It is all said and done. I have finished my first Liege. What a race. 6 hours, 50-some minutes, 258km: that is a long day of racing and not so easy.
My Liege experience was a good one for sure. I began the day looking for the early break. With the race starting on a gentle climb, it suited my ability to hopefully get in. I was unfortunately not part of the right mix of guys though, and missed the break. I remember seeing them go away though, knowing that was likely the break, but my legs were not so good and I couldn't/didn't make the jump because I was trying to recover from a previous effort. The break was gone and I was sentenced to spend the rest of the day in the field.
Thankfully we were blessed with nice weather; generally you can expect rain and/or wind for this spring classic, but it was only a gentle breeze and sunny skies for us. As I said before, at the start of the race my legs were not so good and that was the trend for the majority of the day. I started the race basically feeling as if I had already been in the saddle for 4 hours. That is not a pleasant feeling knowing you have probably 5.5+ hours of racing to go. I tried to get the legs cleared up by keeping a high cadence and being relaxed, but they were having none of it, so I just gave it what I had on the day.
After 5 or so hours of racing, it gets hard to go, which is one of the main reasons this race is so difficult. It is incredibly long and the majority of the climbing comes in the last 100km. I made it to about the 225th km on the Col d' Redoute (?) and then I was finished. I had spent the last 40km probably being the professional tail-gunner of the peleton, wanting desperately to move up and do something, but it was daunting and nearly impossible to move up as the peleton roared down the Belgian roads.
After getting dropped, I made it over the top and was joined by one Caisse d'Espagne rider, three riders for a small Belgian team and a TopSport rider. At this point, I was hoping to just sit on the back of the group and finish the race, but for some reason all but the Caisse rider were trying to race back on or something like that. There was no chance we were coming back, but they insisted on a rotation and were annoying the heck out of me. I was totally blown and have probably never wanted to get off my bike and lay on the side of the road as much as I did for those last 30km. Anyway, I made it to the finish, but my annoyance was topped off when the TopSport guy sprinted for the finish! Incredibly amateur move, but whatever.
Despite the happiness of finishing such a big race in my first try, I wish it would have been a bit better. I had a few troubles with eating/drinking, which is incredibly important in a race of this length. My stomach just didn't feel right most of the day, and I think it ruined my ability to fuel, which probably hurt me in the end. Another thing I have never experienced before, too, was some trouble breathing. I had a tight chest when I inhaled deep (like when you are on the rivet!) I don't know if it is allergies or what, but hopefully it will subside and I will be normal again. Nonetheless, no excuses, just the story of my day!
I am here in Switzerland for Tour de Romandie now. Easy training today, recovery and the prologue tomorrow. We'll see how it goes. Hasta Luego.