Euro Beat with Spencer

The past weekend I competed in a stage race to the North-East of Dijon called the Tour du Mirabellois. This race really accentuated a big difference between racing in Canada and here. The tactics and racing style in France are something completely different than that of Alberta. Usually one would think of racing here as a higher pace with constant aggression, but apart from that I have found that so much can happen during the race, with so many people who can win, and that it adds a whole new tactical dimension.

Spencer in the break during the Bois de Verne crit

So, the first of three stages at the Tour du Mirabellois starts and before we are even out of town, the road turns unexpectedly up a short steep climb. This came as a shock and by the top a group of about 15 was off the front. Most of the key players had missed this move, but that made the chase easier. As we chased, the aggression diminished, but only slightly. The catch came just after the half-way point and this spurred more aggression although as the race progressed, the temperature as well as the two stages looming on Sunday induced more passivity. In approach to the finish, the focus was on the steep 600 m climb leading to the line. Within 5 km of the finish, the pace mellowed for a moment and approximately 10 riders were ahead. The dominant team which had the most riders, SCO Dijon, would not help in the chase, having two riders off the front. This meant I couldn’t bridge alone without being covered, a format that would frustrate me the following day. So, keeping my composure, I held back until the climb. The climb pretty much shattered the peloton and I found myself working through riders to get closer to the break. At the finish, Creusot took 11th, 13th, 14th and me in 16th. This put me 27 seconds behind the winner from VC La Pomme Marseille, Remi Pompanon.
Sunday morning’s Individual Time Trial was rather short at 11.5 km, but it had some hilly and technical sections to make it quite exciting. After a decent warm-up, I was ready for a good effort. On the course I was surprised to find myself with relatively fresh legs, but also found it very difficult to bring my heart rate up. I settled into a rhythm and pushed increasingly harder. As I neared the finish, however, I was unaware of the distance left (I recently switched my SRM from my TT bike to the road bike) and conserved too much. I made a quick turn and descended down to the line to take the second best time for the moment. I waited at the finish to see my final result which was 5th at 21 seconds. The winner again was Remi Pompanon of VC La Pomme. I was now in 5th place overall at 48 seconds.

The final stage in the afternoon was one that was rather exhausting tactically. From the start a break of 6 went away including my teammate Lionel Joblot, who had crashed in the ITT while holding the fastest split time. I therefore did not chase. SCO Dijon was also watching me as I lay in a position to overtake two of their riders and move onto the podium or be overtaken by another of their riders. The racer in 6th position overall, Jonathan Cessot, held the same time as me and obviously wanted to overtake my position. Just a side note; Cessot is a Junior, but was 6th at this year’s Junior Cyclo-Cross World Championships. It was easy to pick him out as he was wearing the white jersey for best Junior. Throughout the race I would follow him or a few other SCO riders around the peloton, and he watched me like a hawk in return. As this developed, I found it impossible to get off the front, being covered by SCO who would counter-attack each of my efforts. The race continued like this, with none of the top 5 able to move until a 1-2 punch by SCO put Geoffrey Febvray, who was in 3rd overall, up the road. A procession of small groups began to make moves and many of them were successful because they contained riders who were not necessarily dangerous in addition to the lack of a cohesive chase in the peloton. In one of these small groups was my teammate Romain Taricco who was 10th on the GC entering the stage. He was an immediate threat to the green jersey as he had taken sprint points in the first day, so this inspired the team of the green jersey to chase, although this too lacked cohesion. So, the peloton sat back as these groups went off the front and put time on the top GC contenders. The front groups soon joined to form a large group of around 20 and that made it much easier for them to stay away. Towards the end of the race, when it was very obvious we would our GC spots to the break, a handful of us began to put in a hard chase. Essentially, the chase was SCO Dijon and I, and we ramped up the pace within the last 10 km of the race. The finish was on a small descent right after a big bend in the road. It felt rather sketchy towards in the approach to the line, but the sprint itself was fine. My teammates Romain and Lionel finished respectfully 2nd and 4th in the stage when the break group blew apart. I finished safely in the middle of the peloton. The overall situation did change quite drastically, with Geoffrey Febvray winning, Romain 2nd and Lionel 3rd. I was the next Creusotin at 13th.
I once again tried a different approach to this weekly log. I chose to focus more on the tactics of the racing, but as it relates to my situation.

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