La Ble D'Or 2010
Saturday's Velostar 91 escapades out of the way, it's a short hop
down the motorway to Chartres and the Ble D'Or.
Last time we were here in 2008 I suffered a puncture and missed
scratch gold by one minute. This full-on, screamer of a race also
became embroiled in high controversy a couple of days after the
The winner was found to have been led out by his team mate, who'd
failed a dope test and was racing under a false name to beat the
two-year ban! All was revealed when the winning team had their
picture published in the local rag and someone recognised the face
in the photo didn't belong to the name in the caption. As I said
before, some people take these things far too seriously.
hoping for better luck and a quieter ride this year. I got fifty
percent of my wishes.
It's Sunday it must be Chartres
A slightly cool Sunday morning revealed that we'd had rain
overnight. Not a problem in itself for me, but I do worry about
others when the roads are neither wet nor dry.
This year's start was
slightly slower than 2008 and I managed to climb the first
neutralized section making places rather than losing them. As we
left the village outskirts of Leves through the damp, twist, turny
streets, the lowish speed, and the heavy cross winds, prevented any
heroics on the part of the lemmings. Then we were unleashed in to
k in of the race proper and as we approach a ninety-left I feel a
nudge on my right shoulder.
Can you believe it?
Someone's a) is trying to out brake me in to a corner and b) is
trying to go around the outside! I give him my best Paddington Bear
Stare through my Oakley's and chastise him in my, by now, well-honed
Franglaise. He looks at me like I'm the idiot.
Don't like this bloke and
don't want to be near him.
It's fifty metres to the
next ninety-right so I drop back and under him to be on his inside
when we go in to the next turn. I ease off, gently brush the brakes
and he opens five metres on me as he banks it over.
He's down. Sliding
across the road towards the outside gutter, taking at least five
riders with him before I get along side. His Oakley's pop off his
head and pass under my front wheel. They didn't survive.
I never, ever, ever, look
at an accident. You keep looking ahead, you accelerate in to the
gaps that open and you get out of there as quickly as possible.
Just like the good old days in the cars! Behind me I can hear angry
voices. A lot of people's weekends have been ruined by the
inconsiderate actions of an ar$e who's ambitions were greater than
Don't be that person and
don't let it happen to you. If you're around a rider you're not
comfortable with, move away, quickly. Don't think about doing it
soon, just do it.
Warp Factor Lineout
The lineout's and echelons have started. It's a blustery
day and everyone is fighting to get in to a line or to hold a
wheel. Thirty k in and it's the second accident of the day as the
echelon scrap claims another three victims who end up in the gutter
and run off the road. Not nice. I stay up near the front then, as
usual, get blown out on the first big climb.
the youngsters go up the climb without breaking their rhythm,
accelerate over the crest, then ease away up the road in a flurry of
The wise old men
congregate towards the back. Knowing their place and the
inevitable outcome. It's too far to go to be over threshold
for two hours.
The elastic snaps and we
can't, or don't want to, get back on over the top. They don't ride
away as such, we just aren't fast, or strong, enough to close the
now steady gap of around 20 seconds.
After 10k of will we,
won't we, the group of around 30 riders drift out of view. Good,
maybe it'll settle down a bit.
Process of Elimination
A few kilometres down the road and we come to the second
biggie of the day. The climbs aren't big in the steep sense of the
word, the whole course is ridden in the big ring, it's just the
speed that they seem to hit them. Once again I find myself drifted
off as the 40 something's now go up the road to chase the 30
something's we lost previously.
So now we're down to a
group of super-vets, middle marker vets, and one or two young 'uns
thrown in for good measure. As we approach the halfway mark two of
us get away on a long false flat and decide to through and off
across the twisting countryside of northern France. On our way we
pick up three riders dropped from the earlier groups. Five is a
good number, seven would be better, but five will do. We share the
work without exception.
There's an arrow straight
road that we've ridden for around 5k, in to a block headwind, that
leads in to a hairpin bend 10k from the finish. I remember this
from last time so I drop to the back and take a gel as we
enter the bend.
As we come out of the
hairpin I look back up the road we've just left; there's a massive
group of around thirty to forty riders chasing us. I shout to (or
was that at?) the others and pick up the pace an extra kph or so and
make full use of the wind we now find at our backs.
Myself and the original
escapee seem more inclined to push on than the three we picked up,
who seem more intent on waiting to be caught. "Lentement" and
"Piano, Piano" are shouted more than once at me, while I'm answering
back "Allez, allez, vite, vite" to a bemused audience.
Do or Die
We're at the foot of the last climb. It's 300 metres to the
top and from there it's one k to the finish; six hundred metres
downhill, a sharp right, then 400 back up to the line. The big
group is fifty metres behind and chasing hard. I slip to the back
of our cohort of five and gather my thoughts and strength.
As we get to the crest of
the final leg-sapper the chasers attach themselves to us and breath
a collective sigh of relief. Just as they breach the gap I attack
from fifth wheel and scream up the inside of our capitulates in to
the corner, hoping that the chasers are too tired to fight their way
through my bewildered group. It buys me valuable seconds.
It's now full gas down
the descent with no look back. I brush the front brake, just to get
the weight over the front wheel and throw the bike in to the
corner. The front tyre squeals in complaint but clears the exit
with inches to spare. I knock it down a few beautifully slick,
precise and rocket fast electronic DI2 gears and get on to the
I can hear the whistle of
cork pads on carbon rims behind me as my chasers enter the bend I've
just left. It's out of the saddle and push for the line for all I'm
worth. Which at this point isn't a lot.
I hear Dianne screaming
at me from the side of the road and shouts of encouragement from the
earlier finishers and their families. It spurs me on to the line
but the legs are spent. I look under my arm to see a line of riders
hunting me down.
I pass the finish line
and hang on to the barrier to watch a stretched out single file of
riders coming up the hill. A good job well done.
Heavy legs and a spring in the step
With time being of the essence, it's rack the bike, get
changed and a visit to the lavvy at race HQ before we leave. On the
way out I glance at the results and find I'm 62nd overall. Not bad
for a double header weekend. We head back on our three hour drive
to catch the boat in three and a half hours. It's going to be
home, I check the internet for any spurious stories and a
confirmation of the result. Lo and behold, it's a top ten category
position. I'm 9th! And as it's the first round, I'm 9th in the
Trophee Passion Championship. How good is that? Not sure, but it
made me happy. And at the end of the day, isn't that what all this
is about? Having fun and being happy? Until next time...
PS: Did anyone spot the
jar of Marmite in the Paddington Bear photo? What's all that