I’ve been in France for two weeks now, I’ve been staying with the team and we have been travelling all over to the first two rounds of the DN3 Coup de France. It has been an eventful few weeks, I am certainly starting to experience the pro racer life style. It is taking some adjusting!
After the team camp in Lloret, we drove to L’Isle Jourdain near Toulouse where we would stay until the Friday before heading up to Poitiers for round 1. The weeks training was slightly up and down, a couple guys in the house were ill so I was staying in my room and doing my own training. A couple days were pissing down with rain, still better than the UK mind! That just meant onto the erg for some intervals! Then on the Friday we set off for the long drive up to Poitiers, 4.5hrs stuck in the van. We got there and went for a spin to check out the first 40km of the course, followed by riding the finishing circuit on the Saturday morning. The legs were starting to feel pretty good, my opener efforts went well and I was ready to get stuck into the race season in the morning. But luck was not on my side. A couple guys on the team were still ill and one more night in a room with them was too much for my immune system. I woke up the day of the race ill. Not great for the moral.
I started the race but I was always fighting a losing battle. Constantly yo-yo-ing in and out of the cars, regaining contact on the flat and then losing it again on the climbs. Having woken up with a rough chest and terrible headache, it was just too much. I got to the finish circuit before losing contact from the race and pulling out after 100km. I was disappointed after a pretty promising week and solid winter behind me. But that is racing at the end of the day. And I guess there is only so long you can be in a house with ill people before you get something.
A big target for me in the first phase of this season, racing Coup de France rounds and elite races is to learn the ways of the peloton. Coming from the Uk with fields of 50-60 riders and jumping in a full closed road race with a 150-160man peloton is quite a jump. I have no doubt I have the legs to get results in these races when I am healthy, but I have to learn my craft. That is a big driver for me coming to race on the continent. Where better place to learn my race skills than in the home of bike racing.
Another big shock is the shere quality of the field, even in these DN3 races. All the riders have depth to them, there is no one there just looking to get round. Everyone is there for a result and will fight for it. As you can see in the picture above, the race got lined out in the crosswinds! That is a 150man line out and it was like that for a good half an hour. But no riders lost contact and no wheels were dropped. They sure do make them tough down here!
That night we drove back to L’Isle Jourdain for another 5days until travelling to Vogue for round two of the Coup de France. The week was fairly uneventful. Having taken a couple days off to regain my health and then a couple easy days to get the legs turning again before the race. The legs weren’t in a great way after the lack of training, but sometimes you just can’t help these things. They started to come round after doing some openers on Saturday and then it was just back to the hotel before rolling out in the morning. The organisation is pretty incredible! The whole peloton is staying in one hotel and the start is from the car park in the morning. Can’t get more practical than that!
An early start and a nice big bowl of oats and I was ready to go. We headed to the team presentation and then I got a chance to just spin the legs for 10minutes before any final race preparations and then to the start line.
My big target for this race was to work on my positioning and moving myself around the bunch. I started my higher onthe grid and managed to hold a good positioning up the first climb. I slipped back a little down the descent and then on the flatter section before the big climb of the day at 30km I started working my way back up. Moving round the outside of the group as the whole group rotated following a moto. Then some un-announced road works caused the moto to slam on to a stop. A couple riders in front of me managed to dodge the bike but I plowed straight into the back of the motobike, chest first, over the bars and upside down in a fire ditch. I remember laying there thinking I had broken a collar bone, but I could move both shoulders so I knew it wasn’t that. But i had a really bad pain coming from my chest. I am thinking now I might have cracked a rib. But I am going to head to the hospital to get it checked in the morning.
After one failed try, I got up. hobbled over to my bike, put the chain on and straightened the bars and set off in chase. With a bit of help from a couple team cars and some serious pressing I re gained contact with the groupetto that had been dropped from the peloton up the climb. I rolled round with them but finished outside the time cut.
It is a shame to me how these first two races have gone. But I can rest up now I am in my house in Limoux. I have a couple more elite races in the next few weeks before some 2/3 stage races. After such a good winter, this is a slightly disappointing start to the season. I know this. But I am starting to learn my craft. And that is the big goal for these early races. I am also hungrier than ever now to show the team what I can do. Keep your eyes peeled for some big rides soon!
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