Monday, 28 May 2012

Cyclotour du Leman 180km - 27th May

Riding time - 4:52
Elapsed time - 5:06
So my brother had signed up to this a while ago and asked me if I wanted to do it, I had 'ummed and ahhed', and without much in the way of money, a weekend foray to Switzerland didn’t seem like the best of ideas. However, after an extremely generous offer from my brother to pay my entry and accommodation, I didn't take much convincing - I booked a flight on air miles and was on my way to Geneva.
The forecast for Sunday during the week had suggested thunderstorms, and as I stepped onto the plane in England, flying away from perfectly good weather in the high 20s a small part of me began to question whether my decision to go would be a wise one.
After a hassle free trip with my Tri London emblazoned Amphibia bag, I arrived in Geneva and made the 40 min train journey to Lausanne, where the event was to start and end. I dropped my stuff off in the hotel and heading off to Bussigny with my brother to register. After catching the final few moments of the penultimate stage of the Giro, I began to feel more up for the event.
I collected my bike (borrowed from my brother’s friend) and set it up as best I could. It was slightly large for me, but a titanium frame with carbon forks and campag chorus groupset was still certainly better than I am used to. We went out for a meal, and a couple of beers, I had steak with vegetable, everyone else ordered pasta as recommended by official event briefing literature.

The route....
After about 6 hours sleep, we were up at 5am for breakfast. Sugar free red-bull, some ‘energy-milk’???, some salami, and a handful of strawberries. Having not ridden 180km before my brother was a little nervous, but I told him he need not be – his only previous sportive experience being a 120km sportive in Davos, in the rain with 2600m+ of ascent – compared with that this would be easy! We rolled down to the start about 4km away and waited in the pen to be let off in groups of 25-30. There were about 4-6 of us that knew each other and the plan was to vaguely stick together. With a supposed 2,500 riders almost all in the same race jersey, this seemed unlikely. 
As we set off, our group of 25 started out fairly brisk and soon we had merged into a large group of about 40-50 riders. My brother and I sat at the back and we crusied along at 40kph without much problem. Suddenly as we passed through a small town as the peleton pinched, the whirr of wheels was pierced by the sharp crack of carbon slamming down onto the floor, a lot of groans and the group swerved around a rider who had gone down. The group continued to be trundle along but sadly after 35km my saddle began to come lose, I called back to my brother who waited and I adjusted and re-tightened it as fast as I could. It was gutting to lose such a large group. We set off again and my bro jumped on my wheel, a fast guy came past on his own and I jumped on his wheel and alternated the work with him for a while. I looked back and suddenly there were 10 people stretched out behind us. I kept working until we bridged up to another small group ahead, I was clearly working too hard – but it was great fun. This group then worked well together growing as we accumulated those individuals ahead of us latching on.
Before I knew it we had gone nearly 70km, and my bro and I decided to pull in at the aid station for a quick refuel. I filled up my water and just as we were about to leave a couple of the group we had started with rolled in. We waited for them and head off after a short break. Again we began to build up a group up to about 40 odd people, and suddenly a group of riders in green, obviously some sort of race team, came past cranking it on a mixture of high spec road and TT bikes. The group surged but managed to latch on and so we sped along at 45kph for another hour or so. We pulled in for another stop at Evian where I had some Evian, you know, for novelty value. 
Drinking Evian
We carried on at a good pace, round through Geneva and its distinctive fountain that could be seen from miles away.  The weather had been perfect 25 odd degrees and not a hint of a thunderstorm. We had set off so early though, so it was still heating up, but I was really enjoying the ride - a far cry from the poor road surfaces in and around Hertfordshire. Eventually we got caught by another huge peloton being led by a scooter and a guy on a recumbent bike. With about 60km to go we decided to take the draft and stick with them not stopping until the end. Another guy went down, taking a girl with her, she was obviously in some distress and it was a stark reminder to keep focused. 
The fountain in the distance, its huge!
I kept on taking the gels and cracked out a can of coke I’d been carrying for the last push. I offered my brother some coke which he gladly accepted, and also gave him a caffeinated gel. It was getting hard work as now we were overtaking a lot of those who had started the 110km or 60km events – every time we passed them, the large group pinched and people not concentrating would lose a couple of lengths and the group would fragment. The same happened with the risers and many of the mini-roundabouts. In a couple of instances it required absolute max efforts for 30-60s to latch back onto the group.  
With about 10km to go there was a moderate climb which totally split the group. Ten or so riders absolutely bolted off the front and it all stretched out, my bro stayed with me as we pushed over the top, but the next time I looked around he was gone. I waited up, and he told me he had completely blown. I made several attempts to cajole him to stay on my wheel, but each time he just fell off. As the event has gone on he had started to feel a little sick, and stopped eating, thinking there was only about 20km to go, he thought he would be fine....d'oh. He certainly took it in good spirits, and fortunately it was very close to the end.  I had certainly worked hard for most of the day, and was happy to roll in with him the rest of the way, on smooth swiss-roads and glorious sunshine. If only I could post that time at Roth!
We enjoyed a free massage and the pasta party in the sun at the end of the ride (if only I could do that at Roth instead of the marathon?!) It was great fun, and I am certainly considering entering the etape come next year. The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the sun down by the lake with a beer.….all in all a great weekend.

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