Antonin Magne ~ TP Round 4
four of the championship and I'm a little anxious that my second place
would come under pressure as once again we head in to the mountains.
Round three finally confirmed that the crash
damage from last year was long-lasting. This could be a
The course for Magne's memorial sportive
reflected the man himself (see profile below). It was to be hard and
there'll be little talking going on, from me especially.
The route was to take in the
mighty volcanic Pas de Peyrol (Puy Mary), twice. This is the
climb, or rather descent, that took out Vinokourov, Willems, (sounds too
much like Williams) Zabriskie and others on Stage 9 of this year's Tour.
To make matters worse, it was
one of those cold, damp mornings that could go either way. But what
better day to do battle than on Bastille Day in France?
Bring it On
At a respectable 8:30, we set off out of Aurillac along the gentle 10k
slope that would lead to the base of the 12 kilometre climb up the 1589
metre Peyrol. Speed? 38 to 44 kph. Who thought this
was a good idea?
As usual I'm just shy of the front, keeping out
of the wind and trying to conserve energy. Some call it slackness,
I call it a stroke of tactical genius. Then the championship
race leader, in his black jersey, brought his three man team to the
front and lined it out. This could get very messy very quickly.
The speed went up, the gilet
came off, the arm
warmers pulled down and I went backwards. But for once not too far
As the first group edged away I
found myself on the front of a large second group and foolishly took a look down
at my Garmin, We were on the bottom slopes climbing at 27 kph and
over 360 watts. Mmmmmm.
There seemed to be a lot of
traffic around for a bank holiday so I made good use of it to leapfrog
up the convoy back to the lead group.
Just as I was thinking this
is what it's like to be a pro, it got a bit steeper and
self-preservation took over. Time to re-engineer the plan.
Car to the Top
I dropped off (was shelled out more like) and it seemed others had the same idea as a
small group of five of us formed. We all helped each other to get to the
top in one piece, pacing, encouraging, driving as appropriate. A
real team effort.
Five K from the top we pass
the Vino crash site from the Sunday before, it already has "tributes"
laid and painted on the road. It looks innocuous enough but I
clock its exact position for on the way down. There's still all
the skid marks on the road and verge from the team cars anchoring up, so
there's plenty of warning before you get there!
Until now we've been climbing
almost constantly through the woods and forests of the mountain.
At the top, it's a near-freezing 2 degrees so the arm warmers come back
up and the gilet goes on for the descent.
Once you come over the top
the mountain takes on a different perspective. It's open valleys all the way to the bottom with hardly a bush to be
seen. It's very windy and trying to descend at 75kph in a cross
wind, riding no hands, while putting a gilet on calls for a bit of
nerve, luck and blind faith.
Today I seem to have an
abundance of all three and quickly lose my climbing companions picking
up places at will on the descent. At the base I find a new group
of friends and we all work together to head up hill again around the
hamlet of Dienne.
It's a quick circuit around
the settlement and back up the way we've just come down. At a
strategic junction there's people checking your frame numbers to make
sure you've done the loop!
This side of the climb starts at a higher altitude than the
other, so in theory it should be easier. However, we've already
got a big climb in our legs and now there appears to be a raging block
headwind. I decide I'm going to bang out no more than 260 watts on
the climb and see what happens. It all looks so familiar; but
I find myself climbing with a
group of four, amongst which is a solid rider with Rhone-Alpes all over his kit. He Looks strong,
old, but strong, and I decide to work with him. He tells me it's
two k to the top and it'll be fine. Then we hit a sign that says
three k to the top!
At this point it hits 10% and
it stays there for two k until you just reach the summit where it backs
off a tad. One of our group taps me on the shoulder and asks for a
drink from my bidon. He points to his bottles.
He doesn't have any! How can I not?
I give him a drink, he
slurps away then slowly (all Titanic like) slides backwards out of view. There's a
feed at the the summit, he'll be okay.
My Rhone-Alpes friend tells
me he's doing the whole series and is currently second in his
championship. He also tells me he's just 60 as he eases away from
me! The altitude has got me and I'm breathing like Shergar in the
last furlong, I back
off and prepare for the descent.
on to your hats
The Vino crash site passed without incident, I hit a
near record 92kph on the descent and passed, unsurprisingly, quite a few riders. It
was over in the blink of an eye. My top speed so far is 98 kph on the Hautacam a
few years back. I'll get 100k if it kills me; it probably will.
At the bottom, as I headed
for the run in, there was a massive sounding of horns and a car and a
couple of motorbikes screamed past me. Closely followed by local
Astana Pro, Maxim Gourov, who was out for a stroll on the big ride!
Like an arse, I tried to jump on his wheel. It was just instinct
really, I think I "just" managed to get in the slipstream before he
Half way around the finishing
loop his chasers passed me just as we went thought the last feed.
Couldn't jump on them either.
The temperature's now up to 16
degrees and away from the wind it's getting warm. A quick ride
across the plateau and it's back to level ground. To get to the
final run in we hit the final
My peer group of chasers off the mountain hadn't caught me.
There was no one ahead. I took a gel and decided to run a lonely time trial the
5k to the finish. Then just as I came off the slopes on to the
main road finale, there are two
riders ahead. They've seen me and they're gunning it in to the
I decide I've got nothing to
lose and sprint after them. Somehow I manage to average 49.8kph,
alone, for a full minute and get on the back of them. My heart is
pounding through my chest at 201 bpm, there's no way I'm
coming through to the front, yet.
We pick up another two riders
on the run in and with a k to go we grab two more. We're now a
group of seven as we pass the flamme rouge.
With 500 metres to go one of
the initial two I caught takes a flyer, I hold my nerve. He dies
within a 100 meters. Then a huge rider in white goes and one of
the last ones we caught goes with him. I take his wheel, because this
looks like the go-er.
With 200 to go they sprint, I
come off the wheel and give it everything I've got. It's not much
but it's head down, bum up, eyes closed. I give it full gas.
Then two unlinked, unexpected things happen.
First, everyone sits up but
I'm already "in the moment", sprinting with what I've got left, against
no one! I look a bit of an arse, but no change there then.
Secondly, the pain in my shorts is
unbelievable, as you can see from my face above. It feels like I've got cramp, a sharp stabbing pain, in my
pecker! I blank it out and keep going to take the line honours.
I look around to see everyone else is sat up. Doh! Then I remembered the shooting pains
in my shorts.
I stick my hand down the
front of my shorts to ease the pain, only to find a rogue gel up there
that had worked it's way in to the "delicate" area just as I jumped out
of the saddle.
I pulled my hand out of my
shorts (it's not a cool look) just as the others rolled over the line.
I then proceeded to shake hands with everyone before I realised what I
was doing. Luckily I don't think they noticed.
Dianne collected my diploma,
I don't usually do paperwork, and I was well chuffed to find out it was
108k, with 1700 metres of climbing, completed in 3:58 and an average
speed of 27.0 kph! As a bonus, I was two minutes inside the gold
standard. Was reasonably pleased with 15th place, but last year
that time would have got me fourth! I knew it was bloody fast.
So, a good job well done
methinks. A consolidated position in the championship and ten days
to get ready for the next round. Time to eat.
The post race
meal was the best ever. Four courses, although unfortunately we
only had time to take the one as we had an eight hour drive back to the
I know I keep saying this,
but it really was a fantastic day. It's just unfortunate that the
race is in the middle of nowhere (motorway wise) because it'd be a great
event to do as a group. If you're on holiday in the Massif Central on
Bastille Day, it's the place to be, so take your bike.
Dianne took on the 50k Route
des Cretes which dived down the valley to the foot hills taking in 700
metres of climbing. She loved it.
My climbing buddy was
Frederic Fraisse who's travelling to each round in his massive motor
home! Frederic took an excellent fifth in his category which sees
the first four riders covered by four points. Glad I'm not 60 yet!
a gel in the shorts?
I know you're all dying to know, so I'll explain. On
real cold days you take your gels and stick them inside the leg of your
shorts or inside the arm of your race jersey. But when you've got
arm warmers going up and down the leg's best.
The heat from your body warms
the gel and makes it runnier and warmer for when you lash it down your
throat. Works a treat, as long as it doesn't ease it's way
northwards when you're riding.
See, simple explanation.
There's a fair chance most of you haven't
heard of Anton Magne. I knew of him, I read lots of books from the
old days, but could not recount anything other than he won the Tour in
the thirties. Magne, a classy but very quiet rider, was nicknamed
He took two Tour victories,
in 1931 and 34. In the '34 edition he spent 23 days in the yellow
jersey. He also grabbed a second and third in the '30 and '36
editions. If that wasn't enough Magne became World Champion in
1936 and was third in Paris Roubaix in 1930. Add to that his three
victories in the Grand Prix des Nations, the then unofficial world TT
championships and you have a top all rounder.
When he retired from riding
he became one of the sports best ever directeur sportifs' with the
Mercier Team. A top man, he died in 1983.