Man oh man, that was tough! Like crazy, ridiculous, just stupid tough!
Picture this: Start line, 6 degrees, icy wind but no rain. Ok this sure sucks, but it's managable.
2k into the 10k neutral the rain she begins to fall. The temperature also begins to fall, 6 degrees down to 3, where it will remain. 4.5 Hours to go. For some reason everyones motivation also begins to fall. Oh crap... ....Oh shit.... hmmm Oh well. Everyone has had one of these rides before. No feeling in your hands or feet, can't brake, can't change gears, don't even think about trying to get food out of your pocket and so on (on a side note I tucked my gels into the end of my knicks so I could access them with frozen hands). Generally it is bad. Real Bad. (second side note: I have a pair of medium winter gloves and a pair of full on winter gloves, I chose the medium ones. Massive error.)
Picture this, I crossed the finish line and found my Directeur and said: hey grab my bag and come with me, I can't use my hands so I need you to undress me! So like an F1 pitstop we ran into some bathrooms at the finishing stadium and I had my Directeur and Masseus on either side of me ripping off clothes, towelling, cleaning and dressing me. It was like a whirlwind of action while I stood there blubbering unable to conjugate correct sentences because my lips were so cold! Then our interpreter came running with tray of coffee and green tea! Legend. Then my Directeur pulls a packet of caramel waffle biscuits he had been saving from Holland. Oh thank you god!
So the race was great fun in racing terms, really jumpy and really fast. Lots of breaks and attacks and no negative racing, just good balls out aggression. In the end I couldn't quite bridge to a group of 15 that had formed at 35k to go and ended up missing an important split. Then bunch shut down and we lost heaps of time! Not helped by taking a wrong turn at an unmaned intersection. Never mind. I was riding aggressively and attacking when I could so I am happy to say I gave it my best.
My top GC aspirations are done for this race now but a decent placing is still possible with two mammoth stages to come. I'll be spending a good 12-14 hours in the saddle the next two days. Let's just hope it warms up.
It's a pity but my two remaining Malaysian teamates Haidar and Loh both suffered like dogs (doesn't everyone?) but couldn't last the distance in that cold. Talk about a shock to the system, 35 degrees and sun to this filth! Oh did I mention it started snowing in flurries after the finish? Even worse, this morning on the rest day we rode up one of the climbs for tomorrows 225k stage and there was snow everywhere from about 400 metres of altitude and beyond. Let's hope there is no snow tomorrow...
Bye for now