La Luis Ocana

Overall Distance 150k Time Taken 5:06
Height Climbed   Brevet  
Distance Climbed   Position 48th
Date June 2009 Country France
Entrants 950 Region  

Spanish born, Luis Ocana moved with his family to Mont de Marsan in France when he was young.  A glittering career saw him take his highly valued Vuelta in 1970.  From which he turned his attention to the 1971 Tour. 

Ocana was leading Merckx on GC by seven minutes when, descending together on the streaming roads of the Col de Mente, Merckx left the road and Ocana got sucked in to the corner and went down also. 

Neither were hurt.  Merckx jumped up and immediately set off.  As Ocana stood to remount he was struck by an out of control Joop Zoetemelk.  His tour ended there and then, the next day Merckx refused to wear the yellow jersey. 

This is Ocana's sportive tribute.

Where are we?
Mont de Marsan is about 40 miles north of Pau and is in some lumpy but not mountainous countryside.  We stayed in the town's Campanile, just five minutes from the start.  For those that arrived early, the organisers laid on breakfast and coffee from 6am to 7:30.  How good is that?  Local races take note!

The start itself was in the grounds of a nature reserve, park-type, facility.  A great setting with everything you need close to hand.  It was already a very pleasant 22 degrees and looked like it was a day when it'd be getting warmer.  Where's that baby oil for the legs?

Up and at 'em
Once again I'd entered early and managed to get a placing in the front pen.  I felt really good today.  As we rolled out for the escorted 8:00 am start down closed roads, I thought I should get my head down and position myself at the front of the group while the speed was relatively controlled.  Within 2 kilometres I'm on the Commisaire's bumper, only 148k to go.

As we approached the top of the first major climb I noticed I wasn't sliding backwards in my usual, "backside getting kicked by the fast boys" routine.  Maybe it was my new Carbon Cosmics? 

They' may have helped me keep up with the big boys, but I'd made a schoolboy error by not testing the speed sensor properly.  Having worked on the bench, It slipped ever so slightly on the road and I now have a mis-reading of my SRM's speed and distance.  Not good!

I climbed well with the front group then once over the crest I trolled to the middle of the melange of around fifty, for a better recovery before the next climb.

A gap had already opened up to the others chasing behind.  I'd stayed with the leaders for round one.  Bring it on!

Situation Normal
May of got a little ahead of myself there.  On the fourth big climb some of the younger riders decided to shed some of the more chronologically challenged wise old owls.  Or vets as we're ingloriously known.  The hammer went down and I slid backwards.  Deja vu all over again.

At just over an hour in (I'm not sure of the distance), the attacks started and around twenty went up the road.  Which left a slightly bigger, but obviously less powerful group of us middle markers to be followed by a huge chasing pack.

Our group seemed rather handy, with a good mix of vets, seniors and triathletes (black socks and sleeveless race jerseys!); half of which wanted to contribute. 

Five of us were sharing the majority of the work and as is usual, I took up the lead on the descents.  Which for once was to be my undoing...

What the ...?
As we left the crest of the hill at Chateau de Gaujacq we were directed by the excellent signs and marshals to the base of another climb veering off to the left at a Y junction. 

I reckon I was doing around 70 kph, when I saw it; a long piece of wire lying in the road.  With the gravel built up in the middle of the road, and speeding cyclists all around me, I was going too fast to take avoiding action.  I was already banked over when my front wheel clipped it.  Expecting the worst I sat the bike up and immediately there was an almighty bang.  Riders were screaming past either side of me as I tried to keep the bike upright.  Mon dieu!  I think I said.

I jumped off and had the wheel out in a flash.  I was already in top gear, so the wheel fell out and I found the offending six inch piece of super thick coat-hanger doubled over and flattened in the tyre.  Game over!

There was no way I could get it out.  It was bent flat either side of the tyre and was so strong I couldn't get a grip.  It obviously wasn't a coat hanger. 

It was going to be a long wait for the broom wagon.  Then, from nowhere a farmer appeared.  He took one look and just as quickly as he arrived, he disappeared.  Only to return two minutes later with two pair of pliers, 

We got the wire out, popped a tube in, then realised the two centimetre slit in the tyre wasn't going to hold the pressure so off he went again. 

As all this was going on everyone, and I mean everyone, was passing me.  I sat at the side of the road as a number of groups of 20-30 riders sped past.  Then one big group of around 150 flashed through the junction, the tail enders giving a cheery wave.  This was going to be a long day.

Five minutes later he was back with a perfect sized patch for the tyre!  I blasted a cylinder into the tube, a gel down my throat and thanked my saviour in my best Franglaise.  A quick tweak of the speedo magnet (had to wait to put the back wheel in) and off I set in very hot pursuit.  It was still early but the temperature was climbing in more ways than one. 

I stopped at the side of the road at 1h 39mins in to the race and got going again at 1:52.  Or so my SRM told me when I got back.

A Good Training Ride
Looking for the positives, what a glorious place to come for a training ride.  My objective now was to ride till I blow and enjoy the sunshine.  Except I didn't blow!  I just kept picking up rider after rider.  Admittedly these were the tail enders, but it don't half make you feel good to be picking up and dropping riders.

Working backwards from the 90k I had left when I punctured, we'd covered the first lumpy 60k at an average of 36kph.  Again, worked out when I got home.  But it had all felt very comfortable. 

Eventually I found myself in a group of around 30 riders with 20k to go.  We were a mixed bunch, with some obviously stronger than others.  As I was "out of position" I was one of the stronger and better prepared of the group.  There appeared to be myself and one other with food, gels and to be drinking enough to remain strong. 

This "one other" was an older vet, mid 50's, huge, but not an ounce of fat on him.  His pulls on the front were worth two of mine and we shared the work right up to the 5k to go banner when we caught another group of six.

A Cavendish Special
As it came together, the inevitable happened; the fluidity of the last thirty minutes disappeared and the speed bled away.  I got the hump and with nothing to lose went to the front for a long turn.  As I moved over after a kilometre, Monsieur Grand took over and lined it out.

With no one else willing, or able, to join in I jumped back on his wheel as he came through.  It was like speed training behind a scooter.  145k covered and we're doing 48-49kph on the run in.  I cracked at one point and tried to go through to help him, but he ushered me back behind.  He was taking it all the way to the end and was shedding riders out the back like a comet's tail.

As usual I'd checked out the finish at signing on and during my warm up.  Slightly down hill, 90 degree right in to the park grounds, then 200 metres to the banner and timing mats.

As we approached the downhill section a group (who I'd never seen all morning!) tried to come around us.  For a second I was boxed in.  Then as one turned to see what was happening behind (my pet hate!), he left a gap and I jumped through it 150 metres before the corner.

I'm quite handy on corners but the marshals weren't to know that.  I was almost deafened by the whistles as I shot under their arms to pass through the gates.  I could tell by their continued blast that "others" were coming. 

I gave it everything to come in 127th and 48th Vet!  It was a great day.  Even though the puncture had cost me dear it was a really satisfying ride in a beautiful part of the world.  Don't I always say that?.

Dianne's Day Out
Dianne had well finished by the time I got back. She didn't fancy the 100k event as when we entered there was no indication of how lumpy it would be.  So she chose the 60k event and rode around with another lady who she befriended on the day.

I got the whole life story of this lady who had a daughter in university, her husband was doing the big ride and the rest of her family were here as spectators, nothing was left untold.  We saw them at the post-race meal and said our hello's when I found out she didn't speak English!

They'd spent three hours cycling around the countryside, chatting away about nothing and everything.  Neither spoke the other's language but they both understood what they were saying.  Us men don't stand a chance.

The sad end
In 1977 Ocana retired from cycling to build up his vineyard business.  In 1994, after continued bad luck, failing finances and growing depression, he took his own life, in the family home at Mont de Marsan. He was 49 years old.

website Luis Ocana