Euro Beat w/ Spencer

It has been two weeks now since my last race. The Tour du Beaujolais saw higher level teams turn out for three road stages on roads that wound and climbed through the famous vineyards. The first stage on Saturday started in Villefranche-sur-Saone and after winding up and down the countryside, finished in Villie-Morgon. The race did a neutral start loop through downtown Villefranche that was spectacular and hilarious as riders would crash attempting to ride the wet cobbled sidewalk to gain a more favourable position. The “depart reel” occurred once we left the city and for the first half of the race, a strong tail/crosswind made the race fast and hard. It felt as if the peloton was on the verge of a split many times, but I was able to hold tight to the wheels in front and close all necessary gaps. The wind settled as we rode up the first GPM and my teammates Yanick and Anthony went in a move. They came back after maybe a kilometre, so I launched a counter-attack. I got clear with a few other guys, but the peloton started charging and I soon found myself dangling off the back. As we neared the top, I put in what seemed like a monumental effort to bridge the gap to the next group and was successful. Descending, we watched the peloton so close in front of us, maybe 10-15 seconds, but never managed to get across. I felt strong in the group and over the next two GPMs, helped to blow apart the group. Once again feeling the strongest on the flats, I dropped the group on the small climb to the finish line, albeit, a ways back from the leader.

Sunday held two road stages, a 55 km circuit race in the morning, and a climber’s delight of an afternoon road stage. In the morning, rain started as we made our way up and down the climb on the ~10 km circuit. The course proved more technically challenging than physically with a long, winding descent as well as cobbled sections and corners through old medieval towns. The only breakaway to get away came back quickly as the peloton rode by them scattered all over the wet cobblestones adjacent to a brasserie. This left the race demanding, yet kept everyone together for the most part. My teammate Lionel Joblot made it off the front in a solo effort (he was 14 minutes back in the first stage) after a failed group breakaway attempt and stayed away to the finish. He was 15 seconds ahead of the peloton (where I finished with the rest of the team) and was the only one to get away. It was his second victory of the season after a similar styled win in a crit.

It kept raining into the afternoon as we readied for the hardest stage. It started with a minor climb and I rode with seeming ease at the front as we descended and conquered more minor climbs. At kilometre 10, the invisible curtain dropped as we headed up a 7 km col. I slid back at about the half-way point where it seemed to hit me. At the top, I was in a group behind the shrinking peloton and once again in a position to aid the chase. The group grew as we caught more riders, but that was short-lived as the group separated on the steep second GPM. There were now maybe six of us pushing a decent pace up and down the never-ending hills. We caught a few more riders before the final climb to the line, where the group separated once again. At the finish I was surprised to see how many riders had abandoned due to the toughness of the stage. I finished much better than I had thought. Overall, the race forced exactly half of the field at the start of the first stage to abandon or finish behind time limits. The team itself did well with a stage win and 11th overall for Emilien Broe, and 3rd overall in team GC. It was comical to see Emilien trying to carry all the boxes for the 36 bottles of wine he won for kilometre 69 (department number prime).

After the Tour du Beaujolais, I expected to ride the Tour de Pays de Savoie, but the team list had been sent to the organizers and I was left without a race. While the concept of not racing on the weekend seemed confusing, it actually proved as a good opportunity to do some structured training. The highlight of the weekend was four hours in the light rain (which was more refreshing than anything) and riding up Mt. Saint Vincent, among other climbs, which offered a great view looking down on the clouds. This next weekend will be another without a race (Wow, scary) as it is the regional championships, which I cannot compete in, all over France.

-Spencer

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