The first thing to say is that my bike set-up for this race was a little different than normal. I was using a set of Osymetric chain-rings (54t/42t) with an 11t-28t cassette (but I kept my trusty SRM power meter). I’m really impressed with how the Osymetric rings work; when I first started using them they felt a bit slower than normal, but after a short while it started to feel easier to generate and maintain bike speed. Power readings tend to be slightly overstated when using Osymetric rings, so in the race analysis (below) my watts/kg are reduced by 4%. Also, I was a little heavier than normal, so the w/kg calculations are based on 66kg stages 3 and 4 and 65kg stages 9-10-11.
My analysis doesn’t cover every stage; I’ve just focused on the most important and interesting ones: –
Stage 3 > 120km with a 7km up-hill finish
I didn’t need to make much effort during the first 100kms, but things suddenly changed with 17km to go – I had to deal with some mechanical issues, which eventually forced me to stop and fix my bike. So then I had no choice but to ride hard for 15 mins (350w avg.) just to get back to the front group – I managed to catch them just before the final hill. Thankfully, as we started that final climb, the pace wasn’t too fast; I held 342w avg. (5w/kg) for 11mins which was enough to stay with the leading riders. In the last 2kms, the pace quickened, but I managed to push a bit harder – 426w (6.3w/kg) over the last 4mins – without having to dig too deep. At the end, I just felt glad not to lose any time on the leading riders, in light of all my mechanical problems.
Stage 4 > 125km with 2 steep climbs near the finish
During the first 90kms I rode quiet easy, keeping my HR around 123bpm avg. and maintaining a decent speed of 45km/h avg. My plan was to save a lot energy for the last 40kms. A team-mate of the race leader led us up the first 5km climb (7% grade avg.). I was following his wheel, focusing hard on saving as much energy as I could – I pushed 378w avg. (5.55w/kg) for 15 mins, allowing my HR to go to 165bpm avg. The second 5km climb was much steeper (11% grade avg.) – this was an opportunity to attack. I was feeling good but my gear was a bit too big 42/28 and my teammate was 10-20secs ahead, so I decided to focus on controlling others riders around me and saving my energy for the next 7 stages. I stayed in touch pushing 367w (5.4w/kg) for the final 20 mins.
Stage 9 > 90km over 3 x 30km laps, with 1,600m of ascent
I was excited about today’s stage, because I woke up feeling good in my legs and impatient to move up in the GC. Before the start, the race organizer decided to cut the race to 2 laps for safety reasons; then at the end of the first lap they shortened the race again, canceling the second lap. Lap 1 started at a crazy pace – over the first 7 min section of climbing, I had to push 421w avg. (> 6.35w/kg), then 365w (> 5.5w/kg) over the following 12 mins. Overall, for that 20 min section my power was 388w avg. (> 5.8w/kg) – higher than I had expected! Although the pace was quick, I was feeling good and didn’t need to take my HR into the red zone (keeping at 155 bpm avg.), so when the race stopped early, it felt like a missed opportunity.
Stage 10 > 121km with 7kms uphill finish
During the first 115 km I kept my HR steady (120bpm avg.) and maintained good bike speed (44 km/h avg.). I was just focused on saving my legs for the last 2 km of the final climb. Before the start, I planned an aggressive race strategy with my team. My teammate would set a high pace from the start of the final climb, to neutralize any attacks from the lead group. That would give me the opportunity to launch my own attack in last 1-2kms of the climb. At 1 km to go I went off the front, feeling good and riding fast. To create a gap, I held 691w for 30secs and 470w avg. for a 2min30 block (7w/kg). In the end that wasn’t quite enough to snatch the lead but enough to move me from 3rd to 2nd place in GC. I was still quite happy with that.
Stage 11 > Last stage and last chance! 122km with 4 x 15 km laps and a 3 km climb in the last part of the race.
The first 50 km was like to the day before; similar HR (130bpm avg.) and speed (44km/h avg.). As the race progressed, my team-mates gradually increase the pace to make the peloton work harder. When we reached the bottom of the climb on the first lap, I decided to attack with a 2min40 effort at 474w avg. (> 7.1w/kg). Our team plan was to try and isolate the race leader. I repeated the same thing on the second lap – 2min30 at 483w (> 7.1w/kg) – but the leader followed my wheel. On the third lap I decided to change my tactics, holding back in the bottom section of the climb but going hard at the top – 2min30 at 455w (> 6.80w/kg). Again, this wasn’t enough; the leader still managed to stay with me and the rest of lead group (about 20 riders) caught us in the downhill section and as the road flattened out. I knew I had to give it my all on the last climb, so I pushed as hard as I could from the bottom all the way to the top. The first 2min20 section was ‘full gas’ – 521w avg. (7.77w/kg) and I held 425w (> 6.4 w/kg) over the whole climb (a 7m20 effort). In the end, despite my best effort, I just couldn’t create a gap – the leader managed to hold on and secure his victory, finishing 17 seconds ahead of me after over 27 hours of racing.
I gave everything to try and win and I had good energy and bike speed all week. So in the end, I felt happy with 2ndplace and was able to head home to my family in Thailand with no regrets.