Paris-Camembert UCI 1.1
Paris-Camembert went a little bit better than Route Adelie de Vitre. Although we didn’t come away with our body weight in cheese (the prize for first place?!) I managed to make it around with the front group, and Sam Spokes managed a pretty solid performance with 12th. Surprisingly, the day started under blue skies and warmer conditions again with 10km of neutral before the start of the 200km stage. It was a long day already; why not add an extra 10km of neutral?
It turns out the 10km neutral section was beneficial to get the body warmed up as the start of this race gave me the first real taste of racing in Europe. The flagged dropped on a nice wide road, but a few km’s later you could barely fit four bikes across. Being so narrow means the bunch gets squeezed into a very long line. Especially if the pace is on and it’s more or less single file, you can quickly find yourself a very long way back. The road was also a bit of a rollercoaster, with some short descents and punchy climbs, making it difficult to move around much …and the pace was fast with guys still trying to form the breakaway.
Narrow roads also means it’s very easy to block the road. Once a few guys go, it’s easy for a few riders who are happy with that combination to line themselves across the front and slow down the pace. Even if you want to be there but you’re sitting five wheels back, it’s pretty hard to get out. Eventually three guys got up the road, and these three guys formed the breakaway of the day.
After the hectic start, the roads widened up again for the majority of the day until we hit the finishing circuits, where the roads became narrow once more and the racing recommenced. Not too much happened in the interim, besides the breakaway getting an advantage of over 11 minutes before Direct Energie got to the front and started to ride again. This is the same team who rode the front at Adelie de Vitre. They are previously known as Team Europcar who race in the Tour de France for those of you who didn’t know. Yep, it’s safe to say they’re bloody strong!
The finishing circuits were slightly different every lap, and I got quite disorientated. Check out my stava ride map to see what I mean! They included some rather short but steep climbs, with some pinches of up to 20%, and averages of >1km of about 7%. Originally, I may have thought it would suit me nicely, and in general it did, but I found myself struggling to hold the wheel of some bigger riders who powered up the Murs.
Towards the last couple of climbs, those who had good legs were trying to attack and get away. Those who were fatigued and starting to cramp quickly started going backwards. I was part of the latter group, but fortunately things came back together over the top before the finishing sprint.
Two guys had managed to stay away from this climb and ended up racing for the overall win. There wasn’t much I could do to help Spokes out in the finish – he was happy following the wheels of other sprinters. If attacks happened before the sprint, it was up to me to try and mark these in case they slipped away up the road, and it would also mean Spokes could save all his energy. He’d already marked a few things himself whilst I was still trying to make my way back into the reduced peloton after the climbs, and once I got there nobody was attacking anymore. So in that regard I felt fairly useless, but overall it was a solid day.
I was pretty happy to be relaxing in our campervan on the transfer back to the hotel. It’s not so big, but it’s got a couple of beds, shower and kitchen area. It’s the best post race transportation vehicle I’ve experienced so far!
It’s been a busy first week here in Europe, with lots of travelling. After only a week, I’ve been through Amsterdam, Belgium, France, and now Spain. After a 5:20am start this morning, I’m currently on my way over to Girona where I’ll be spending a week training in preparation for my next few races. The next one is Brabantse Pijl in Belgium, and then off to Verona, Italy for the Giro del Trentino.
Thanks for reading,