At one point last night John and I were just about to decide to sleep in and stay warm, frightened by the promise of 100 kph winds and sub-zero temperatures. Somehow, though, one of us decided that we’d packed already so we might as well drive up there at least. So, with tin foil wrapped around my feet and every winter cycling thing I owned on my body, we posed for photos.
After a very poor warm-up, due to a morning ’emergency’, we rolled up to the start line right at the back. This sort of set the tone for the race, at least for me.
We started with a controlled roll-out, which quickly, and predictably, turned into a red-line express for the first 10 minutes or so. I was struggling to hang on to the dissipating tail of the front group, while John smartly stayed behind. I couldn’t hold the speed in the end, but found a bunch of like-fitnessed riders to roll with. As I sped south of Alès at 55 kph I wondered how that group ahead of me could possibly be disappearing into the horizon.
We lost them forever at the bridge near Ners, then turned into the wind (mild, compared to what we’re getting right outside the window now). Things were going pretty well, but my group certainly wasn’t full of rouleurs, so John and a lot of fast guys caught us with maybe 25 km to go. We chatted, he put the hurt on the group a couple of times at the front, and I did a few short stints that must have seemed to be insufficient, since I never had more than a few seconds out in the wind before the next guy would huff by.
At St. Jean du Gard we turned right and started climbing a bit. This is around when I realized I had lost my legs somewhere on the road behind. The power seeped out quickly, but luckily the hills were short and I could recover on the descents. Still, there’s always that ‘hill too far’ and, just after taking a long-ish pull on the front, I hit it. I was pushing, but my legs weren’t getting the message. I felt the man with the hammer approaching and quickly ate a fig. This seemed to hold him off, but he returned and suddenly I was ‘going backwards’. You don’t really realize what cycling clichés really mean till it happens to you.
This all happened 10 km from the finish line and I dropped 50 places in that time. Could have been lack of figs, that cough I have, or maybe my recovery year in 2014. Whatever it is, I’m glad it happened at the beginning of February.
To wrap things up on a positive note, here is the ’50 years and over pen’ at the event, separated from the rest. See you guys in a couple of years…