5am wake time again…. uugh! Thankfully the early starts mean slightly more bearable temperatures for a while.
Todays stage was the 3rd and final stage of Vietnam Victory Challenge, an annual race running for it’s 2nd time, and the stage consisted of 3 laps of a loop, part of which we had ridden on both stage 1 & 2 in one direction or the other.
The brand new Cube bike I was kindly sponsored with for the day by “ASAMA Bicycle”, was tuned with the seat-post 5mm past it’s safety limit and my own seat, which has some high rails, to gain as much height as possible. Matt made sure his rear tyre was in top condition and investigated his rattling rear hub, making sure he would avoid a hub blow-up like mine.
Matt was placed in 3rd and had the task of clawing back 8 minutes, most of which he had lost due to double flats on Stage 2 when Dan Isaacs managed to roll past on his single-speed. For me there was a less daunting gap of 3 minutes to make up to regain the yellow again.
There was no time to rest or even test the bike, I just had to push it as hard as I could on the Cube, having to pedal standing each time the road went up due to the super low saddle and as the bike’s bottle cage bolts (without cage) couldn’t be undone I carried a small water bottle in my jersey pocket and was very happy it lasted the whole 34km without the need of a refill.
For something different to the other 2 stages, they made us start in age groups, youngest first, this meant my group (50+) started behind the whole field including many sloooow riders, luckily it was a climbing start that did sort out the slow riders but it was tricky passing them as they wobbled up & all over the tracks.
The 11km loop had a few short climbs and a large hill I just walked up each time, no great loss in time and saved my legs.
It took a while to get towards the pointy end of the field, passing 90 or so riders in the first lap. Matt was riding in the 40+ group was gunning it and was still in front of me while he was chasing his “8 minutes to 2nd place” until he had a small crash that bent his rear derailleur and gave him a bit of gravel rash. Passing him on a small incline I told him I wasn’t going to stop as I needed to regain every minute I could on my own rivals.
Part way through the 2nd lap I ended up riding with the Pro women and knew they were always going at a good speed so kept with them until the end, apologising to the lead girl because they had to do another lap while our category didn’t. Now it was all about those 3 minutes I needed to win overall. Matt rolled in 5 minutes after me and my rival was 10 minutes behind me, then it ended up that todays course wasn’t single-speed friendly and Dan rolled in just outside the time Matt needed, so Matt made it to 2nd place and I made it to 1st place.
Party all around, with many of the Hanoi friends taking podium spots.