Early this morning we headed north, under threatening clouds, to Central Switzerland for the GP Cham. A 158km race over 17 laps and a few nasty inclines along the way. I had raced in Cham in 2006, finishing at the back of the small front pack in soggy conditions, so set out with the desire to improve on my previous result.
Although that is always the plan I was not so sure about myself. It's been nearly a month since my last race, where I crashed in France and got my leg all out of joint. Something that is still bugging me now...
I had reason to be chirpy though as I had some supporters along the route. SwissVan from www.thehubsa.co.za lives in the vicinity of Cham and came over with his better half to watch the race, giving me the rare but ever so valuable opportunity to speak some English again and see some friendly faces.
As for the racing...
Typical Swiss National race, started out faster than the world champs as the first three laps were done at full tilt. I thought that I might just die along the way but started to feel better about myself when I realised that everyone was feeling the way I was (then why do they start so fast...?). Fortunately my legs warmed up nicely after a while and I moved forwards in the bunch to start following moves and going over the big climb near the front as often as possible. Somewhere around here I lost count of the laps and everything turns into a blur. I just know that Konrad, Matteo and I were doing quite a bit of work covering the moves and things were looking alright.
With around about six laps to go I followed Nazareno Rossi (pro for Diquigiovanni, team of Gilberto Simoni) as he attacked on the climb and we quickly made it across to the small break that had formed ahead. Ben was present in the front and a lap later Matteo joined us, only to see Ben disappear off the back shortly afterwards. A while later I looked back and was surprised to see that the break had split again and eventually twelve riders were left in front. Matteo and I still hanging in there as the threatening clouds finally opened up to make it a 'normal day in Switzerland'.
With two laps to go I started attacking on all the climbs but my legs were cramping in places that I didn't know could cramp (thanks to the crash in France), with even my foot curling up in my shoe every time I attacked... Obviously I didn't really get far, but at least the bunch was strung out a bit.
On the last lap and the last real incline of the day (short but it came right after a 90degree turn on a tiny road and with cross winds, so it was nasty) I gave it one last shot and went with all that I had left. I really thought that my foot was going to double over in the shoe from cramps but somehow kept going and by the time I looked back there were only two guys left. Rather dumbfounded by the sight I caught their slip as they came past and we headed for the finish.
I put in one more attack but it was a measly effort and only resulted in me having to lead out the sprint. Something that I didn't really mind as I was too knackered to really do much. Which meant that I crossed the line in third place, but still pleased with my efforts for the day. Twenty seconds later Matteo came in with the remnants of the break and took ninth. Konrad was another minute back in thirteenth. Not too shabby a result for the day.
Pics coming soon.