but rather an interesting occurrence during the stage… I only heard about it later from Gavin Mannion (who is pictured below riding along with the donkey).
One other highlight I did experience though would have to be claiming a third place in our internal moustache competition (as judged by the podium girls). Being such a long tour, it was agreed upon that we’d all grow moustaches during the 12 days as a bit of fun. Will Clarke took the overall prize of a cobble rock taken somewhere from the streets of Portugal, and Tim Roe won the encouragement award, which was an FC Porto jersey. The jersey was a good idea, but maybe not such a good idea to wear it out in Lisbon on Sunday night… (they have a strong rivalry with Porto)
Besides not having anyone on the team up there on the general classification, I believe Drapac had a successful tour. We had two in the top 10 from the Prologue, Will Clarke managed to win stage 3, Nathan Earle finished 3rd and 8th on two stages, and Adam Phelan managed a 5th place. We always had somebody in the main breakaway of the day, and gave ourselves good opportunities for stage results. After the conclusion of the tour, we had all 8 riders finish, whilst some teams finished the entire tour with only 1 or 2 riders remaining.
I’ll take away lots of new experience from racing the Volta a Portugal, and ultimately I do believe I’ll be a stronger rider because of it. People say doing a grand tour changes you forever, and you’ll always be stronger in the long term with that sort of racing under your legs. Portugal is far from a Grand Tour, but all week our DS Tom Southam was referring to this race as the unofficial 4th Grand Tour, so I’m hoping it’ll count for something down the track!
At least at the moment, physically, I feel pretty good. I actually feel better now after finishing Portugal than I did after Austria, which is a really good sign. Touchwood I don’t get sick, or don’t hit a wall in the next few days as accumulated fatigue catches up! I am currently typing this on my flight from Dubai to Melbourne, so maybe I won’t be speaking with the same tune in a couple of days time!
I’ll be having a couple of weeks without much riding. It’s a good time in the year for me to take a little break and hit the reset button for the remainder of the year. According to everyone back home, it’s still very cold but I am optimistic things will warm up after two weeks. Once I get back into proper training, the focus will shift towards the preparation of the Melbourne summer of cycling.
There’s lots of exciting things on the horizon, that’s for sure!
Thanks for reading,