Monday, August 2, 2010

La Bourgui 2010

Sunday 1st August 2010
The best laid plans of mice and men.....
La Bourgui is very well organised cycle race, but it seems to attract only fairly dedicated hill climbers. This became clear when collecting the start number in the morning in front of the Maire's building. The average height of the contestants appeared to be about 3ft 6ins and with no one over 5kg in weight. OK, perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, but that's what it seemed like.
I set off near the back of the field, with 138 attempting the long course that I'd be on, covering 127km and 170 on the short 80km course. My plan was to start a little bit back so that I wouldn't have to suffer everyone overtaking me on the first climb, and with luck I'd progressively overtake others as they faded during the race. Great plan! It just didn't work. I was effectively dumped immediately and never saw anyone again.
Well, perhaps it wasn't quite so bad. I'd anticipated this a little bit so had earphones and music to keep me company all day. I listened to all 35 tracks at least twice. Things went wrong right from the start really. Putting my number on the bike frame proved a little difficult and the tie wraps were too small for the frame. Removing the tie wraps from the first attempt I used a box cutter and slipped , managing to cut straight into the carbon bike frame! Fortunately the cut only seemed to penetrate the first layer of paint. More fortunately it wasn't me that was cut. Next, the GPS battery had managed to discharge itself completely during the night, so there would be no time keeping, no GPS, no heart rate monitor and no feedback during the entire race. Great! At least I had my music to help with the inevitable isolation on the climbs.
Descending from St Martin de Belleville to Moutiers was straight forward as the road was wide on the main road (North East) side of the valley. The descending start was part of the reason I hung back a bit - not wanting to have a catastrophic accident by being surrounded with manic racers all descending together. Moutiers to Aigueblanche is a short climb and at the top of that I had to stop for a pee. Carbo loading really doesn't seem to agree with my system and I'm sure that was the real reason for the pee. My guts felt bad in general and basically I didn't feel good.
Aigueblanche was the start of the first main climb of the day up to Navettes and over the hill to Naves. It was still chilly - as was the descent to Moutiers - because the sun had not had time to warm up the air and we were still in the shade of the mountain despite a perfectly blue sky.
During this climb I was able to work hard and managed to stay in second and third gears, overtaking a fair number of peolpe. Throughout the day I was focussed on nasal breathing and despite working hard it was no problem nasal breathing here - except perhaps the very summit of the climb when I think I was anaerobic. The nostrils started to narrow too much during inhalation so I had to use fingers to pull them open for a minute. Otherwise the nasal breathing kept my mouth from going dry and generally felt very good. It is easier to estimate your performance level when breathing this way, it gives clearer feedback. The descent back down to Lecheres was fast and I still felt good at this point. Luckily I caught up with someone so was looking forward to having someone to work with on the long flat section of about 20km that was about to come up. Just as I caught the guy he stopped! I was isolated and then took a wrong turning that only became obvious as I started to go on to the motorway! Doubling back I saw the entire group that I'd overtaken on the climb taking the correct turning and leaving me behind. At this point in Lecheres, the same road would be used on the return leg from the flats and people were already returning - some 20km ahead of me! Despite my best efforts there was no way I could catch the group up again - they were working well together. Gradually during the long flats they pulled away until they disappeared from view and I just got more tired. Eventually someone caught up with me from behind and I was really glad to have someone to share the work and pick the pace up together - but then a few minutes later a woman appeared with a car parked at the side of the road (his wife) and had a camera out to photgraph him. He stopped! I was isolated again. He caught me up at the bottom of the second big climb of the day - up another valley opposite "Navettes" - and he promptly burned me off leaving me behind. About four or five poeople overtook me on that climb and I felt rotten by now. There was no power in the legs. Eventually near the summit I was overtaken by a young woman who had a support car that was continually leapfrogging her and was a complete pain in the butt. On the descent I overtook her again leaving her out of sight.
Back thorough Aigueblanche and Moutiers to the base of the old narrow and very steep 30km road up to Les Menuires (Val Thorens). Here I came across the guy again who was always stopping for his wife - but this time it was at a refreshments stand - so he hadn't pulled all that far ahead of me on the previous climb. If someone is only two minutes ahead of you you never know because you don't see them on the road. It's not like the Tour de France where they have information by radio all the time.
During the second climb it had started to become very hot and the sun was burning. Each time I passed a refreshments stand I managed to refill a bottle and over the 6hrs 25mins managed to drink almost 5 bottles - four of them with isotonic powder or tablets. I simply didn't manage to eat anything solid during the entire race as my guts didn't feel too good. The nasal breathing probably helped avoid dehydration too. The last 30km climb was nasty. I was overtaken again by the guy being nurtured by his wife and eventually the young woman caught me up again. I'd settled into a sustainable pace where I'd keep going forward OK but wasn't suffering too much. In your head there is a constant desire to just stop and end the discomfort, but that just gives more of a motivation to overcome it. On the day 21 people abandoned this long course and were probably collected by the "voiture balai". In fact I'd seen the famous voiture balai when returning on the loop to Cevins on flats - exactly the same place that I saw the guys 20km ahead of me - this time I was on the right side of the 20km.
The climb up to Les Menuires was interminable - but at least the last 5km were a bit easier and flatter - though by now everything was hard. At the finish line there was a refreshments stand and I must have stood there for 30 minutes just drinking - Orangina, ice tea, coke, water - everything I could find. It's when the exercise stops that I feel the thirst - or perhaps that's when the stomach can cope best. The last I saw of the guy being supported by his wife was when I passed him again sitting in the back of his car with his bike on the ground looking absolutely whacked. He didn't overtake me again - so he was eventually the only one I successfully race against all day.
There is no data to analyse due to equipment failure. During the entire race I had no idea of time, altitude or anything. My final result was the worst of the year - relative to other placings. I came 107th out of 117 finishers, with another 21 abandons, in 6hrs 25mins. Last rider home was 7hrs 12mins. I'm sure the field was very competitive though and if I count the abandons then it doesn't look so bad. In my age group I came 18th out of 19 - which once again probably reflects more on the competitiveness of the field.
Next race will probably be a short one - just to boost morale.

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