Monday, 30 March 2015

Coupe de France - Gilbert Bousquet

This weekend two races of the Coupe de France took place in Brittany. I only took part in the one on Saturday. The reason for that is a rule of these specific races, allowing only 2 riders per team being over 25 years old or foreigners. We have 4 of those on the team including me. As Saturday was rather difficult and Sunday a bit flatter profile wise, I gave the sprinters a break to be fresh and going for Sunday

Even before the start the wind was blowing incredibly strong and it was announced to get even worse, staying between 45 and 65 km/h. The start was not exactly sunny but far from bad. Although a little rain was announced later in the day I wasn't worried, it wouldn't be that bad. I couldn't have been more wrong. 
The rain came after about 40 km into the race and made it extremely miserable. Add the wind and the pack got very nervous, being blown all across the road trying not to get blown off. The roads weren't exactly clean either, turning the whole race into a mudfest. The problem with that was you couldn't wear glasses because they got all dirty, but without you couldn't see much either as all the dirt and water got into your eyes. I opted to go without glasses and pulled my casquette (cycling cap) as far down as possible, giving my eyes at least a little protection. 

Riders were standing in rows next to the road with mechanicals and just as many were riding next to the road, either missing turns, getting blown off by the wind or getting pushed off by other riders who couldn't keep their bikes straight because of the wind. 
I was one of those that couldn't keep their bike straight. A few times I almost lost control and didn't even care if I was getting dropped in the echelon. My only worry was getting my bike back under control and not getting blown off. 

Strangely I never got dropped although I was at the back of a reduced group of +- 70 riders a few times, after an especially bad gust of wind got hold of me. 

90km into the race things calmed down a bit for me since we had a tailwind now and I could focus again and move up in the group. A bit later a teammate asked me how I felt and I made the big mistake. I told him I didn't feel good and the weather just killed me, which was true at that point, but my legs were still ok. However I didn't realize that because  my mind was telling me I can't make it in these circumstances. So I was asked to work and that I did. 
Not for long though as some other riders that worked with me smashed it up a climb at 800 watts just as we got onto the final circuit so I sandbagged a bit further back. 

On the final circuit it was impossible for me to move up. It was either up or down with some sharp corners in between that were extremely dangerous in the wet. On the uphill I moved up a bit but had wasted too much energy while working to make it completely to the front and otherwise I was just losing positions again. 
It was unfortunate because I didn't feel bad at all on the circuit, normally it should really suit me. But I burned too many matches before. 
I hung on for a lot longer than I expected until the peloton finally broke some riders ahead of me and was left behind with a small group. 
15 kilometers (3 laps before the finish) I abandoned, being freezing cold. 
On the last two laps I passed at least 15 riders standing at the side of the road with mechanicals, it was absolute carnage out there. 

Obviously I wasn't happy. Abandoning is never fun, especially on a circuit that suits you. However I thing the weather just got the better of me and fogged my mind when I decided to work for the team. Lesson learned. Then again watching Gent-Wevelgem afterwards made me feel a bit silly to complain about the weather. 

The next day the wind was even worse and I was glad to be in the teamcar or handing out bottles on the side of the road instead of battling the bad weather. 

Team presentation

Tough conditions, pictures don't do it justice

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