La Broceliande Classique 07

Overall Distance 104 kilometres Time Taken 3:05
Height Climbed n/a Overall Position 97th
Distance Climbed   Category Position 45th
Date May 2007 Country France
Entrants 650 Region Brittany

Day two of our weekend sortie.  After Saturday's Pierre Jodet this is Sunday so it must be La Broceliande and the 12th edition of this modern day classic. 

Living the dream, is the expression of modern day culture, so I'm told.  I was having a great dream until I was disturbed by a 6am alarm call to get ready for a full-on breakfast to refuel for the day's ride!  Two events in two days?  I just wanted to roll over and go back to sleep.  I think I'm getting too old for this!

We arrived the early evening before to pick up our numbers and book in to the hotel.  After a little Tom Tom chicanery and a 1k detour we got to the hotel to find the kitchen is closed on Saturday evenings!  So it's in to the local village where we found a dodgy looking restaurant that was empty with all the staff having a big argument outside.  However, we then had the most fantastic meal.  Books and covers and all that.

Day Two, Plan Two
So, after breakfast it's a 10k drive to Loheac.  We parked in exactly the same place as last year, just 100 metres from the finishing line.  And for once we were early; it's a 9:30 start time.  It's one of those bright chilly mornings with that ground damp and mist you get when you think it'll go when the sun comes out and burns it off.  We'll see.

Richard now had a 100k's of sportive experience behind him so knew the score and needed no advice or hindrance from me.  Dianne also had a 100k's in her legs and decided today wasn't a day for racing.  She went for a spin in the forests.

The plan was the same as yesterday.  With today's event having electronic timing (for the first time) and a new course (obviously for the first time) there was an increased level of competitiveness for this years event.  There was also, the first running of La Broceliande Historique, a L'Eroica type of event that looked bloody good fun.  Maybe next year.

What, no warm up?
Last year there was a neutralised section out of the town to the end of the forests.  Not this year.  So it was a bloc from the gun. 

With the narrow, twisty, bumpy roads and the break neck high speed, getting to the front was, shall we say, challenging.  Still, no need to hang around the sooner we warm up the sooner we can crack on.

It took me 40k to get within 20 riders of the head of the arrow.  Today, it seems, was not a day for hanging about.  The legs were a little tender from the day before but nothing worth worrying about so it's grin and bear it and get to the front.  As we hit Treffendel the road takes a wide left hand arc at the bottom of a climb.  From which I can see quite away behind me but I can't yet pick out Richard.   Then in the blink of an eye an attack goes.  Eyes forward!

Double Bang
Just as it kicks off someone punctures.  Thankfully it's not me.  Never punctured in a race but that might be because I check my tyres before every sportive.  It really does cause food for thought when I see so many punctures at events when it's so easy to prevent them.  Most punctures are caused by stuff already in the tyre; a quick two minutes check before the event can save you loads of aggro in a race.

Anyway, the bang of the puncture just seems a further impetus to go faster as the speed picks up measurably.  Maybe the victim was a "known" rider?  A split appears in the group and I manage to hang on to the main part.  Around 100 of us are away and heading for the Forest of Paimpont at a rate of knots that I'm finding just the wrong side of comfortable.

Deja Vu
Just when I thought I had the new route sussed and was preparing myself for a few descents, we took a turn and appeared to be going through the forest in the reverse direction to last year.  So now I'm totally confused.  Before I had time to worry too much about what was going on, the first of many, many, many rolling hills appeared.

I'm pushing on the pedals as hard as I can but I still appear to be going backwards.  I'm dropped, I get back on.  I'm dropped, I get back on.  I'm dropped.  After 40 minutes of constant ups and downs I'm down and out.  There are five riders 50 metres ahead of me and everyone else 50 metres ahead of them. 

I chase for all I'm worth and join the back of the chasers and by time I get there there are ten of them.  Everyone else is in a big lineout through the forest with riders being lash-ayed back to us one by one.  We're 65k in and on our last legs.  Can't wait any longer my emergency "10k to go" gel is thrown down the throat and it's back to work.

All the President's Men
Now we're on the flat, we're all screaming to catch the front group (no chance) and to stay away from our chasers (possible?).  As we approach a major junction there are gendarmes manning the road and two motorcycle officers hovering. 

As we get closer one of the bikes fires up and pulls away in front of us.  One of the riders shouts to me excitedly in French.  "Pardon monseiur, je suis anglais" I reply  "Just like the President" he cries, in perfect English "The President".  Before I could reply the sirens are going and the gendarme is stopping approaching traffic in the narrow lane.  How could we not press on? 

Deuxieme Souffle
It's strange, it always seems to happen and it never ceases to amaze me.  At Paimpont I was dead.  My new English speaking friend says, "When we finish I must return to Paimpont.  I had a perfect set of legs this morning, I lost them somewhere in the forest.  I must find them for next week."  Which a) shows the French have a sense of humour (well some of them) and b) these events are their club scene.  They ride them week in week out.  They're not a "special event" like they may be to us.

As we exited Bovel I picked up one or two landmarks that I recognised as being in the final run in.  I took a drink and went for my emergency gel.  Maybe not!  I forgot I'd already dispatched it and all I had in my pocket was an empty wrapper.  Still, found some apple so morale's back up.  As are the legs.  I'm beginning to feel back on form and getting a second wind.  Let's press on and see what happens.

Within our group, fewer and fewer riders are coming through less and less often.  Are they stalling or are they flagging?  We're still all joined together as the split for the longer course doesn't occur until 10k before the end of the smaller one.  Which is a bugger because it means you're all clubbed in together and aren't too sure who you're racing.

All downhill
At La Chapelle Bouexic I prepare for the final 10k downhill run in to the finish.  I start testing the riders out by doing longer and harder pulls on the front.  We're now down to six riders and they're doing smaller and smaller turns.  Then I see why.  We hit the hill of hills as we hit the village and the split for the big ride is at the top of it.

I clear the top first and turn round to see who's left.  It's me and A.N Other.  This isn't good.  There's no one, not a sausage.  But, there are around 20 riders up front.  So back on the big ring and lets chase so we can sit on and have a rest.

We catch them surprisingly quickly and drop most of them just as quick!  It seems the pace of hanging on to the fast boys who've obviously turned off for the big ride has left it's toll on the shorter distance riders.  We roll back in to town.  Just like last year, as we pass the massive, landmark water tower, I build up a head of speed and manage to break away from the group.  I scream in to town, which isn't hard downhill, and survive the final corkscrew kilometre to get to the finish straight alone.

How close is that?
Even though I'm alone-ish I sprint to get over the line and my well earned (in my opinion) drink and gallette.  I turn to watch the others come in and metaphorically pat myself on the back.  Dianne finds me and I ask, "Where's Richard?"  "He's not back yet," she replies, just as he comes in to view sprinting it out with a largish group of companions.

Me?  I'm 97th overall and 45th vet.  Richard was just 46 seconds down, 103rd overall and 51st vet.  And we never saw each other all morning.  If I'd have known he was that close I'd of sat up and let him drag me to the finish like the day before!

Perfect end to the day
We changed, discussed tactics and dissected lessons learnt.  We then watched the Caravan Historique return to town made up of vintage motorbikes, cars, cycle support trucks and Tour de France vehicles (there's a cracking vehicle museum in Loheac) of times gone by.  No air bags or crumple zones in any of these vehicles!

We then picked up our drink, meal and goody bag and sat in the village square soaking up the the ambience and watching the others return.

During our post-ride siesta the Historique ride returned with fantastic old men, on fantastic old bikes.  Obviously they were wearing fantastic retro jerseys that I'm sure fitted them fantastically when they were younger.  Now?  Let's say they filled them admirably!

The atmosphere was amazing and the whole village was en fete for these vintage warriors of the road on their vintage bikes.  Once the town mayor, riders and dignitaries had been interviewed they all sat down to eat and re-live times past.  What a way to spend a Sunday!

Once we'd had our fill and Richard had checked out the caravan for health and safety infractions (a fireman's never off duty!), we picked up our results and headed back to the car.  Just in time to see the "big ride" boys scream in to town and fight out a massive sprint.  We were both surprised at the age of those leading the charge.  I thought they'd all be young pups.  Richard was more shocked than me!  "Ah yes, but did they race yesterday?" he asked.  We consoled ourselves with that thought and headed back for St Malo.  Now aware of how much more work we had to do.  Explains the look of consternation below!

Break out the champagne!
Back at the Ibis for an afternoon power nap and and a celebration meal.  As we stay there for around 30 nights a year, or due to the fact that Richard is a hunk of a fireman (so I'm told), the manageress brought us over glasses of champagne to kick off our celebratory soiree. 

No messing about tonight.  Three full courses and a couple of glasses of red wine purely to aid digestion you understand.  But after a glass I was feeling a little light-headed so it was straight to the water for me.  What a sap!

Of course we relived our weekend; the sights we'd seen, the attacks we'd made, the pain we suffered, and the great time we had.  Cycling is a sport like no other.  You can be the fastest or the slowest and still have the time of your life and get maximal enjoyment from your achievement.  Of course keeping the right company makes it even more enjoyable and I'm really lucky to be able to have a great band of mates to share some of these adventures with.

A good nights sleep, then it's the ferry back home to prepare for the next one; the Mont Saint Michelle.

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