Having qualified for the GFWC in Albi (albeit through the back door!!) Mike and I along with our other halves planned a 10 day trip out to ride the course, get used to the weather, get some extra miles in, take in the sites and enjoy the local food!
A long drive, we broke the journey up by stopping in Orleans, still leaving a 7 hour journey to get to Albi. The first thing that hit us as we got out of the cars was the heat, at 4.00pm it was 35 deg, stand and sweat weather!!
The hotel left a lot to be desired but every hotel in the region was full so we had to make do!
The following morning we were out at 8.30am to try and avoid the intense heat, however, even by 9 it was baking. We decided to ride a 65 mile section of the course taking in the 3 main Cols. This was worth every painstaking minute as being familiar with what’s coming up certainly helps. The Cols themselves were tough, but the descents gave some respite at 50 mph! The following day we went the opposite way taking in the finishing 55 miles into Albi. This was still a lumpy course with the heat playing a major part in the ride. The following day we rode the mountain section again just to make sure we didn’t miss anything!
We spent the Saturday site seeing with the girls, visiting a Vineyard and coming out with a pallet of wine then visiting Albi and the Toulous Lautrec museum. We met up with Jon in the evening and had a nice meal followed by an early night for the big day!
Sunday arrived, hot!!! We drove into Albi, parked at the finishing circuit, got the bikes ready and made our way into the town centre for the start. This was Organised Chaos! Thousands of cyclists from every Country and every age group, all looking for the banner to put them in the right pen! It did however, sort itself out and contrary to what everyone thought, we started at our allotted time at a breakneck 30 mph!
Both Mike and Ray was able to sustain that pace but I decided that due to the distance of 98 miles with over 4000m of climbing it would be better for me to settle into a sustainable speed and maybe get into groups of likeminded cyclists. This worked out as the right idea and having already ridden the route worked to my advantage. I did however suffer 2 punctures, the first one I managed to catch the group I’d been riding with but then the second time demoralised me a bit and although I caught and passed a few, there was no sympathy in a race! I passed an American guy with about 15km to go, he looked awful, I whizzed past, then felt guilty, slowed up and let him sit on my wheel for the last part of the race for which he shook my hand and thanked me!
Both Mike and Ray finished in the top 200, I was outside in 225 but I’ll take that every day of the week, at least I’ve ridden for GB!
Next Years Worlds (2018) are in Italy, another lumpy course, don’t thin I’ll be going for that, maybe 2019…….