Gran Fondo Masters World Championships,
Albi, France, 2017
ABC Centreville’s Steve Whittington reports on his strong ride:
After qualifying for the World Masters Championships at the Tour Of Cambridgeshire in June (see here http://www.centreville.org.uk/tour-of-cambridgeshire/ I was back in action in GB colours for the final on the 27th August.
273 riders from all over the world lined up to race over 98 brutal miles in temperatures touching 34 degrees, and with 6500 feet of climbing ahead of us, it was going to be a very, very tough race.
I’d planned on it being a race of attrition, and decided my best approach was ‘damage limitation’ from the gun! Having ridden the course beforehand, I knew that weighing in at 84kg, the climbs would be my downfall, but if I could limit my losses as best possible I could use the descents and rolling terrain of the last 25 miles to my advantage. There were 3 feed stations for bidons, but clearly, fuel and hydration was going to be a challenge over such a distance. Somehow, in my small skin-suit pockets I managed to squeeze 9 Pâtes Des Fruits, 4 gels, and 4 x 200ml cartons of Capri Sun orange juice!!! I then stuffed a further 6 gels up my sleeves and shorts to ensure I had enough fuel. If I’d have crashed in the first kilometre there would have been one hell of a sticky mess on the roads of Albi to clear up!!!!
The first 20 miles went by predictably, but the first climb of note sent my pulse soaring. I managed to keep out of the red but was going backwards through the peleton at a rate of knotts. Luckily it was only a fairly short climb so by the top, although the peloton had split and I was hovering around at the back, I could make up the ground on the twisty descent to the Tarn valley where I could sit in for 10 miles until the big climb of the race, a 6 mile ascent at an average gradient of 5%. The moment we hit the climb, the pace went through the roof as the lightweights attacked at the front. My threshold heart rate is around 168-172bpm, anything over that and I start going into the red so my plan was to ride the climb at my threshold and see what the situation was at the top. within less than a kilometre on the climb, the race had exploded to pieces with the whole peloton lined out.
At a guess I’d say I was placed in the top third at this point. By the top of the climb groups had formed and I found myself in the third group on the road which numbered around 25-30 riders. The next 10 miles were spent trying to organise a chase along the valley to catch the groups ahead, but tired legs were already showing in my group and there was a general unwillingness to push hard at this stage of the race. At the 60 mile point we hit the second big climb of the race and I actually felt quite strong. Despite pushing hard for the next 25 miles, trying to force breaks on the descents and putting several attacks in, there was no way I could break the elastic and bridge the gap to the front runners on my own. I settled for finishing in the group that I was in, but I’d come here to race so I was at least determined to put a good sprint in at the finish. The final kilometre was on a motor racing circuit in Albi and the run-in was fast, as we took the last bend onto the finishing straight there were around 30 riders and a fairly fast sprint ensued. I put a good effort in and although was feeling a bit of cramp I crossed the line 3rd place in the sprint.
Overall I finished in 76th place, and so out of 273 riders I don’t think I embarrassed myself too much. To put that into context, British multiple TT champion and record holder Matt Bottrill finished in 61st place. The race was won by Samuel Plouhinec, a 61kg former French professional. Next year’s final is in Varese in Italy, where I hope to be competing again.
98 miles in 4hrs 07mins
23.1mph average speed
6493ft elevation gain
Average HR 154
Max HR 180
2893 calories burnt
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