20th Pierre Jodet (a French Champion in 1950) was the first event of our
Saturday/Sunday double header which was to be undertaken with sportive
newcomer Richard Davy.
Don't let that word "newcomer"
sway your judgement on Mr Davy. For those that don't know Richard
I'll give you a brief run down of his palmares. Swimming champion
extraordinaire, more medals than you can lift, an accomplished Ironman
competitor, triathlete, marathon runner and this year competed in the Fire
& Police Games in Sydney in cycling (because he's won all the swimming
competitions) as a warm up for his sportives. He's big, he's strong
and he's an all round nice person. The
picture above is Pierre Jodet, not Richard!
After a brief discussion in St Malo, we decided we'd give it full gas on
both the weekends "less-long" rides, rather than go the full distance in
both races and compromise our second day's event by being fatigued from
the first. Sounded like a plan to me, so it's off to the heart of
France we go and the area of Indre, in the town of
After a four hour drive, we're
in the town's old railway station and collecting our bits which is a
formality. Next morning we arrive with ages to go yet still end up
being the last two in the field at the start gate! Let's hope that's
not an indication of things to come.
The 174K event kicks off at
8:00 am and the other two events, the 100k and the 72k set out together at
8:10. Cleverly the organisers pen the rides in so you can't get
mixed up. The big ride at the front and the other two in each lane
of the closed road with a barrier down the middle and across the top like
a giant T shaped cage. Dianne is alongside us at the back of the 72k
did that happen!
At 8:10 on the button the two lines move off and the race is on.
Being something of a self-confessed expert at these things I tell Richard
to stay with me and we'll get ourselves near the front as the race
develops. Being a triathlete he's not used to dodging through 300 riders of varying abilities
because he's normally near the front after the swim! For me, apart from
descending, this is the best part of the race.
We're three minutes in, passing
riders like in a George Formby film, then we see Dianne ahead of us.
How she got there I don't know, but it kicked me in to action to get a
move on. I upped the pace and began to drift through the group at a
speed that was now more urgent than before. It's at this point I
think I lost Richard.
Moving through groups is a
skill that requires a little bit of bullishness and determination.
You have to be constantly aware that not everyone is racing, there are
many varying skills, abilities and levels of competitiveness. And
you have to be super-safe. I'd be mortified if I caused anyone to
have a spill but you can't hesitate. If there's a gap you go, if
there isn't you create one; safely. We all have to go to work on
Monday and after the debacles of La 77 I'd
rather see everyone return unscathed.
It took me 7 kilometres to get to the front. We were
still in the forest and the narrow, closed, twisting roads were keeping
the speed down and causing
riders to spread out gutter to gutter. I suspected Richard wasn't
there but I knew he'd be thereabouts. So I went to the front and
slowly wound up to full gas for a kilometre or so. If you're unsure
of what to do, go to the front and make things happen; I think I
once read somewhere.
It had the desired effect.
We now had a big long line out and the speed had increased dramatically.
In fact others took the bait and joined in to keep the speed high.
Just before kilometre ten I heard a familiar sounding "bonjour".
Well it wasn't French is what I mean. With the peloton now in a long
line, Richard just used his massive strength to ride down the outside of
everyone and join us at the front.
Okay, we're now together time
for Plan B. Bugger, don't have one.
pain boss, the pain
As we leave the village of Migne, we start picking up those being shelled
out of the back of the big race. There's one whippet at the side of
the road changing a puncture. No one gives him a second glance.
There's a tandem that's mixing
it with us and the stoker is riding as though he's got one crank longer
than the other, it's a bit off putting but you get good shelter from
them so I sit in and weigh up the options. Then he starts putting
the hammer down to head for the front, which can mean only one of three
things. A downhill, a corner or an uphill. Whatever it is I
don't want to be behind him when we get there, so I go with him and then past him. Richard's close by.
I was wrong. It wasn't
one of three things it was all three things! I fight any temptation
to brush the brakes and get to the front on the descent as we hit a very,
very, fast right left chicane with marshals everywhere whistling and encouraging us to "take
caution." There's two things the French don't like, downhill's and
corners. So when you get both, it gets interesting.
I dive through the chicane and
come out with a twenty metre lead as we hit the hill on the other side.
Good, now I can take a run at it and get halfway up before they all come
flying past. As I say that, Richard comes flying past. With a
tandem in tow.
Eventually an attack goes off
the front on a short sharp drag and eight riders get away over the top.
They're only five seconds away and it's Richard and myself leading the
chase to get back on. We make contact after a kilometre or so and now we're a
group of around twenty. Everyone else is left behind.
Fifteen minutes later there's a
blaring of horns behind us and the Mavic van screams past heading back to
the big race. In his slipstream is our punctured whippet matey!
Guess what happened next. It's every man for themselves as we all
fight to get on his wheel and a big lineout ensues. Now in open road,
the Mavic van pulls away and everyone sits on matey's wheel because he's
obviously the strongest and fastest!
The pain is palpable and
matey's patience runs out. He's not sussed that we're all the wrong
side of 25 (45!) and would love to help but our abilities fall short of our
aspirations and his expectations. He sits up in a huff and goes to
the back for a gel.
They're going nowhere
now well in to the ride and at 35k two senior whippets attack on a climb.
Everyone looks to matey and he takes up the chase, we all join in to
help/hinder him. After two k we get them back and they drift to the
rear. On a small rise heading in to Oulches, they go again. No
one reacts. "No problem" I say to Richard, "there's 60k to go, they'll
Between Oulches and Thenay, for
the next 10k, matey keeps attacking at every kilometre and we all keep
chasing him then sit on. "I'll be glad when we hit the turn and he
sod's off" I say to Richard. He say's nothing and just presses on
with a smile on his face (he' the big on one the right, smiling!). Before we
know it it's 500 metres to the feed and the split at Lande. Not a
moment too soon. The speed has been high all morning and I can do
with a breather.
Now the turn has been made, which was a bit of a debacle in itself as I
don't think the marshal was expecting us and it took a few goes to get it
right, we can see who's who. What a motley crew!
There are twelve of us, one of
which has mooched about a 100 metres up the road. No one stops
(obviously) but we all decide to take a drink, get a bite, suss out
the opposition and work out the bluffing tactics for the rest of the ride.
We seem to be riding a bit too gently for my liking and I don't want
anyone to get back on. Richard moves to the front and we pick up our
drifter and get back down to business.
It's now us against the rest
and we don't want any of the rest joining us. So a through and off
begins with some more inclined to join in than others. None of
this "all for one" business here. These fella's
would never have made musketeers, they'd have all been the Cardinal's men.
We dive through small villages and hamlets and the kilometres just click
by. We know there's a big hill coming but we're not quite sure
where. If we just follow the arrows on the road we'll be all right.
We entered the town of Nurel de Feron and for the first time today we come
across traffic. A fast-ish downhill was leading in to a sizeable up hill
and there was a truck just about to start the climb with a car sat in
behind it. Never one to miss an opportunity for a rest, I scream
down the hill with riders in tow. If I can just get on the back of
the truck before it gets too far up the hill we can get a draft to the top.
What a plan!
I pass the car and get on the
back of the truck when Richard, three back, shouts "Whoa!" Which is
Jersey for "you missed the turn you stupid scouse git." It's chaos
as we turn in the road and dive back to the tiny little slip road, over a
long faded paint mark, that was covered by the car when we got there.
The locals had already turned and were on the hill; local knowledge eh?.
Queuing behind them was an old smokey Renault 4. We jumped to the car, then went around it to pick up the six
riders at the front. I wasn't happy.
a combination of anger and embarrassment I
went to the front and pushed as hard as I could to get to the summit first. I gave it everything I'd got. Lo and behold,
there's a photographer there. And I'm on the front making everyone
hurt. The second event in succession I'm climbing well. How
good is that?
Well I thought it was, until I
saw Richard's picture (above) and he's laughing. With me or at me I'm not
sure. It's best not to ask.
The worst is over and we're on the return leg. At one point we hare
through the countryside alongside a railway line and it's obvious we're
going to have to cross it at some point. The road swings away and
returns towards it at a more appropriate angle. Richard's on the
front (what's new?) and I'm behind him (situation normal).
We approach the rails, square
on, at around 30mph then Richard brushes his brakes and instantly I'm alongside him!
Just as we enter the crossing I see him look left and right! Only a
bloody fireman would check to see if a train is coming. What the
hell are you going to do if you spot one? He's been on too many
risk assessment courses than are healthy; I would suggest. We
have a chuckle at his expense then it's back to work.
It's now around 30k to the finish and the through and off's have taken a
distinctive rosbif flavour. Our Gallic chums have worked out me and
Richard are together and are letting us do all the work without coming
through. I have a cunning plan. We decide to separate
ourselves so we're not on each other's wheel so the others will have to
come and share the work. How clever are we?
Again, not very is the answer.
At 25k to go, Richard goes to the front and no one else helps him.
And I mean no one. He's on the front for the next 10k. At 15k
to go I cruise up to the front and tell Richard that it doesn't look like
he's going to get any help. "That's alright, I'm quite happy here"
he says, with a smile!
I drift back to my place,
that's been left for me, four from the front. The Davy express is
now screaming towards the finish and I don't even think half of the
coaches could get to the front if they wanted to. It was an
impressive sight and it just went on and on and on and on.
At 10k to go Richard pulled to
the side for a chat and a drink. "What's the plan?" he asks.
He's dragged us around for the best part of 60 of the last 90k and he asks
me if I've got a plan! Looking after my best interests, I suggest he
keeps the speed high right up to the roundabout 200 metres from the
finishing line, where I'll jump out and sprint for the line. As
ever, I always check out the last kilometre of an event just in case.
Just in case I get an armchair ride to the line. How appropriate.
Three k to go and all of a sudden riders begin to appear from nowhere.
I go through once, just to loosen the legs and to get the juices flowing.
Richard gets a 30 second rest then he's back on the front and pushing
hard. Everyone's fighting for his wheel and I'm fighting for third
It's drizzling again, as it has been on and off all morning. This'll make the roundabout a
little more interesting. I've got new Continental GP4000 S tyres on .
They're meant to offer better grip in the wet. We'll soon find out.
The speed picks up and up and up and the lineout gets more and more
stretched. This is as perfect a textbook lead out as you could wish.
I hope I don't mess up.
Thirty metres before the
slippery, flip-flop, obstacle I jumped and held my breath. Richard
tried to get in to the corner and subtly block, but got crowded out by the
French slackers. The chase was on.
I opened up a big gap as the
tyres gripped better than I could have hoped. I wound it up through
the gears and sprinted for all I was worth but the legs were beginning to
fill and the line didn't seem to be getting any closer. I looked
under my arm and two riders were trying to bridge the gap between the now
fragmented bunch and myself. Time for
one last sustained push. The line appeared and a solid third place
overall was the reward for some excellent team work.
Richard came in eighth which
really wasn't just reward for an outstanding ride and his first sportive.
Our French cousins should hang their heads in shame. However, as we
discussed our combined excellence and tactics at the finish while
comparing power readings (Richard's got a Power Tap) they all came up and
shook our hands and we all talked franglais as they compared me to
Pettachi and Richard to Valverde! At least we impressed them.
said to Richard it doesn't look like Dianne's here. As she always
waits to see me in I'll hang around. She won't be long now. We
wait and wait and wait. We chat and wait and he gets changed and I
wait. After a bit more waiting, she appears.
A hand-waving discussion ensues
at the finish line with the marshal and it seems it's all smiles.
She'd missed the turn for her 72k ride and ended up riding the 100k event! Her
furthest ride ever. It'll be a quiet night tonight then. She picks
up her goody bag, presented to all finishers and gets a nice polo shirt
and other bits as her well deserved reward.
Final Thoughts & Stats
A great day that hasn't left us too fatigued for tomorrow.
Once more the whole village is closed down and cyclists rule the day.
The five shops in the town are all decked out in cycling garb and have
joined in the party. There's a massive picnic going on with food and
wine flowing freely.
35kph ride and another tough event with power figures right up there. Just
this time all the neo-pros are in the biggie so we got to race.
sprint? It was 544 metres long, and averaged 437 watts for 50
seconds. No wonder it hurt. Still, no pain no gain, is the
expression of champions. So I'm told.
Back to the car and a three
hour drive back to Rennes and the Broceliande. Before we do, we
stroll through the cycle-expo at the presentation area (we don't have time
to wait for prizes) just as they're putting the photos out. We find
me, with my race face on, looking quite good, all Thomas Voeckler-like and
in pain. Then we see
Richard's and he's laughing like a drain. Which makes him look even
better and gives him a maximum score in the one-up-manship stakes.
He's all Ian Carmichael,
I'm all Terry Thomas. Our older readers will get the joke!
Roll on tomorrow...