I’m discovering another reason for doing these cyclosportives – they are a good excuse to get out and see other parts of France (and Europe, for that matter). I chose this race last Sunday because it was tough (4 out of 5 stars…back to that later) and the course weaved in and out of (and up and over!) the Gulf of Saint Tropez, one of the loveliest and swankiest parts of the French Riviera. We got there a day before the race and walked around the port, looking for the start line.
Meanwhile, back in Cogolin (the village I erroneously thought the race was starting and finishing in because the website said so…silly me for not noticing they had last year’s route online.), I checked in and got my number plate, electronic chip, and the helpful tip that I would have to ride to Saint Tropez the next morning if I wanted to start with everybody else.
Karsten will like this. We chose a hotel right next to the supposed start/finish line, but it ended up being 10km from the start and very close to the finish, but sort of useless since we were checked out by the time I came in. By next season I’ll have this accommodation thing worked out, I’m sure.
I was up at 6 and off on my forced warm-up to St. Tropez by 7.
And things did.
The Race – As usual, the start was completely different from all the others. This time they had us start in groups based on our race numbers, which were based on nothing in particular, I’m sure. So, 0-1000 started first, etc. I guess they just want to keep things as safe as possible, but my brilliant plan to be up front at the start was good and truly thwarted (my number was 2151). Anyway, I doubt that plan would have worked on this particular day.
As I stated above, this course was rated 4 stars out of 5 by my cycling magazine. As Shoko helpfully told me later when I was heaving for breath and looking like death warmed over, there’s a reason it’s 4 stars. She was right.
This race was basically a series of climbs and descents, with a 15 km warm-up in the beginning. There were 2000 meters of climbing, which I’m not sure I’ve (knowingly) done in my training or races so far. Luckily none of the climbs were very steep, which is always the death of me. Still it was hard from the get-go.
I did alright for the first 60km or so, but I put a lot of effort on the descents and what flats there were, since I thought I could make up time. I think this is what wore me down and I was never really rested for the inevitable next climb. By the last one I was cooked, but still going at a reasonable pace. I can’t imagine the torture it would have been if I hadn’t been training like I have (actually, I have a good idea. One guy finished 4 hours after me! We saw him riding on our way back home in the car. He gets my respect for not throwing in the towel).
So, as usual, I learned that I need to lose more weight. I think I was going at a pretty good clip on the downs and the flats (less so), so I’m losing all my time when I go against the laws of gravity. My next race (up and over Mt. Ventoux) is 5-stars, so this is getting serious now.
The Bunch – when there were horizontal parts I usually found a group to ride in. The group is an interesting thing. You can be rolling along at 40 kph, but when you are tucked in behind a few riders you are cocooned from the outside world somewhat. Your focus is 100% within the bubble you and the other riders have created (if it’s not, you are probably asking for trouble) and, although the universe outside is flying by at a blur, you can spell out the brand name on the guy’s butt in front of you (if you want to..). You are also protected from the wind and therefore it is easy riding. No wonder so many just hide in the pack and never take their turn at the front!
There was no real drama this time around, thankfully, but it was the toughest race so far, and yet another wake-up call that I need to step up the training if I want to do well in l’Etape in July. Here are my stats:
Distance: 115 km
Total Elevation Gain: 2000 meters
Average Speed: 27.33 kph (this was disappointing at first, but I did get a ‘gold medal’ certificate, so I guess it wasn’t all that bad)
Place Within Category: Bottom 40%…again.
Having your wife with you has many benefits, not least of which is having someone to take action shots of you! Here I am rounding the final corner before the finish.
Five more weeks till Ventoux. I hope I can finish like this guy did!