La Ronde du Petit Sable ~ 2007
event this one, but strange in a good sense! It starts at 12:00
noon, in the middle of the town of Sable sur Sarthe, right alongside the
river. Signing on and number collection takes place in the town's
sports hall. And before the event there's cake and biscuits for all,
with coffee or soft drinks.
How civilised is that.
Another plus, is La Ronde forms
part of the Trophee Label D'Or and the Trophee De L'Ouest. Two
championship cracks for the price of one. Then, as the icing on the
cake, there is an extra ladies category for those of a certain age.
Or, the Hot Flush Group, as I very unpolitically correctly called it.
So Dianne's signed up for that group and I'm in with the "men who should
know better" category.
four hours to go!
When you do a normal sportive you get up at six, eat at 6:30,
leave the hotel at 7:00, get the bike prepped for 7:30 and get to the line
for 7:45 for a start at 8:00; you know exactly where you are and when you
need to be there! When an event starts at noon it throws your mental
countdown clock out completely.
So after a fashionably late
breakfast we sauntered to the start town and parked up in the massive,
dedicated car park, alongside the start pens and made ourselves
comfortable. Having prepped the bikes and preened ourselves we
loitered waiting for the start and when the masses started to gather, we
decided to gather with them.
I was a little alarmed to see three men in the car behind me all with
their fingers up their jacksies! Their own, not each others you
understand. Now I've seen people popping the old ProPlus tablets in
the past, and everyone (except me, (gastric distress and all that)) at the
signing on was throwing espresso's down their throats like their life
depended on it. But to see people shoving caffeine suppositories up
themselves suggested some were taking this far too seriously for their own
Me? I prepared as I
always prepare. If it's wet; baby oil the legs to keep the water
off. If it's cold; baby oil the legs to keep the wind out. If
it's hot; baby oil the legs and top up the tan. I did think of
pretending to do something but the missus caught me with my hand down my
shorts so I sorted myself out sharpish and got back on the bike.
So I find myself in my pen along with nearly
everyone else almost 30 minutes before the start. You had to get
there early or you'd end up at the back of your pen, losing another 100
more places than you need to. So what do you do when you've got 30
minutes to kill? Sip your drink and nibble your food, that's what.
That, and listen to the Euro Pop coming over the tannoy system.
Right on the noon day gun, which still fires in the Channel
Isles, we shipped out, down the two kilometre, straight as a a die road
leading out of town. Just like La 77, speed appeared to be of the
essence. No warm up here then, it's big ring, little gear, maximum
revs. Then the braking started!
We're a kilometre out, dodging
street furniture and someone takes a tumble. Boy was he not happy!
As people dodged around him, and just before I got to him, during a mad
Gallic rant he picked up
his bike and threw it "Bjarne Riis like" across the road onto the grass.
Possibly one too many supps up the jacksie!
we go again
Anyway, we crack on to the first climb. It's a windy day, like the
first event of the year, but there isn't a cloud in the sky and it's 22
degrees. Remember, it's the first week of April! The heat is
on in more ways than one. Once again I manage to thread my way to
the front of the group, only for it to be lined out on the hill. I hang on and
the already severed peloton splits once more with a third up front and two thirds left behind.
Luckily, I'm in the front bit.
first hour is the fastest of the ride and once again, with the incessant
attacks on the undulations, I get drifted off the front group of around 30
young pups and super fast vets.
There's now around a hundred of
us in group two and the chase is on to catch back up with the lead riders.
I'm more a spectator than an active participant at this stage.
Then, after an hour, someone decides enough is enough and we settle down
to a spot of fast-tempo, rather than all-out, riding . Until after
around 30 minutes of tempo someone got bored and it all kicks off again. I take a drink
just as it starts to wind up and get a shock! We're an hour in and
my first bottle is empty. The time spent sitting on the start line,
sipping my drink to prevent de-hydration, now means I'm on a hiding to
The hills come thick and fast,
although they're not really hills, more undulations. The whole ride
was cracked off in the big ring and the main battle was the wind (not
mine) and the speed. Our group broke apart once more. A charge
went on an hour before the end just as my remaining bottle was on it's last
dregs. I hung on for all I was worth literally sprinting to get to
the front on the flats to enable me to hang on on the climbs.
Eventually the inevitable happened.
did that happen?
I actually got tailed off on a motorway flyover! We approached it at
50 kph and when we hit the bottom of it the speed seemed to increase!
I got shelled out just before the crest, but wasn't the first to go, which
is hardly any conciliation. I got that horrible feeling you all
know, you fight as hard as you can to get back on but they never seem to
get any closer.
As the group rode off in to the
distance I could see riders being shelled out the back. I just kept
riding at my limit and kept picking people up so our group got bigger and
bigger. The bigger it got the more momentum we seemed to pick up.
As we headed for the finale we had a group of around 30 most of which
seemed to want to contribute. However, the closer we got to the
finish the less people wanted to, or could, work.
It was now very, very hot.
I'd been without drink for the last 20k and I could see those around me
also had empty bottles. As we dropped down the last hill, the first
on the way out, I knew we were around five k to the finish.
Some of the more foolhardy, or
brave, courers tried to take a flyer in the final kilometres and two
dangled off the front. Me? I
was feeling strong and was ready for a sprint. I chased a few
then sat in watching for others. As we passed the flamme rouge
(yes they did have one) I ended up fourth wheel and was still waiting for it to
Champs de Sarthe
With 500 metres to go,
someone's nerve went and they took a flyer from behind us. The rider
immediately in front of me reacted and chased the wheel down. Dragging me
and the two others with him in the process. We caught our flyer just as the two previous front runners blew. With 200 metres to go my tow eased off for a fraction
so I went for
all I was worth.
Job done, bunch sprint in the
bag! It's always nice to take a sprint even if it is for the minor
placings! 59th Vet. The
group I was tailed off from on the flyover contained 74 riders, 30 of them in my
category; the 40-49 age group! I'm 47. They only finished
three minutes up the road and all of that was lost in the last 20 k.
I need to go away and address my speed; or get some caff supps for the
The stats showed this was a
tougher event than the previous week's La 77.
The ride consisted of 21%, or 49 minutes, at or above my anaerobic
capacity. The Training
Stress Score was 379 and the Intensity Factor was 0.919 giving a
training load of 348. way above La 77's training load of 270.
So race done It was time to get
back to the car put the bike away and get ready for Dianne to come in from
the 92 k event.
To be honest Dianne was a little concerned that 92k was a bit
past her comfort zone. She regularly rides 80k events but the
thought that the extra distance, the heat and the fact that this was part
of a championship spooked her slightly.
But she's always one to meet a
challenge. She rode off, 15 minutes after we started and gave
it her all to hang in with some of the faster, fitter but older men.
When I got back to the car I
got my second shock of the day as she was already there putting her bike
back in to the car! A little tired and weary but extremely happy
that she'd got round and hadn't embarrassed herself.
We sat in the shade and talked
about our races, what we'd seen, how fast it was, how hot it was and how
we thought we'd done. We cleaned up and sauntered (we did a lot of
sauntering this weekend) back to the admin block for the results and our
I found my name and position
and was quietly chuffed with my performance as my stats above showed it
was a high-speed and full-on event. Kept looking for Dianne's name
but we couldn't see it. Looked a little harder and there it was.
Ladies of a certain age ~ SECOND. How fantastic was that? A
good weekend has now turned in to a great weekend. I might have to
extend the trophy cabinet. Between her and
the dog I'm
feeling a bit left out!
This was only the third edition of La Ronde Sable and to be
honest the organisation was impeccable; you'd think they'd have been
doing it for twenty years. Everything was spot on, from the
signing on, the marshalling, the results and most of all the food.
The banquet that was laid on at the end was amazing. A fantastic
end to a fantastic day.
This event is a two hour drive
from St Malo. It's on a Saturday lunchtime and you can be there and
back over the weekend and not lose any time off work. Four people in
a car can have a fantastic weekend for around £75 each. Why not challenge
yourself to some full on racing, for normal mortals, French style?