Euro Beat with Spencer

Battle of the Echelon

With the time about two weeks ago being plagued by bad luck, there was only room for improvement and that is what this past week felt like. Granted it was not fantastic for training and did not yield great race results, but it proved as a transition period.

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Thursday started with optimism as I felt I was almost completely over my sickness. That optimism faltered a little when on my training ride, if the pace increased, I would seemingly choke on the air, experiencing coughing fits and nasal issues. I did a planned effort which was quite fast, but only aggravated my situation. So I turned around and came home to rest. Friday morning I woke up and to my surprise, I felt fantastic and not at all sick. I did the day’s training without difficulty and sensed a good vibe for the weekend. The next day was strictly race preparation as I have become fanatical about doing every little detail to improve my performance on the bike. A lot of the important things had already been covered, but this involves any little thing I can do to save energy or give myself a mental advantage. During the ride that day I did some efforts and noticed a great deal of power on the flats, but a little more difficulty climbing. This would play a role in the next day’s race.

Sunday’s race was a point-to-point race for Espoirs in the 2nd and 3rd category as well as a few juniors. It started in Dole and finished in Lons-le-Saulnier, both in the Jura region. Despite the category being lower, the race was exceptionally difficult at times with an incredibly strong head/crosswind as well as two climbs of around 6 km. The race started mostly flat and a little protected from the wind, causing the usual continual attacks to begin. About 15-20 km into the race that all changed however as the trees disappeared and a full crosswind hit the peloton. Immediately a single line of riders formed in staggered position down the road, leaving the rest of the peloton chasing in the gutter with little to no protection at all from the wind.

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I was about 5 riders down from the protection of the half-echelon formation and it was difficult, but what was more difficult for me was the riders falling over each other to get a draft. Riders in front and behind me were riding on the dirt or grass off of the shoulder and others were overlapping wheels, coming very close to crashing. I persisted in my spot, overtaking riders who could not hold on and soon the road turned offering brief protection. As I turned around to see how many riders were there, I saw lines of suffering riders far behind trying to re-connect with the peloton. There were roughly 35 riders in the peloton with maybe 45 behind. Many reconnected as the roads turned into the hillier, forested area near the low Alps.

We soon came upon the first long climb and right from the start I was in substantial pain. It did not feel usual as I am normally comfortable climbing with the peloton for much longer. In my first race of the season, I was able to climb with much stronger riders without faltering. Sunday, however, saw me struggling to keep pace as I slowly slid off the back and formed a chase group. It was not too much of a problem because I was able to lead the chase on the flats and catch the peloton without excessive effort. On the second climb I lasted longer, but about half-way up, I found myself off the back again. This time there was no chase group as I had survived longer than my previous allies. It proved difficult riding into that headwind alone and soon I was caught by two others who helped with the chase. This chase took longer and we did receive some help from the Creusot team car, but eventually we caught a larger group and were within reach of the peloton.

At this point the chase turned up a level as we started an uphill false flat into the headwind. We were so close, but everyone who went to the front could not push faster than 18 km/h. So I put in an effort to finally close this gap and brought the pace up to 20 km/h. I dropped the others and after a few minutes in which I gained ground, I nearly blew up. Soon we did catch the peloton and I found myself looking for a chance to attack. There were already riders off the front, but I wanted to leave this group behind. Riders began attacking when the road turned up for a few kilometres but no one chased. A teammate, Romain Tarico, was the first to go and two others made it out without reaction before the chase started. As we approached 5 km to go I realised I did not have enough left in my legs to make the effort I wanted to. So I waited and tried to recover for the finish. The finish was rather sketchy, having a 400 m descent and then a right turn through a traffic circle at 200 m to the line. I was positioned well in 5th place, but carried more momentum into the traffic circle. The rider in front of me had misjudged the corner and almost rode me into the median as he slowed and our wheels overlapped. This forced me back and found myself finishing 23rd.

Recovery was welcomed Monday as I rode slow and enjoyed the rare sunny and windless day. I found some new single lane roads passing cows and creeks and realised for a moment where I was. That doesn’t happen as much anymore, but when it does it is usually the result of something spectacular.

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Training started up again Wednesday with the Creusot group ride. The parcours was mountainous in preparation for the Tour du Jura in occurring in a week. The climbing started with la Coiffe au Diable towards Autun. I was setting the pace from the bottom and was really motivated to prove myself on a hill. I went pushed hard on the front until half-way where I blew up from my effort. The next climb was up le Haut Follin where we rode to Glux. This one I paced myself on and sprinted away at the top despite suffering considerably. We continued our mountain campaign to Uchon. This climb is both feared and loved by the locals. I believe the maximum grade is over 20%. The ride came to a close at a fitting time as the sky opened up on our descent from Uchon. The ride saw an improvement in my ability to go uphill and I plan on continuing to improve this. I have set my sights on the Tour du Jura and will make sure I can fly up the hills by the start.

-Spencer

Read more about Spencer’s adventures in Europe on his blog at http://roadtrackmud.wordpress.com/

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One Response to “Euro Beat with Spencer”

  1. critninja Says:

    …lovin’ the reports from the “trenches” – keep ’em coming!

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