La Limousine Andre Dufraisse 2008

The “La Limousine Andre Dufraisse“, remember when I did it last year? Well I did it again this year. See. but this year I knew what to expect! 🙂

La Limosine 2008

A 155 kilometre French cyclo-sportive, not for the faint-hearted or those of a nervous disposition. 1200 cyclists are sent 4km back from the official start line to a staged “Grand Depart” in the centre of Limoges, 15 minutes is set aside for the riders to cover the 4km back to the real start. This is done by taking 15mins off everyones finish time (hope you’re following this). So if you cover the 4km faster than 15mins you’ve bought yourself some extra time for the 155km. Got it? This explains why the first few kilometres are ridden at such a breakneck speed.

Thanks to Theo and Christian (Le ComitĂ© d’organisation), I’m down near the front wearing number 148. My plan is to stay as near the front as possible and hang on in there. It’s the same plan as a few hundred other riders….

We’re away bang on time at 8am, it’s chilly, but the sky is blue, and the sun is shinning. We’re moving quick, we’re tightly packed, and I’m trying to hold my place. Up through the start at Panazol with hundreds of children cheering, waving balloons and banners. Climbing out of town protected by a fleet of motorbikes. It’s amazing!

Out on to the open roads now, and the first climb of the day, the 2.3kms up to Maison Brulee. We don’t slow down. If anything we’re going quicker! I can hear riders breathing hard, some going backwards, I’m OK, I move up a few places. Right now I’m sitting in the top twenty, right where I want to be. I’m comfy, I’m happy…

The kilometres fly by effortlessly. There’s riders attacking, trying to get off the front, I’m still sitting comfy near the front, but not on it. We’re on the 8km climb up to St Goussard now with 60kms behind us. A stylish rider in black is on the front putting the pressure on, it’s tough, but I’m OK, I’m holding my place. Over the top, past the Ravito (food stop), nobody stops.

Downhill now, for kilometer after kilometer, winding down across the hillsides, a sweeping rollercoaster ride. It’s cold in the shade, my hands are cold, and we’re going so fast that even in the sunny sections I don’t feel warm. I find myself slipping back a few places here, and a few places there. I’m not feeling good. I resolve to do another half-hour and then see how I feel.

At last, we’re working again, i’ve warmed up, and we’re on the climb at Maillofargueix. Now it’s tough, someone is putting the boot in. Gaps start to appear. I’m cursing for having allowed myself to fall back, i’m working flat out trying to move forward. A big group go clear, and I ain’t in it! For a few minutes i’m stuck on my own in no mans land, chasing hard, but not gaining. I sit up.

On to Razes, then Silord the home town of Andre Dufraisse. I’m in a group of around twenty riders, we’re chasing, and we’re not that far off, but not every one is working. The lead group is going full-tilt now, and every now and then we come across a rider who’s been shelled out. At Chateauponsac we’re two minutes down, with 50k to go, and some big hills to climb over. Past the Ravito without stopping. A motorcycle outrider with a cool bag between his knees comes among up asking if anyone needs water. Great service! As we hit small ramps I’m seeing tired legs. Some of these riders are suffering.

Through Compreignac then on to the 5km climb to the Sommet de la Cote de Beausoleil. This is a tough one, it’s where I fell apart last year, and I’m dreading it. I move near the front of the group so that if I start to lose ground I might still be in contact by the time we reach the top. The climb starts to bite, and you know what? I’m feeling good! Yes, it’s hard, but I’m pushing on, right at the front of the group. There’s riders going off the back, and by the time we reach the top we’re down to about 15 riders.

With the last big climb behind us we push on. I do a quick check around the group to see how many riders are in the same category as me (G cat = 50-54yrs). There’s three of us, one looks shot, but the other one looks strong, I remember him from last year. He thinks that there’s only one G rider up in front so we’re riding for 2nd on the podium. I know he’d like to beat me.

On the run in to Limoges with 10kms to go. We’re flying along. I’m thinking about how I’m gonna play my cards. Everytime I make a move my G cat buddy is there watching me. Inside the last 5kms. There’s D cat riders fighting it out, attacks thick and fast. I stay as close to the action as I can. A gutsy courageous rider from the Nieul club (Stephane) takes it on again and again. Counter attacks come from a couple of Dutch riders. On the short climb at Le Palais sur Vienne, Stephane takes it on again, stinging, stringing us out.

Into an almost dead stop turn with 150metres to the line. I go in in about 5th. Out of the saddle, sprinting hard, trying to be wide, I get past three, into the finish, we’re done. My G cat buddy is behind me.

29th rider home, 3rd G category rider home, in 04:26:45 (turns out there were two in the first group). Average speed for the 157kms with 2287metres of climbing was 35.314 kph.

la limosine 2008 podium

The Repas was fabulous, I drank far too much red wine, and by the time my tired legs carried me onto the podium to collect my trophy I wanted to say…..”Thanks to everyone for a totally brilliant day out. To the organisers, all the helpers, everyone… the other riders for their camaraderie…to all the spectators who’d cheered us along the way… to the motorcycle riders who’d looked after us and kept us safe…. just everyone….Merci Beaucoup – J’espère rouler avec vous l’annĂ©e prochaine a La Limousine Andre Dufraisse 2009″.

la limosine 2008 trophy

L’Ecureuil – La Souterraine

Got a shirt and a trophy.Did the “Squirrel” cyclo-sportive last weekend up in the Creuse. That’s 160kms in 4hrs 38mins at an average speed of 34.5 kph which was good enough to get me home in 49th position, 3rd in category. It was a fantastic event with around 1500 riders starting altogether. The pace was frantic for the first 30k then it was fast!!!

The early 08:15 start meant being on the start line well before 8. The sun wasn’t up, and in the shadows it was very chilly, but the forecast was for a warm sunny day. As we queued up to get into starting pens the smell of embrocation, faltulent bike riders, and the adjacent farmyard mixed to give a heady odour. My number 468 put me in pen three (200 per pen), it looked a helluva long way to the front, but a hulluva lot further to the back.

Race numbers are allocated on a first come first served basis, so that means a few dodgy riders could be ahead. Although, those who are switched on enough to get their entries in early are generally gonna be switched on riders I could see one or two that had a look about them. Incidentally ‘me ol’ mate’ Paul Gibson sporting dossard 61 was well toward the front. 🙂

Unlike the La Limousine that I did earlier in the year where the commentator whipped the riders into a frenzy before letting them loose, the Squirrel started in silence. With about 5 mins to go the music and commentary stopped, no anouncement was made, riders were shuffling up filling in spaces, and we were away.

It’s hard trying to move up ‘cos everyone is trying to do it. I’d make a few places here and there, but then I’d loose a few places. The pace was fast, and as we concertina into bends we have to sprint like mad coming out of them. I’ve decided that although we have a long way to go I’m gonna ‘give it loads’ for the first hour to see if I can get to the front.

We hit a few ramps, and some of the big lads go backwards. I’m on the right, I’m on the left, I’m in the middle, I’m even on the grass! this is not a place for the faint-hearted. Slowly making progress, it takes me around 30minutes to work my way up to Paul. My legs are stinging a bit as we start the biggest climb of the day. At first it’s chaos, but as the climb starts to bite gaps start to appear. I reckon that if I don’t make it to the front before the top of the climb I won’t make it to the front.

I’m breathing very hard, the needle’s hit the stop and I’m red lining. It’s hard, and it hurts. But, I’m still moving forward, concentrating hard on holding form. 1km to go to the summit, just a few minutes more, 500m to go, blimey, there’s even a crowd of supporters.

Over the top and away. I’m still not at the front, but I’m tantalising close, I can see them on the road about 30seconds ahead. Hoping that they’re going to be coasting the descent I slap it in the big ring and pedal. I’m not the only one, there’s four of us chasing like mad in a now or never dash to get on before it’s too late. We’re going damn fast, but so are they. As they hit the next climb we scramble onto the back.

Golden rule – when you make it back to the bunch don’t sit on the back, move up as soon as possible. I wonder how fast theyre gonna go on the climb. It’s OK, not to bad at all. Hey, I’m comfy, I move up. There’s the motorbikes. I’ve made it, or at least I think I have. Almost two hours done.

The next two hours are bliss. I have time to eat, drink, and enjoy the fabulous scenery. The warmth of the sun just adds to the pleasure as we bowl along through the beautiful French countryside. In the pretty little villages people cheer us along. We use all the road. There’s no traffic for us. One of the motorcycle outriders even fetches bottles for us. It don’t get much better than this, I feel great. Four hours done.

I’m starting to take note of who’s in our group. We are about thirty strong, and I’m looking to see how many ‘Gs’ there are. That’s how many riders in the same category as me, they’re the ones I need to beat. There’s at least 6. I know the run in to the finish is fairly flat, but I’m thinking we have at least one climb left out of La Celle Dunoise. I’m not wrong.

It’s a tough climb and there’s a few riders putting pressure on. There’s also a few tired legs and gaps appear. A strong looking rider makes a move, I go after him, he’s piling it on, I’m looking for help, 5 of us go clear over the top. I roll through and put in a turn, as do a couple of the others. We have a good gap, I’m the only G, I want this to work, but there’s a lack of commitment. We’re there just off the front. We are caught.

A sign says 6k to go. It’s a big road, we’re going fast, things are getting a bit twitchy. At 3k things are twitchier still. There’s a big roundabout ahead, we’re going left, all hell breaks loose. From riding 10-12 abreast we’re now funneled into a tiny lane hardly wide enough for 5. A little group clip off, I wanna go after them but I can’t get through. There’s much banging of elbows and shouting. 1k to go, we’re in the outskirts of La Souterraine.

I don’t do bunch sprints, but having come this far, and worked this hard to be here, I ain’t backing down. The road widens slightly, and I’m going down the left-hand side. I’m just about on the tarmac, there’s no kerb, there’s lots of potholes, and there’s a few spectators having to jump out of the way. There’s a G a few bike lengths up and I’m gaining, I pass him. A sharp right, and there’s the finish. With my elbows out as far as they’ll go, chewin’ on the handlebars I give my all. It’s madness!

The madness doesn’t end there either, after we’ve crossed the line we’re squeezed into single file by the barriers to get our chip read. There’s riders trying to make a place or two. I find myself doin’ as much shoutin’n’shoving as the rest. As the official reads my chip I relax and thank them. Carla is waiting just a few feet away with a cold beer!!!

It turns out that I never made it to the front after all. Turns out there was another group of around twenty who I never saw. The winning G was in that group. Frustratingly the second place G has the same finish time as me. I never saw him. So I’m third G, 49th overall.

The Repas (post race meal) is excellent, and as usual there’s wine. An excellent day in the saddle, I’m tired but happy, slightly drunk on wine, I feel great. It don’t get much better than this. How did Paul get on? Best ask him yourself.