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Gary Sheppard races in a Masters event at the Tour Ta’Malta 2016

22 Mar , 2016  

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An increased field of 36 this year gave even greater competition – this included a number of ex pros and a former GB National Crit champ! My week rolled out like this:

Stage 1 – TT 6th 5o secs behind the winner – looking at strava my riding in straight lines was great but I couldn’t corner the 6 x 180 degree bend’s on my TT bike, which I was using in anger for the first time!

Stage 2 – 6th – The Masters race was quick from the off and we caught back 2 mins on the Elite race just before the big hill that ends each lap. I made sure I was at the front as we started to climb and was pleased to be safely in the main combined group as we crested for the first time. Unfortunately I wasn’t quite so aggressive second time around, and not only was I too far at the back I also lost sight of the key Masters on GC as the Elites sprinted up the first part of the hill splintering the field. 3rd lap I climbed at my own more consistent pace which helped for a quicker assent and I was the 4th placed Master as it appeared I was going to be able to chase back on to the main combined peloton – but only for me to crash on a wet bend which I obviously took at too high a speed, causing me to break my right shifter and also dropping my chain. By the time I got cycling again I was down to 6th, and ended up riding solo for 2 laps until I was joined by the guy 4th on GC who had earlier suffered a puncture – we rode together and then raced the last hill – with me gaining 6th on the sprint – but losing a lot of time on GC.

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Stage 3 – 9th- 2 guys rode off on the early laps with the peloton letting them go. The first was an Italian guy who would win the 3 road stages and who was in a class of his own; and would I think have seriously challenged for the Elite prize as well! No point in chasing him really but when the top Maltese rider attacked, all the other local riders irrelevant of their individual clubs either spoilt any chance of a chase or simply covered every move. I tried my luck on lap 6, probably got out to 30 seconds but was pulled back after half a lap. I sat back in, but then got blocked as a 4 man break part comprising the wise old head British ex-pro riders went up the road that not only established a 60 sec gap by the end but took my 5th place overall with it – very frustrated as no one else would chase. Should have been 7th on the sprint but the lead car stopped on the line causing us to ease up – or some of us I should say, as I was pipped by 2 riders on the line! Interesting day!

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Stage 4 – 6th – a 6 lap out and back race on both sides of a dual carriage way, and whilst there was a nice hill finish each lap none of the GC guys were letting their chief rivals out of their sights, which consequently once the front group of 10 became established, save for the Italian who was already 1 minute up the road rode, resulted in a fairly easy race with a drag race up the final climb for the final podium places. I sprinted quite well beating those in 2nd, 3rd and 4th on GC

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So 6th on GC, and 2nd over 50 to a gnarly British ex-pro rider who will remain nameless, but who finally only acknowledged me on the last day after I had beat him – we may be old but the competitive juices still flow!! Happy days


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