La Ronde du Petit Sable ~ 2008

Overall Distance 155k Time Taken  
Height Climbed 955 metres Brevet  
Distance Climbed   Category Position  
Date April 2008 Country France
Entrants 448 Region Le Mans

A top event, held just outside Le Mans that takes place on the undulating roads of Northern France.  A full report on the logistics and the low down of the race can be found in the 2007 edition report by clicking here.

I don't normally do events twice but this one is perfect for getting the year off to a good fast start.  So we found ourselves back again to test our mettle against the might of Johnny Foreigner.  We failed miserably!

Trois, deux, un, a bloc!
Just like last year we shot out of the starting pens at an incredible speed.  We're a 100 meters in and I'm already in top gear sprinting to hold my position in the pace line. 

Then it happens, just like last year (so I was ready for it) there's a pinch in the road at 2 kilometres and two of the big boys go down.  When I say big, I mean ultra skinny, whippet style riders, with the full carbon wheel jobbies and team clothing with more sponsors than a Hollywood blockbuster.

You can tell the way they're sitting, it's collar bone time.  They'd been down for around twenty seconds by the time I arrived!  Not good.  This race form's the first round of the Trophee Label D'Or and the Trophee De L'Ouest.  These are big competitions in France and the level at the front is extremely high.  No quarter is asked or given and the plebs like myself get dragged around at an obscene speed.

No time for sympathy, we have to crack on and the pace remains relentless but perversely, comfortably high.  I'm having a good day and get over the first climb at 4k with the first group.  But this time I'm in the group not fighting to hang off the back of it!.

Fast plus 10%
Last year I remarked how the first hour of the race was stupidly fast at 35kph.  Remember this race is anything but flat.  This year the first hour was run off at 37.1kph, with the first 30 minutes at over 38kph.

After 2 hours of turmoil we settled in to the normal, "ease back a click and let's eat".  They may be races but they can still be civilised!

You'll notice from last years stats that this year the speed is up but the average power is down.  This is due to the fact that I'm now sitting in the bunch or working at the front rather than hanging off the back and constantly chasing to keep in touch. 

A Moral Dilemma
Okay to cut a long story short, Dianne suffered the nose bleed from hell during her event. 

When she got to the feed the paramedics and marshals got a bit spooked by the deluge of blood over her clothing and bike.

Looking like a Colnago riding extra from a Hammer Horror film, they tried to convince her to stop and tried to take her timing chip from her leg and convince her to wait for the broom wagon. 

Obviously, they've not met a Geordie before.  After some pleading from them, and a little more bleeding from her, they relented and reluctantly let her continue.  At this point she'd lost a wedge of time and was now riding with half a box of Kleenex up her nostril.  Not very lady-like and not conducive to a betterment of her previous years second place.

Last year she finished before we did.  This year, 25k from the finish, with us around 10 minutes up on last year, I see her in the distance as we crest yet another long, long drag.

She stays to the right as we scream past and we exchange pleasantries.  I ask if she's okay as obviously something has gone wrong for us to catch her so far from the finish.  I turn to look and there's blood everywhere, so I move over to the left and drift to the back of our group of around 75 riders.

I make a mental note of the numbers of two of the riders I've been through and offing with for the last hour, so I can clock where I might of finished if I hadn't of baled out.  Another "if only moment!"

So I take a bit of apple from my back pocket, swig down a gulp of Viper Extreme from my bidon and chill.  It's time to sit up and smell the flowers all the way to the finish.

We cruise in at a brisk, leisurely pace with our days work done and the miles in our legs.  It's all smiles as we cross the line as Dianne sees her friends from the feed and they clap ceremoniously in Gallic admiration! 

By default Dianne was still second as this year there were only two ladies in the over 50 age group.  But we didn't want to embarrass ourselves by picking up an unearned trophy!  Or more to the point, be late home for tea.

So it was pack the car, eat on the go and a quick two hour spin back to St Malo and home for bed time. 

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Campanile Sable sur Sarthe