La Bernard Hinault Cyclo Sportif (part1)

mcd

Well-Known Member
A write-up of my adventures last weekend. Not sure whether to put it here or in the "Road Rides, Audax and Sportives" forum - but I did it on a recumbent - so here it is - enjoy:


La Bernard Hinault Cyclo Sportif
19 June 2010
(La Martine – 120km, 1500m ascent)

A couple of weeks ago I saw a post from Geoffroy Lelivre at velorizontal.bbfr.net about the La Bernard Hinault sportif. It's local(ish), same distance as the Etape Caledonia sportif I did earlier this year, and a few riders I know from France and Jersey were going to be there. So off went the entry form, booked ferry to St Malo and checked train times and street viewed the route to the start. A quick check of the web site revealed that the route be signposted (just as well as the map was rubbish), there'd be timing chips and feed stations. So I geared myself up for a standard sounding sportif - something along the lines of the Etape Caledonia, but with traffic. There was discussion about recumbents being set off two minutes early - but I didn't see how that would make much of a difference me on an event lasting between 3 and 4 hours.

The day came, and the journey to St Brieuc went a expected. I got to the race HQ and met Philippe (north west Frances' premier recumbent dealer!) and Roudoulf (another French rider who was on Jersey last month). Also bumped into Kenny, Chris and a few other riders from Jersey. Signed on, consumed liquid and discharged previously consumed liquid (major biological design flaw there if you ask me). I attached the in flight catering (gels, sports bars, water) to the bike frame and seat, along with race number and timing chip. Helped Philippe while he was locking up his stand, then we headed outside to the start with 5 minutes to go.

So far so good - all prepared ready to go as we approached the back of the field of riders waiting at the start. My Plan was to follow a strategy that had worked out well at the Etape Caledonia - i.e. find a group of riders going a slightly faster speed to myself, ride with them (taking a turn at the front to show that I was prepared to do my bit - even if no-one got any benefit!) for as long as I could. But Philippe reminded me that the recumbents were starting 2 minutes early, and we should be at the front. Then there was an announcement calling for the recumbent rider from Jersey. At that moment the adrenalin took over from the proven plan.

Problem - how to get from the back through 600 riders packed in the start area to the line with only a few minutes to go! With a bit of shoving and pushing (this is France) lots of "excuse-moi”s and "merci”s we slowly made our way through. I went around the back of the stage and came around on the other side of the line to see Rouldof, Geoffroy, Patrick being joined by Philippe on the start line. Behind them was a banner, behind that were 600 riders. Now nerves took over from the adrenalin that had taken over from the Plan. I lined the bike up, tried to clip in and support myself by placing my fingers on the ground, then started to fall sideways - nerves had also taken over from balance! The start of the race was counted down and we were off - both off the start line and I was almost off my bike as I swerved into the side of Patrick. A few turns of the feet later I had enough speed get going - right, lets get outta here!

With fewer nerves and more balance I shot off out of the start/finish straight, catching up with the others, passing a few marshals & spectators - nothing out of the ordinary there. Round the corner onto the main road, and several hundred meters later into a fog of exhaust from at least a dozen motorbikes. This was not what I needed right now - nerves & adrenalin were very demanding when it comes to oxygen. What's more they were going about 20 mph and I was doing about 25, so I had to sort of weave through them. Then I noticed that they all had "Security de Course" (Race Safety) jackets on. I thought they must be for the main pack of riders - and so were we sent of a couple of minutes early to wake them up so they were ready for the main part of the race. Yeah whatever.

Right, what's my Plan? I'm surrounded by motorbikes with a few recumbent riders, most of them low with tail fairings making them of little aerodynamic assistance, and I'm currently riding a 75 mile sportif at a respectable pace for a 10 mile time trial. Hold on a second, these guys on motorbikes aren't police - but they're acting like it! They're blocking off exits, diving down the centre line, physically forcing on-coming traffic into the gutter - and they’re doing it for us! I come over a rise - the give way sign of a T-junction ahead - across the road there's a shop with parking at the side of the road - I see a car with its reverse light on - instant reflexes kick in. Hold on, one of the motorbikes is blocking the exit of the car, and he's pointing which direction I should go. This is a full a rolling road closure! This is not what I was expecting for the 25€ entry fee. Then a car covered in press logos overtakes, photographer hanging out the passenger window with camera. I shook my head - whatever next! They might have got rid of their monarchy in this country - but they know how to make you feel like royalty! Mental note to take care on any underpasses.

The situation is starting to settle down into a pattern - one motorbike at the front, a lead car (flashing light) and another two motorbikes, then Geoffroy, Patrick and me, then another motorbike behind. You might be thinking - "Yeah, so what?" - that's what a rolling road closure is. It's one thing to know what a rolling road closure is - but that doesn't set you up for the experience of people putting themselves at risk by riding into on-coming traffic to keep the road clear for you and a couple of mates! Rolling road closures are the sort of thing reserved for professional cyclists. If I had any desire to be a pro age, fitness and ability would quickly quash that, and besides, I already have a day job. Not having the restrictions of a pro rider is one reason why I ride a recumbent – I do it because I can. But ironically it's riding a recumbent that's getting me the pro rider treatment. The universe works in mysterious ways!

Right, what's my Plan? Nerves gone, time for a bit of strategic thinking. After much thought I come up with a cunning plan:
1) Cycle as fast as I can for as long as I can! OK, not so cunning - I wasn't going to be able to keep up this for anything like the full distance, but having this sort of experience was unique, and I realised I might not get this chance again. I would judge my result by how long I could keep ahead of the lead riders - thrash and burn! As long as I finished I'd be happy.
2) Don't have a mechanical - I'd be gutted if I had to stop now!
3) Get some more water. With only 1.5L for 75 miles, I was going to need more water at some point - something to worry about later.

We pass the press car parked off the road at a corner in a scenic wooded part of the course. Looked like they were parked up to get shots of us and then the rest of the riders as they pass. A short while later, the press car overtakes again - they want more photos of us?!? As we head into the countryside, Geoffroy, Patrick pull ahead (I consoled myself with the thought that they are on faster bikes) and I shake my head in continued disbelief as the motorbike at the rear of the convoy overtakes and becomes my personal Security de Course, taking on Kamakaze-white-line and route-finder duties. In a small village, just after a junction we catch up with a White Van. After much blaring of horn from the motor bike and waving of hand and shouting from the rider, the van crosses over to the other side of the road to let us past. I briefly think that this is all starting to get a bit silly and bit over the top, before feeling a bit guilty that the guy on the motorbike is taking this more seriously than I am, and I should really get my arse in gear! It also occurs to me that out of 876,123 (approx) encounters with White Vans, the score is now:
White Van drivers: 876,122 (approx)
Me: 1
Yeah!!! :wacko:

A while later, as the course becomes more hilly, I catch up with Geoffroy and Patrick. They have faster bikes, but I like hills. At the 30 km (20 mile) mark, a fifth motorbike pulls up along side me and lets me know that the split time is "deux minutes". Not sure what is more remarkable - the three of us maintaining a lead over 600 riders, or a bloke on a motorbike arriving to tell us! Around 30 miles into the ride there's a mechanical - a grind of chain over gears and a cry - Geoffroy's derailleur has packed in. So it’s down to two riders (+ 5 motor bikes, lead car and occasional press car) with Patrick tucked in behind me. Not ideal as I could do with a break, but he gets more assistance drafting me than vice versa, so it makes sense. It also means I'm now the lead rider! The miles roll by, and I'm sure our lead can't be what it was - but we're still out there.

Continued . . .
 
OP
mcd

mcd

Well-Known Member
Continuation . . .

Part 2:

I figure the only way to deal with all this is to stretch my ego to fit the situation. Everyone - marshals, security de course, spectators by the roadside - are acting like I'm on some sort of heroic breakaway, so who am I to spoil the party? It's not going to last forever, and I figured after maintaining the lead over the other riders for the first quarter of the course, I could (if I wasn't lying on it) afford to pat myself on the back. So "Out of my way” and “Je suis le tête de course" it is! But fame has its price. We approach the first feed station at 55 km (35 miles), tables decked out with enough food and drink for 600 riders. I can see the heaps of baggettes, I'm sure there'll be some patisserie there as well, water, sports drinks and wine (this is France). All untouched as I'm the first rider through - just one problem: the Security de Course doesn't show any sign of slowing, and I'm going to look f'king stupid asking "I say chaps, any chance we could stop of here for a minute, I'm jolly thirsty and a tad peckish?".

We glide on past the feast. :wacko:

That, and the constant drone of motorbikes - it takes away some of the idyll of cycling though the French countryside.

We pass the half way point at 60km - still no riders from the main bunch, but legs starting to get tired, time to take on food. A group of eight riders pass at 70km (45 miles). Patrick over takes, joining the group, but I don't have it in my legs to keep up. My legs are now starting to hurt - cramp - time to switch to survival mode. Oh how the mighty fall! I'm no longer one of the top riders, so no Security de Course, no special treatment, no one to point me on my way, no one to keep an eye on the traffic. The road is no longer mine. No power in my legs either - maybe I should have done a bit more training than my 3 km round trip commute to work and the occasional Saturday morning club run. Just as in real life, when the mighty fall, the press turns up - that bloody car again! This time I think they're asking how I am? This is not the time for an interview - I reply in my best French that I'm knackered. Can they not just let me grind up this hill in peace? Later, shouts of "Salut" and "Bravo" from overtaking groups of riders help make up for the difference in speed. It was good to get shouts from Jersey riders as well - including Kenny, Chris, Bob and Colm. Iain asked as he went past "Keith - what are you doing here?" - "A very good question!" I replied as I changed into my bottom gear at the bottom of the hill he was disappearing up.

Cramp getting worse - willing my self up the ascents - I feel that if I stop, my legs will cramp up solid. Fatboy Slim's "Right here, Right now" became don’t stop - "Not here, Not now"!! On the descents I can eat and drink a bit, stretch and keep the pedals moving. One of the few things I knew about the course was that I wasn't far off a high point, and that there was a double chevron climb near the finish. If my legs didn't recover, I'd be looking for a comfy bit of verge to collapse onto! I half hoped the broom wagon would appear to put me out of my misery. But after about 90 minutes of toiling, shouting and stretching, my legs recovered for the last 20 minutes - and allowed me a last tentative sprint to the end.

I made it across the line – 3:50 for 116 km (the distance from several GPS readings). Got the t-shirt, lay in the shade and swapped stories. Sherri joined me in St Brieuc and we had a good rest and a relatively leisurely ride the next day back to St Malo (the back road between Lamballe and Plancoet is a lovely ride – especially where it’s been re-surfaced).

Finally the results:

Winner (120km):
935 LE GAL Sébastien TREGUEUX 03:11:30

Jersey riders (all 120km):
840 CABOT Robert ST HELIER JERSEY 03:32:17
839 PARRICK Kenneth SAINT HELIER – JERSEY 03:32:18
841 BLOOMER Colm St CLEMENT - JERSEY 03:33:33
902 LABEY Phil SAINT HELIER - JERSEY 03:43:12
655 PIROUET Paul ST OUEN JERSEY 03:45:26
536 CAMPBELL Iain ST SAVIOURS JERSEY 03:45:29
813 DAVIS Keith ST CLEMENT JERSEY 03:50:04
914 BAGLIN Chris St LAWRENCE - JERSEY 03:52:43
901 STOLTE Jason St CLEMENT -JERSEY 03:52:43
837 TURPIN Richard ST MARTIN JERSEY 03:58:08
544 ALISTAIR Mitchell St CLEMENT JERSEY 04:07:54
543 SPENSER Moss St CLEMENT JERSEY 04:17:33
838 COWIESOWPaul St BRELADE - JERSEY 04:44:44

Recumbent riders (all 120km):
515 POINSU Patrick TRELIVAN 03:38:59
813 DAVIS Keith ST CLEMENT JERSEY 03:50:04
973 BERNARD Rodolphe RENNES 04:07:00
828 DESCUBES Philippe acigné 04:57:12
??? LELIVRE Geoffroy DNF

And next year? Sub 3:30? But only if I get a support car as well. And I want a caravan with a masseuse. And I want . . .
 

Scoosh

Velocouchiste
Moderator
Location
Edinburgh
:biggrin: ;) two of them - 1 for the ride; 1 for the report :thumbsup:

How hilly was it ? From reading your report, it sounds not too dissimilar to the Etape Caledonia - but I suspect you have buried quite a lot of hardship in there somewhere ;)
But after about 90 minutes of toiling, shouting and stretching
Great experience too :biggrin:

Thanks :biggrin:
 
OP
mcd

mcd

Well-Known Member
Comparing* the profiles of the two rides, they do have a number of similarities:

Etape Caledonia:


La Bernard Hinault:


The main climb in LBH wasn't as steep as the EC - but the EC's descent was much more fun!
 

Scoosh

Velocouchiste
Moderator
Location
Edinburgh
mcd - what is your take/preference on the closed roads v rolling closure issue ?

You're currently in pole position [tête de la course] on this one :biggrin: !
 

NickM

Veteran
Cracking read, Keith - thanks! :biggrin:
 

LeeW

Well-Known Member
Great ride :smile:. I'm amazed you managed to stay ahead of the peloton for so long, especially riding unfaired.
 
OP
mcd

mcd

Well-Known Member
scoosh said:
mcd - what is your take/preference on the closed roads v rolling closure issue ?
For an enjoyable ride, closed roads are much better. You know in advance when the roads will be closed, so as long as you are faster than the event's minimum speed (possible for most with a bit of practice), you have the full benefits of car-free-ness.

The rolling closure was better for a faster ride. It was only available for the lead riders, so a great motivation not to slack off!

LeeW said:
Great ride :biggrin:. I'm amazed you managed to stay ahead of the peloton for so long, especially riding unfaired.
Thanks - hard work, but a satisfying result :smile:
 
Location
EDINBURGH
The whole rolling road closure scenario sounds quite daunting and it is funny them assuming the recumbent riders would just do the ride with no stops, excellent write up as I have already said.
 

Scoosh

Velocouchiste
Moderator
Location
Edinburgh
Catrike UK said:
The whole rolling road closure scenario sounds quite daunting and it is funny them assuming the recumbent riders would just do the ride with no stops, excellent write up as I have already said.
That's 'cos everyone knows 'bent riders are special :biggrin: - or else they just don't get it :tongue:
 
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