Over the weekend the Epic Gran Canaria was run off again, in scorching conditions under the Canarian October heat. Constantin has taken part in every event since its inception in 2018, and every year the event has gone from strength to strength, with small changes in the format each year.
There have been night time criteriums, different combinations of race segments and dates, but the constants have been fierce, high level competition in an international field, and impeccable organisation by Yojanan and his team.
Additionally, the format has always been that only the uphill segments are timed, and for anyone that knows Gran Canaria, when it’s not uphill, it’s downhill. These downhill segments have therefore always been neutralised, which probably makes it safer and easier to manage the group on the road, which by the top of any timed climb segment is stretched over many miles.
This year, stage one included two race segments:
1) Aqualand to Cima Pedro Gonzalez (Ayaguares climb) 12.2km, 415m climbing
2) Pasito Blanco to Ayacata, via Soria 44.3km, 1300m climbing
The great thing about these events is that they bring people together, and having just recently returned to Gran Canaria, this was a wonderful opportunity to see so many familiar smiling faces again. Already the morning was off to a great start milling through group and catching up, with a hint of pro racing in the form of the glass sign on board, set in front of the backdrop of the rising sun over the Maspalomas dunes.
There was a great energy in the bunch rolling through the first neutralised section, spying a Velo Revolution bottle and meeting a few Irish lads that had headed over for a bit of sun and suffering..! That energy soon changed form, as the flag dropped and the pace shot up. I tried my hand several times in the valley, but the pace was being kept high, and no moves were getting anywhere.
The start of the climb proper is on a very tight 180 degree left hairpin, on a narrow road; a real pinch point. I was a little further back than I perhaps should have been, but picked my way up to the front of the race on the short descent in the first third of the climb, and immediately kept my momemtum going out of the front of the group. A reaction wasn’t long coming, and soon there were 7 of us left out front.
Mads and Matti distanced the rest of us, Blas and Miguel formed a second duo, and young Pablo and I were chasing Karsten. After the last left hand corner, Pablo summoned the strength the jump onto the big ring, finishing just ahead of Karsten and I. 6th on segment 1, the leaders not too far ahead; happy out.
A regrouping, a refilling of energy reserves and bottles, post ‘battle’ banter, and we started the roll to the second race segment. With the inclusion of the coast road and Soria valley, and knowing that there were stronger climbers than me present, I wanted to see if any group could get away before climb, and after the flag dropped on the ~45km segment that would take us from the coast at Pasito Blanco, to the finish over 1250m higher in Ayacata, I immediately attacked on the first rise. None other than the star guest, former World Champion, ‘Lion king’ and Sprinting legend Mario Cipollini jumped on my wheel, but alas it was short lived, as on the descent that follows the rise where we made our move, he took the corner so fast he passed the lead car and motorbike, cueing some shouting and a sudden end to our attempt at glory.
Put back in our place we settled back into the bunch, and my buddy Flo disappeared up the road. I jumped across to him at the next chance, but the bunch brought us back at El Pajar, where the Soria Valley starts. There was more aggression in the valley but nothing was sticking, and as you start to pass those beautiful mango-laden trees in the second half, I started to realise my legs had had enough.. Troubling news just minutes from the start of about an hour of full gas climbing.. !
I got myself into the shelter of Blas’ wheel and planned to hang on as long as I could, but Matti attacked almost immediately on the climb, and it wasn’t long before my legs made it clear that today was no longer my day.
I drifted back on the climb, riding whatever rhythm I still could, eating everything I still had left in my pockets, glad of the water being offered by the support at the sides of the road- a true life saver in the scorching afternoon heat, agonisingly abetted by the choking calima dusting in the air.
I crested the hardest part of the climb with Eleazar, who was cramping badly in the heat, but he recovered in time that we rode the descents past the beautiful Presa de las Niñas together, before I had to wave him off for the final bumpy slog to the finish.
The road is long and doubly so when suffering, and by the time the finish was nearing it was as if I was completely alone the mountain, those I should have been battling with having left me in the dust, and the next groups behind nowhere in sight.
I hobbled to the finish 12th, lesson learnt… 😌😌
The ride back home brought me into the arms of mi amor Ewa, thanks for the tow home !! 😘😘🥰
Stage Two report here.. !