Published on 30th March 2015 | By Chris Walker

My First Elite National. 151km.

The guys in the team seemed pretty excited about this race, they had mentioned it a few times even weeks ago saying it was the first big race. The manager of the club then as we were in route to the start of the race said that a top 20 would be a fantastic result today so I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. My parents and brother had made the trip over the day before to check out what the story was and to see where I was living etc. they also would come to watch this race so inevitably I wanted to do extra well as they were here to watch.

As we were all getting ready, pinning the numbers on and getting changed it was absolutely freezing but it had give decent weather for the afternoon so it’s a big decision whether to wrap up for the start of the race and risk overheating and making the trip back to the team car to off-load mid race when the pressure is on and let’s face it no-one wants to do that. The other option was where very little and hope it warms up very quickly. I opted for the in between so was quite well wrapped up and just hoped I wouldn’t overheat when the pressure was on, thankfully it was the right option.

Straight from the off I knew I hadn’t good legs and could only put it down to being tired as I didn’t get a great nights sleep for a few days before for whatever reason so I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the 150km. It was a very windy day and everyone knew the wind would play a massive part in the race. The first 10km was into a headwind and after that the race turned and had a cross to tail wind for about 100km before hitting the finishing circuit. As a result the first 10km was very slow but still everyone was trying to get to the front so the peloton was very bunched up and it was very dodgy as at all times you had a rider rubbing shoulders with you at either side. Just before the race turned and the wind would change there was a big up in the pace as everyone knew it would most likely be lined out in the gutter from then on… But thankfully it wasn’t too bad. There was the obviously fast bits where everyone was in the gutter and trying desperately to hold the wheel in front but there was always a let up after a few KM’s so you could recover, thankfully.
I found it not to bad to hold my place towards the front of the bunch and as a result found myself following a few moves off the front after about 60km in as I could see more and more people becoming active so I thought a move might get up the road but it wasn’t to be and I settled in again about 20riders back. Once again I inconveniently dropped a bottle at about 60km in so knew if I didn’t either go back or grab one from the feed zone if bonk and my race would be over. Luckly I grabbed one last minute of an unsuspecting swaniur for some other team in the feed zone which came a few KM’s later, so disaster averted for now.

The profile of the race was pretty rolling until the race hit the 20km finishing circuit of which we had to do 2 laps of and which had a hard climb on it. I managed to get to the front again just as we hit the circuit and started to climb, by this stage there was only a few riders off the front for about 10seconds so we hit the climbs flat-out and the attacks came. I managed to hold my place near the front only dropping a few positions over the steep bit of the climb. After which it flatted out a little and held about a 3% gradient for about 2km but it was totally open and exposed from both sides so the crosswinds would do the damage. As the echelons started and most people where in the gutter I found myself struggling to hold the wheel and was sitting at threshold just to do so. I hung on just about over the climb and got a breather on the decent with everyone else. At this stage I looked over and the race had blown to bits.. I was nearly last man in the group of about 50 and and their were 7 guys up the road who managed  to stay clear over the climb. At this point everyone sat up and the bunch slowed way down, the pressure didn’t come on again until we hit the climb once again. Straight away as the pace lit up the climb I knew I hadn’t the legs and just sat on the tops of the bars and rode my way up it as did many others as the bunch blew to bits again. Over the top I found myself with 3 others and it was obvious they were in no rush and so be it as the race was over for us so it was just a matter of riding into the finish. They then shared a few words in French and proceeded to pull in for a Pee stop, so as I was also struggling with my bladder I took the opportunity do the same. Our toilet break had allowed a big group of about 15 to catch up with us and these guys weren’t hanging about…we jumped onto them and started up and over the last 15km to the finish. In the end I ended up in 65th position out of almost 200 starters and with being such a quality field comprised of Conti teams, Espoir teams such as AG2R and FDJ, I suppose it was alright.

It wasn’t however another great race for Foley as he had picked up a bug during the week and had to pack after a few KM’s in after seeing the doctors car… Disappointing but hopefully his luck will pick up soon.
The next one for me is Annemasse-Bellegarde, another Elite National. 185km and in the Alps so very mountainous.