Alice Cobb reports from France:
On Sunday I headed to the small coastal town of Narbone to participate in the all-category GP Cycliste d’Armissan. The 10 lap, 100km, race featuring a 2km climb would prove to be a good test of the legs a week before my first French Cup.
140 riders – the vast majority junior boys – took to the start line and after a brief neutralised section through a narrow French village the flag was dropped roughly 400m from the bottom of the climb. As the peloton charged up the ascent my main focus was on maintaining contact with the leaders – just a few minutes into the race this is where it would be decided.
The pace was intense and as I pushed hard over the top I made it into the second group on the road; around 30 riders just ahead, some 30 male riders in my group and the remainder of the field scattered further down the climb.
Following a brief and quick descent, the next section of note was a 5 minute stretch of horrendous cross winds. The coastal nature providing gusts of up to 60kmph and forcing the group into echelons. Not only did I have to contend with fighting for a wheel, the task of trying to keep Trek rubber side down also proved a challenge!
A brief moment a respite came as we looped back round to the starting village and headed onto to the 2nd lap and the climb once more.
The unrelenting course proved attritional and the number of riders remaining dwindled lap by lap. Every ascent of the climb lost more riders and every traverse of the crosswind section saw more shelled.
By lap 6 the race had taken it’s toll and riders behind were being pulled. I too was beginning to feel the effects of the fast start however I was determined not to be dropped. More climbing, more wind and eventually – accompanied by much relief – the bell sounded for the final lap and 10km later I crossed the line.
Of the 140 starters only around 50 riders made the full distant. I came in around 30th place and the only women to have finished. Racing with junior boys and men meant it was by far the hardest race I’ve done with a normalised power of around 4w/kg for 3hrs. Nevertheless, despite the pain, it was a great start to my French racing campaign.