After the success of the previous weekend in Banyoles I was now the pre-race favourite in Chelva. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task however, as Victor Koretzky (second in Banyoles) and his team mates from KMC/Ekoi/Orbea had been in Chelva training and testing on course all week, so would have the added advantage of a ‘home track’.
I arrived on Friday afternoon and rode a few laps of the track to familiarise myself. It was a vastly different course to in Banyoles, with lots of splits in the track and various line choice through some challenging rocky and dusty sections. It probably would have been a better course for my Top Fuel but as I only had my Procaliber for my time in Spain I had to make do.
I slept poorly the night before and possibly because of this didn’t feel the freshest in my warm up. Once the race started I also didn’t feel at my best and was having to work hard on the start lap.
Onto the second lap the pace eased off a little at first and I found myself in 3rd wheel behind Victor and Thomas Litscher. Thomas got a slow leak on his tyre and had to back which allowed Victor to open up a bit of a gap ahead. Once I got past Thomas I put in a hard effort to catch Victor in the hope that once I rejoined him the pace would be manageable enough for me to just follow and recover for a lap or so. However just as I caught Victor at the end of lap 2 he also got a slow leak from a pinch flat down the main rock garden. This left me off the front a lot earlier than I had planned or was expecting and while Victor continued to the tech zone I set about trying to recover a bit from my efforts and establish a good rhythm I could maintain until the finish.
I expected to be caught a lot earlier but obviously must have been riding at a fairly solid pace as I was able to maintain a gap on the chasers for a few laps before hitting traffic with lapped junior riders and losing significant chunks of time in a few tangles and road blocks with them! Victor was able to bridge the 30-40 second deficit he had after his puncture with around 2 laps to go and from there it was a game of cat and mouse to the finish line. He put in a big attack with a lap or so to go and I fought hard to stay with him. After that it seemed he didn’t quite recover as well as he needed to and I just had a little more left in the tank to sprint up the last short steep climb and open a small gap which I was able to defend to the line to cross in 1st place.
It was the icing on the cake for my time in Spain and an awesome feeling to start the year with 2/2 race wins in very strong fields and a good wad of points. Next up Nationals!