July 10, 2013

Tour des Pays de Savoie 2.2

I left off my last post with my bid to be Antwerpen Prov. Champion and since then life has been non stop. It will take a couple instalments to get it all out. Less than a week after my race in Herselt I hopped on a flight to Switzerland  and from there we met up with our team vehicles and staff who drove us the remaining hour to our hotel in the midst of a beautiful, and nearly deserted, ski chalet town atop a mountain. I knew I was into it when I got a good look at all the profiles of the stages at our first team meeting. A minimum of 3 climbs on each of the 4 days average length of 7km, some getting up to 20km. My job from the start was to do all I could to help our team leader Louis Vervake in any way I could. Pretty much the same routine everyday. Wake up, pray to baby jesus that I don't die, get on my bike, suffer, hope I'm in the time cut, sleep. On day 1 I was active early but missed the small group that got away, thankfully Dimitri from our team made it. The first climb was a steep mother and the peleton shattered I was pretty far back at the top but made it into the second group on the road with my death wish/reckless abandon approach at descending.

Once in a group big enough, that wasn't going uphill, I was feeling strong and contributed to the chase back to the leaders. Soon enough however a pro team from the UK took over the chase and we were on our way back and I was just relaxed in the wheels. Then for the 100,000,000 (more realistically 7th) time this year I flatted in a race. I rode about 10 km on this flat thinking where is the next  group and the broom wagon? They caught me eventually and the broom wagon was gesturing for me to get in, I was like "no way, give me a wheel please sir!" (just I was way more nasty and cuss'd and in quebecois). Thankfully during this exchange an unmarked van pulled up and put a wheel in my bike, it was a parent of one of my teammates there to follow the race, I guess I do have some luck. I used my frustrated energy to catch the group that was about a minute ahead and I got to enjoy my first real groupetto experience. I already had a teammate there and not many others were giving much help. We rode up the 10km wall to the finish and we all made the time cut.


The next day I was happy to make it over the first climb with relative ease. In the groupo compacto heading to the last climb my teammate Stef and I took our climbers to the front and led them out for the last few km's. I was totally cramped and even had to stop for a stretch but somehow managed to make the finish in time.

By day 3 I knew the drill and what to expect of myself. I relaxed and didn't put too much effort into getting into the break. After the 2nd climb though I was feeling so good I tried to roll away on the descent and it worked. 4 riders bridged up to me and then we dropped 2 of them on the next climb and the 3 of us rolled together and got pretty close to what we thought was the lead group but we didn't know was that the lead group had split long ago and we were actually catching up to the 2nd group on the road. After 50km like this the dream ended and the peleton caught us. I went back to domestique duties and did a little bit of bonked pacing to the finish as well as getting bottles from the cars of rival teams as our car was still up the road with Dimitri in the break away. Then with 10km before the final climb a spoke on my rear wheel fell out and it was rubbing the brakes really hard. The lotto car was still up the road and this 10 speed wheel I was forced to borrow was not co-operating with my 11speed bike. By the time I got back to the roaring pack our car was back and I changed wheels again. Chasing there and back, there and back, being in a break and doing domestique work all hit me hard and I am sure you know what comes next. I cracked. I cracked super hard on the 12km climb to the finish and even blacked out for a few seconds just after the line. You would think it was some summer students from St.John's ambulance who had come to France for how big of a deal they made it out to be but it was pretty obvious what the problem was. I just kept saying "I'm fine, I'm just not used to racing like this, I just need solid food". It's bike racing, people crack, especially after 7 hours in the saddle in the mountains stop trying to give me and IV bag and put a wet towel on my head. I slept well that night.

bee sting protocol at St.John's
The prospect of finishing the 4th and final day seemed a stretch too far. A hard steep climb right after the neutral zone then 30km of valley before 20km of climbing to the finish. At only 100km of racing the finishers time would be fast and my normal routine of finishing 20minutes back would not be within 25% and I would be OTL. For non-cyclists what that means is that in racing you have to complete the course within 25% of the winner's time or else you are eliminated.  Since we were looking at a 2.5 hour race more than half the peleton was due to be eliminated on the last climb, not making it over the first climb with the leaders would be a death sentence. I was already super fatigued from my efforts of day's before and dropped with many others the moment the road turned up. The majority of us got off in the feed zone but a lot of others held onto team cars and got towed at super high speeds on the flats to make it to the finish. 50 of 120 starters finished the 4 day race but the number would have been more like 40 if you cut out the cheaters. Proud I am not one of them.

King Louis
Louis ended up 4th overall as well as a 3rd and 4th placing's on stages. Only a year older than me he is one to look for in the mountainous WorldTour races in years to come. A gracious guy always quick to thank his team, I don't know if I've ever been so happy to serve someone in my cycling days.

I will write a post about the Canadian Championships in the coming days. I napped on my first day over, breaking the strict 9pm rule of Jet Lag and I have been messed up for a week!  Not fun, soo tired.  

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