part of the ongoing attempt to conquer
Mont Blanc, I worked in a
double header to test my form and fitness at the beginning of May.
In Europe May Day is May 1st, not the first Monday of
the month. So we find ourselves on the outskirts of Paris, on a
Saturday, at a deserted Zone Commerciale, in IKEA's huge car park,
waiting to do battle with around six hundred hopeful others.
It's Velostar 91 at Every and we're up for the
biggie. Dianne's still hors de combat, so it's just me and a
marauding scrum of Johnny Foreigner heading off in to the
French countryside. Amongst the hoard are a fair sprinkling of celebs.
Ex-pros, Eric Boyer and Jacques Cadiou, F1 Champion Alain Prost,
F1 driver Paul Belmondo, Le Mans superstar
Emanuel Clerico and current FdeJ pro,
Should be an interesting morning. Here's the Velostar boys
sizing up the opposition...
Before the race proper, we have to circumvent the industrial estate and surrounding
metropolis through a 10k neutralised section. Which is great
because we have a full on Garde Republicaine escort and loads of
motorbike marshals to safely get us through the road furniture and
myriad junctions. Which was just the chance I needed, because by
the time I got to the start line I'm in a throng of chattering,
nervous, riders. If I stand on tip toes I can just see the front of
the line, but I can't see the back. So it's not that bad.
We kick off and I start to find the gaps and move
forward making good, but not spectacular, progress. Then everyone
goes left and right, leaving a two foot wide gap down the middle of
the road. The downhill, which in France means everyone's
braking, main road has a cobbled road divider and they're all giving
it a wide berth.
I jump on to the pave, let go of the brakes and
overtake at least a 100 riders in a couple of hundred metres. I'm
now within spitting distance of the front. Not necessarily a good
thing, but I've made good ground and I'm ready for the off. When it
comes it normally comes with a vengeance; and this time was no
different than any other.
As quick as the
commissar's car pulls away the attacks start. Somehow I find myself
hanging on to them and manage to hold on in there. Then 30k in
disaster strikes. Having smashed over the fields of Brittany
in the Tro Bro Leon and
given it full bore over the cobbles earlier in the race, I hit a
small speed ripple (that big lumpy paint they use to warn of an
impending village) in the middle of the pack
and my saddle bag decides to part company with the saddle! I ride
around a 100 metres to the next junction and pull over to allow the retrievement
the miscreant petit sac; amongst much Anglo Saxon expletives.
Around 50 or so
riders pass me. This was the front group and I'd managed to stay
with them through the early climbs where we'd left the others. I
now have very little time to ride against the flow, pick up the bag
and get up to speed again.
As I head up the road, the second group
are coming towards me. I grab the pouch out of the middle of the
road and get to the side just in time. I throw the bag (spare tube,
gas and a 20 Euro note!) in to my back pocket and start the chase.
However, they've gone before I get to the next corner. Looks like
it's going to be the third group as usual.
The Middle Section
It seems I'm having a good day. It's not long before I (and to be
honest a few others) break away from group three and start picking
up stragglers from the groups ahead of us. With ten full on
hills and loads of other long, false flats there's ample opportunity
to drop or be dropped. Luckily, I chose the former.
After about 75k I find
myself roulering off the front would you believe and going away on
my own. Not a choice I'd make voluntarily but needs must. Racing
through some fantastic countryside which you wouldn't believe is
possible this close to French suburbia, we hit some spectacularly bad
roads. After the chateaux, the forests, the idealistic hamlets
and unbelievably car free roads we enter, Hell.
There are a literally tens of riders fixing punctures in the
massively pot-holed ribbon of debris they deemed to be a road. One
rider is stopped at the side looking forlornly at his Zipp 404's
with a front spoke sitting at 90 degrees to the wheel. Not good. I'm so
glad I went back for my bag. Thankfully I didn't need it, but I
Others, due to the bike eating nature of the farm track, have
obviously backed off as I've seen more riders in the last five
minutes than I've seen in the previous hour. I could make some
The Final Countdown
I now seem to be riding with peers, as we all form a
half decent group and begin the tackle the last 30k with some sense
of teamwork. The kilometres and the changing scenery pass by in quick order.
With no stupidly big climbs so far the whole ride's been tackled in the big
It seems to have sapped the legs of some. As we approach the finale
more and more riders begin to miss turns
or soft-tap their way through. As this is part one of a
weekend, I crack on regardless. At 10k to go, I ring Dianne on the
cellulite to let her know all is well and I won't be long. It must
of been a long morning's wait for her. Just like the old days (2004)
before she got her first bike.
One k to go! It's getting a bit tense as some people
start taking it a little too serious and refuse to go through! I press on and line them out
as we hit the final roundabout and 300 metres to go.
Being in front
means you can control the flow of riders, especially in a corner as
they'd have to be particularly brave or foolish to try and get round
me. I may not be much kop on the straights but when it comes
to cornering I can go at quite a
lick if need be. And today, it was needed.
We come out of the corner
cranked over, get the bikes upright and meet three riders promenading in the middle of the road waiting to
start their sprint. Out of the corner of my eye I see a red
and blue blur jumping to the right. Two words;
He's gone right when the road banks left to the finish.
Even though I'm spent I take a flyer up the inside of the startled
trio and take the short run to the line. I get it by a bike's
length. Job done, 51st in class.
A Quick Exit
It's down the finishing straight, in to the car park and
a quick wash and freshen up before we leave for Chartres and
tomorrows event. It's only an hour or so down the road but we
don't fancy hanging around so we leave without even picking up our
food. A little rude, but needs must.
One of the Moto
Photographers (Seb) placed this little cartoon on his website which
is a caricature of one of his photos. He has a stream of
photos of Jussi
Veikkanen taking a gel, without a care in the world, with a
whole train of sportive riders lined out behind him turning
themselves inside out to keep up with a rider who's totally
oblivious to the carnage he's creating around him.
Glad I was at the back!
See you tomorrow in Chartres...