Introducing BikeAlberta’s European Correspondant – Spencer Smitheman!

BikeAlberta is proud to welcome Spencer Smitheman. Spencer hails from the metropolis of Beaumont, just south east of Edmonton and he’s been around the Alberta Bike scene for a number of years, but he’s not as old as you think. Entering his first full on year of Espoir Spencer finds himself racing in Europe. Spencer is here to tell us all about it…

gp-peymeinade.jpgHello. This is the first in a series of weekly diaries I will be doing for Bike Alberta. My name is Spencer Smitheman and I am a first year espoir currently spending the season racing for a team in France. The team is Creusot Cyclisme and is one of 17 Division Nationale 1 (highest amateur level in France) teams.

I have been in France for about two and a half months now. I started the trip in Nice where I trained for a month before meeting up with the new team for a training camp (including races) in Frejus. I have now settled into the town of Le Creusot where the team is based, spending a large majority of my time training and racing.photo-officielle-2008-5.jpg

[Spencer has agreed to let all of us Albertan’s live vicariously through him as he chases his dream while racing in France. Enjoy…]

This past week seemed to see a lack of luck for me. Having a race on the Sunday as opposed to both days of the weekend allowed me to do some more intense and structured training during the week. Wednesday was a group ride other Creusot riders and I also had some intervals which I added to the ride. My roommate, Bartosz Banach (a Polish rider and the only other foreigner on the team) joined me on the intervals, pushing me faster on each effort ahead of the peloton.

The next day was another longer ride with Bartosz to Mont Beauvray. I enjoyed the climbing and being allowed to do some minor efforts in the middle of the week, not to mention the scenery of the Morvan nature park. Friday was when luck slipped a little as I woke up at 4 AM unable to swallow with a painful throat. It rained throughout the day and I was unable to ride, feeling very sick. Saturday I felt a bit better after spending a day resting. It snowed in the morning, but it did not take and by the afternoon I wanted to be on my bike. I dressed with more clothes than necessary, unable to move once I set out riding, and headed off to check out Sunday’s course.

le-creusot-024.jpg

The race was a criterium here in Le Creusot, so I rode around the area where I thought it was to be held and then came back home. The next day I felt even better and thought maybe I could race well regardless of being sick. So, I headed over to the course rather optimistic. The start of the race was cold with the wind blowing in your face. Every Creusot rider was lined up at the front for the spectators and at this point I was freezing. All I could think about was throwing my foot onto the pedal and accelerating away to generate some heat. As the gun went off, four of the racers from Creusot, including me opened a gap on the peloton. It was not a move to get away, but it drew the pack into a line in pursuit at high speeds. We spent a lap and a half toying with the riders chasing before they pulled it fully back together. It did not seem like our strength that was keeping us out front, but more the lack of organisation of the other riders that early in the race. I slid back into the pack to recover from the effort and soon found myself in the last third.

The third lap came around and I was still trying to recover when a teammate a little further ahead fell over. I didn’t see it and I don’t know how he could have done it, especially on a wide and straight road as we were accelerating from a turn, but he just fell over. I slammed on the breaks and looked for an opening, but he slid on his side a full 90 degrees to the direction of the road. Then his bike slid away from him in a similar fashion. So I rode over him as slow as I could manage and then tipped over, sliding on my side. The crash included four riders and all of them were from our team. It was embarrassing and also finished the race for me.

I returned home after talking to the team directors and making a trip to the medical van. Monday was supposed to be a much bigger race for me, an Elite National level race in Vougy, near Roanne. I had to miss this race, however, as I determined I would continue to prolong a full recovery from my sickness if I kept on as usual. I took Tuesday off the bike as well to make sure 100% that I would not do any damage. Bartosz was 6th in the snowy race in Vougy, his best result in an Elite National race. I now prepare for the weekend where I am not quite sure what race I am doing. I felt good enough to ride today and felt fresh on the bike. Hopefully it is a good sign for what is to come.

-Spencer

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5 Responses to “Introducing BikeAlberta’s European Correspondant – Spencer Smitheman!”

  1. Awesome! European race updates from a fellow Albertan. Go for it Spence!

    Great idea BikeAlberta crew.

    CK

  2. Good writing Spence. (And you obviously have lots to write about.) Keep the updates coming. I wish you all the very best this season! Savour the moments!

    Mr. S.

  3. Thanks for all the support. It is appreciated.

  4. Spence,

    Love the updates and the google links to the towns, I love hearing both your adventures and whereabouts.

  5. Mike threw in the google link, but it is a great idea. Thanks. I enjoy writing about them.

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