Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mon premier "Cyclo Sportive"

my Lemond all ready to go

just waiting for the race to start

along with everyone else

i was just looking around for other women!

On Sunday Bruce and I did our first Cyclo Sportive called the "L'Albigeoise" in Albi (about 1 hour south of us). 

Cyclo Sportives (sometimes spelled Cyclo Sportifs but correctly Cyclosportives, since the full name is randonnée cyclosportive and randonnée is a female noun in French) are long distance, organised, mass-participation cycling events typically held annually. Sportives are the cycling cousin of running’s marathon: as with the 42 kilometer (26 mile) event, rather than racing other participants, sportives see many cyclists use the event to challenge themselves in a personal battle against the distance and then ultimately, the clock.

Also like the marathon, the top placed riders in a Cyclosportive ride the event like a race and there are prizes awarded and considerable prestige for top place finishers in events like the Marmotte, Etape du Tour and the Ardechoise.

A cyclosportive falls between a traditional road race and a non-competitive randonnée or Audax event. Riders normally carry a number and the time they take to complete the course is recorded. There is usually an upper time limit within which the course must be completed (unlike many randonnée events, there is no lower limit preventing riders from completing the course quickly). The already lengthy course will traditionally include climbs and difficult riding conditions, adding to the merit of the event (e.g. the cobblestones of the Paris-Roubaix).

The routes will usually be well sign-posted and/or marshalled (some cyclosportives take place on roads which have been closed to motor traffic for the duration of the event), riders will be able to use feeding stations positioned at intervals along the route to replenish their food and drink supplies and mechanical and medical support may also be provided. Some attract thousands of participants - since 2000 l'Etape du Tour has offered places to 8,500 riders each year.

There were 3 distances to choose from: 130km 106km and 78km.  We both decided to do the 106km route (66 miles). We didn't think it would be a problem, we have rode 106km many times and we figured with it being down by Albi it wouldn't be super hilly like up here in the Aveyron.  Boy were we wrong. First let me start with Saturday, because we had to drive down to Albi late Saturday afternoon to register.  Then we had to leave around 6:30 am on Sunday because the race started at 9:00 am AND we had to find a parking space on an incline so we could bump start Claude (our car).  We are still have problems with him but right now he's as the car doctor getting all fixed up.

look at the great incline we found

There were probably around 1,000 participants in the race and maybe 2% were women. And these women looked strong...thinking they were probably x-pro riders, gulp.  But I just figured I'd ride at my own pace and I'd be fine, it's only 106km.  I knew I wouldn't be first so why stress.  As we were driving to Albi that morning Bruce said to me "don't mind the lightening and dark skies." It looked grim, I knew we'd get rained on.  When we rode up to the start I was very impressed, we had a lead car with lights and about 20 guys on motorcycles, a huge stage and big area for us to be packed into (just like cattle).  9:00 am on the dot and we are off...9:05 am and it started to rain. Luckily I had my rain vest with me so on it went.  The ride started very fast and being in a pelaton with so many people was a bit sketchy but you just have to pay attention to the person in front of you (and their wheel). Last thing I wanted to do was touch someones wheel and go down.

We probably rode 5km and hit the first hill, figured no big deal just a hill, but they didn't stop.  Seriously the ride from start to finish went something like this; climb and steep hill, descend a steep hill, climb a steep hill, descend a steep hill, over and over and over for about 95km.  The rain did not let up either, in fact it rained (hard) for the first 3 1/2 hours of the ride.  Descending in these conditions wasn't fun.  The ride was brutal, in fact I can honestly say it was the hardest ride that I have ever done in my life!  I lost Bruce in the pack about 10km into the ride, but we knew that would happen.  I didn't want to slow him down and if I tried to keep at his pace I'd hit a wall very fast.  

man those skies look dark
heading through Albi
more of Albi (a beautiful city)

it's gonna rain!

After 3 1/2 long wet hours it was such a pleasure to see the sun.  I was drenched, my feet were squishing in my socks which were squishing in my shoes, my kit was so wet and soggy, but I couldn't stop,  I just had to suck it up and keep riding.  It was hard to eat my bars because we were either going up hill (and I just can't eat when I'm basically out of breath) or we were going downhill and I didn't want to crash.  There were 2 stops on the side of the road with Coke (such a great thing when you are riding) and oranges and bars and gummies.  So I stopped for about 1 minute at each of these.  

Usually when I do around 106km it takes me about 4 hours.  But this course was so hard with all the hills, 4 hours came and went and I wasn't done.  4 1/2 hours came and went and then I hit 5 hours.  I actually thought I was probably the last one on the course, but that wasn't the case. 

Bruce was waiting for me at the finish and the first thing he said was "holy crap...that was the hardest ride I have ever done", which made me feel better!   I crossed the finish line in 5 hours and 6 minutes.  Longest I've been in the saddle and damn did my ass hurt.  It took Bruce 4 hours and 20 minutes.

We were spent and headed back to the car, changed and went to find food.  We had a hard day, parts of it were miserable but all in all I had a great time.  Burned a few calories too.  We are already set to do 2 more Cyclo Sportives this month, the first is the Saint Geniez d'Olt (here in the Averyon) on June 21st, it doesn't look as hard as the one we just did, so I think we are going for 123km.  The second on June 27 is the L'Ariégeoise and it's just south of Toulouse, we'll probably do the 110km distance.  For now, I'm just taking a few days off...but will be back on the bike tomorrow.


Megan said...

Props to both of you. I absolutely abhor biking, and it sounds like that would be my own personal hell. Better luck (weather-wise) next time!

Nadege said...

You are so brave! My sister has her countryside house near St Geniez (in Condamines). I hope the weather will cooperate, as long as it isn't too hot.
Good luck!

Zuleme said...

yikes! I got on my bike today for the first time this spring and did ten miles. Thought that was pretty good since nothing hurt.
But I'm older than you and will work up to doing our hill climbs and around 35 miles.
That's enough for me!

Cindy said...

Wow! Carbs are in order after that one! My hubby and I got out for a ride recently and I realized how out of shape I got over the winter. Hubby is a bicycle commuter, so he had to wait for me several times on our excursion. I was out of breath just reading your post.

Zuleme said...

Did 22 today. What do you recommend for bike pants? I have a great seat, the butterfly by Terry. Looking for better pants though, for when we start doing the Bear Notch, Kancamagus Loop. 35 or so miles, half of it uphill. (and the other half pretty much down)

Two Wheels Good Tours said...

Zuleme - Pearl Izumi or Craft make good bike shorts with excellent padding. I don't know where you live but I get mine at local bike shops - in Los Angeles it's Helens. Or you can order on-line at teamestrogen.com. Also, shammy cream is a MUST or the longer you do the more at risk you are for saddle sores, not fun!

La Framéricaine said...

Oh. My. Gawd!

I do believe that you have gotten everything you ever dreamed of out of your sabbatical in France, and more!

Your Tour de France event is coming up really soon, too. My hat is off to both of you!