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