Alice Cobb reports from her latest adventures in France with our partner team, Languedoc Roussillon.
Another weekend, another race but rather than a ‘training’ race this one had been earmarked in the calendar as the season ‘opener’ and so the eve of the race was characterised by much apprehension. (Another French phrase learnt – je suis nervoux!)
160 riders from across France – representing their respective regions – descended on the Alpine town of Chamberry for the inaugural round of the French Cup. Despite being enclosed in a scenic panorama of large mountains passes, the course itself was relatively flat: 12 laps of 8km, centred on an industrial estate. The only climb – a 600m relatively fast ascent.
My main aim (I imagine the same as the other 159 riders) was to stay near the front to be on the right side of any splits. Ironically it transpired that I would be the split! On the second lap I found myself at the front of the peloton and after breathing a sigh of relief that I was where I wanted to be, we hit a small rise. I’d be lying if I said I attacked yet after reaching the top of the rise I noticed I had inadvertently opened a gap. I assumed the peloton would quickly close me down but another 100m later and the gap had grown.
Well, this is a bit silly I thought to myself – so much for conserving matches! Maybe someone will bridge and you can work together? And didn’t the team manager say to be proactive?
5 minutes later. Someone will bridge, they’ll bridge…
10 minutes later. ‘quarante secondes’ was shouted at me from a motorbike. Right so this is getting a bit interesting. 15 minutes later. ‘Une minute.’ Ok, you’ve gone and set the matchbox alight so let’s treat it like a time trial to lap 4 and claim the first QOM points.
30 minutes later. ‘Une minutes trente.’ Keep focused – get aero: elbows in, stay low.
An hour later. ‘deux minutes’. Well this is unexpected. Halfway. Let’s make it to lap 8 and the second QOM. Keep aero, keep pushing.
Lap 8. Well at least the crowds are getting behind the crazy little Anglais rider. Maybe. Just maybe.
Lap 9. 15km left. Is this hill getting steeper? Ignore that: keep going, keep pushing. Less than a 10 mile TT to go.
Lap 10. This hill has definitely got steeper. And possibly longer? Keep pushing over the top and into the wind now, the peloton will be sitting up in this section. I hope.
Lap 11. ‘Une minute.’ Come on Alice – focus. There’s still a chance. Ignore the pain. Just keep pushing. The quicker you go the sooner it’ll be over.
Lap 12. 25 seconds. Oh oo you have 5 seconds a mile. One last push. Channel your inner Cancellara. Come on!
10 seconds. Don’t look back.
3km to go and my solo adventure was over.
As the remainder of the peloton swarmed around me I tried to maintain a good position for the final climb to the finish. However with each pedal stroke my legs were tying up. The dwindling flame of my final match had extinguished. As we hit the bottom of the climb I tried to give it one last dig. But 82km alone in the wind had taken its toll and I struggled to even raise myself out of the saddle.
I kept fighting but unfortunately slipped back to 38th. Crossing the line exhausted and disappointed. 24 hours later and I can appraise the race in a more objective manner. I’d won the queen of the mountain competition and clearly my legs are in fairly good shape. At one point my lead had stretched to almost 3 minutes which is something to be positive about.
‘What ifs’ and speculative counterfactuals are irrelevant somewhat; I gave it everything so I really I shouldn’t have any regrets
A special mention of thanks to Chris and Einat for all there help this weekend. I’d also like to wish, Laura, my Languedoc teammate – who was involved in a very nasty crash – a speedy recovery too.