In Rideposter Stories, we meticulously relive that one unforgettable queen stage of a cyclist. In this edition, Nikky's very first race: Nikky Alberts and her final sprint in the Gran Fondo Mallorca 312 finale.
We are on the bus. A group of crazies who are going to ride a Gran Fondo today. My fellow travelers are excited. But I feel a nagging feeling. This is not just any Gran Fondo. This is the Mallorca 312. Today, we will face over 5000 meters of climbing. I shut myself off. Pumping music in my headphones, and I rub my legs routinely. This is the scent of racing.
Here we stand, under the starry sky, waiting for the starting signal. There's a rumor that Alberto Contador will start at the front row. Here at position one thousand, I'm not surrounded by well-groomed pros with shaved legs. Mostly amateur cyclists with different outfits. There's even someone wearing a trash bag as a raincoat. It is indeed cold, but I'm eager to go all out. And I'm not the only one. Along the side, there are so-called Dimonis running. Fire breathers who, according to tradition, try to drive away the darkness.
The starting shot sounds, and shortly after, we roll over the starting line. Still in the dark, but that makes the view even more impressive. Ahead of us, a whole column of red lights winds through the Serra de Tramuntana on its way to Coll de Femenia. This is mental doping. On top of the climb, it hasn't worn off yet. The sun rises, and we start the descent. The road is closed off, and we go down like cannonballs. I haven't said much today, but when I see the view of the sea, I shout to my companions, "Party!" Because that's what it is.
07:39 - 13:24
But it's not all fun and games. What follows is a cocktail of suffering, fueling up, tough climbs, headwinds, and hitting the wall. On the flats, we finally start to push again. Heading towards Playa de Muro, I start calculating. "With this pace, we'll be there soon." But as enthusiastically as the group started rotating, it also stops. Everyone seems to be losing their best form. The morale tank is running empty again. I was eager to go all out, but now I mostly feel my legs burning.
At 88 km to go, I come across Nicolien Luijsterburg. It's just the two of us. "You're Nikky, right?" For the first time today, I strike up a conversation. She immediately feels like a fellow sufferer. I ask her if she knows how many women are still ahead of us, and she tells me that we are leading. "So we're going to sprint?" I hear myself realize and ask at the same time. Sprinting for the win after 312 kilometers. It can't get any crazier.
The last fifty kilometers are downright dreadful. The toughest miles I've ever ridden on a bike. The limits of my fitness, energy, and mental strength are severely tested. More tough climbs and even more headwinds. We ride in a group of six, but everyone is struggling. We pass a sign with 300 kilometers. I'm mentally completely shattered. Why are we actually riding 312? Isn't 300 good enough?
That's it. Ten and a half hours on the bike. The finish is narrow. In the corner of my eye, I see Nicolien approaching. She starts a sprint. I try to do the same. I see a spike in my heart rate, but I can barely push my wattages any higher. Nicolien and I embrace each other; it doesn't matter who won. We don't know either. But what a battle, what a ride, what an achievement. We did it!
A little later, I receive a Spanish phone call. In broken English, I hear, "You have won." After asking at least five times to confirm, it sinks in. I actually won the Mallorca 312 Gran Fondo. The award ceremony is done by - yes - Alberto Contador. When I storm onto the podium, he is ready there with my prize. I receive a stone and three kisses. No one can take that away from me. The commentator sees it and asks what I'm happiest about. "That I was the fastest today."
Two weeks later, I'm still glowing from this victory. The stone is in the closet, and my Koersplaat Rideposter is hanging on the wall. A shout out to @MartinLukasse from @bikevillastravel is in order. As a super-domestique, he personally provided the drive to not only finish but also ride for the win.