An update from the Tour de L’ain.
Well a disastrous start to the holiday saw me lose my phone and wallet in Troyes which hopefully explains the lack of photos and updates from in race.
Anyway armed with my daughter’s pay as you go mobile complete with pink case I joined my team.
We met at the hotel in Lons-le-Saunier. The first sight that greeted me was the Astana, AG2R, Le Pomme Marseille and Team France team busses. After a quick meeting and issuing of passes we departed to the prologue. Our main host was AG2R and we hung around their bus meeting a few of the riders and generally lusted after all the team bikes before departing to the vip stand to watch omega pharma quickstep win everything.
The worst summer in France for 30 years greeted us on the start line. The 200 odd people registered for the whole craft challenge plus loads of day riders started in torrential rain. The sportive had started. By that I mean RACE. Once the neutralised zone finished and the flag dropped POW! Away we went. Full Tour de France experience now lead cars, closed roads, motorcycle outriders zooming up and down the peloton. All at close to 30mph.
Today was an 86 mile stage with two cat 3 climbs mid way. I lasted with the front until half way up climb one. By this time the weather had cleared up, but I was cooked. I sat up and waited for a group of seven other riders. We all worked together and finished strongly. All the results can be found on the website above albeit with a few mistakes as quite a few riders would cut out the odd section and register a time. Not that it affects the top few but by the end I finished a genuine 10 or so places higher.
Now for the cool bit. I crossed the line and a helper was watching out for me. Handed me a bottle of water and took my bike. We walked to the car (50m) and I retrieved my race bag and was pointed towards the showers. Once clean I was directed towards the food hall where a three course meal was served to every rider in the challenge. Once fed, we departed before the pros arrived in town back to a hotel in Lyon. On arrival we collected our bikes and had the use of the AG2R and Le Pomme Marseille Lorries and mechanics to wash and service the bikes. We then went to our rooms to recover and wait for the knock on the door. Massage time! An AG2R masseuse then spent 40 minutes pummelling my legs to bring them back to life. I must get one of these for use at home it was fantastic. Our main meal was then served in the dining room. Our table was alongside AG2R, Astana, Bretagne, Le Pomme Marseille and Omega Pharma Quickstep.
Today was the flat day. It was 102 miles through the villages and towns of the Jura. Don’t ask me about them as i don’t think I saw any of them. Every village had a slight climb to the church. We did every one. The pace was averaging at 26 mph through all the twist and turns. I was comfortable in the front group up until about 70 miles, but I had lost a bottle earlier and faded quickly. I had missed the last feed station and had to stop to get a bottle of water from a shop. The group was well gone by now and I was in a no man’s land between groups so I steadily rode the final 25 miles alone.
At the finish it was a rerun of yesterday.
OMG everything aches and the weather is back. Today is 94 miles with cat 2, cat3, cat2, cat1 and cat1 climbs. It will rate as one of the hardest days on a bike I have done ever. The rain lashed it down all day but on the whole I rode well. Until the last descent. It was freezing and I bonked on the way down. With 15km to go I had to stop and take a breather for a couple of minutes. Fortified by my last gel and only 15km to go I finished strongly. Even better I was starting to finish higher up the standings as other riders weren’t coping with the fatigue (the luxury treatment and massages had no effect on my ability to recover more than other riders sleeping in dormitories).
Today was also a tough day for the pros with some serious time gaps appearing and groups all over the road.
My sort of day, warm and sunny. Today’s parcours 86 miles cat 4, cat3, cat4, cat3, cat4, cat4, cat3.
Today was fantastic. Loads more day riders in blue numbers saw us hard case black numbers leapfrogging from group to group. I had also learnt something from talking to other French riders that would have made a huge difference earlier in the race. Loads of cycling clubs and spectators line the route. It’s customary that if you hold up an empty bottle and throw it down before them they hand you a full one back. Some French clubs now have two century bottles. I rolled in with a group of 8 riders well up the field.
In summary what a fantastic experience. The atmosphere was excellent and having people in every village come out to cheer you on was one I will never forget. Living like a pro was superb but they can keep it, how they do it completely escapes me and I have gained a new level of respect for them. If you ever get the chance to do something like this then go for it it’s great.
I officially finished 69th 3 hours 44 after the winner although I should be a few places up due to some short cuts taken on stage 3 by some riders. The individual stage results are all on the above website and they stop registering finishers once the cadet race gets going.
Below is my team with our AG2R helpers, David Moncoutier our host and Romain Bardet from AG2R.
Pictures and routes to follow.