The race however was a bit strange, no one really seemed to commit on the 87km stretch that lead to the final circuit (9x8.3km) and although the bunch could've been split on numerous occasions in the crosswind or on short punchy climbs, it all stayed well together. Only after a 500m wall (that's less than 20 minutes away from where I live) a 3 man group got away and we were happy to let it go since we had a rider in it.
Still the pack was quite nervous and I made surely stayed upfront with the rest of the team, which seemed a lot easier to manage than at the Plages Vendéennes. Not sure if that is because I'm improving or because it WAS easier.
When we came onto the circuit for the first time, things changed. The roads were twisty, narrow and with lots of road furniture like they always are and we had crosswind on most sections. We hammered it on the front for the first lap to drop a few guys; not sure if it helped, I never looked back.
On the second lap I was a bit further back (around 25th position) when we came to the crucial point and unfortunately when the group was stretched out completely going at around 55km/h, the guy in front of me decided to drop himself on the ground. Wait that doesn't sound right; let me explain.
The road was wet from the constant drizzle that came down on us since we hit the circuits and the road on the left was a bit off-camber towards the edge. Due to the side-wind the peloton was all lined up neatly on said edge, trying to still get as much protection from the wind as possible. When the poor guy in front of me stood up to accelerate, his backwheel slid off the slick road and his bike was suddenly sideways. Luckily I saw what was happening soon enough and swerved across the road to avoid him. At first I thought he would slide off the road on the left, giving me plenty of space to pass, however he tried to correct his mistake, flinging his bike all across the road to the right. I still managed to pass.
Now I had a problem though. The pack ahead was still in full flight and obviously now there was a gap between me and them. I dared to take a quick glance over my shoulder, seeing that it was it chaos back there and no one anywhere close. I panicked and put in a big effort to get back to the group.
For a while I thought this was the split, the others won't come back anymore and was glad I made the effort, but soon after the group sat up for an entire lap and it all came back together.
The reason for the easing-up was three riders of the 3 strongest teams in the race went off the front, leaving no one to chase. We had a rider there too so we weren't going to chase either.
From there on it went downhill for me. I was suddenly really tired, had no punch left in the legs and was left at the back of the pack because I couldn't focus anymore. A few times I got dropped in the crosswinds, but the group that got dropped with me was always big and we always made it back.
With 2 laps to go I managed to wriggle my way through to the front again and sat in the wind for a while, protecting our sprinters from the wind and making it easier for them to stay near the front.
1 lap to go I got swept by a hungry pack and got spit out the back with 5 km to go.
The three man break stuck and unfortunately our guy was stuck with 2 sprinters, leaving him to finish third. A good result nonetheless.
Although my progress of staying in front at many crucial points was notable, I was still unhappy about how everything went from good to bad so soon and I lost my legs in that one little effort. Might be that the legs were still tired from the hard racing the week before, but I don't know for sure.
Next week is a tough one. Manche Atlantique. Tough competition, tough circuit. Let's hope I find my legs (and head) before then.