Le Etage Un: La Route de France Fonteney le Comte – Cholet 108.2km100k, rollers. From one town to another town.
Race starts. I am lurched into the typical European race. Ah! I forgot what it was like to get roughed up. The roads are narrow. I hear Liza (director) in the radio telling us to move up. “I can see you, Starnes” Shoot. I am in the back. How nice. We start some technical descents and some climbs. The roundabouts are always a mess, and the 25mph through the small town streets are also chaotic. I avoided several crashes as I try to navigate my way to what I thought must be the front of the peloton.
There was a fight. A literal cat fight in the peloton. A girl didn’t like what another girl said to her and they started playing “bumper bikes” with each other. They all but pulled hair. Ridiculous. I try to avoid all contact with those involved.
Racing in France is epic. Great roads. Great crowds. But, the roads are narrow, and when trying to gain position, it is difficult to move up.
I look over at Evie, and yell, “This is bogus. I need to get to the front. Ugh. Bogus.” Famous last words.
I get to the front. Well, almost the front. The peloton slows, ever so slightly. I see a gap open up. I attack. Yes, attack. The girl that was riding on the back the first 20k of the bike race, attacks. Hard. You know how I feel about attacking. Head down, and go.
I start gaining time on the peloton. They look around, ever so briefly. The Police Nationale are following me. The Comminsaire is following me. I am the bike race. Wow. 30s gap. 45s. 55s. 1min. 1:05
I keep pedaling. It gets up to 2:30, then after of about an hour off the front, I get the gap up to 3:05. Wow. I am enjoying blasting though the towns. Hearing, “OOOSA” “American!” “Allez” People are lining the streets. It was amazing.
Columbia HTC and others starts chasing. My gap starts shrinking. Man, I was looking forward to the champagne at the finish. I thought about winning it. I really did. I got caught with 20k to go, and then a felt an all too familiar twinge in my legs. The chills started happening. The shakes. Uh oh. Then, the cramping began. It was all I could do to sit in the peloton. Just sit there. Suddenly the draft felt amazing. I just needed to make to the finish.
We enter the town, 10k to go, but it is on a circuit. We didn’t know this. You have to repeat a 5k circuit. As we roll under the 1k to go, the sprints start. Hands are in the air….then they tell us we have to do another lap. Who knew? That did me in. I had tried so hard to finish with the pack, and that last acceleration did me in. I was cooked. I cramped, and couldn’t stay with the pack. Bummer. I don’t believe it was the fatigue from the break, but probably the humidity. That was a huge disappointment for me.
Lost some time in the last 5k.
When I got done, I was cramped so bad, Liza had to help me off my bike. It was not a pretty sight. Then, they came up to me and told me that I had podiumed. I guess the French decided that I was the “Most Aggressive Rider”, or as they sad Miss Combativity. Is that something like Miss Congeniality? I don’t know, but I was whisked away into the fancy podium RV. Once entering there, I was with the top three riders from the etage, and the best young rider, as well as our overall best rider. There were couches in their, sparkingly water and other such delicacies and refreshments. A couple of plasma screen TVs that showed the podium and what was going on out on the stage. The streets were full of people, and they gave me a huge bouquet of flowers and a trophy.
“Valient effort, American. Better Luck Next Time.” That is my rough translation of what they were saying.
I felt like I was hanging out with the cool kids. I got to be in the air conditioned bus with some incredible champions. They told me I had a great ride, and I deserved all the best. So, the day was a let down for me. Not that I didn’t win the bike race. I don’t regret racing my bike and taking chances, but I just wish I didn’t cramp in the last circuit finish. I lost too much time to be a threat, but now I think I represented well. We are here to race, and you have to put it out there. You don’t always get the results you want, but you gain respect for racing and taking chances.
Moral of the story: Playing it safe doesn’t get you “Miss Combativity”.