La Danguillaume

Overall Distance 160 kilometres Time Taken 5:12
Height Climbed 2500 metres Brevet Silver
Distance Climbed   Category Position 15
Date  April 2006 Country France
Entrants  375 Region Du Val De L'Indre

La Danguillaume Cyclo is named in honour of the three generations of extraordinary cycle racers of the Famille Danguillaume.  The dynasty started winning in the 1940's  with Cammille, who won the 1949 Liege-Bastogne-Liege.  Sadly, he was to die only a year later in the French National Championships.  He, along with his five brothers, clocked up almost a 1000 professional victories in the 40's and 50's. 

The second generation spawned Jean-Pierre who, amongst his 325 victories, took seven Tour de France stages in his nine participations.  Jean-Pierre, along with his Tour of Belgium winning brother Jean-Louis, rode for the mighty Peugeot team alongside Tom Simpson.  Today the third generation continues the winning theme amongst the French amateur ranks.  

Trois, deux, une...
So with all this history and success to live up to, myself and Dianne find ourselves on the start line of our respective events in a chilly, rain threatening, ten degrees.  Dianne is taking part in the 80 km cyclo-touriste ride that started at 8:30.  Here she's leaving the start for the first corner of what was to eventually prove an adventurous ride.

The Sportive was to kick off at 9:30 and within minutes of the touriste riders leaving, the start grids began to fill.  They take their racing seriously in these parts.  I went back to the bus and prepared myself for the onslaught to come.  I'd need more than a shot of olbas oil up the nose and baby oil on the legs for this one.

This year I've had the pre-season from hell.  Having had a fantastic winter, I ended up catching the virus that slain half the island.  Except, as with most men, mine was worse.  I'm sure I had bird flu.  I rode my bike six times in the whole of March, did Flanders on the first of April, and managed only three more one-hour rides before this mid-April event.  Being sure it was going to be a long day and due to the chilly morning air, I went for a massive warm up.  Which was good.  However I was dead last when I arrived at the start line at 9:25.  Which was bad.  Doh! 

Hang on to your chapeaux
With three hundred and seventy-four riders ahead of me this was going to be interesting.  Especially as I'd just been informed that the first seven kilometres of the ride are neutralised until we clear the first two villages.  With everyone pinned behind the commisaire's car I put my danger receptors to "off" and decide to ease my way forward through the massive, mostly braking, throng.

By the time we leave the second village I'm in sixth place and have had the time of my life.  I could turn around right now and go back to the car absolutely satisfied with my ride and the day.  What a buzz; and there wasn't one shout (from me or them) during the whole time.  I'm just beginning to settle and catch my breath when the commissaire floors his diesel Citroen and covers us all with a thick haze of black smoke and carbon particulates.  Game on.

There's always one! 
And for once, it wasn't me.  No sooner had the fog lifted when a rider flew past me in the left gutter with his head down and bum up.  He'd obviously been to the Jacky Durand School of Cycling, specialising in the subject of Suicidal Breaks.  Around 153 k to go and he screams off around the first bend where his mum was obviously watching from.

How we all chased.  You can see from my power profile on the right that we were cruising along at a comfortable 250 watts until "le matey" kicked off.  I peaked out at 871 watts (the scale is smoothed to show up to 820w) and pushed my heart rate (the blue line) up to 220 bpm.  Still, at least I was warm now.

This attacking scenario continued along the undulating countryside until the first split came, not surprisingly at the first big hill at Reignac.  The course leaves Esvres, 5k south of Tours, and heads even further south towards Preuilly before turning north
and returning to Tours.  At the first hill we lose around thirty first cat riders as they fly off the front at an obscene speed.  For the rest of us a consolidation takes place.  Around fifty or so have have made le petite selection.  Miraculously I'm one of them.  It's time to hang in there and grab a wheel.

Photo opportunity anyone?
As we head in towards the Foret de Loches I can see a roundabout around 500 metres away.  I want to be near the front.  Foreigners trouble me when it comes to descents and corners, so I move forward and claim the front as we get to within a 100 metres.  As we swing around three sides and out, I see over my shoulder the group is enormous and is still queuing to get into the junction.  Time to kick it up a gear and see if we can lose some.  I can see straight down the fire-break road, about a kilometre away is another roundabout and the leaders are just leaving it.

Feeling good I decide to cruise up to my kilometre threshold and pin it at 300 watts.  As the tail of our group of riders are still braking to enter the roundabout a small selection takes place.  We begin an unexpected false flat but as we get to within 200 metres of the next massive roundabout, and with a smaller group, I feel comfortable to move off the front.  Then I spot a camera flash. 

Anyone who knows me knows I don't need a second invite to be on the front for the camera.  So I stay where I am and grovel up to the roundabout, with my best race face on to get three pics in the bag for Top Velo magazine .  Job done, move over. 

I have a cunning plan
We're now down to around thirty riders, some obviously want to be more involved than others but this is a nice number when we still have a hundred kilometres to go.  A relatively organised, high-tempo, through and off takes place until we get to descents and hills.  On descents everyone seems to brake and I find myself 20 metres off the front.  On hills they all sit up or go to the small ring and I find myself 20 metres off the front. 

Whenever I find myself alone, one  man always appears to be the first across.  He's about six foot twenty, riding a black 62 cm Mercx and speaks English.  There isn't a single flat bit in this ride.  You're either up or down and it's like riding 25 laps of Hougue Bie.  However he warns me of the hill at the chateau; 25%, a wall he explains with his hand at 45 degrees! 

We stayed together working well as a group for almost three hours.  Then on a long, long descent I found myself surrounded by braking Frenchmen.  Enough is enough.  As we reached the dip at the foot of a 400 metre or so climb I was so wound up that I decided to give it everything; part one of my plan.  The idea was to take a small group away from the hangers on.  But the group had other ideas. 

The graph on the right shows the "attack".  Far left shows the blue speed line as high because of the descent, the flat yellow line shows zero power because I'm not pedalling.  In "le mist rouge" I cranked out 754 watts and broke away.  Holding a pace of 24 mph on the flat I wait for someone to come through and share the work.  When it doesn't appear I look under my arm for some comrades in arms; no one, nothing, not a saucisson, I'm alone.  I can either capitulate, lose face and sit up, or press on.  Keeping a stiff upper lip I press on and stay away for four miles. 

Then I'm caught at the worst possible place.  Just as we enter the village of Chaumussay at the foot of a monstrous 2 kilometre climb they begin to pass me.  When we get to the top I'm bog last and my tall Mercx-riding friend comes alongside and shouts encouragement.  I see what you mean, I gasp, alluding to the chateau climb.  This isn't it he replies, It's near the end!

The undulations, and the agony continue for another fifteen miles.  Then 75 miles in, the big attacks begin.  Riders are being shed all over the beautiful French countryside.  At 80 miles I blow my nuts off.  I know when I'm about to go because as my blood sugar falls I see the display of my SRM begin to flicker.  It used to happen in the winter as I came to the end of my five hour rides with Dave Whitt.  It was a sign to take a gel and go home.  Only now there's no one to ride home with!

There is no plan B
I die a thousand deaths and watch helplessly as the group, of around 20, ride away from me.  It's going to be a long ride back to Esvres.  I throw an emergency gel down my throat and focus three feet ahead of my front wheel while I wait for it to kick in.  Every now and again I look up to see someone ahead of me.  I chase, if that's the word, but they get no closer.  All of a sudden it feels very, very headwindy.  It's not, it just feels like it.

The first 80 miles were ridden at an average of 20 mph, this on a very hilly parcours.  The last 20 miles were crawled at 16 mph.  I lost twenty minutes to my group in the last twenty miles!  As I entered the town outskirts of Esvres and the finish I come to a huge, Ghost Hill like climb.  With people on it.  It's the chateau climb.  If I don't get out the saddle I'll stop.  Time to ignore the pain and go.

I chase and catch two riders on the hill, which lifts the spirits a bit.  Then, as I get to the top I recognise the road from my earlier warm up and know it's about three kilometres to the line.  In the distance I can see another rabbit.  From somewhere I get a kick of energy and chase the Liquigas-kitted rider down.  I catch him and pass him as we clear the one kilometre to go banner.  Not wanting to be caught out by a fast finishing Frenchie, I push on so he can't catch my wheel and sprint across the line (below) exhausted and bemused.

I'm glad I had a good first part but miffed that I blew; I was pleased that I made it round and annoyed that my illness took all my early season form.  I was delighted with my attack but annoyed I didn't have a plan B.  What can you do?  Look for the positives, that's what.

Fifteenth place isn't too bad.  Could have been a top ten if I'd have stayed with the group as the top group finisher was 7th.  But I didn't.  And if's and but's are for losers.  On the day I just wasn't strong, fit or good enough.  Good job I only ride for pleasure then!  I missed my gold standard time and had to settle for a silver.  To be honest, I didn't think I was going to get that.  So happy days.

Dianne's Adventure
Dianne had a good 50 mile ride, riding with a small group of like-minded individuals who shared the effort.  Until that is, in the last four kilometres the road passed over a level crossing just outside Esvres.  One lady panicked as she arrived at speed and never even made the crossing.  She headed for the side of the road and piled in to the verge and wire fence. 

Things didn't look too bad until, because her arm was hurting, she pulled back her left arm warmer.  The skin on a large part of her arm was peeled back like the lid of a tin of sardines.  She went a very pale colour and started to shiver and go in to shock.  Dianne gave the lady her jacket and stayed with her while others went for a marshal and an ambulance.  All ended well and within half an hour Dianne got her jacket back and rode on to the finish with her small group.

Once more an excellent event, a great day out and a surprising out and out race with teams, tactics and more hills than your average Amstel Gold race.

Here's the winner with his attack on the chateau climb.  And yes it really is that steep, yes it did sting the legs and yes again Dianne made it up without stopping!

 

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