La Courir Pour La Paix

Overall Distance 115 kilometres Time Taken 3:33
Height Climbed   Overall Position 152nd
Distance Climbed   Category Position 49th
Date August 2007 Country France
Entrants 530 Region Dijon

La 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 century 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!

You 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 with it.

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.

Stand down
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 finish.  I 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 them?

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 quiet; 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 pieces! 

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.

Dianne's Ride
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 for position.

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 and family.

Only 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.

website Courir pour la Paix
hotel Chateau St Sabine