A trip packed full of racing in preparation for the Junior Tour of Wales. As many of you probably already know how the team got on via the Facebook page I’ll give you some of the behind the scenes information from the cooking stories , ping pong competitions and all round good vibes between the lads.
However my journey to France started on the 19th of July on my Girlfriends family holiday, enjoying the beautiful weather on the beaches, relaxing from a busy period of our lives ( Done with Sixth form and A-Levels) it was great to have this time to reset and create some more amazing memories whilst focusing on my weaknesses in my training on lovely smooth roads in the heat.
My last night with the family was sadly not straightforward at 10 o’clock at night, I received an email saying the train had been cancelled… a brief phone call home seeking some advice in what I should do ? it was left to me to sort out, Luckily It was fairly straight forward and I used my excellent French communication skills to get on all my trains (including my cancelled one…) after my enjoyable train adventure I was able to meet up with Mark and Ann Walsham and wait for the team to arrive at their house. When the lads arrived it was time for a 25 mile spin before tea!
The next part of the trip was a further drive to Montpellier where the heat was kicking off….(Since I’ve been the UK seems to have gone into winter already..)
When we arrived we were faced with this monastery, I think some the lads didn’t know what to make of it but I though it was mega , we had our very own climb to our accommodation! The heat was pretty unbearable at it was still pretty late in the afternoon we got out kit on and headed out for a spin around the lanes. The roads were awesome the scenery was to match also! We took a few minutes going through on off on the bike to loosen the legs before stopping for an ice cold drink.
The following day was the last day of preparation of the trip and junior stage race including 3 stages over 2 days , stage 1 a rolling with a summit finish up to the castle , stage 2 a flat tt and stage 3 in mountainous terrain. However the day before was a chance to recce the tt course and check out fastest lines. An hour of riding round was followed but a dip in the local river, it was nice to chill of the legs and the core body temperature!
Arriving to the Race HQ we were greeted by Helen and David of Eco Team Ne Jetez Plus – Haute Route they kindly set up a gazebo to protect us from the sun whilst we prepared for the stage ahead, Helen and David previously ran a racing team and provided us with a team car and extra bottles for the race which we definitely needed! Before the race started we were treated a pre race meal ( take note UK race organisers)
The race started super fast so positioning at the front was very important incase of splits. It was vital to drink lots during the race so that was a big focus of mine, a little tip from my coach was to pour water on your arms rather than your head to cool you down as the water you pour on your head stays warm in your helmet, it does work so cheers Guy . The first stage went well for the team with Sam getting up the road and finishing 8th and GMK going in the chasing group , I was happy with my finishing effort up the climb but I was out of GC hopes. That evening GMK put together a shrine to give us good luck for the following day see the last picture .
Stage 2 and 3 were a big disappointment for me with 16th in the tt (which certaintly helped bump the team up the team classification and a dnf on stage 3 , my legs and had disappeared and it felt like I riding through treecal , I got dropped on the first climb then got back on through the cars and went out the back again on the climb and got back on again through the cars on the decent and went straight to the front of the bunch to allow my self some slipping room but this did not help and my day was destined to be a short one. A day I did not expect…
The next part of the trip was in the Cantal region which was a series made up of Criteriums , Kermesses’ , Road Races and Nocturnes. Most of the races average around 50 miles with plenty of laps , ( some times only 1km.. ) and usually incorporated a substantial hill. Just like going out training and doing between 50 and 75 hill reps… By these challenging circuits set up for fast and hard racing.
Along with a new region we had one night in a hotel on transit but also a new house which was very traditional!
After 4 days of racing it was time for the rest day (Wednesday) the rule in the house was leave @ 9:30 for a morning ride so the keen lads ; Me , Morgan and Sam went out for a gentle hour spin up a mountain rode, with a café stop to then return home to give the bikes a good clean after the wet race the day before. The best part of the ride got to be the decent makes riding up in so worth it , apart from when you feel that gravel under your tyres on fast corner. Lovely … Sent it though #crossskills. On our return home we only discovered Toby Perry who had just been finishing his 10th stretching session of the morning (toby’s alternative to doing a recovery ride..) meriting his nick name for the week ”10 times Toby.” The others lad followed big D.S Russ on his ride (gate crashed? ) by the time they returned home It sounded like they’d been on a bit of a smash fest.
After the rest day I knew that it would be really key for preparation for Tour Wales four days more of consecutive with body starting to return to normal I was able enjoy the last few races I had in France and try get the most out of it for racing experience and results. The final day of the Cantal week was held on a 1km circuit which we did 75 time up and down a hill side in this race I was able to take a lap on the bunch and be competing for the win, my main in the aim was to go for primes for the boys but it ended up in a good result for myself finishing 4th.
The last race of the trip was a stand alone race, so there were some fresh faces and fresh legs. I believe a few of the lads had switch off due to the heavy program but I still had the JTOW in mind as I knew the last would be important. The circuit a reasonable stiff 5 minute climb which we instantly went up from the start! The race developed quickly seeing my self get into an early break on the decent. The group were working nicely however there were some odd tactics behind in the bunch deciding it would be good to bring a team mate back, then bollard on the climb. The then entered a rhythm with a break gaining a small advantage. On the final lap I attacked the bunch bridging to the reminders of the break who weren’t able to go with leaders I went to straight by and was able to work with another rider to the finish. The sprint was interesting with cars across the line but I was happy to finish 7th after a tough block of racing with the lads.
This trip was only possible due to hard work and kind will of people investing into youth and junior ranks of cycling so a big thank you to everyone who made it possible, BIG RUSS and to the sponsors an supports of the trip, Hub Cycle works , Prendas Ciclismo and BC South Region . Personally I’d like to say thank you to Pedal Potential and Bristol Physio for there continued support and belief.