Velostar 91

Overall Distance 150k Time Taken 4:21
Height Climbed 1200 m Brevet  
Distance Climbed   Category Position 51st
Date May 2010 Country France
Entrants 600 Region Paris

As 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,  Jussi Veikkanen.  Should be an interesting morning.  Here's the Velostar boys sizing up the opposition...


We're Off!
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 of 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 might have. 

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 places here!

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 ring. 

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 two-part training 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; nigh-eve! 

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...

website Velostar 91

Mercure Every Lisses