By Richard Abraham published
It might be the first European race of the season, but this year’s windy edition of the Challenge Mallorca is certainly turning out to be no breeze.
The third event, the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana, was won convincingly by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and the Spaniard, who clearly had the hump after Steve Cummings got the better of him on Friday, left a trail of carnage in his wake.
Only 46 riders of 176 starters finished the stage, and only 12 of those were within five minutes of Valverde.
The opening 100km of the hilly route (there were seven categorised climbs including Puig Major, the biggest on the island) were run at such pace that some riders reported riding too hard to be able to eat.
Most dropped out well before the finish, and a good number crashed on the Mallorcan mountain roads that are notoriously greasy in the cool, damp conditions. Rory Sutherland (Movistar) came off worst, fracturing his collarbone.
The organisers even chose, bizarrely, to put the finish line 100m after a speed bump. When he rounded the final bend, Valverde raised his hands in celebration, quickly put them down to hold his bars over the bump, and then raised them again.
He wasn’t the first to reach the finish however; several small grupettos ended up taking a shortcut through the hills to the team buses waiting at the line in the small town of Deia. For them the race had turned into a training ride with timing chips and race numbers.
Other riders ended up in the broom wagon, the small chartered coach barely having a seat spare when it reached the finish.
Chris Latham, the Great Britain Academy rider who earlier in the month finished third in the team pursuit at the Cali round of the Track World Cup in Colombia, was one rider to call it a day after less than 100km.
“I tried to get in the break, straight away, up the climb. I put everything into it, but it didn’t pay off,” he told Cycling Weekly. “And then it went. Hard.”
“I carried on going well but I’d put too much effort in by then and I was straight out the back.
Latham was actually the only GB rider to make it to the finish line, but without a mobile phone or method of communicating with his team (and at least another 90 minutes riding back to the team hotel) he was eventually – and luckily – picked up by the Great Britain team van.
“I couldn’t tell you how I got here,” he explained. “I found myself in a group, I hacked along with them for a bit, and then eventually one of the them said, ‘we’re not in the race.’ Which was not good.
“I followed them here and some how ended up ahead of the race. I couldn’t tell you where we’ve been or which way we went.”
At least he got to enjoy watching the finale of the race he’d started four and a half hours earlier.
Richard Abraham is an award-winning writer, based in New Zealand. He has reported from major sporting events including the Tour de France and Olympic Games, and is also a part-time travel guide who has delivered luxury cycle tours and events across Europe. In 2019 he was awarded Writer of the Year at the PPA Awards.
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