Training, Racing and Le Tour - Glad to be back! (Darragh Is Back In France and Back On Form) From reading my last post you will remember how I became severely dehydrated and DNF'd in my first race back here in France. I've since recovered and bounced back. My training has been going consistently well and weather has been a big treat of late; not too hot just perfect!
At the moment I am currently relaxing in the apartment. I have it all to myself until Sunday evening when Sean gets back from his stage race and then Stelios the Greek arrives on Monday! It's great when you get to chill out and have nothing or noone to to worry about. Don't get me wrong the lads are great but we all love a bit of ''me'' time now and again.
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Next up on my race calendar was a 2 day stage race; Tour du Bourbonnais Charolais. This was 2 road stages plus a TT. My preparation for the race had been good and I was looking forward to it. The club was sending a 5man team (3 seniors and 2 juniors). Sean had been sick on Thursday night and was dead to the world all day Friday. He was our guy for GC and his race was in doubt.
It was an early 4:30 am start for me we were to be on the road for 5:50. When we met in car park we learned that Nico (one of the 3 seniors) had been hit by a car in a TT the night before. He destroyed ligaments in his knee (I think) and his season looks like it has ended prematurely. So heading to the race we had 3 fit riders and Sean hoping to get through the day and be well enough to be competitive on the final day.
After the 3 hour drive and Lunch it was then time for the team presentation and start. With Sean sick we had no GC rider so we turned to the points jersey as we had to good sprinters in Xavier and myself. The two of us worked well in the opening part of the stage trying to keep it all together and take the 1st sprint points as they came after just 14kms. Everything was going well. I drove it for 7kms and opened the sprint for Xavier and he took the 3 of 5 points as 1 rider was just ahead of the peloton.
Meanwhile I was riding well. I had relatively good legs and I was climbing well. There wese no less than 6 KoM sprints so in total it gave us almost 1800meters of climbing. It's no Tour de France but it's a descent amount of climbing! A break of 11 riders had established itself mid-way through the 128km stage and it built up a solid lead and wasn't brought back. After the penultimate KOM sprint a 5km climb I was happy to find myself still in front group as the peloton had splintered. There were bodies everywhere! On the final KoM I struggled; another long climb (6km or so) I managed to stay in the group but a group of 8 had gone ahead and took a handful of seconds out of us. I won the sprint from the group and finished 20th @2:35. I satisfied with my form, not ecstatic with the result but it was what it was. Sean struggled through the stage, he had taken a massive kicking from the bug but he finished. Paul the other junior finished some minutes after my group and Xavier didn't finish. So were a 3 man team heading into the TT and the final stage.
It was another early start with breakfast at 6.45 and then set up for the TT. I learned that Sean had abandoned to recover for an international race he left for today. So now we were 2. I was off at 10:15. The previous day took a lot out of me with the long travel, tough stage and heat. I rode the 17km hilly TT at what felt like steady hard. I couldn't find my rythm and just suffered to a dismal 51st place, losing 3mins or so and dropping 11 places on GC to 31st.
After lunch it was the final stage. A 97km slog of an undulating course. Team orders were to alternate attacks between Paul and I and be in all the moves for the 1st 50kms. We were now aiming for a stage win. From the get go I was in the moves and starting them. No sign of Paul. I was doing it on my own. I attacked on the 1st KoM of the day a 3rd cat climb and got away with a handful of others. A few more got across on the descent but the group was now too big for a cohesive effort and so it was foiled. A counter move got away and I wasn't in it. It was so frustrating! After 45mins or so I started to get stomach cramps but they were manageable. I struggled on but was no longer comfortable! I put in an attack on spent some time dangling off the front but I knew I couldn't last it. I dropped back into the bunch and was just riding. My legs felt great but I was now dropped over my bars in agony! I was really suffering! I was dropped on the 2nd last time on the 17km finishing circuit and then dropped from the groupetto. I have never felt so good yet so bad. It was a shitstorm of emotions. I jacked it on on the start of the final lap. I could hardly walk with the pain in my stomach.
I was a disappointed with the outcome but the fact that my form is good gave me reason not to be too dishearetned about it all. Next up was "Le Tour de France".
I met Oran my DS at 7am the next morning. It was another early start but I wasn't too bothered as I was off to watch the spectacle that is the ''Tour''. We drove to Arc-et-Senans the start town to the 9th stage of the Tour. It was a 41km ITT from Arc-et-Senans to Besancon. It was nothing like what I had expected. Yes, it is the biggest bike race in the world but in my mind it was a bike race not the Olympic Games or a Champions League final. How big could it be? Enormous! That's how big. I underestimated the fact that The biggest bike race in the world is in France and they are die hard cycling fanatics. What you see on the T.V is incomparable to how big it actually is!
We arrived as the publicity caravan was hitting the road, in our VCCMM team car, which surprisingly enough got us a whole lot of access. We pulled in to some traffic and low and behold the likes of the Movistar and Rabobank team busses behind us in the traffic. Yes behind us! I was getting excited and Oran nervous. He didn't want to get in trouble. We pulled into the VIP Carpark and walked into the arena. It was 9am; the first rider Tyler Farrar was off at 9:40 and already thousands of fans had gathered around the start ramp and surrounding areas while we made our way to where the teams set up camp for warming up. It was amazing! Yes it was the same thing as what we saw when we visited the "Tour du Romandie" in Switzerland the riders and equipment but the atmosphere was electric! As we walked around the area I noticed all the different accents from around the world and just absorbed it all in. I could go on forever about it, but I won't. This post has gone on for long enough.
This day will live long in my memory; ''My first Tour de France''.
In search Of Something I am 19 years old and I aspire to one day become a professional cyclist. I will spend the 2012 season racing in France with Vélo Club des Cantons de Morteau-Montbenoit (VCCMM).Click Here For My Blog