A 155 kilometre French cyclo-sportive, not for the faint-hearted or those of a nervous disposition. 1200 cyclists are sent 4km back from the official start line to a staged “Grand Depart” in the centre of Limoges, 15 minutes is set aside for the riders to cover the 4km back to the real start. This is done by taking 15mins off everyones finish time (hope you’re following this). So if you cover the 4km faster than 15mins you’ve bought yourself some extra time for the 155km. Got it? This explains why the first few kilometres are ridden at such a breakneck speed. Here’s how it went for me…
Although I’d sent my entry in at the last minute I got number 103. This meant that I was allowed into the 1-200 pen. There’s around 1800 cyclists altogether of which 1200 are doing the full 155km distance (there were shorter options). The cyclists were held back by a fleet of motorcycle outriders and official cars. As the final minutes are counted down the commentator whips everyone into a frenzy, and then, partez!!!!
The pace was unbelieveable, you’d have thought the finish was just around the corner, I’ve been in slower criteriums!!! It was mad, and I was in the first 200, I can’t imagine what it was like further back. Anyway, we raced up through the official start where hundreds of screaming kids had been bused in to add to the atmosphere, armed with flags and baloons, a deafening spectacle.
Out into the hills, I reckoned that the safest place to be was near the front, and I tried to move up as best I could. But, so does every other rider. 10km gone and near the bottom of a tricky descent there’s a crash, bikes and bodies everywhere, possibly 20 – 30 riders down, and some of them look bad. There’s one in particular that looks like he’s slid down the storm drain, covered from top to toe in mud. There’s shouts of “bon courage” as we pick our way through.
Up ahead I can see a split in the field. That’ll do, I spend some energy to move up. We’re climbing now, a lot, there’s riders coming backwards, riders going forwards as the climbs bite. There’s even some riders from the crash, bloodied and muddied, but back in the action. I’m near the front of the second group on the road, there’s a long long way to go. Things seem to be settling down a bit now, we’ve been riding for 40 minutes.
The kilomtres fly past, the pace remains high, there’s no shortage of workers, and glancing over my shoulder I see there’s no shortage of sitters on either. After a while I start to recognise the riders that like to climb, and the ones that like to descend (like nutters). In what seems like no time at all we’re on the climb to Bursac, the half-way point. I’m expecting a bottle from Carla at the top so I stay right near the front. The climbs are long, but not steep, and I’m enjoying them!!!
Dependable as ever, my lover is waiting for me at a perfect place. I take a bottle and some encouragement. Over the top, we race down towards Silord the village of Andre Dufraisse, as we enter the village there are placards, one for each year of Andre Dufraisse’s reign as world champion, or French champion. It’s an impressive display. There’s crowds in the village to cheer us on.
After Chateauponsac now, and we are on our way home, there’s some tired legs, and still some big hills to climb. The final big climb after Compreignac is a tough one. I’m in a group of 7 as we yo-yo back and forth false flat after false flat.
A long fast descent then a sliky smooth rollercoaster, someone flicks a switch and we tap through like pro’s. The last 30 kilometres seem effortless as we float along. A motorcycle outrider clears traffic for us as we race into the outskirts of Limoges, he is brilliant. Into the “Arrive” at Panazol we sprint for the line 🙂 what a day!!!
Statistically, I was 62nd rider home, 5th in category. I’d ridden the 155km (with 2287metres of climbing) in 04:43:59:06 with an average speed of 32.748kph.
My S-Works Roubaix had performed faultlessly, a great bike for the job. I’d got through 3 * 500ml bottles containing High 5, and eaten 1 bannana and half a jam sandwich. Oh and half a small bottle of plain water that had been handed up at a water station.
The Repas at the “Arrive” was excellent. Food always tastes better when you’ve earned it, and to top off the perfect day I met Andre Dufraisse in person. He might be a very old man now, but he’s been there, done that!