It’s been a slightly insane day. I’ll work backwards. I’ve just finished watching the Tour and I am more than slightly overwhelmed by Bradley Wiggins’ Time Trial performance. I was also left gobsmacked by his amazing interview in French where he compared Francois Hollande to a chap from Big Brother. Apparently he’d promised to breakdance with Hollande if he won Le Tour.
La maillot jaune Bradley Wiggins s’est gentiment moqué d’un journaliste qui lui indiquait la présence du président de la République, François Hollande, à l’arrivée de l’étape à Brive, vendredi.
“Ah bon ? C’était lui ? Je ne savais pas qui c’était, je croyais que c’était quelqu’un de Loft Story…... Il est où maintenant pour que je fasse du break dance avec lui ? Vive la France ! a-t-il souri.
Whilst Britain’s latest national hero was scorching his way to history across the baked tarmac of Bonneval, I was involved in stage race in South Wales. It started off with a team time trial, then a 53 mile hilly road stage. I love team trials. They are beautiful. Tomorrow is a 45 mile very hilly road stage. I’m riding for Strada Cycles Road Team, even though there is a BSCC outfit in the race. It’s a long story, but all’s fine and i haven’t yet been banished into the outer regions of the Severn Road Club for my rank turncoatery.
The plan was (John has lots of plans, this much i learnt today) to try and take the yellow jersey in the TTT and then defend it in the road race stage. John’s plan kind of worked, insofar as NOTHING went according to plan, but we managed to take the yellow jersey and defended it (in the loosest sense of the word) in the road race stage.
The TTT was about 7.3 miles. We managed 16.20. I’m not sure what the average speed was. I do know that at the turn John went the wrong way and had to do a complicated volte-face to get back and then we sat up a bit whilst he buried himself to make up the 50 metres. It was quite entertaining. We still managed to beat the next best team by 27 seconds which gave us a decent cushion for the road stage, especially considering the 20 second time bonus on one of the primes. Which brings me on to the road stage…
There was a prime at 3 miles. Immediately after this a break got away and we were left with chasing duties. I spent about ten miles on the front with Matt trying to get it back and it really hurt, and in short, it destroyed me. I started going backwards on the climbs. This happens to often to me in road races, i’ve yet to figure out why or how, it’s another post i suspect, with lots of navel-gazing and speculative nonsense, but i imagine it will throw up the incisive insight that a hillclimb is a time trial. I am good at time trials. A climb in a road race is not a hillclimb. I am not particularly good at road races. QED.
At one point we were working to chase down the break, doing a lot of through and off and really driving the pace. Whilst this hurt a lot, and i found the gaps getting steadily bigger, it was also a highlight of the race. As the wind changed direction the movement of the paceline switched and we changed on the inside. It was fascinating.
I started to yoyo off the back. It’s really hard. You can only get back on so many times. Whenever there’s a lull you plead for respite, but it soon picks up again. Eventually, after about 45 miles, and 8 miles from the finish, the elastic snapped. This wasn’t altogether unexpected, i had a feeling my endurance would let me down due to the lack of training. It’s a bum deal, but as i mentioned previously, the twin alignments of work and weather scuppered my build-up. I waved goodbye to the bunch, metaphorically, and locked into a battle for survival just to make it up the last 8 miles.
There was one chastening section; the race heads out to roundabout and then back up to the finish. I had to witness the break heading back. It was the cycling equivalent of the walk of shame. In the end, John held onto the jersey by ONE SECOND. This is great news. It’s also awful news because it means we have to go out and do the whole thing again. The only silver lining is i’m about 2 hours down on the GC so everyone will leave me alone. I don’t think my legs will be in attendance. I don’t like to compare myself to Jens Voigt, but i felt a certain empathy with his latest utterly genius pronouncement about the Tour. I don’t like to compare a 53 mile road race stage and 7 mile time trial around Cowbridge with 3000km through France either, but what the hell.
Every cell of my body was screaming at me: ‘Stop, stop, I’m tired.’ I could hear them all, millions of little cells yelling in agony: ‘Jens, stop, I can’t do it anymore!’