Liz and Gabby spent most of last week competing in the Tour Ta Malta. They both put in really strong performances and Gabby has done this report for us.
The tour of Malta is a multi-day stage race held the week before Easter every year. It consists of 4 stages; a TT on day one followed by three road races. The stages are short (generally no longer than 50kms) but the lumpy terrain and fast pace prove to be really testing for the legs and by the end of the 4 days I can guarantee you’ll be knackered from the ‘short but fecking hard’ Maltese style of racing!
This year two SSV riders, me and Liz Burrows, flew to Malta to take on this gruelling race. We guested for the Maltese Team Greens who looked after us really well and showed us the ropes of racing in Malta!
Both Liz and I arrived in Malta a few days before the start of the race which gave us plenty of time to acclimatise to the warmer weather and resolve any potential bike issues. Suddenly race day hit me like a bang and I had to prepare myself for the first suffer fest of the week; a 15k lumpy TT up and down the Coast road dual carriageway (which was closed off from traffic thankfully). Liz and I were staying in different places in Malta but we managed to have a catch-up at the race HQ. My pre-race nerves gradually started to get replaced by the comfort of having a teammate there. Neither of us considers our self a great time triallist but we were determined to ride as hard as we could and leave it all on the road. In the end we both did solid rides with me finishing 7th and Liz 19th.
Although the time trial had opened up some significant gaps in the GC, there was still all to play for with three days of racing remaining. Day 2 was a 27-mile road race up and down a bypass road. With the course being a set of constant inclines followed by descents it was going to be a tough day at the office. And boom, we were off! Plenty of attacks and breakaway attempts were made throughout the race but nothing stuck. However, the high pace and aggressive nature of the race proved too difficult for some riders and as we approached the finishing hill there was only a dozen of us in the front group (including both Liz and I). I managed to position myself well and sprinted as hard as I could. Two riders pipped me on the line so I rolled in 3rd. Liz also did a great ride to finish 10th.
The penultimate stage of the tour was held on the island of Gozo. It forms part of the Maltese islands and is situated 20mins north of Malta by ferry. Liz and I both travelled there the day before to avoid having to get up at silly o’clock on race day and stress about ferries etc. The course of this race was brutal; 8 laps of a 5k circuit which included a steep climb followed by a descent. After a fast start to the race with plenty of surges Liz and I both found ourselves in a lead group of 7 riders which in the end proved to be the winning move. I hadn’t slept very well the night before so wasn’t feeling great but both Liz and I were hanging in there well. On the last lap the pace increased significantly and Liz got a bit distanced with a few kms to go. An attack with 500m to go was proven too much for my legs and I had to watch my chance of a podium slip away as 4 riders approached the line to contest the sprint. I finished a few seconds behind in 5th and Liz came 7th. Another good day for SSV!
Ah, the last day which also proved to be the most challenging as we set off to tackle 6 laps of a circuit including the (in)famous St Martin climb, the finish line being at the top of this brutal ascent. The first lap was relentless with riders constantly attacking and attempting to move up in the GC. Eventually the pace settled down and for a few laps it almost felt like a Sunday social ride. However, as we approached St Martin the final time riders were eyeing each other up and preparing themselves for the final few mins of suffering. I was pushing as hard as I could, breathing heavily and eventually realised three of us had quite a substantial gap to the rest of the field. For the last 10secs it felt like I was seeing stars and I couldn’t quite match the pace of the other two riders to the line so finished 3rd. Liz had ridden strongly throughout the race and finished 10th. Overall I finished 6th and Liz 7th. Together with our honorary teammates from Team Greens we managed to win the overall classification, get a stage win, get 2 podiums and win the best Maltese classification. So it was a successful week of racing!
Full results from the tour here http://my3.raceresult.com/65909/results?lang=en