Team Cyclingnews.com - Down Under - 2004
Gravel, cobbles & no escape: Four races in three nations
By Phil Thuaux
After being a bit slack in the email department, I thought I'd better send home some news, and avoid the building number of phone calls inquiring as to what I've been up to! There must be a problem with the phone line somewhere though, because no one's calls seem to be getting through.
Gravelling in Denmark
Anyway, the last few weeks have involved a lot of driving. I think the last time I wrote was after racing in Germany (3rd place) and Switzerland (4th place) on successive weekends. Continuing from there we then headed to Denmark for two back to back, one day races, over the 1st and 2nd of May. The Saturday race was GP SATS, a UCI 1.3 ranked event, and often referred to as Denmark's 'Roubaix'.
Some of the competition included this year's winner of the genuine Paris - Roubaix, Magnus Backsted. The 200km race had 17 sections of gravel, totaling 32km. This wasn't gravel on top of a sealed road surface, but deep, loose gravel, with sand in between. Keeping it short though - after Harro and I got run off into the grass and trees to avoid a crashing motorcycle, its rider, and accompanying camera man and equipment on a deep gravel corner, we missed the break that most of the CSC team rode away with. The size of the break dwindled to just 10 riders as the race progressed, and after two punctures, lots of flat out, flat f#*k chasing, and even more off road adventures, I found myself attacking a group with two other riders, and getting to the finish circuits racing for 11th. I managed to get rid of one of my competitors with an attack over the final dirt section with 3km to go. I couldn't get rid of the remaining rider though, and he came round me in the sprint. I was 12th.
The next day started in a downpour of rain, but thankfully this time was on sealed roads. The race was the CSC Classic, and drew a UCI 1.2 ranking. The efforts from the previous day however had strained one of my glutes (one of my bum muscles near my tail bone). I dropped back to the following team cars, and after a discussion with Alain our director, decided it would be better to call it an early day, and not risk making a possible injury any worse. Sitting near the back of the bunch, someone spotted a sign to the town that our hotel was in, and I followed the scent of 'over it' coming from three-quarter of the Lotto-Domo and Palmans-Collstrop teams, and rode home early in the company of some classy (just not today) bike riders.
British cobbles & climbs
Continuing the international travels saw us then head to the UK last weekend for GP Lincoln, another one day race.
The race was 13laps of a 13km circuit, that included a 300m, 17 percent cobbled climb to the start/finish area. Typically being a different style of racing there, we drew on the knowledge of our two English team riders, Hamish and Tom, in regard to who our major opponents might be. They included Malcolm Elliott, as well as many other great UK-based riders. The day went reasonably well, with us always having someone in the break. Mid race I took an opportunity to cross a gap to the lead group of 14 riders, where we had Hamish. I managed to get over on my own, but only after a 23km time trial effort. Alain was in the car behind, urging me on, so I stuck with it, riding through some cramps, but finally making it. We didn't have radios for the weekend (the other half of the team were using them in The Netherlands) and so whilst I knew the gap I crossed was reasonable, it wasn't until after the race that Alain had told me it had been 1 1/2 min. It had been a good effort, but was less valuable when on the next lap a selection had been made back in the chasing peloton, and we were joined by another 20 riders.
It took a while to recover from my previous effort, but Cody and Hamish were able to get away in small groups. Alain came up in the car, and gave orders to block the race. So I spent the remaining laps covering moves, and trying to contain the field, so they wouldn't catch our leading riders. Hamish, coming back from recent sickness, ran out of legs, and got dropped, leaving us with only Cody in the front, with 9 other riders. Nearing the finish, and the bunch now unable to catch Cody, I could play my own cards, and started my own game again. I was able to hit the final climb, 300m to go, in second wheel. I gave myself a good run up the narrow gutter (smoother) and moved to leading the group. I was able to hold off the other riders, and crossed the line in 11th place. Hamish bought himself home further back in our group of 30 odd riders.
No escape in Germany
Finally, we get to this weekend. We've just returned from another trip to Germany, where we raced Köln - Bonn, another UCI 1.3. The race was three laps of a 60km circuit, followed by a shorter 32km circuit (212km total). The large lap had some steep, but not too long climbs, as well as some nice twisting descents. During the week the team got some new carbon race wheels, and today we had our first outing on them. The verdict - good! Back to the race report though - An early group of twenty riders got away, with Josh included. Having a rider there, our team was not obligated to chase, so we benefited from some of the other teams who missed the break, and watched them do some of the work. Such a hard course wasn't going to allow a group that size to stay intact, and it was just going to be a matter of time. Their lead grew to approx four minutes before they splintered. Josh however was in the second half of the split, and his small group were soon back in our sight. Nine riders from the original group stayed away. Josh came back to us on a climb, and as soon as he did I had to take the opportunity to counter attack. There were a few teams joining in on the attacks, but with a long descent, and too many teams still committed to chasing, nothing was going to get away yet. As the end of the race neared, the peloton would be competing for 10th place. In the final 15km a group of three more riders got away. I was in the next group of 6, closely followed by the bunch. We ran out of time to catch the 3 latest escapees just seconds in front, but I played my cards well enough to beat all but the Lotto Domo rider in my group, to take 14th place.
My next event is now a three day tour starting on Friday. It's Triptyque Ardennais, held in Belgium's hilly region. I'm looking forward to it. That will be followed by another large one day race back in Germany the weekend after that. The main goal in the coming weeks is to continue to build the form towards Circuito Montanes, a seven day tour in the Spanish mountains in the second half of June.
Well, time for some sleep. Stay in touch, and I'll say it again - let me know what all of you have been up to back at home.
Til next time,
PS The glute strain cleared up during the week following Denmark