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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.
GP de Plouay World Cup, France, August 25, 2002
Catching a ride on the Saturn train
After a few wonderful days recovering from the Grande Boucle in the peace, tranquility and generous hospitality of the Beaumais household, I was taken in the team bus to Pontivy, 30km from the Plouay circuit. After a small ride, and plenty of rest in the afternoon, we were treated to a wonderful meal at the Hotel Ibis: fish as you would expect in Bretagne, home to many fishermen!
The following morning more time than is desirable was spent stressing about plans for transport and accommodation and communication all the things you take for granted when they are easy and simple. It is the time to start planning things for next year a stressful time for riders and team managers I guess.
I'm not entirely sure why, but I was particularly nervous before the start of the race. Uncertainty adding to uncertainty? It is hard to always have the comfortable routine that you desire before a race!
The circuit is impressive. Roughly 14km, with a decent one km drag at the start of the circuit, a couple short sharp pinches, and after a bit of a descent there is another longer steeper drag a few kilometres from the finish. Miriam Melchers was leading the World Cup series, with Petra Rossner (Saturn) second, Priska Doppman third and Rochelle Gilmore (Australia) in fourth. We had to do eight laps, about 115km.
I was not surprised in the first few laps (and almost every other lap) when Petra was brought back smoothly to the peloton by the Saturn train. I had seen it in Australia for the first world cup round, when everyone said that the circuit into Thredbo would be too tough to keep the peloton in tack and at Plouay in exactly the same way, Saturn managed to lead Rossner back each time that she was dropped on the climbs.
I was not feeling great for much of the race, and took advantage of the train when it passed by! Rochelle was always well placed with Petra, and looked quite comfortable. I did my best to do as little as I could all day but looked with admiration at those who were riding aggressively.
The Farm Frites riders were trying to control things, but even with Arenda Grimberg driving the peloton before the climb, and Leontien Z-Van Moorsel at the front after the climb it seemed to regroup quite easily around the one kilometre to go mark on the circuit, just after the climb. I was feeling quite miserable at some stages and wondered whether my body was thinking it was fair to be pushing it so hard only a week after the Grande Boucle, when there is still some serious recovery to be had! Maybe some of the other riders were feeling that too. For some reason there was not enough aggression after the climb to drop Petra (and her train of Saturn riders). On the final lap there were a few riders who got away on one of the early little pinches in the circuit. It was very strung out on the first climb and I chewed the bars a little to stay in contact. On the descent it was strung out but I tried to move up steadily not stressing too much or starting to panic. At the start of the climb in the last lap I finally had a strong enough rider to follow rather than the ones who seemed to stop in front of me on most of the other laps! I gave everything I had to follow with the wheel in front. There were lots of people who were going backwards now was not the time to think about how your legs felt!
Over the crest I was with about five riders just behind the front group of eleven. The gap was a little too large to bridge easily, and I didn't think the group would swap off for the chase. I followed wheels for a bit, but was not in a good position to go with Judith Arndt as she came from behind and rode across to the front group. A few more joined our group before the finish line but my sprinting effort was not too bad fourth of our group of about 15, and so I was 16th across the line. I am quite happy with that as it was a good field, and I wasn't feeling particularly strong on the day. Regina Scheicher (Michela Fanini) won the sprint ahead of Petra Rossner, with Petra now leading the series.
I still had to negotiate a little for the travelling plans for Rochelle and I, as well as shower and set off on our five hour drive back towards Paris. It all worked out quite easily, and after a meal en route we arrived at midnight back at the Beaumais recovery resort for first class hospitality. We have a few days now before Trophee D'Or, a five day French tour near Bourges.
A toute a l'heure,