Monday, June 28, 2010

La Grand Bornand

GPSies - La Grand Bornand

27 June 2010

La Grand Bornand is an attractive place. It’s a small ski resort in the style of Megève, but with a much more natural charm and interesting mountain environment. No doubt the great weather we had at last played some part if giving this impression. Deciding to sign up for the race in the morning I didn’t arrive until later on Friday evening and had no problem parking right next to the race start area and close to Chris’s hotel – where his family had come to support him – both morally and with massage, bike preparation and general organisation (wishful thinking here – get them trained Chris!). I had stuffed myself with wholemeal spaghetti before leaving home – eating earlier than usual so that the carb loading wouldn’t interfere with sleeping.

Race organisation was excellent with everything easy to access – a dream in comparison to the previous week at Morzine. On the morning of the race we decided that it wouldn’t be necessary to even carry any extra clothing. Summer had arrived.

The Race
We both chose to do the short course of 92km. It was officially said to be 100km but it was only 92 – the organisers making a mistake there – which they then calculated into our average speeds when posting the results at the finish – one of the very few organisational blips of the day. Our reason for choosing the short course was because of the difficulty that we both had recovering during the previous week, plus with the big Marmotte race less than a week away it was time to start tapering and reducing the fatigue levels a bit – which according to the Sporttracks training software has been chronically high for months as we have been focussed on rapidly ramping up our fitness levels. It would make no sense going into the Marmotte over-tired. During the week precedent it had even seemed that I would not have recovered well enough to race this weekend. I had not rested properly when it appeared to be critical in the middle of the week, but today was to prove that fitness has brought much improved powers of recover along with it – much as I had suspected.

There was a good turnout for the race with hundreds already cramming the start as we were warming up. Chris had not managed to eat his carb-cake and I hadn’t managed to swallow any disgusting high carb paste – but my banana porridge (eaten well before the start) and high carb drink seemed to set me up well for the morning anyway. I took one 100g sports gel and an energy “Powerbar” – neither of which I used in the race. I had two bottles of Isostar complex-carb sports drink – for slow absorbtion and I didn’t even manage to drink both of those during the race despite it being warm. The Complex carb drink is easier to swallow than the super sweet sugary standard isostar isotonic energy drink. The only other thing I carried was a spare inner tube and two tyre levers. We couldn’t push our way forward through the crowd for a better start so we were resigned to a bit of a traffic jam after going through the start gate. The start was controlled by a security car for safe transit through the village and the roads were properly closed for the first several kilometres when there would be a mass of cyclists all together. Everyone started together, and I much prefer it this way – it’s more fun than when age categories and different course lengths are started separately.

After the start, while still working our way through town we had a conversation with an American cyclist who had also raced at Morzine the previous week. He said that in 35 years of cycling it was the worst day he had ever experienced – and he only did the short route and took over 4 hours. We had done the long route at 7.5 hours with the toughest climbs – so that made us smile.

On today’s short course the toughest climb would be right at the start, followed by many miles of undulating terrain. It was obvious that if you didn’t perform well on that first climb then you wouldn’t have fast cyclists to work with for the rest of the course – they’d all be gone. I decided to work as hard as possible on the first climb and not worry about the consequences. Chris shot off ahead at the bottom of the climb, but I just settled into a steady but fast pace. The climb wasn’t a really big one, only about 600m vertical, but sustaining that in the anaerobic or anaerobic threshold zones the entire way makes it seem to be a very long climb. The climb was 13km long going through La Clusaz and terminating at the Col de la Croix-Fry. We were photographed on this climb. The pure effort and accompanying grimaces makes everyone look 10 years older. In my case my shoulders are rounded and head tucked in as I try to get as much air as possible into my lungs. My pelvis is rocked down at the front to loosen the hips and keep the back straight, but I need to learn to tighten the lower abdomen to stop my stomach from sticking out – at least until I get rid of it! Hey, if I can stay in front of those guys while transporting that belly up the hill imagine what it will be like when I get rid of it!

Vigorously transporting my belly up the hill I managed to overtake at least 80 riders and was perhaps in turn overtaken by a dozen. It was a good start – red lining the whole way for 40 minutes. There were quite a number of women on that climb – more than usual in the cyclosportives. Some of the women I could see were still in front when we arrived at the Col de la Croix-Fry. Well I can now confirm that women drivers are just the same on bikes – way too timid on the descents! Left the lot of them behind on the 1000m vertical fast descent! I was still determined to make up as much ground as possible during this descent – so as to be well placed when it flattened out. Eventually the numbers filtered out during the descent and I ended up with two other fast descenders – which actually helps with reading the road as you can see if they are having to alter their line mid turn or not when you are behind. If they keep their line then you can avoid braking.
When we arrived at the bottom of the descent a small and very fast group formed and went to work efficiently and effectively – collecting more as we caught up on isolated riders ahead of us. We got into a rapid rotation of the work of pulling in front and this helped keep up a very good pace. The group stayed together for about an hour but eventually exploded on the gradual relentless climbing. It wasn’t the climb itself that did the damage. Ahead of us we could see a large peloton and we were all working hard to bridge the gap. Everyone pulled hard at the front red-lining for a while and then dropping behind. The gap reduced slowly – just enough to oblige us to continue to suffer – but never enough to catch up. Once the group disintegrated completely, a few breaking off ahead and others falling back, I found myself pulling alone with another rider stuck behind me. He was aiming to do the long course, which split off at St Pierre-en-Faucigny, 73 km from the start. Considering that I was going to do the short course he excused himself from pulling in the front and remained sheltered behind and I was happy to oblige, still fighting to try to be in an attacking position for the next descent in the hope of catching that vanishing peloton. Sometimes pelotons slow down – but this one didn’t. I never saw it again.

Splitting off for the short course meant going straight into another climb, but this time without any organised group. I anticipated a much harder climb then actually materialised, but the legs were now starting to complain. Lactic acid accumulation was becoming evident, first through leg pain and next through the upper quads starting to feel strangely heavy. Steadily I started to l lose ground and eventually lose sight of the others who started the climb with me. This entire time I still managed to keep my work output in the Lactate Threshold zone – which would have been unthinkable just a few weeks earlier. This solo effort continued for about 10 km and I thought that there were another 20 km to go. Three riders caught up at that point and as it was a bit flatter there I had no trouble tagging on. Amongst the three was someone I’d been in the initial group with hours ago – so he gave me a good humoured greeting. The lift in speed and motivation with the new group was enormous. Suddenly I forgot about the tired legs and the race was on again. No question of pulling in front now though – that was over having done more than my fair share today. We covered 8 km together and overtook all the riders who I’d earlier lost sight off. It’s this sort of unexpected reversal of fortune that makes road racing interesting. I was rather surprised, just as the two strong guys in front managed to finally dump us on a hill, to see a sign saying 2 km to La Grande Bornand. This certainly lifted my spirits so I didn’t allow myself to slow down any more than was necessary. There was a final descent and then a 1km climb to the finish. Two younger guys, including the one from the 2 groups I’d been in then overtook me on this climb. 500m from the end and I decided to dig deep and use up any last reserves. I accelerated and caught and passed the two of them and another a hundred meters ahead – then continued to accelerate right to the end – sending my heart rate up to its maximum for the day of 176 bpm. Chris was on is bike facing me at the finish line. He had finished only 14 minutes earlier and was looking for his family – but was very surprised to see me instead!

Last week when I closed the gap with Chris to 27 minutes over the very long course I thought it was a bit of an aberration, so if anything this week confirmed that I’m making real progress in performance and fitness.

After Race
After the race we had the customary pasta meal and then headed to the outdoor swimming pool to find Chris’s family. Fortunately I had a spare pair of swimming trunks – real swimming ones – not a fashion statement. They were a bit small for Chris so admittedly he did look a bit gay in them. To add insult to injury the only bird he attracted was the one that shit on him from high above while he was sunbathing. Emily, Chris’s daughter, who is already a very talented pre-teen skier was there on crutches due to a hairline fracture in the foot. She was however determined to demonstrate that she is no less eccentric than her illustrious father as the following video clip shows. The clip is brief, but she has developed her own way of using a waterslide with crutches…


Chris finished 70th in 03:07 hrs.
Ian finished 115th in 03:21 hrs

Nothing much to say here - just a completly ridiculous time spent in the anaerobic zones. I cannot explain that yet - but perhaps my true "zones" have altered in the several weeks since they were last measured. Perhaps the CTS system of mearsurement is not that accurate either.

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