Bernard Borreau

Overall Distance 155k Time Taken 4:16
Height Climbed   Brevet  
Distance Climbed   Category Position 68th
Date April 2007 Country France
Entrants 1200 Region Liguge

The Bernard Borreau was to be the third sportive on consecutive weekends.  Each week the mileage (kilometrage?) had crept up by 5 kilometres and each week had seen an increase in speed and effort.  The idea being to get three hard events in, in three consecutive weeks, take a two week recovery, then go again.  The Borreau was to be the hilliest of the three and I was unsure of how I would go. 

So, it was a four hour drive to Liguge, just outside Poitiers to find out how the form was holding up.

Signing On
We'd entered on the old t'internet so all we had to do was turn up the evening before, show our licences and pick up our numbers and goody bag.  What was obvious right from the start was the village gymnasium were we signed on was at the top of a very long and very steep hill.  Make a note of that for tomorrow.

I'd signed up for the biggie and Dianne had entered the 82k event.  Having picked up a trophy the week before hopes were somewhat dashed of a repeat for this week as there was only a ladies 40+ category.  And looking at some of them signing on I was a bit worried for myself never mind her!

To add even more prestige, pain, misery, joy (in other words mixed emotions!) Cofidis pro Sylvain Chavenel was on the start list to lend support to his local event.  Which means every man and his dog will want to show him how strong they are and how they could have been a pro if only they'd got the right breaks.  It's going to be a long day...

Race Day Recce
The first thing I do when I get to a sportive is check out the finish area.  You never know.  Positive thinking and all that.  This one was obviously going to finish up hill.  So, once we'd got the bikes ready, it's off to the bottom of the hill and climb back to the finish.  It was just do-able on the big ring.  I figured that as I hadn't had a warm up that would simulate how I would feel at the end of 155k.  Only time would tell.

A Cunning Plan
While I was fannying around warming up and deciding what to wear, everyone else congregated at the start.  So when I got there it was mayhem. As all the car parking was in front of the start line, you had to ride towards it, not approach it from behind as you would normally. 

This was all to do with road construction behind the gym, not any failing of the organisers.  I couldn't have got to the back if I wanted, which I most definitely didn't.  Everyone wanted to be at the front with the pro riders.  So I employed devilish trick number three form the Williams List of Devilish Tricks.  It's a big list!

The first ten kilometres of the race would be neutralised, due to the abundance of street furniture and twisting nature of getting out of the village on to the open road.  Also, as an added bonus, there was no electronic timing.  So I shimmied off 200 metres down the road, feet in pedals, gilet on and leaning against a tree.  At bang on 9 am it kicked off with the motorcycle marshals and commissaire's car hurtling towards me.  A final drink, a push off the tree and I'm in the first twenty of the group!  Job done.  

What a racket!
As we all paraded through the graveyard quiet villages all you could hear was the screeching of at least 500 cold brake pads on 250 pairs of carbon wheels.  The noise was unbelievable as we ducked and dived around bollards, rond-ponts, and zig-zaggy things to slow cars down.

After fifteen minutes the cars pulled away in a haze of diesel and the race was on.  Straight away someone tried to go away.  What the hell are they thinking?  Oh I forgot, we had a pro or two to impress! 

A lineout ensued and we all blasted away until the first hill arrived, where the first sort out took place.  A group of around a 100 ex-pro's, neo-pros and the just bloody talented edged away, as it normally does, and powered on over the crest and in to the distance.

As usual I was in the second group at the end of the first sort out, just waiting for my turn to be shelled out to head up the third group.  Surprisingly, I remained with the second group for the first 75k until I got blown out on a long, long, draggy slope that you could hardly call a hill.

The speed climbed and climbed until the elastic snapped and most of us were left wanting.  Wanting more speed for one.  The group fragmented with the faster young 'uns and more sprightly vets leaving around 80 of us behind to form a comfortable working group as the best of the rest

Don't be afraid
I now know where I actually fit in to these sportive things.  It seems I'm destined to be a part of the third tranche of riders who just can't cut it with the fast boys.  I'm too old and too slow to stick with the whippets on the short, fast climbs and too old, too slow and too soft to dig in when it really matters on the long drags.

However, when I do find "my group" I always get to the front and contribute to the workload.  I'm never afraid to pitch in and keep the tempo high.  Unlike some!   But if people can't, or won't, work it doesn't bother me.  I'd rather have them behind me than getting in the way and disrupting the flow.  For some riders it almost becomes an obsession to get people to work.  Why worry about others and let it upset your day?  Ride your own race, enjoy the moment and save your energy for positive things, like the sprint.

Pay Attention!
Now I'm not the most observant person in the world but...

The speed remained high as we crossed the plains around Potiers.  As we hurtled down a normal B-type road we approached a sign for a large roundabout with a fat line for Poitiers to the left and a fat line for Limoges to the right; looked like an A-type road to me.  Another road, a thin line like the one we were on, according to the sign, went straight across.  So straight across it is then.  I moved towards the front and was fourth wheel entering the roundabout as we rode over the paint marks to confirm the route; straight on.

As usual, all the traffic was stopped and we had a fast, clear, safe passage across the roundabout.  For some reason our lead motorbike took the right hand turn and lemming like the first three riders followed him.  I flicked the bike over and headed for the marshal standing on the exit waving his flag like a dervish.  Everyone, and I mean every one, of the seventy or so riders left followed the leaders down the A road.

By now the motorbike has realised his mistake and has already done a uwey in the road.  As I turned off I heard that sickening scraping of carbon on tarmac for the third week in a row.  Riders down.  I exited the roundabout, saw the confirmation paint marks and looked under my arm to see nothing, not a sausage, just moi and moi alone!  I'm now 200 metres up the road with not a soul to be seen.  Then, in dribs and drabs riders appear from off the roundabout.  Time to eat.

Let's crack on then
After what seems an age, we all get back in to a rhythm, well those that were working did, and the pace picked back up.  The following miles saw, attacks go off the front and stragglers go off the back.  As ever this spring, the weather was glorious but the wind was unrelenting.  And once more echelons and lineout's were the order of the day but gladly without the consequences of La 77.

Then, just as the last dregs of my water bottle are knocked back we enter 5k to go.  Which, as luck would have it passed right by our hotel so I knew exactly where we were going and what lay ahead.  Two big roundabouts and two big hills.  Time to get to the front!

It's not big...
Now, I've done it myself, although not intentionally, and it's not very clever.  But at least when I did it I had an excuse and an escape route.  This week saw someone take a chance, he was a lucky man.

We came around a medium right in to a very fast 200 metre downhill drop in to a roundabout of which we were to take the third exit; take the third exit.  Sorry, got in to Tom Tom mode there!   Our intrepid hero, tried to take the third exit but going clock-wise rather than our anti-clockwise.  The marshal clocked him, blocked his path with his table tennis bat, but he was at a point of no return.

The marshal screamed at him and hit him so hard on his backside that the bat broke, the rider then headed down the wrong side of the road towards an oncoming car.  How he missed it I don't know, the repercussions of if he had hit it don't bear thinking about; for him, the driver, the marshal and the organiser.  Moral is, don't do it, because it's not clever.

Nearly there
Three K to go and we're feeling good.  It's a one k climb, a one k plateau, 500 metres descent and a 500 metres climb to the finish line.  So lets get to the front and drive it up the climb.  We hit the bottom and I'm sixth wheel and edge forward to the front.  People come up to my shoulder then drift back.  I'm breathing through my jacksie and it's beginning to hurt big time.  Hope the top comes soon.

We round the corner and there's the top 200 metres away.  Then someone attacks and it all goes hazy.  Riders go past and I pathetically fight for every wheel, twenty metres from the top and the elastic snaps.  Eight riders drift away from me and I fight to close the tiny, tiny gap.  But it ain't happening.

I look under my arm and three are trying to get my wheel; while everyone else, now around fifty riders, are lined out trying to join them.  This innocuous ramp has done some serious damage and now there's no time to put it right.  As we scream, literally in physical pain and ethereal, internal, motivational drive, across the top of the village it's imperative to maintain the gap to my chasers and make it to the descent without anyone attaching to my wheel.

Final Kilometre
I pick up two riders at the top of the descent but lose them on the mini roundabout half way down.  Then as I enter the final downhill hairpin in to the climb someone comes past me.  This cannot be, no one but no one overtakes me on a descent.  Phew, he overshoots the corner and flys up the main road.  I turn in right on the limit and as I start the climb I can see riders coming in to the final corner with brakes full on.  I think I can make it.

Okay, my senses have now been realigned.  I thought I was going to die on the previous climb.  It was nothing but a shortage of breath compared to this.  I was convinced I could climb it in the big ring after my early morning warm up test.  Now I'm not so sure but I can't waste time or risk changing on to the small ring.  My speed begins to drop in proportion to the build up of lactic in my muscles.

I push and push until I feel I'm about to throw up.  Then I feel that horrible taste in my mouth.  I look under my arm and riders fill the road behind me.  I swallow hard give one final kick and the finish line arrives not a moment too soon.

Bernard Borreau 2007

I just manage to hold them off to come in 68th vet in a time of 4:21.05.  In the morning I climbed the hill in 65 seconds, maxed out at 562 watts and averaged 18kph.  At the end of 156 kilometres it took 58 seconds with 704 watts and almost 21kph.  Shows what you can do with a pack breathing down your neck!  Sorry for the fuzzy picture! 


Post Race Pasta
After passing the line and having your number taken you're given a polo shirt, a goody bag and a drink.  We returned to the car, once more Dianne had finished before me!   We freshened up then went to collect our results and food parcels.  The food was fantastic with wine flowing freely for those that wanted it. 

It never ceases to amaze me that you get 1200 riders in an event then someone posts the results on a sheet of A4 paper in a single place on a wall 30 yards long.  There were acres of wall space but only one set of results posted with the inevitable crowd gathered around them.  Organisers, God bless 'em. 

Having said that there were showers, medals, trophies and refreshments in abundance.  And while you ate you could watch yourself in the video of the event on the massive screen at the end of the gymnasium.   After that you could pick up your photograph from another stall or buy selected bike bits or frames from the fair sized expo.  The little things they do badly but the big things they really do excel at.  You can't beat it and you really shouldn't complain.

Let's ship out, head home and prepare for the next one.