Euro Beat w/ Spencer

I am nearing the end of the first part of my stay here in France as my focus intensifies on the Canadian National Road Cycling Championships in St. George-de-Beauce, Quebec. Lately I have had the time for some specific training directed at the National Championships and I feel both my form and confidence building to where I want them to be. This past week also marked my return to racing after two weeks of structured training.

The week was a rather tame one leading up to the race on Sunday. Bartosz was at the five day Tour du Nivernais Morvan leaving the house quiet. Gone were the strange events of the week before such as encountering herds of cattle on the road going both the same and opposite direction as me while I trained. This tranquility felt refreshing, however, and made sure I was well rested leading up to the weekend.

Sunday’s race was another 2-3-junior race rather close by, but featured a unique course with a circuit and a climb of both substantial length and grade. Of the 7 km loop, the hill covered 2 km with grades of up to 10 %. Creusot was represented by a mere 4 riders as most of the young riders were preparing for their final examinations (in France’s equivalent of High School and I believe further levels of education as well). We lined up to total 70 racers at the line and were soon off. In the first lap I led the pack up the climb wanting to both test my legs and see where everyone else was at. It felt great and I looked in my mind to stand as one of the strongest. I made sure I held a good position throughout the race and kept a close eye on the favourites I knew from previous races. After about a third of the race, I began to feel increasingly more uncomfortable. In my preparation for the race I had miscalculated the time and ate too close to the start. A substantial break rolled off the front at this point, though with no favourites in it and two teammates there, I decided to let it go. When the break started to gain ground quickly, the peloton opened its eyes and people either attempted to bridge or put in an effort to chase. In response to a bridge effort, I attacked and put in a large effort to bring back the riders. The effort brought me close to vomiting as I have in the past, but this time it was the food encouraging it. I was left with stomach acid in the throat and the chase was put on hold. The race continued and the bridge efforts made contact with the lead break, bringing the group to about 20. The gap grew substantially with no-one in the peloton wanting to chase their teammates down. During this time I witnessed a fight between two riders I know. I am not sure of the preceding incident, but one threw his bottle at another and in response the other elbowed the instigator while we were descending. It was interesting to watch as after the incident, riders of each team would chase each other down to prove a point. As the race entered the latter portion, I found myself with lots of energy and becoming frustrated with the increasingly tame race. So, on the approach to the start/finish one lap, I noticed the wave of a flag marking a prime, and took off. I set a tying or new record in maximum power in the following sprint and took the prime winning 5 euros! After this effort, the race grew even tamer, to the point of boredom. When we started riding 30 km/h and my heart rate was less than 150 beats per minute, I knew I had to do something as it was ridiculous. At this point we were over 5 minutes behind the breakaway and nobody in the peloton was taking the race seriously. I knew I needed and wanted more effort at least for training, constantly with the National Championships in the back of my mind. So I went to the front and brought the pace up to a reasonable speed. I spent the entire last lap pulling with a friend of mine from SCO Dijon. When it came to the final hill, I put in a big effort and intentionally or unintentionally separated myself and three others from the pack. I held this right to the line where I was caught in the sprint.

This upcoming weekend will be my last race in France before I return to Quebec for the National Championships. I am travelling to the Dordonge region in the Southwest for the Tour de Cantons de Mareuil et Verteillac. It is a Federale Espoir stage race and will prove to be fast with many big teams attending. Teams of note are USA National Espoirs, Vendee U (Bouygues Telecom feeder team), Vienne Agritrubel (Agritrubel feeder team) as well as many other top ranked French amateur teams. It will prove to exciting and challenging.

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