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Phil Takes On Mallorca 312!

May 11, 2017

Arriving at Mallorca is always a pleasure and playing the game of ‘guess the cyclist’. It soon becomes quite easy when I see people walking around in helmets.  First stop is to collect my bike from baggage.  There’s always a crowd of eager cyclists with a slight look of worry on their faces standing around the heavy baggage belt. Is my bike going to come? Will it arrive with a hefty hole in it and a baggage handler laughing in the background? Who knows, but the worry goes after 15 minutes with my bike and box safe and sound.  A 2.5 hour shuttle bus later and I arrive at the hotel. Its 2am and most likely waking everyone up with the noise of bike box wheels bouncing off the tiles.

Friday 28th April 2017

An early start to the day sees me straight down to stuff my face at the hotel buffet breakfast. Those Mallorca red sausages are tasty but something tells me I shouldn’t eat too many of them.

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Due to owning a ridiculous sized body (6’5”), my XL TCR Advanced SL (with uncut integrated seatpost) isn’t quite as simple to build up out the box as normal. Having to remove half the drivetrain to fit it in may be annoying but it ended up being a breeze and thankful DI2 is so incredibly simple.

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Time to book myself in to the 312. A short cycle to the registration point, I meet up with the guys at Giant Europe who are there as the main event sponsors.  “#RIDELIKEKING”, I’m told when I get there.  28th-30 April is a worldwide cycling celebration honouring Giant founder King Liu while celebrating the joy of cycling. Perfect for the 312.

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The sun decides to come out beyond the clouds for once so I decide to go for a little twiddle down to Alcudia port and end up sitting at the beach enjoying a pizza and a cold Coke. Lovely.

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Later that evening, it’s time to sort my gear for tomorrow. I quickly discover I wasn’t going to carry enough food for the whole ride but with plenty of fuel stops I wasn’t too worried…We’ll see.

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The next job was to try and attach this rechargeable battery pack to my bars. There’s nothing a load of insulation tape can’t sort out.

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Dinner time arrives at the hotel; I can hear the stampede from the top floor. I hope it’s as good as breakfast was. I wasn’t disappointed. I went for a nice mix carbs, protein and veg, plus a few more servings. After my experience with early start sportives such as the Italian Maratona I wasn’t going to over eat this time. Feeling too full and sluggish the next morning doesn’t help.

RACE DAY

I set off from the hotel at 6am, its freezing. Meeting Jon and Phil at the Giant tent with similarly shaking legs we start laughing straight away. Why? Well, we’re all in the same green Endura jacket. I come up with the name ‘Green Jacket Brigade’, I don’t think it stuck. Somehow we managed to keep our legs in focus for this picture.

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Did I say Race Day? No,No. Hold on, it’s a sportive. Or is it? I’m not quite sure. The first 20km is neutralised behind a car but it certainly feels like a mass start race. Everyone is trying to move forward and people are definitely going too hard out the blocks. But soon it settles down and a pleasant 25mph sat behind a few hundred people feels a bit like cheating, we’re not complaining. The front car leaves just before the first climb and soon enough the pace drops. It takes about 5 minutes into the climb before I remove my jacket, which is a bit of a struggle. Climbing up a 6% gradient no handed while rolling the jacket up trying to find space around all the other junk in my pockets wasn’t too easy. It’s still cold though. 7am was 5 degrees; my garmin was at 7 degrees a couple of hours later.

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The highest point in the ride is looming; Puig Major. I know from last time I went to Mallorca how incredible the descent down the other side is and I’m super excited to do it on closed roads. Wow, it was incredible. Super smooth tarmac, long winding bends. 9-10 miles of descent. That was brilliant, can I do it again? No, I only have about 160 miles to go :[.

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By the bottom its clear there’s a good strong group, I dare not turn around but there’s still a good 60-80 riders in the group. The next few climbs I decide to get towards the front. I’m a little bit board of staring at the same kit. I must have read every single word on everyone’s kit 5 times over. It’s nice to sit at the front, and I picked a good time with lovely views over the ocean, along the coast, the sun has come out and the temperature is picking up but it’s still nippy on the descents.

So far, all is going well. I’m keeping a good pace up the climbs and really enjoying the ride. But once the mountains are finished with at around 100 miles I turn around. I wasn’t expecting that. The group had turned into about 25. At this point I realised this felt very similar to a race. There’s no break away and no race talk. We’re all in this together and we know there’s a long way to go.  They all seem to be little 60kg whippets that are going to kill me when my legs go, I’m getting worried.  I desperately need the next food stop but can’t lose this group. The stop comes and I frantically fill my bottle up, grab a load of gels and get back to it. I’m battering it trying to catch up. A couple of others done the same and ended up grabbing my wheel. A mile or so later we’re back on and a short recovery until the pace is lifted again.

150 miles in I’m bonking. I’m struggling to stay with the group but giving it absolutely everything to stay with them until a killer of a climb at 160 miles, 1.2 miles at 6% which is usually ok but it was the steepest part of the 312, maxing out at about 20% at the start of it. With so many miles under my legs and seriously lacking energy I was dropped. I’m still giving it my all but hoping I’d catch back up on the flat.

At the top, I’m in a bad way. Physically but mostly mentally. I’ve done 254 miles in a 12 hour time trial a few years ago and flash backs of this were kicking in. Absolute devastation, exhaustion and losing the will to live. It’s hard to get to this point in cycling. It’s beyond pain and suffering. I can only explain it as “I was in a dark dark place”. I badly need to hit this last fuel stop at Arta. Keep going.

It feels like the finish when I arrive at Arta. There is a large finishing gate, half the town out drinking and cheering. I’m really confused with what was going on. Had I finished? No, I knew that (unlike Jon). What was I doing again? Where am I? O yes, food and drink. I fill my bottle up, down a can of Coke (by ‘eck that was the nicest Coke I’ve ever had), grab some gels and stuff a load of the tastiest homemade looking fig cakes I’ve ever had in my mouth. Right, let’s go. I stomp on the pedals…. O s**t. CRAMP. Stopping had messed something up and now I can’t even pedal. It must have been hilarious for everyone watching me attempting to pedal while I’m punching my hamstrings as hard as possible trying to loosen them up. Imagine a giraffe with no knees pedalling a bike, I’d laugh too. Well, they loosened up after 5 minutes of wholloping my legs with my fist and I get a second wind, I mean a 5th or 6th wind.

I’m going again, I’m pushing hard, I’m feeling good up the final few climbs and pushing hard on the descents. I’d turned my distance off on my Garmin for the last 30 miles. The joy and happiness I had when I saw what was left gave me tears. Really; tears of joy. That feeling, the complete opposite to 20 miles ago was one of the highlights of the ride. It was such a heightened emotion It would be hard to recreate in every day non cycling life.

I catch 2 guys who dropped me earlier. 3 more guys catch up (probably doing the shorter distance) and we’re racing the last 10 miles together. I can finally see the end. 3 guys in front start sprinting to the line. I’m not having this, so I gave it hell for leather maxing out at 955 watts after 195 miles, and pass them. It felt like a small victory. Until I had to slam on for a queue of 225 distance finishers. I drop my bike and every last muscle in my legs goes into cramp. “Are you ok” someone asks me. “Urhhhh, just cramp”.

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[Trying my best to look normal after that.]

I wobble over to collect my finishing pasta and coke. It’s school dinner tasty but I just can’t eat much. I feel ill, completely exhausted and struggling to concentrate.

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7500 calories later, my final time was 10:09:11. It ended up 195 miles (they added in an extra 2 miles somewhere) plus 3 from my hotel and 3 miles back (201 for the day). I had a good idea the group I was in must have been the lead group of the ride but wasn’t quite sure. I ended up finishing 19th overall and 1st British finisher.  What an amazing event. Thanks to all the organisers and helpers and to Giant for their help at the event.

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