Monday, 9 March 2015

Manche Atlantique

This race was supposed to be for me. Not perfect, but a lot better than all the other races I've done so far this year. Firstly it was a stunning 17 degrees with no clouds at all. Just lovely! I even got a tan on my arms, legs and as a quick glance in the mirror showed me that evening, my face too had a light shade of red. And secondly there was a tough climb on the finishing circuit just over a kilometer long, which we had to cover 6 times. 
So I was a bit nervous the day before and on the drive to the start, but was hoping it would be a good day. 

After being badly placed in the beginning I quickly made my way to the front through the 200 riders that were on the start line today. 
A small group of 6 went off the front early and although we had no one in it (we tried sending someone across for a while) we didn't chase it down at first. 

The gap went up to 4 minutes very quickly and BIC sent some riders to work. We joined in, letting two riders work and the rest sit behind, well placed and protected. 
We did have to fight a lot to keep our place at the front though, but I was very happy how we managed to do it. Even more so I was happy how I managed to stay with my teammates and not get pushed out to end up at the back again. 
It saved us a few times from crashes and behind us it was a big mess fighting for position. I was glad to be part of such a solid unit. 

As we came onto the circuit the first time, I crested the climb in the first 15 riders and wasn't feeling bad. So maybe it would be a good day for me. 

But the climb was followed by a hectic downhill on which the riders seemed to have lost their minds. Everyone was taking crazy risks and after I almost hit the deck in a corner twice, I found myself towards the back of a smaller group (still way too many riders though). 

The second time up the hill I soon went to the front again and tried to close down 5 riders that just attacked, but wasn't able to do so. It was somehow too fast for me. Many riders passed me, but I was still in the first group coming over the climb. Any attempts of improving my position afterwards failed miserably. 

Then I spotted a teammate and steered towards him in the hope we can help each other getting to the front again. Bad move, he crashed in the next corner and I almost went down with him. I came to a complete stop and was out of the group very quickly. No problem though as the cars were still behind me, but it was on a section that was mostly uphill and it was hard coming back. 

I returned just before the right hand turn onto the finishing climb and was obviously completely at the back now. Less than ideal! I slowly made my way to the front through dropping riders, but halfway up the climb I realized that somehow I had run out of gas and the others were pulling away from me. I went deep to stay in the wheels, but it was all for naught. Out the back with 3 laps to go. It was a huge disappointment! I had hoped I could show some good form on the climb (and so did my team), but I just couldn't follow. 

A few riders who had dropped with me kept a fairly good pace for the remaining three laps and we finished together, a long way down on the winner. 

I can't explain why I dropped. Maybe it was the effort of coming back after the crash and being badly placed? Maybe I'm still a little tired from the Plages Vendéennes and the hard training this week (I didn't feel tired though)? Maybe the climb was just too short for me, thus favouring the puncheurs, leaving me as a rider who doesn't have too much explosive power biting the dust? I don't know. I'm just disappointed. 

Course wise it was a nice race though and I also enjoyed the thousands of spectators on the final climb. Amazing how Brittany loves cycling! It was a special ambiance.

Next week we will have the double of Trophée Louison Bobet on Saturday and Nantes Segré on Sunday. 

Here's a video to give you an impression of the spectators on the climb (scroll to 4:40 or later):

Team presentation

Les bleus on the front

Going backwards

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