10 May, 2013

He came, he saw, he crumbled

I'm back home after a rather disappointing Essor Breton. In hindsight, it wasn't a complete disaster but at the time it definitely felt like one. As those close to me will know (sorry girlfriend and JB for venting on you!) I was in a fairly vile mood throughout the tour. After a few days to reflect I can understand where I went wrong but it doesn't make it any easier for me. Last night lying in bed I was still getting butterflies in my stomach thinking about how I could have won a stage. They're not nervous butterflies though, they're angry ones; maybe hornets would be more appropriate. A belly full of hornets.

Fun and games before the start

Stage 1 went okay and despite not getting a bottle until 140km (it was hot) and the course finish not suiting me too well (it was up a 600m climb) I did what I could. I went for a flyer at 1.5km out from the finish, caught the escapees but then I cracked and we were swept up by the sprinters. I was disappointed but I had plenty more chances on finishes that would suit me much better, why stress?

The finishing hill on Stage 1

A wasted warm up for the TTT

Day two had a team time trial in the morning and a short stage in the afternoon. Everyone reading this will know that I don't mind a sashay on the velo chrono now and then but team events, well, they're a different kettle of fish. Picture in your head a flock of starlings flying in unison, displaying a perfect understanding of one another's motion, divine in their synchronicity. Well, it wasn't like that. It was a shambles. Half way through my Di2 gears stopped working leaving me stuck in the 56:12 just in time for the short steep climb. I changed bikes, never got back on and finished over a minute behind. The afternoon stage ended up being a training session for me, sitting in the bunch as my teammate was up the road.

A great day out

The next day is my most painful recent memory. After surviving well in the wind, staying out of trouble and being at the front at the right times I got to the circuits pretty thirsty. I missed two bottles. Then, ignoring my overall feeling of deadness I attacked 6km from the finish and bridged to the front two. We had about 25 seconds over the bunch and it was looking like the perfect move, until, my legs gave out. On a small rise 1.5km from the finish I couldn't push the pedals any more and the two riders just rode away. One went on to win. I proceeded to break my front mech and go out the back of the bunch.

Bridging to the front two riders on Stage 4

Cleaning up the mess after Stage 4

Final stage, and having built my own spare bike up the night before in the car-park, in the rain, spirits were high in the Dewey camp. During the stage I had the novelty of a different groupset (changing from Shimano to Sram overnight) to keep me amused, as well as the brakes being reversed a la 'continental' way. I didn't literally crash but my morale took a serious nose dive and after being caught out behind the split one too many times it was time to crawl home in the grupetto. The highlight of the tour for me was when, on the finishing circuits, the breakaway group rode past with team leader and all round boss Sam Allen in it as virtual leader on the road! Unfortunately they were clawed back, but it was a gutsy move and one of the best tactical guises of the entire tour to try and steal the lead on the final day. Sam finished a solid 8th overall on GC.

The Mammoth and I, all smiles before the off

Apologies for the overriding depressing feel of this post: I will now draw many good things from the race/up my sleeve.

1) I'm really good at riding when dehydrated.
2) I'm actually stronger than most on the longer climbs, as the pictures below will definitely prove beyond any reasonable doubt.
3) My tan is coming on just great, thanks for asking.
4) I'm supple as a gymnast, according to my ol' soigneur buddy Serge. 

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