The Tracey Gaudry Diary 1999

The Local East Coast Australian Time is

Trophee d'Or, August 25-27

Prologue, Team Time Trial, 7 kms

With the prologue counting only towards the Teams classification, it wasneedless to say that Ebly would not be having a serious dig. The time trialbikes and discs remained in the bike room, awaiting the ITT stage later onin the tour. The first team drove out at 8.30pm, already dusk. By the timewe set off, it was pitch black, and slightly drizzly. About half of theteams were really serious, including Lithuania, Australia and Holland. Thecourse was dead flat with only a couple of corners. We rode a relativelyeasy pace and finished some 23 seconds of the winning pace of the youngAustralians! They were all geared up and won by 6 seconds from Lithuaniaand Denmark, an excellent team effort, which I thought was great. In myopinion, if you are going to make the effort to race at 9.30pm, then youmay as well make it worthwhile. The Aussies did that.

Stage 1, La Chapelle St Ursin - Avord, 113 kms

It stormed all morning, then remained cloudy but the skies held upfortunately. We rolled out at 3pm and the attacks were on right from thestart. Riders from many teams were making for an aggressive race which wasa great change from the 'stale mate' that the Dream Team imposed on theTour. I kept pretty fresh, following wheels and going across to only reallythreatening breaks. Two French riders from separate teams made a breakwhich went out to over a minute, before Ebly, Lithuania and Holland broughtit back. Again riders were going everywhere. What made the race moreinteresting was that there were 'primes' - sprints worth money - at everytown, with some of them worth good dollars. Hence everyone wanted to getaway.

At 60km I noticed that some of the stronger riders were preparing to have ago. I went with a move that gained a good gap very quickly, but noone wouldwork. So I countered the break, and a group of riders came with meincluding Jolanta Polikeviciute and Alison Wright. Our break of eightriders went out to 50 seconds within 5km - that was it for the race Ihoped. Patrice came up to me after a few km and ordered me not to work withthe group, as Jolanta was the strongest rider, and he was worried about howI would fare in the hills in a few days time. Great motivational comments,I thought, wondering whether he was trying to use reverse psychology on me!So I sat on for a while, but the girls were getting shirty - there wasstill 45km to go. I rolled through easily and kept them happy and my legsfresh as well.

Alison attacked at 1km before a prime, winning the money and splitting thebreak in two. There were only four left. None of us would work hard, andeventually the other four came back. We had 3 minutes on the field by now -there was little danger in getting caught. With 20km to go, Jolanta startedto put the hammer down and time trialled steadily on the front for the next10km, obviously realising that the overall tour would be won by someone inthis group. Alison was all set to take the 'maillot jeune' (young ridersjersey), and I was pondering over whether taking the yellow jersey todaywould put too much pressure on for the rest of the tour. Probably, butthere was also pressure to fly the flag of Ebly, the team sponsor and themajor sponsor of the race. So, I attacked at 2km to go and won solo by 6seconds to take the overall lead. Alison finished second winning the sprintfrom the remainder of the break. Now, to await the onslaught tomorrow.Defending the jersey will be hard, but today was definitely a day to makethe most of opportunities.

Stage 2, Avord - La Chapelle St Ursin, 101 kms

Very easy day in the saddle today. Not much to report. A few attacksoccurred early. A break went at 35km or so with eight riders from differentteams and noone from yesterday's break. So all the big teams were happy tohave riders up the road (except our team, more on that later), and their GCcontenders from yesterday protected. We had a five minute lead afteryesterday, so the eight in yesterday's break were very happy to let today'sgap go out to 2 minutes or so. It was good for me, as I have had terriblestomach cramps and nausea for the past two days (an after effect of 16solid days of flogging myself I guess), so I sat in, a couple of wheelsfrom the front.

With 30km to go, Jeannie started working at the front and called our girlsup to bring the break back. She then questioned me for not worrying aboutthe break, but this wasn't until 10km to go. Hmmm, am I meant to win thistour or what? She was worried about Chevan-Brunel and another rider in thebreak who she thought could climb better than me, even though I would stillhave 4 minutes on them going into tomorrow. It should have been more of apriority to stay fresh for the onslaught from Iolanta and the rest of theLithuanians tomorrow in the hills. Anyway, I rode through dutifully but notfrantically. In the end, the break finished only 33 seconds ahead of us.Our girl Karen finished second which was a good result. Of the main bunch,Alison Wright won the bunch kick after a frantic 'setup' from the Aussiegirls. I finished 5th in the bunch and am still 2nd on Points behind VanKuik, who won today. Alison is a better bet for Points overall and is 3rd,also still winning the Junior Classification.

I am still in the Yellow Jersey going into tomorrow's stage. It will reallysort things out.

Stage 3, Loire - Sancerre

Today's stage is the renowned 'hell stage' with 4 climbs in the space of18km, one longish steady climb and three 'walls'! They turned out to bebetween 18% and 20% each! Not surprisingly there was no real team plan, soI it was logical for me to tail Iolanta (the major threat) and hope thateverything worked out. The team environment has been unpleasant to say theleast, with one girl or another down in the dumps at any one time due tosome heavy-handed management. Still, on with the show we go.

The first climb wasn't hard, and Juanita, myself and Jeannie were up thefront with the Lithuanians. It strung the bunch out but didn't snapcompletely. This was a warmup before the first wall coming up in 3km, about600m steady and then 500m straight up! The 25 cog was under strain, but Ikept a very smooth rhythm and went over the top with Iolanta. Of course Isat on her wheel, waiting for my teammates to catch back up. The next climbwas only 5km later and was a slightly extended version of the same. Thistime I led up the wall to keep out of trouble as I could see a gravel patchahead. The back wheel completely spun out as I tried to traverse the dirtat an 18% grade. Again I went over the top with Iolanta, and we wereclearly away. Again I sat on, but took the lead on the descent as she isnotoriously bad. A few kms later after the bottom, Jeannie and Laurencecaught on with Cheval Brunel, me being chastised for taking the lead on thedownhill - only trying to stay upright! A few more riders got back onbefore the last of the climbs, but they were taken care of early on. Thisone was 2km long and a wall for the last 1.5km! I wasn't quite ready forit, and lost rhythm with 300m to go. Iolanta pulled away and went over thetop about 50m in front. Chevan Brunel was with me and I had to think aboutthe best plan. Iolanta was 15 seconds down the road by the time I got mylegs back, and I could see Laurence and Jeannie about the same distancebehind me. Hmm, chase on my own, or get together and chase her down morequickly with the others. I took the latter option, usually the smartchoice, but probably the decision that changed the race. My 'idealistic'hope that a team effort might just work.

Now there were five of us, with Iolanta 25 seconds down the road. Within5km she was 50 seconds in front, then 1 minute. Figure that one out? I wasdriving like crazy, Laurence wasn't strong enough, and Jeannie would ridethrough, then go to the back and launch ahead of us. The stated objectivewas to get rid of Chevan-Brunel but all it did was disrupt the chase andruin our legs from the surges required. In the end I simple drove the bunchbecause there was no other option. We wouldn't get Iolanta now, so I triedto minimise the time deficit. Jeannie rode a little more smoothly but notat 100%. Laurence was stuffed. The other two sat on. The last 2km wasuphill and I knew it would kill me to keep driving but there was no choice.Then Jeannie launched ahead with 1.5km to go. I hung on for as long as Icould but snapped as she attacked us all to try to get rid ofChevan-Brunel, her main objective at this point. I was also dropped byLaurence, and came in a few seconds behind them, further behind Iolantathan the work I had done warranted. The results will tell the story.

Today was a very tough day for my strength of character, but I hold my headhigh for maintaining proper integrity. I was pleased to have been in mybest climbing shape since May, given that Iolanta was one of the topclimbers in the Tour and obviously peaking now. The time trial tomorrow isa slim possibility for me to regain the lead, but with the current time gapit is not likely.

Stage 4, ITT, 11.9 kms

Throw away the Yellow Pages and let the legs do the talking!

I got up early to take the TT bike for a ride over the course before theyshut it off. I also wanted to test out the bike on the 'black line' for the1.5 lap finish at the town's concrete velodrome. I was terribly tired aftera late night but it was worth it, having received a much needed 11th hour(literally) massage from Matthew, the Aussie team's physio who very kindlyoffered his services to my knotted quads and glutes. I had not had amassage since before the Grand Boucle finished, Ebly didn't bring a masseurfor this tour!

Anyway, I felt like trash warming up for the ITT, suffering fromyesterday's super-intense stage and general fatigue from the inability torebuild the energy stores after 3 weeks of continuous racing. I was 2ndlast to go, but didn't know any of the times to beat. Not a drama, Ialready knew what I had to do - take 4 seconds out of Iolanta for everykilometre! A very tough call, and highly improbable.

After a decent steady start, I was in reasonable shape when I hit the shortsteep climb 3km into the TT. I went up in a 19, but should have used the 21- a bit too big. Then I had huge problems with the gears over the top, thechain jumping and dragging on the cogs. I wasted a good few seconds goingnowhere before sitting back down to readjust the lever on my TT bar end. Bythe time I got sorted I was on my way down the other side and had lostvaluable momentum. I threw it into the 11 cog and drove to the cornerthrowing the bike around the bend onto the straight drag. I was slightlyovergeared, but got into a rhythm. I was too fatigued to pedal with a highcadence, so the old 'grind' was the next option. Then came the lactic acidburn! Only half way there! I was not riding this time trial well at all. Ipulled myself together and got into the groove, thinking "4 seconds per km,4 seconds per km". Totally arbitrary when I had no idea how fast Iolantawould be going, but it helped keep me focussed. 1km before the velodromefinish was a hard drag and I dug deep to keep the momentum going before thefinal sprint. I was exhausted going into the velodrome but at least it wasflat and smooth with good bends. I dropped straight onto the TT bars andfocussed only on the black line as best I could (for someone who hasn'tridden on the track for several years) as I drove hard to the finish.

As I collapsed on the grassy centre area of the track, I watched Iolantacome in and knew I had beaten her, but by how much. It was a few minutesbefore James told me I had won - oh that's good I thought, but it meantnothing in the scheme of things even though I had beaten some big guns.Then the news that I was 47 seconds faster than Iolanta! Was this a badjoke? In the Yellow Jersey again by 3 seconds! Unbelievable!

Kristy and Ally also had great rides to finish right up there, Kristyknocking off a dejected Longo.

Stage 5, Levet - St. Amand, 83 kms

The final stage was typically flat, with a finishing circuit. It was veryheartwarming to receive the vote of confidence from Iolanta who was happyfor me to have re-earnt the jersey and wouldn't be endeavouring to make theafternoon tough for me. She was happy to have given Jeannie Longo aflogging on the tour, and after yesterday, was disappointed for me, eventhough it had virtually sealed GC for her. I was the leader on Pointsbefore the final stage too, with Alison in equal 2nd. I was more than happyto aid her to win it, my objective being to stay safe and retain the Yellowjersey.

The stage was predictably easy, but I stayed up at the front for most of iteven though Iolanta was down the back. The bunch was too nervous andreckless and a crash in the final stage would not be a pleasant way tofinish. Longo rode at the front for a bit, then dropped back and commenceda series of attacks. What for this time? I followed wheels and wasted onlyas much energy as I had to. I was thankful to see lots of green and yellowstriped jerseys about, and felt safe in their midst. After a while Laurencefrom Ebly came to the fore and helped to keep things under control bysetting tempo in the latter stages. I backed the bunch off to give her some'money' primes in the closing stages of the race. The last lap was gettingmessy. I hung near the Aussies, thinking to help them out with the sprintfor Alison. They looked fine, and Ally was in a good position. I sat upbefore the last corner and came in in the midst of the bunch as Allyfrantically sprinted to take 2nd against the Dutch sprinter, sealing thePoints jersey as well as the Junior jersey.

A fantastic finish to the tour for the 'Aussie' force, due to a lot of gritfrom all the girls. All were happy. As goes for Ebly, I WAS HAPPY! Themanaging director, Allan Bourgesais from EBLY had also attended the lasttwo days of the tour. They sponsor our team, Iolanta's team and were amajor sponsor for the tour. Allan was extremely happy to have the racefocussed around Iolanta and myself in a two-way battle that was fought onextremely positive and professional terms. He was also happy that thishelped to mask the obvious disparity in the objectives of individual Eblymembers. I felt my decision to 'go for it' on the 1st day was justified forthis reason in helping to promote the support of Ebly the company. Thesupport of Allan, the Aussie team, the tour organisation and even my rivalteams and staff made the win extremely special, especially when the otherAussies also came out on top.