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The Emma James Diary 2002
Welcome to Cyclingnews.com's newest female diarist, Australian Emma James. Emma's enjoying her first year as a scholarship holder with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) road cycling team, managed by coach James Victor. She's a gutsy rider who's decided that she'd rather be testing the waters of professional cycling than testing the salinity of the Sydney's waterways as an environmental scientist - which used to be her previous occupation before Emma decided to take the plunge.
La Grande Boucle Féminine
Stage 7 - August 10: Aix les Bains - Courchevel, 134 km
Very much a survival thing
From the official depart town (Aix les Bains), the official plan was to ride 5km, then all get in cars for a transfer of 30km over a big hill to get to the real start at Ecole. Due to the weather (light rain at that point), the organisers did not make us do the 5km on the bike. That was good.
We put on heaps of clothes after hearing of 5-degree temperatures on the Col de Madeleine; but with a couple early climbs at the start, I began to regret having knee warmers, thick shoe covers and a thermal vest in my pocket. There was a flat section in the profile between 30 and 40km that was replaced by a rather steep hill, and apologies for the change were noted in the results we received tonight (thanks).
The top 27 riders had got away after about 30km, with only Leontein Z-Van Moorsel (2nd on GC) and Lapomarda not up the road. I was feeling rather trashed by the 60km mark after three categorised climbs and a few extras, and still the Col de Madeleine and Courchevel to go.
The long climbs are very much a survival thing for the riders not able to contest the stage (everyone other than the top 20). I wasn't feeling great and like everyone else, found the climb very long and tiring. There were a fair few spectators out on the lower parts of the climb, almost all very cheerful and supportive. By the top of the climb the temperature was very low, it started to rain lightly and a very wet mist/fog was waiting to make the descent painfully cold. I was given some hot tea in a bidon by our team car, and a much needed rainjacket for the descent.
The first part of the descent was horribly cold, and it really didn't feel like I was going that fast. Knowing that we have to climb the Madeleine tomorrow from that side made the steeper parts of the descent less enjoyable. On the lower part of the descent, I could see a couple riders ahead, and it was not so cold. The wet roads meant I had to slow a little more than I would like to for each corner, but it was much better than at 2000m! By the bottom I had caught the four riders just ahead of me on the descent, and we caught a few more in the next 10km. This group of about ten was the one I rode with to the finish. The Courchevel climb was long and killed me - even riding steadily with a group, but the finish was luckily only at the base of the ski resort, and not at the place where the men's race finishes.
My back is sore, my knee hurts a little, every part of me is tired, and someone thinks that we are going to be able to do two hors cat climbs and a cat 1 climb tomorrow! There is a rest day after that… but the three very hard climbs are going to make getting to the rest day a challenge. After a massage, a bit of relaxation and a very nice dinner I am feeling a little more human.
The race that was going on 45 minutes ahead of me saw Zinaida Stahurskaia take the yellow jersey, and most of the mountain points. Edita Pucinskaite won the stage. Judith Arndt finished six minutes down. I'm sure they will be ready to do it all again tomorrow.
There were a few notable abandons today. Miho from my team, Matusiak, Zabirova who won yesterday, Leontien Z-Van Moorsel, and Petra Rossner. Our Lido dancer, Cynthia finished last, 15 minutes behind a group of ten riders, but after a crash on the first descent that made the next 120km even tougher. She seems to still be in good spirits, as much as can be expected after a very long week.
A toute a l'heure,
Emma's racing exploits in 2002