Gran Fondo of Saint Tropez – Race #4 Wrap-up

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.


Brigitte Bardot was discovered in St. Tropez. She can still be found in many souvenir shops.

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.

That’s me in the middle. The young one 😉 That guy behind me probably beat me in the race, so I should stop right there.

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.

Notice the new hardware – arm warmers. These things are great and I wonder why I never had them before. Tiny and warm and you just need to roll them down to your wrists when things hot up.

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.

And then, the best part of any race – lunchtime!

And another one for Karsten, since I got him with food in his mouth last race.

Five more weeks till Ventoux. I hope I can finish like this guy did!

16 thoughts on “Gran Fondo of Saint Tropez – Race #4 Wrap-up

    • Ah, you’ve climbed it! Tips Tim!

      Funny you should ask about seat height. I was just thinking about it yesterday on the ride, and I thought the same when looking at the photos. Do you mean it looks low when I’m riding or just the bike alone, btw? I’ve got the stem up higher than usual for comfort (something I might change up soon), so could have the illusion of having a lower saddle.

      Anyway, I’ve fit it already, but I’m going to tweak it today again and see. Maybe I can get another cm out of it. The last time I tried raising it my hips started swaying a little, which didn’t feel right. Maybe I lowered it back too much.

      One last thing. I’ve got short legs and a long torso. This could have something to do with the look too.

      Thanks for the question. Coming from a pro it means something.

  1. Hey Gerry, echo Stephanie’s comments, for a bloke who hasn’t raced before you sure are making up for it now! Cobbles one weekend, St Tropez the next….Livin the Dream. If you can arrange it, I can truly recommend a proper fit up. Despite our total lack of experience, we had a “BG Fit” done, and my goodness, I now have some wedged sole inserts in my shoes to stop my knees bending in, my seat is higher, and I have a completely different position. The power, comfort and stability improvements are beyond belief – akin to the first ride you had on the Bianchi. I cannot recommend it highly enough!
    Great to read another entertaining update!

    • Steve, I’m sure you and Tim are right. I’ve tried a couple times here, but I don’t get much more than a cursory look up and down from local bike shops. I’ve done my share of online research and Competitive Cyclist has, what seems to be, a good calculator. The trouble is, every time I do my measurements they come out different! That’s troubling.

      Anyway, the bike feels good. Maybe a bit ‘scrunched’, so I’ve ordered a 120 mm stem from Bianchi to see if that stretches me out a little.

      Where’d you get your fit done, by the way? Sounds like they know what they’re doing. I’ve been meaning to get back to Australia for a visit….

      • Im not surprised your measurements are changing each time – check out the guns on the action shots!! haha! Lots of development going on there.

        I had a local bike shop here in Brisbane do our fit,( great weather down here just as it turns cold up there! ) so I am sure we could schedule you in for say Novermberish!

        The big thing with the fit (from a complete novices understanding – Tim might be able to offer a more learned view!) is getting your positioning on the seat in relationship with your knees and legs correct first. Then having a flat back is also critical for comfort and strength. You may even find you need to move your seat back! To achieve the flat back position you then move to work on the handlebar position.

        And finally it is recommended that you have a refit done every few years, as your finely tuned body changes.

        Also the other thing that I was told is to not try and change my natural (?!?) style as this will only end up straining parts and making me sore.

        Googling BG Fit will get you onto the “Specialized” website so I suggest that. Ultimately though, it is looking like a trip down under is the only proper way to get you set up correctly !!!

  2. Steve, it seems that only Brisbane can save me. I’ll start putting away money now!

    The ‘flat back’ think has always been my problem. The old Cannondale was too short and I was always hunched. Now I’m feeling that a little (only when I hold the bars on the tops, not the hoods) on the new bike, hence the new stem I just ordered (don’t tell my wife!).

    It sure is a complicated business, this cycling.

    • Mate, it is like golf, just as you think that everything is going fine and you are happy with everything, someone comes along and tells you your doing it all arse about, it is then that you realise you are a long long way from knowing what you are doing!

      There could be worse vices!

  3. I did my first a couple of weeks ago. You were one of a small group who inspired me! Saaaay did you have any problems with shaving rash? It only on my thighs. Do any of your blog community have any recommendations to prevent this? The regrowth is a killer, and to make matters worst, Julia offers NO sympathy!!! How often do you attack yours? I think that shaving is a more complicated business than cycling!

    • I think you’re right, Steve. It’s more hassle than it seems to be worth…except for the nice blog comments you get on your ‘guns’, I guess!

      I’ve got no ingrown hairs, rashes, or the like, sorry to report. Tim seems to an authority on many things ‘cycling’. You might give him a try. I shave a couple times a weeks, I guess, but I’m a slacker. Could do it every day if I was really vain.

      And, if it helps, I get no sympathy (when I whine about having to shave) from Shoko either.

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