Marc Gomez was the lone winner of
the Milan San Remo in 1982.
How cool is that? Not a soul in sight.
To prove it was no fluke, he went
on to win numerous other races, and a few stages of the Vuelta,
including the Gold Jersey.
He's also a very nice man who always makes time for people who
visit his fantastic shop, VeloLib, just outside Rennes.
Click this logo to visit his shop
The shop front is where the
Mont St Michel event used to
start in recent years past. But with the event that
carries the Gomez name now moving to a Saturday, it's moved in
location as well. So it's a short, but increasingly
expensive, ferry hop to St Malo and a trip down the road to
just south of Rennes.
The delightful town of Chateaugiron
sees the hosting of the Gomez event which has the moniker RandoSportive;
or as we call them, a race. But it's not a race because
you have to pay higher insurance costs for racing. So it's
just a very, very, very fast leisure ride. With trophies
awarded at the end for those that didn't race the fastest!
Although weather-wise things are to beginning to look up,
it's sunny but it's still a
tadge cool as we get ready for the race start. So jacket
and cut-offs it is.
This trip was to see a new rider
join the flamme rouge collective as part of his preparation for
the Etape. Paul Pirouet came along with sportive regular Andy
Perree and as usual Dianne came along with me.
The boys were up
for the Super Gomez at 140k, while Dianne in her first race back
from her collarbone snapping crash opted for the 50k event to
ease herself in. There was also a 100k middle option for those who
This event is a little different
to others as it has a long neutralised section to get everyone
out of the town and in to the countryside where it all gets a
This was great because it allowed
seasoned sportivers Andy and myself to
thread ourselves up the pack to be sitting in pole position when
it all kicked off. I'm just to the right of the silver
moto marshal and Andy is tucked in behind me. Paul, in his first
sportive event, hung around
a couple of dozen riders back where he was more than comfortably holding his
As we approached the start proper,
the speed began to build as the moto escorts upped the pace in
preparation for pulling away. We screamed down a big dual
carriageway then took a wide sharp left off the big main road at Etrelles to head up the first major climb
of the day.
was first in to the corner as the moto's disappeared. Someone jumped my wheel and set off up the hill
on his own. I'd already built up my speed for the corner
and used my momentum to go after him. It was hardly an
Then he looked under his arm, saw me, pulled over and left me on the front.
Two hundred metres in and I'm being hung out to dry! I
cracked on, knowing full well I was going to blow, and lead for the first 300 metres
of the 400 metre long climb. Then it went black; as it did I
went back, big style.
I lost around fifty places
in the skirmish and saw Andy go past just as we crested the
rise. He wasn't even breathing heavy.
I tucked in on the kilometre long descent, worked my way back to the front(ish) where
Andy was. "Did you see my attack?" I shouted.
He gave me one of those reassuringly disapproving "mate's looks".
Got the message, move on. And
as we did, we took a very sharp right in to a very short, sharp,
nasty climb that had everyone scrabbling up the block.
It's 2k in and the
big boys are really putting on the hurt. I already knew I wasn't long
for this world.
Andy, (in my opinion) showing off a bit, went after them.
unsure of what to do, following him in full-bore pursuit.
As the team mentor and senior member I thought it my duty to not
be a bridge to the groups ahead and sat up a bit. I think
I was a little bit sick as well. You know when you get
that funny taste in your mouth?
It wasn't very long before the splits began to appear.
went over the top, through the rolling countryside and small villages we could see
the leading group fragmenting in front of us.
My school of thought is, "it's
better to be the first of the second group, than the last of the
first." This is one of the benefits of age, because I know I'm
not racing the 20 to 40 something's, and anyone who's 50 and can
hang on to them, well fair play but it ain't going to be
me. Not today anyway.
Knowing my place in the peleton brings less pressure,
although I try to stay near the front as much as possible I know
when to call it quits and settle for my peer group. Being
youngsters, Paul and Andy have yet to have this epiphany. So I
watched them disappear up the road with the big boys.
Ten k later, our group, who's now got their breath back and are cracking on a bit, see a
coming back towards us. It's Paul.
After a valiant effort to
stay with the leaders he was drifted off the back by another
stinger of an attack on a long false flat. These Frenchies have
an insatiable appetite for speed endurance.
For mile after mile they bang it
out. Something we can't do in an island that's only nine
miles by five! They just wind it
up and up and up until everything fragments. They then regroup
and start attacking one another. Impressive to watch; for
a bit anyway.
Paul was spat out as part of
the wind up process. But "my" group, of around 30 of us, picked
him up, allowed him to recover, then he started to work.
Now he could be a player in our group, rather than the played in
the group ahead. The line really is that fine.
However, he appeared to be "playing"
a little too hard for some. We
had a few "senior" riders with us who didn't like their legs
being hurt by this young upstart. They didn't necessarily want
to work, but they didn't want their "piano-piano" rhythm being
disrupted by speed changes and excess exuberance. But as far as
me and Paul were concerned we were here to race, so race we did.
We picked up many stragglers along
the way and at one point the group got quite big. We then
turned at Ahuille and headed back to Chateaugiron in to what can
only be described as a bit of
It was at this point, around
the half way mark, that we
picked up Andy. The incessant speed and attacking early on
caused him to have, in his own words, "a bit of a moment."
went to the back of his group, recovered his composure and rejoined the fray,
only for the elastic to finally stretch, snap and rebound around
the 80k mark after one too many of those leg sapping, leg snapping, speed endurance climbs.
picked him up, a solitary figure, crossing the Breton Plain.
Paul and myself thought it should be our duty to be on the front
when we caught him.
Once more we picked up the pace.
Once more the Frenchies complained. Once more, we took no
To be honest, when we caught Andy I think he was glad of the
company. He'd been stuck in no man's land battling the
headwind on his own for quite a while.
He did a brilliant job of staying
away but one man can't fight the collective force and
might of a middle-aged sportive peleton in full flow. Yeh,
right. A pack of old men, a couple of women and some
youngsters who were waiting for the sprint! But we were
cracking on a bit; just not on the hills!
Once Andy had gathered his thoughts
and realised we were now a collective team in a rabble of Gallic
combines, and he'd settled in to the "less
hectic but no less competitive rhythm" of our assembalage, he joined
in with powering the group along the rolling French countryside.
Our entourage was now around forty or so. But with Andy,
Paul and myself all forcing the pace with the assistance of a
few strong Frenchies, we began to shed a few out the back as we
chased down straglees from the front.
There was one
particularly active, vociferous (in a good way), guiding rider who seemed to
have the ear of those around him. He wore number one, had world
championship bands on his jersey arms and even though he appeared to
be in his sixties, was obviously a very classy rider. Not
sure of the champs bands, but to be honest in this part of the
world you just never know. So I gave him the respect he
The closer we got to the finish, the more we worked, the more they
let us work and it seemed fewer and fewer were willing to help.
As we entered the last 20k we came in to some progressively
Andy and myself were now paying for our
earlier efforts and found ourselves going from the front of the
group to the back as successive climbs came along. On each flat section
we'd fight to get near the front only for the elastic to stretch
on the next climb.
With the gaps in between the climbs
appearing to get shorter and shorter it was only a matter of
time before we succumbed. About 15k to go, it snapped.
Well it did for me and I think Andy took pity and bombed out on
the next one to wait for me. Super-strong Paul, oblivious to all this,
just kept cracking on. In fact I think he was on the front
when I went out the back!
All for One...
We found ourselves distanced from
the main group but cracked on regardless and began picking up
others who'd suffered the same fate at the hands (legs?) of Paul
and his new friends.
It ended up with five of
us "sheddees" on the final run in, one of which was our world champion band
wearing compatriot. But with a k to go, and on the final
climb, he cracked also. I sat up to wait and Andy sat up, but
not as much as me! He crossed the line 30 seconds ahead of me
and my mate, a couple of minutes behind Paul and his group.
Dianne, had a tentative first few kilometres in the bunch and
neutralised section but soon got back
in to the groove. She'd had a few gentle 40k rides in
Jersey before we left for France and wasn't quite sure how she'd
go when the speed picked up.
we left she'd been for an X-ray. They said the collarbone
had almost healed but not quite, So don't ride your bike.
Doctors; what do they know?
Anyway, she rode hard, she rode well and she came back with a
group of gnarly vets who got her to the end safely and in one
piece. In fact she did that well, she came in as first
lady in the 50k event. How good is that? I think you
can tell by the smile what she thought of it.
Grumpy Old Men
The idea was, race, food, boat, home. Time was
off the essence so at the end of the race we planned to get our
food and do a runner to make sure we caught the ferry with time
Then we found out Dianne had won, so
we had to wait until she'd been presented with her trophy.
Once we had that, we were ready to leave. But she said the
organiser told her she had to come back at the end and have her
photo taken with all the prize winners. Cue a semi-sulk.
Still we waited, clapped politely for all the winners. If
you've ever been to one of these things you'll know that constant 100 mph babble
of foreign tongues that comes out of the very loud speakers; but we distinctively
heard "Equipe Flamme Rouge" booming across the room.
Everyone was looking at us and
clapping, then the reality of the moment hit us. We'd won
best team! Best looking, best bikes, best team name, we're
not sure and we don't care. We'd all been up the front and
we'd all rode aggressively maybe, just maybe, we had the best
Dianne was the only one wearing flamme
rouge kit (we knew she had to get up on stage for
her trophy) we sent her up again on our behalf. But
we did get a nice photo afterwards. As you can see, we've
all cheered up a bit, sulk over.
And to cap it all, Paul and myself
won a t-shirt each in the prize draw. Does life get any
better? Can't wait until the
Lyon Mont Blanc...