15 July, 2013

Tour des Deux Sevres

Wow! What a busy couple of weeks. I returned to France last Monday night and being a man, I began packing on Monday afternoon, one hour and seventeen minutes before I had to leave for the ferry. Amazingly I didn't forget anything too major. Just passport, helmet, shoes, bike... Jokes! The night ferry was as fantastic a life experience as ever and I disembarked on Tuesday morning having racked up a solid zero minutes of sleep. Still, France was sunny and fresh and all new to me again.

Ferries: don't forget your pillow!

Onwards to Wednesday and I was on the road again, returning for a second year to the Tour des Deux Sevres. Last year I was 3rd overall so I was looking forward to it, although having been 'en vacance' in England for a while it was going to be a bit of a form tester as my first race back.

After the team presentation on Wednesday night, where you basically get kitted up and get on stage in front of some wrinkleys for five minutes, the race proper kicked off on Thursday lunchtime with a solid 165km. It was hot and little did I know it was going to get hotter! After a pretty mental four hours it all but came down to a gallop. Two blokes escaped just off the front by six and three seconds respectively. I did a fair bit of suffering to hang in the front quarter for the whole day; energy wasted unfortunately.

The time trial was the next morning and I was hoping the legs would return as the tour went on. As it was, they were coming back but I wasn't exactly comfortable in the TT and after nearly stacking it on the final corner I came in 3rd, eight seconds back. I was disappointed but kept reminding myself that I had been off the bike with illness not long ago. Anyway, the afternoon stage was only 88km and so sure to be fast and furious, you would have thought. Well it wasn't at the start! We pootled around with various nutters trying to clip off unsuccessfully early doors and in the end it came down to the inevitable bunch sprint, despite my best attempts at slithering off in the final few kilometres. The circuit had several technical bits but also some nice smooth, wide roads perfect for a big ol' gallop. Naturally the finish line was 50 metres after the most dangerous set of corners. I kept the bike rubber-down and myself out of the ambulance so... Successful day!

Best 2nd category rider = podium time.

Day three and 110km in I thought I'd try and win the cycling race. At this point I was 3rd on GC, a mere eight seconds back. I countered an attack over a climb, Sam was with me and we forged a group of 15 or so guys. We got 40 seconds and I was yellow jersey on the road but we got shut down by Nantes Atlantique, the strongest team in the race. We tried. Hard. When we got to the finishing circuits, having been away for about 15km going full whack I wasn't feeling so splendid any more. A small group ground off the front nearing the final and I couldn't make my legs work to get me there. I lost nine places on general classification very quickly, down to 12th overall. Gutttttttteddd.

Worse smile everrrrr as I slip down the GC.

Nothing to lose in the final stage then. I was only 29 seconds down, but with riders from two strong teams ahead of me it wasn't going to be a doddle. My plan was to sit tight all day, clip off at the end and use others to win the stage and maybe move up on general too. Easy peasy. The problem is: cycling is never easy. If it's easy, you're not doing it right! There was a humoungous crosswind section after about 5km and, obviously, we didn't get told about this. Cue: massive shredding of the peloton. I was in the second group and thinking that was race over I broke my own personal racing mantra of 'Never Panic'. I panicked. I tried to ride across a 30 second gap, to a group of 35, with one other guy. Cyclists will understand what this situation means well. It means you've lost your mind! To any normal people imagine the pain of shutting your finger in a door. Then imagine doing this to the beat of a song, or the beat of your pounding heart, repeatedly squashing those digits. Left crack, right crack, left crack.... Foolish! We didn't make it and then, and THEN, it came back together later anyway. Oh man, I was happy about that. I toasted my legs and then we all got toasted later by mother nature. It was 37 degrees and there was a hot wind; people were bombing out left and right. Again a small group escaped annoyingly late in the stage, about 4km from the finish but I couldn't get there. 

I suppose cycling has a few perks.

I finished the tour 10th overall, which isn't bad and I got plenty of podium time for being first 2nd category rider which is all good fun. My tan is looking sick and the form is returning, which makes me happy.

The final podium.


  1. Maillot Gris always struck me as a bit cruel; grey, dour 2nd cat, oh well. Disc might have got you 8 seconds tho.

    Didn't Ilton teach you anything about riding in wind old son? :)

    Well done. D

    1. Thanks Anon. Felt a bit like a lemon to be honest as I wanted the yellow jumper really. Ah Ilton, the circuit of dreams!

  2. Good indicator of a bit of form round the corner. Hope you have a good few weeks ahead. David W, anon :)