25 February, 2014

GP Souvenir Jean Masse and GP d’Aix

Getting flown down to Marseille this weekend was very cool. I felt like a mixture between a princess and a race-horse, particularly as post-race on Monday we were literally bundled into the car and driven to the airport a few minutes after finishing, (sweat, snot and all included in my case. Very dashing!). I then got to wondering on the drowsy flight back whether Nantes would put me to stud when I retire…

But I digress. As you can probably tell I spent quite a lot of time hub staring this weekend: the art of glaring at the rider in front’s rear wheel, as it’s just too much effort to look any further and your world effectively ends there anyway. On Sunday it was an amateur case of self-sabotage – I didn’t drink enough.

The race started off steady, and I mean really steady, for the first ninety minutes which was very odd to experience. Everyone was on edge as it could easily kick off at any point and on any road, with decent climbs and windy sections everywhere. When it finally did I missed a vital bottle and what with the extra five degrees in temperature I was a salty mess. I had no power and looked like a fool - it was rubbish.

Lorenzo continuing to ride like a boss, with 3rd place.

Yesterday at GP d’Aix was completely different, with it going flat stick tout suite! Straight out the blocks and up a 3k+ climb with fresh teams who hadn’t ridden the day before, it was fabulous. I was slipping ‘n’ sliding backwards through the group faster than an oiled up seal on a waterslide.

Yes I may have spent some time last wheel. Yes I may have made up about 100 places every descent by being a dicey ‘English pig!’ (best race insult received yet). That’s how I roll.

Breaks had been coming and going all day but, honestly, when you’re dying of thirst you’re not likely to be thinking about what flavour cordial you fancy. I was just happy to still be in the race. With 15k to go inexplicably my legs came to life and I seemed to be the strongest left. What on earth?

The break was just up the road and on the final climb I rode pretty much flat out on the front and forged a group off the front. Everyone was swinging though, so it came back together on the descent and then it was time for a choppy final few kilometres. I elbowed my way up to the front with the best of them and got second in the bunch kick. Sweet.

This picture is not from the weekend, but it is bad-ass.

15th place was alright too, considering how dreadful I’d been all day! We flew back to Nantes together after a good weekend for the team: not amazing, but good. Today I rode my bike, for a lot of hours. If anyone wonders what it’s like to be full time that is it – another day, another training session to be done. I love it.

Peace out.


19 February, 2014

And we're off.

Last weekend was my second one of racing, and again it involved pinning a number on for both Saturday and Sunday, as well as a cheeky midweek outing yesterday! If possible, it was even more successful than the last set of races for us 'Nantaises'. La saison a certainement commencer!

Saturday was seven laps of 20 kilometres which had an epic crosswind section right on the Vendee beach every lap through the line. With Vendee U present (the feeder team to Europcar) as well as various other stong outfits (including us!), it was always going to be a catfight in the crosswinds. I loved it.

Didn't fancy doing no-handed, that's how strong the wind was!

Each team took it in turns to put the hammer down, but in the end it regrouped around the back of the circuit on the final lap. My teammate Mathieu went on a courageous solo attack around 15k out but was clawed back and then, as a Vendee U rider countered I saw the perfect opportunity. I went with him, despite wanting to save my legs for the final kilometre, and what ensued was 9k of two-up time trial work, most of it into a block headwind. Just to sweeten the deal we had a 170 strong bunch breathing down our necks, ten seconds behind, the whole way home. 

Just before la flamme I launched one and held my ex-companion at ten metres, before finally cracking him in the final few hundred and enjoying the victory. It felt good. (Handsome Clement got 3rd too, like a bawse!)

Sunday was a great tactical race, the pinnacle of which was without doubt the shredding of the peloton we did in the final lap. With 20k to go we got on the front and gently rode through and off for a few kilometres before turning a ninety degree corner into crosswinds and letting loose. It was wild and savage and wonderful!

Just before everything got a bit crazy.

At one point it was just the 10 of us riding through and off and we had dropped the entire rest of the field! 

Sublime tactical perfection.

In the end it was a group of 27 riders left in the finale, with 10 of us, and it was attack after attack. I put in the last big one, but got caught 300m short which was a shame. Vincent got 4th in the sprint.

The blue train.

Tuesday was a damp squib for me personally as I didn't have the legs to do much, and spent the final hour getting a tan in the grupetto. Lorenzo claimed 5th on what was a hard third day's racing in four days.

Today has been a nice day off, involving many pancakes, Nutella, and the washing of cycling kit.
Yes people, my life is crazy.

I'm flying down to Marseille on Saturday for GP Jean Masse on Sunday (a Coupe de France) and GP d'Aix on Monday. Have a fun weekend one and all.


10 February, 2014

‘Le Stage en Espagne’ and a Weekend of Re-remembering

So, where were we last post? Ah yes, Spain, and the training camp. It went well! After the long drive down, we shacked up in a super-duper glam hotel in the charming resort of Lloret de Mar.

The scenery was crap.

Initially I was sharing with one of the team sprinters, handsome Clement, but after a few nights I was demoted to the single (read: dunce) room, for ‘snoring’. Lies I tell you!! It must be the Spanish air. Anyway, I quite enjoyed the alone time to be honest as the camp was 24/7 French, which is quite tiring.

I was too tight to pay for the web so (other than nipping off to nick MacDo WiFi once or twice) I was technology free. It was actually incredibly relaxing and, fittingly, coincided with my reading a book called ‘Our Winter of Disconnect’ about going screen free for six months. It’s incredibly entertaining and thought provoking – I recommend you read it! (The irony of blogging this recommendation is not lost on me by the way!)

Me, melt my caskette in the dryer? Never!

Anyhow, yes, the camp. I found it all good with regards to the riding itself. The French training ‘style’ is certainly somewhat different to mine, but I’ll take it as a lesson in another culture. We boshed out some decent lead-out and race scenario practice and had some more super-serious meetings.

Valerie and Vincent. Soigneur and Mechanic respectively, and a super cute couple!

Onto the weekend when we had two races in the ‘Course au Soleil’ series, down in Perpignan. As a side note: Perpignan is glorious! I must go back sometime soon.

Saturday was a huge success with Lorenzo getting in the break and cutting a big slice of victory pie for himself. In the race behind, the boys and I did some team bonding/lead-out practice for Clement – all top bombing.

At no point was any tomfoolery partaken in!
We're a serious team!
Or racing down hills...

Sunday was another good one, although no win this time. There was plenty of “frotter sale” (translate that as you will) with lots of nice incidents involving roundabouts, road furniture, and not quite stationary oncoming vehicles. Basically, unless you’ve raced a bike you can never fully understand the utter carnage. Man, it was good to be back!!

Keeping it in zone 3 for the climbs... Nattttt!

I did some damage on the climb of the day, we got two guys in the break, the break got lost and the race had to be re-started after 75k (LOL) and then it was crosswind time. Heads down, eyes up, guys bombing out left and right. The unmistakeable clatter of broken wheels and carbon skidding along tarmac. At 10k to go we got team orders to drag the break back as mes coĆ©quipiers can’t sprint so well. ‘Sur la plaque’ and 8.5k later we/I have shut the gap to about 40 metres. I blow my nut. The break stays away. That’s racing boys.

Give us a wave.
 Just having a pre-race wink. Standard.

The trip away was finished off with us trying to bump start Alexandre's (the Photographer/Soigneur) car at 11pm at night, after a seven hour drive. We were all cracking up at the ridiculousness (and we failed!) Ha!

I’m looking forward to putting these legs to good use next week.