On the bike – last weekend I rode one of the biggest and best road races of the Haute Vienne racing calendar. The St Junien – St Junien is one big loop of 86 kms starting just outside St Junien. A record 144 riders started this year. All categories race together, at the same time.
So, as you can imagine, with 144 riders, plus race vehicles including no less than 21 motorcycle marshals, the first few kilometres are gonna be tense. I’m sitting in the top thirty, though I can hardly see the front, and as for moving up, no chance. By the time we get to the main road that runs up towards Javerdat a small group has jumped away and the chase is on. We’re going quick, and there’s no let up.
The first climb of the day is taken in the big ring! No let up! I dunno who’s driving it, but they’re driving it hard, and it’s made harder by the concertina effect, and having to jump hard out of every corner and over every crest just to hang on. On the long climb from Cieux to Blond riders start to struggle, and I manage to move up. I can actually see the front of the peloton now.
From Blond to Vaulry then along the roller-coaster road towards Chamboret. We can see the group ahead. The pressure is on. I’m riding in the first 10-15 riders now. It’s much better here. Every now and then a rider tries to jump across the gap on their own. They don’t make it.
On the floor – The climb out of Nieul isn’t steep, but it’s long, and the pressure is on. Almost at the top, the rider in front of me touches a wheel and goes down. There’s nowhere for me to go apart from over the handlebars. I’m up in a flash, I check my bike, just one brake lever twisted. I straighten it, jump on and I’m away. I spectator gives me a good shove.
The bunch aren’t that far ahead. I chase to get back on. A motorcycle marshal who’s seen what happened signals for me to get his wheel so that he can tow me. The next 5 kms are agony. I’m topped out in 50*12 on the back of the motorbike and it takes 5 kms to rejoin the bunch! I thank the marshal and disappear into the heart of the peloton to recover.
From La Barre to St Victurnien is mostly down hill. I know these roads quite well, so I’m able to relax a little on the descents. Along the valley road now. There’s about 10 kms to go. One short ramp, then a steep climb back into St Junien and the finish. There’s still a group clear. Remember though, all categories are racing together, with prizes down to 5th for each category. I resolve to keep going. On the short ramp there’s a surge, but I’m OK.
The final climb coming up. It’s a horror. Dead straight, steep, and gets steeper as it rises. Again there’s a surge as riders take it on early. Two thirds of the way up and it’s chaos with riders coming backwards as fast as they went forwards. We’re over the top. I’m trying to stay near the front. The last right hander, I jump as hard as I can. 200 metres to the line, I manage to pass a few, and almost on the line I pass my friend and rival vet Pierre Chenaud!!!
Carla is waiting for me at the finish and packs me off to get cleaned up by a medic. I have a cut on my cheek, and some grazing on my elbow and hip. It looks quite bad, but it’s very superficial. It’s just that the wind has blown the blood across my face making me look tough and macho! 😉
On the podium – I placed 3rd in my category, and I was 3rd over 50 veteran, so got on the podium twice. I haven’t done many road races this year. This was a good one to end the season.
The 86 kms was covered in 2hrs 15mins. That’s pretty quick. Well done to all the riders. Many many thanks to all at the ASSJ CYCLO for a great race. Special thanks to the motorcycle marshal who towed me back on.
Outcome – Closer inspection of my bike showed a slight scuff on my saddle and a tear in my bar tape. My helmet was broken and will have to be replaced. By Tuesday I had stiffened up a bit. By Wednesday I was back out with the boys on the FFC training bash.
There are some superb pictures taken by Jérôme Danlos that capture the day well. Take a look for yourself.