A baking hot afternoon at Lussac Les Eglises. 7 laps on an undulating course to give 54km.
Three riders attack from the gun, but it’s more ‘dog let off the lead’ syndrome than a real attempt, and they are caught on the first hill. I’m right up near the front as I don’t want to miss anything. As we hit the steepest of the climbs, towards the end of the lap, the rider on the front gets out of the saddle and goes hard, I’m right on his wheel, so instinctively I do the same. He goes very hard, and by the top of the climb he has about 10 metres on me. I glance around to see if anyone is bothered, and there’s no one there!
I press on, and catch the attacker, I ride straight to the front to show him that I’m willing to work and take a long hard pull. We work together, and in no time at all we are out of sight. Then it all starts to go horribly wrong. Over the next few laps my escape partner proves very difficult to work with. Everytime we come to a climb he finds it necessary to show me how strong he is and sprint up it, leaving me to make up the gap. When I catch him he slows, leaving me to go through and do the major share of the work. Everytime we go through the finish he sprints past me to go through first.
I try talking to him, and suggesting that we work together, but it makes no difference. I can’t sus whether he’s an idiot, or whether he’s so cock sure of winning that he doesn’t care. Whatever it is, it’s winding me up. It continues, a pattern emerges. Each climb, he’ll sprint by for about thirty pedal turns, then he’ll ease, wait for me, and expect me to work. The laps go by, amazingly at the start of the last lap we’re still away, with a good lead.
As we leave the town for the last time, I’m on the front riding hard. I make it as difficult as I can for my ‘friend’. On to the first climb, here he comes, sprinting by, only this time I’m out of the saddle shadowing him. As usual, he eases and sits. I hit him as hard as I possibly can, giving it all I’ve got. I crest the climb, sit down and mash on. I don’t look around, no point, no need, I can tell from the reaction of the two lads on the quad/lead vehicle that I’ve got a gap!!!
Now, I’m giving 100%, trying to get as much distance as I can before the last climb. I use all of the road hugging the verges to keep the distance as short as possible, and also to try and get out of sight. The lads on the quad are doing a great job keeping the road clear as we fly along. A sharp corner, I glance under my arm, he’s nowhere to be seen. Onto the last climb, for the last time, out of the saddle, my legs are stinging. A quick glance back, he’s not even on the climb! I push on, less than I km to the finish, I can afford to ease a little and enjoy the moment. I’ve done it. My first French road race win! 🙂