Some days just start better than others. I rolled down to breakfast picked up a freshly baked croissant and some warm fresh bread. It was going to be a good day. Then reality hit and with GP Saint Etienne on the books, one of the highest category ranked amateur races in France, I went back for another croissant. Today was actually going to be a tough day.

Trying to slip away early on
Trying to slip away early

We lined up in St Etienne for a hilly 140km. Straight away, we raced up the 11km climb that we would eventually ascend four times during the race. Somehow we managed to cover the thing at 34km/hr! The real crucial factor for the race, however, was the crosswinds on top before the decent. I rode comfortably on the climb, suffered like a dog through the crosswinds, and kept it tidy on the decent.

Sitting comfortably on the climb
Sitting comfortably on the climb

After a lot of unsuccessful breakaway attempts and splits, we were still ascending the major climb at a casual 30km/hr. Finally, we were on the last lap and as we hit the crosswinds section for the final time I was well prepared.  Then it spilt…

Sitting only a few riders behind the split I knew it was “now or never.” I shift down to and jump and hit the gas and see someone else had the same idea a split second ahead of me.  We both emerge from the peloton at the same time but thankfully he is slightly in front so I am sheltered. “I knew it would be a good day,” I thought. We are almost across to the front and as I roll through to take my turn I look back and see my saviour dangling in the wind and then cracking.  Guess he only had one croissant.

The race all lined out
The race all lined out

From there to the finish it was all downhill, literally, and the bunch snakes down the twisting descent all the way to where the road levels out for 4km run into the finish. One of the bigger teams clearly had a sprinter present and successfully lined the bunch out. We hit a roundabout 600m to go. Some Russians go right, I go left. 400m to go it comes back together. Chaos. Screams and shouts. Sprinting. Race done. 25th.

Suffering in the gutter
Suffering in the gutter

All in all a decent outing in a big race. I was happy with most of the race except the finish. I would never consider myself a sprinter but it’s clear I need to work on fighting to be involved to hopefully turn a 25th  into a much more acceptable top 15. That’s something for next time; one step at a time. Maybe three croissants for breakfast…

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