Two stages down and Rob Gives us the latest Ras News;
With a 55 mile road race in the morning and then a short but undulating Time Trial in the afternoon, the 3rd day of racing was going to be interesting for sure. Do you take it easy in the road race to try and maximise your performance in the TT in what was sure to give a shake up to the GC? Or do you put all your eggs in one basket and get in the break in a bid for stage glory? Given the strength and experience of the field, we all figured our best option was to try and maintain a good position in the bunch during stage 3 to make sure we were ahead of any splits and maintained our GC positions as best we could before giving it our all to try and move up the GC in the TT. The road race circuit proved to be a great course with a few punchy climbs and fast decents that made for very animated racing. The pace was high throughout the stage despite the inclines and after several attacks and short lived breaks on the first lap, a break of 6 riders finally stuck at the start of the 2nd lap with multiple riders from Zappis. Whether it was the reluctance of the bunch to chase with the TT looming or the sheer power of the breakaway riders I don't know but one way or another they built their lead up to a minute and despite several riders trying to bridge across, of which I was one. Fortunately Jonathan and Steve were coping much better today and we all maintained good positions within the bunch throughout the stage. As the last of the three laps came around the pace actually seemed to ease a bit, with riders possibly bearing in mind the hill finish coming up. By this point most riders had conceded the break was gone, although a few hardy (crazy) riders continued to try to chase them back in ones and twos. As we approached the final climb - a dual carriageway with a nice tailwind blowing, Steve worked on the front for the last lap to help minimise the team's time losses. Whilst Ollie and I were near the front hoping for a decent finishing position. Despite having driven it in the opposite direction, the climb seemed to drag on for an age and unfortunately I found myself slightly too near the front and working hard early on. With only a small kick left at the line I managed to hold on to 19th (with 9 riders up the road, so 10th in the bunch) as riders swarmed around me, Ollie coming in just behind me in 20th and Steve and Jon safely in the bunch, 1 minute 11 down on the winner. Overall a positive result for the team compared to yesterday!
Then came a few key hours if we were to have a good ride in the stage 4 TT: recovery time! Foam Rollers and recovery drinks at the ready we made sure we were in the best condition possible for the TT - that is, the best condition with 3 tough stages already in the legs! Riders were off in race number order as opposed to GC order so we were all off in quick succession, Jonathan first followed by Ollie, Steve and then myself. The course was certainly testing, with a steady but tough climb for the first mile and then a couple of miles of very rolling dual carriageway before a sharp and sketchy turn up a narrow lane and a few more undulations to the finish, a total of 4.6 miles. It was a case of going hard up the climb to minimise the opportunity for time loss there before hanging on and keeping the power as high as possible for the remainder of the course, fortunately I had Steve in my sights, giving me a little more motivation, catching him with around a mile to go. Overall another good result for HWCC with Ollie and I coming in only 40s behind Richard Bussle, the national 10 and hill climb champ and also the hot favourite for the stage. Although he himself was pipped at the line by Paul Double of VC Venta - a margin of 2 seconds! Frustratingly for me but to his delight Ollie also beat me by 1 second. Jonathan was a little further back, followed by Steve, but neither lost a huge amount of time so they were generally content, although Steve was not best pleased I had caught him! Stage 5 brings a few new challenges, with info from other riders indicating that it is quite a sketchy circuits (e.g. Hay bales to protect us from crashing into stone walls!) and it is also the first and only flat finish for a RR stage.