It's been a very challenging past month for our sponsored cyclist Ben, after falling ill with a serious kidney infection, he was left unable to train whilst battling through his recovery in hospital. Thankfully, Ben bounced back and raced in the Azores last week, proving he wasn't going to let anything get him down! In this blog, Ben gives us the detail of his experience from his latest race report.
“It's always a thrill when you get to visit somewhere as amazing as the Azores, the island of Sao Miguel has hosted a round of the UCI World Marathon Series since 2015. The island's landscape creates some immensely beautiful scenery and is also a great place for a bike race.
The weekend of racing begins on Friday evening with a prologue race around a park in Ponta Delgada. It's a fun way to get the weekend underway, it brings the race to the locals and gets the locals out on the streets supporting the event.
Sunday's marathon saw a strong line-up, under sunny skies Team DMT were out in force with with Tiago, Jiri Novak and Ilias Periklis. Biggest competition would be Belgian rider Frans Claes who last year was a close 2nd, could he take his maiden UCI World Marathon Series win?
As the race got underway we sped out of Ponta Delgada heading west, I feel comfortable, this is good. We reach the first proper climb, oh I don't feel good, legs where are you? Seems like I'm moving backwards whilst everyone else races on into the distance, they might just be 30 seconds ahead and just round the corner but in my mind it seems like if the organiser was to make this a 2 lap race I'd get lapped fairly soon!
Finally at the top of that climb which felt like the biggest mountain in the world but actually is just a 700 metre high hill. Downhill and those riders are suddenly back in sight, thought they would have finished by now! Second big climb, suffer suffer suffer but finally latch onto a group. At the top I make a break for it on the descent, gapping the group apart from 1 rider. I push a little too hard and burn the very limited number of matches I have, I'm a mess, I drop my sunglasses so have to turn around to collect them, I have no feed support so have to stop at feed zones, oh no there's still half the race to go.
Come on, remember the plan, enjoy yourself and don't think of it as a race, remember you were laid up in hospital almost losing a kidney 4 weeks ago! The group I dropped catch me and I sit on the back enjoying the slipstream effect and taking in the many spectacular views. Well this isn't so bad!
Nearing the finish and I’m on the front powering away from the group, I’m actually racing! Much to my surprise I end up in 14th place, a long way off my previous best of 4th but I met my more realistic goal of the top 20 I needed for worlds qualification. I’m more than happy with that after being hospitalised and not training for 4 weeks.
The last twisty singletrack down to the seafront and finish made sure everyone finished with a big smile on their face. Tiago takes the win with Frans in second at 1 minute 12 seconds. Jose Dias concludes the podium. In the women’s race Susana Alonso takes the win after a close battle with British rider Charlotte Davies. Meier Maaris was third. With this result Charlotte took the overall victory in the Portugese Marathon Series, this event was the 6th and final round.
I love visiting the Azores and judging on the number of cruise liners coming into the island I'm not the only one. I hope to be back next year and plan on extending my stay so I can see more of the island, whilst me and most of the racers have seen the western side of the island it would be great to have a day or 2 to visit the east as a tourist."
We’d like to say a huge well done to Ben after tackling through the race! Follow Ben’s journey through his Facebook page Mountain Trax – Vauxhall Motors Cycling Team.