Stage 4 and I was hoping it wouldn’t be as intense as yesterday. Instead of turning left we took a right. The trick was that the race wasn’t neutralised to begin with. Straight from bed time to race tempo. I think this is the first time in the history of the tour that the start hasn’t been neutralised, aside from the time trials, of course.
There were no motorbikes in between the start blocks, it was just one big mass start. The race starts, the pace increases immediately, heart rate goes up. The usual pass as many people as possible to stay with the bunch. It was more intense than yesterday. I had an average of 43km/h into the race. I stayed with the first bunch to begin with getting across gaps that formed.
The group was huge and was strung out in single file being driven by a more compact bunch at the front. I remember the course from the past, or at least a variation of it. A right hand turn and the bunch was strung out again on a descent going into a sharp left and a climb up a ramp onto one of the main roads. Last time I rode this I thought we’d gone the wrong way and ended up on a road we shouldn’t have. A gap ahead was forming but Michael (who I met during the tour) slowly closed it with Dana (his partner) close behind.
The road continued with sweeping turns and the occasional much sharper narrower one causing the bunch to come almost to a halt and required silly amounts of leg work to get back to race speed. We headed up a gentle climb. Another gap formed and I could see it wasn’t going to be closed so I tried to bridge it but got stuck out in the middle as the bunch rode away. Half a minute later, Michael and Dana and another came past. Dana shouted at me to jump on and Michael worked hard to catch the group ahead. We came to another rise and I took a turn at the front. At absolute maximum effort, we slowly inched our way back onto the bunch. I used a race motorbike as a stepping stone to in the final metres, hoping for a draft before leaping to the back of the bunch. Clearly, this was not sustainable racing.
We stuck with the group for a bit and I moved up a little which was helpful for the next climb. I survived that one too but then was ejected out the back on the following one. I rode alone for perhaps five minutes before a group with Thomas, Dana and Michael caught me up. It wasn’t long until we were climbing again. A big group of perhaps 30 or 40 caught us up. I had already cooked my legs and could only hang on just at the back as the group split on the hill. It was a steep climb with much ouch and sweat. I crawled up it with a few others including Dani who I’d ridden in a group with on the first stage. The descent was long. I ended up in a good group of about 8 people for the long ride down the valley. We worked well together, all taking turns at the front and it wasn’t long before the right hand turn and our last long 7 km climb to Bad Bleiberg.
I remember a previous Tour de Kärnten where I’d felt good and ridden away from the bunch. The opposite happened this time. Instead I rode my own pace and shortly before the top was caught by three others, Dani, another women, and a guy. I pulled at the front for a bit and then the guy had a go followed by Dani. The other woman was not keen to work, unsurprisingly, as we were only a few km from the finish. At about 300 m we sprinted, I had been out on the left but accelerated forward and moved right, which wasn’t great form. In any case, Dani caught my wheel and drafted me across the finish line.
Another good, leg destroyingly fun stage. After some food I rolled back to the Faaker See very slowly.
Above: Another day of racing coming up.
Above: The usual posing at the finish line.
Tour de Kärnten – Stage 4 – Gailtal Runde
Gun time: 02:54:59.7 Dst: 88 km Avg: 29.8 km/h Max: 77.7 km/h Ascent: 1533 m
Rank: 151 Category: M40+ Category Rank: 19
Splits 0-50km: 01:38:38.6 50-76km: 00:38:58.8 76-86km: 00:37:22.3