La Courir Pour La Paix
Courir Pour La Paix translates to the Race For Peace. The race,
in it's third edition, marks the occasion of the dropping of the atomic
bomb in Japan in 1945. It's emblem is the Madone Nagasaki, which
miraculously survived the decimation of the city almost intact.
I wasn't riding the event due to any political affiliations, it just
seemed a good event, at a good distance at a good time of the season.
How good, I didn't realise until the end.
The proceeds of the event are split between the
charitable causes of the organisers, The Sata Foundation and their humanitarian works for
civilians caught up in armed conflict, and a
hospitality house for relatives of those in intensive care in St Brieuc. Which
is very close to home for us and also brings the involvement of a
certain, Bernard Hinault.
The very calm before...
Signing on for the event was held at the Chateau Chailly. A place of
such opulence and beauty it was breathtaking. We looked at
booking a room for the night but the swathe of Maserati's Ferrari's and
Bentley's in the car park, suggested a Scouser and a Geordie might be out
of place. I might of carried it off on my own, but I couldn't leave
the missus out, so we headed for our own place for the evening, just 5k
down the road.
And what a place it was, Chateau St Sabine. A 17th
building on an 11th century monastery. It doesn't get any quieter or
better. The fact that the Astana Team stayed their in the Tour, pics
of them everywhere, only added to the atmos of the occasion. As you can see it
was picture perfect. Our room was on the second floor, bang in the middle
of the hotel facade with a view of the lake and beyond for just 80 Euros!
The very big storm...
Race day dawned glorious and hot. At 8:15 we received the
Benediction of the Madonna before the 8:30 off. Unfortunately, I
don't have a religious bone in my body, but it was quite a moving
experience to see 500 riders in absolute silence being blessed in a
Chateau courtyard by a priest, local dignitaries and Bernard Hinault. At 8:30, we set
off for the 115k event in a neutralised section of 5 kilometres that took
us to the top of the first hill.
We stopped atop a long drag and everyone was held
while the President of the Sata Foundation, riding his bike in the event, had his photo taken with Hinault
and other local cycling heroes. Most
of the vets took
the opportunity to take a comfort break!
After a short while, a cacophony of sirens from the local gendarmes
broke the silence and in the blink of an eye, we're off. There was a quick
spin through a sleepy hamlet before we came to the first hill proper and sort out number
one. On the mad dash up the hill, the following figures were
recorded immediately before, during and after!
can see from the graphics below and right, that within four and a half kilometres
of the start we've hit 719 watts (yellow) attacking out of a corner to clear the climb, then go on
to hit 87.2 kph for over a kilometre and a half on the descent!
That'll be the warm up then. The old heart went a bit berserk for a
bit but soon settled down.
This could get messy
The speed was absolutely ferocious from the off.
After the initial climb the road just went up and up and up.
Strangely, so did the speed. There seemed no respite whatsoever from
the insanity of the vitesse. It made the early season events seem
tame. Still that's what we're here for so stop moaning and get on
After what seemed an extraordinary time of hanging on and
chasing breaks through really spectacular French villages and hamlets, the
inevitable happened. Exiting St Brisson at 37 kilometres, a large
group broke away at the front. They got around 30 seconds and just
seemed to stay there in a state of limbo. We made no ground on them
until we reached the first feed; a massive junction in the middle of a
very beautiful, rural, one-man-and-his-chein, nowhere.
The next bit is cheesy but very, very true. There
were two rides. The big one, the Hiroshima, was 170k and that one
went straight on. The "compact" one, the Nagasaki, was 115k and took
a left at the junction.
The feed, was on the right hand side of the road, 30 metres
before the turn off. I was determined to take a bottle on the move
because there was no way I was getting to the end on the fluids I had left.
It's mid morning and already the temperature is pushing 30 degrees.
A combination of the heat, an attack, the turn, and riders
trying to get bottles at the feed, caused some very slippy roads and
called for some very fancy body swerves. I planned ahead and made it through
intact. The same couldn't be said for everyone. There was more
than one inevitable, touching of wheels and an ensuing carambalage.
Exiting the feed there was another vicious attack from
those that knew they would not be chased down by the stronger riders that
had now turned off for the biggie. It was a fantastic move. One I
guessed would happen but one I was powerless to prevent, influence or
follow. Around ten riders got away and I'm now in a large second
group of fractious, unhappy and doomed-to-failure, chasers.
Some seemed more resigned to the fact that the move had
gone for the day than others. As you'll see from the profile above, there were no flat
bits. The constant high-speed climbing in stifling heat began to
take it's toll and more an more people took less and less of a turn.
Me being one of them.
I grabbed another desperately needed bottle at the
second feed at the 75k mark. Somehow, I knew my days were numbered
and I needed a drink to help my gel go down so I could save my on-board bottle for
the final run in.
At 80k I blew my nuts off and was dropped from the group.
I couldn't hold the wheel over a particularly savage climb and was tailed
off. Try as I might, I couldn't get back on and immediately went in to
self preservation mode. The objective now is to "high-speed cruise" just
below my threshold power and try to stay away from any chasers for as long
as I could. What
a crap plan that turned out to be!
On the penultimate climb I thought I was going to stay
away. As I started the 3k climb a T-Mobile clad rider shouted to me
as she went past. SHE!, SHE! This can't be happening. I
jumped to get her wheel and realised she wasn't alone.
There must have been 20 men lined out behind her. I
tried to get in the gaps but they weren't having it. So now I'm
outside the paceline which gave me a grandstand view of our femme-fatale
dropping the whole bloody lot of them; us! It really was a most
impressive site. We never saw her again.
Okay, stand up again!
As ever, I'd done a little homework and checked out the finish. I'd
sussed the last climb as being the neutralised drag from where we left town.
The high speed descent of the outward leg was to be my springboard for the
took a flyer over the top of the last climb and gave it absolutely
everything I had in a 5k do or die effort to the finish. There were
a few groups of splintered riders in front of me that were slowly coming
back and a massive group of around 30 chasing.
To prevent humiliation in front of the French, I had little
choice but to persevere with my foolhardy move. I picked three
riders up on the run in to the finish, then two more. Another pair
were still ahead as we passed the 1 kilometre banner. Could I catch
Nah? Not a hope. Then someone had the audacity
to take a flyer from 400 metres out. Another T-Mobile clad rider!
There was no way I was going to get stuffed twice in one day by someone in
pink. I jumped his wheel, then jumped him for the finish.
Winning our sprint in front of my loving wife (who took the photo) and a
rather peculiar standing Village People-type policeman.
We failed to catch the two in front by two seconds. I
crossed the line, handed in my chip and just sat at the side of the road
for about five minutes in absolute silence. While Dianne went
hunting some water from one of the marshals. I was absolutely spent. This was one of the
hardest events I'd done in a long time and I was very tired, very dehydrated
and very quiet at the finish. Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm never
It was a long time before I looked up; could look up. When I did, we
picked up the results. Although I was 49th vet, with a Gold Standard
and not too displeased with that, I was upset that I'd got dropped from
the big group after 80k. But what really, really, really upset me,
was finishing just under two minutes behind Bernard Hinault.
Can you imagine the stories I could tell (would never stop
telling) if I'd just been another two minutes up the road! Well I
wasn't, so I can't so I should just be happy to have taken part in an
event with the great man. This "race" is a qualifying event for the Trophee
Passion. Which explains the speed from the off and all the
team-based, young-pup, whippets on the line with support cars and ear
It really was
quite merciless. Even Monsieur Hinault said so in a magazine
interview some weeks later. Maybe next time, or should I quit while
I'm "relatively" ahead? Until he challenges me to a best of three,
I'll leave it.
What was meant to be a 40k familille ride around the local chateaux turned
in to something of a tri-titanic struggle between the forces of
anglo-french relations, generational gaps and gender differences.
It seemed Dianne found her way at the head of the field of
the 100 strong riders that set out for a pleasant Sunday morning ride.
With 15k to go a young rider eased off the front, to be followed by a
grizzled vet who wanted to keep the young pup in his place and a blonde,
lady of a certain age, who should know better,
While Dianne sat up at the top to wait for the peloton, our
two antagonists wanted to press on. Dianne went with them as it
seemed they knew what they were doing. The following undulations
passed without too much incident as everyone joined in and did their
share. Then the inevitable finessing started. As the speed
picked up on the run in to town the two testosterone-filled rouleurs vied
The vet cracked first and tried to out run his young
companion. In a rush of youthful exuberance, mini-me jumped from his
mentors wheel with 200 metres to go and left him for dead. His day's
work done, and basking in his fortitude, resilience and tactical genius,
he eased up to milk every second of the plaudits of the his waiting crowd
for a willowy, still accelerating, feminine figure to come past on the
inside. Our prospective young champion of the future, was well and truly Zabel-ed. Dianne was mortified.
She was just riding with her head down and didn't realise garcon had
dropped his guard. A harsh lesson, harshly learnt.
I tried to console her with the fact that it's a tough
world and this could be the making of him. He'll never make the same
mistake again. A win is a win. And for the third time this
year, Dianne's secured a podium position in Europe.
It's just a pity that for this one, there's no trophy
awarded. Our grizzled vet was unavailable for comment at the time of
publication! C'est la vie.