Tuesday, 25 June 2013

London to Paris - Day 2

Day of London to Paris 2012 experienced the worst weather conditions they'd ever experienced in 9 years of running the event, I was there and have the tee-shirt, have a read of this blog to set the tone.  I described it as "biblical" conditions, never to be repeated.

I nearly spoke too soon.  As we set off from Calais, the conditions promised a windy day with fierce crosswinds for large parts of the ride, they promised and delivered.  Winds were as bad as the previous year but this year without the rain, a saving grace that we were kept dry whilst we pushed on, head down, grimaces firmly fixed on the wheel in front.

Peloton Etiquette

So, I talked in yesterday's post about peloton riding or the lack of it.  Day two saw some improvement, but we had a few rogue characters whose need to want to chase up to the front meant the familiar cry of "slowing" was heard all day long.  

One particular group of overseas riders (five in total) kept moving up and then riding as a mini-group, meaning the shape of the peloton was constantly upset and the rear markers frustrated.  We heard the familiar shout of "slowing" far too often.  The breaking point was when they chased onto the front on a really undulating section and then really bent the group out of shape, a few well placed words of displeasure soon made their way to the front.

As an example, one minute we were whistling along at 25mph, then the shout "slowing" came, hands on brakes, down to 15mph, then back up to 17mph.  In amongst the fearsome winds, it meant a lot of wasted energy going down the drain for no reason as you were constantly revving up and down as the group stretched out.  

Ride captain - Gareth - soon clocked this and wasted no time in having a word.  Northern Irish, a word from Gareth was like a word from an army regimental sergeant major - it seemed to have the effect. 

Then the cracks started to appear, or should I say "craics."  Our Persil White Skoda kit was the subject of a bit of banter and the odd "I can see your bumcrack" in those shorts jibes started coming to take our minds off of the conditions, so we all rolled with it and anyone with a dodgy seam in their shorts became a target.


I punctured on day two.  The great thing about this event is they have full mechanic support, so it's over to the side of the road, wheel in the air and a mechanic jumps out of a van and slots you a new one in.  The great bit about that is that you then get drafted back up to the group by a motorbike and ride captain, winding the speed up to 30mph was superb, I loved it.

Fellow rider - Jonathon - had a big mechanical when his rear mech sheered off, it was looking pretty bleak for him and he had to ride in the van whilst they figured out what to do.  Jon is the key man behind the activation of the Skoda brand in cycling and as Skoda had a huge amount of cars on this event, all efforts were being made to find a replacement bike.  Jammy sod, this Campagnolo test bike turns up with full electronic 11 speed Campag EPS, foul play hasn't yet been ruled out, pic below.
Campag Test Bike

The profile for the day was pretty rolling as you can see below, which meant the tough winds took their toll on some riders.  We were all pleased to get to lunch at the 110km mark, get some proper food down us and a little respite before the roll into Amiens.  One really key thing you note is the condition of the roads in France, we hardly heard the word "hole" atall during the day, which was great.  Cars pulled over to give us room, people stood on their doorsteps to wave, cycling is loved there which felt unfamiliar.

I was feeling in pretty good shape, fitness wise it was all good and I had no difficulty with the pace or the key climb of the day.  You can see my split times here on Garmin connect.  It was a slower day speed wise, with the wind, the profile and the peloton movement we arrived back with a 15mph average. 
Stage Two Profile

I was itching to ride faster, however in a big ride like this, the pace is tightly controlled to hit the road closures at exactly the right time.  It got me thinking about going up a group (or two) next year and really pushing myself - more to come on that.  My heart rate average was 139bpm, down on the previous days 147bpm.  

By the end of day two, we'd covered 207 miles (333km) and around 12K of ascent in seven hours.  I jumped into a stretching class at the end of the day with a pilates instructor which was really helpful, just to iron out a few aches and pains, mostly in the shoulders.

I slept fine that night, but not everybody can say the same.  This day every year is the right of the good citizens of Amiens to play any sort of music they like in the streets, music was going on into the early hours but thankfully my room was on the right side of the hotel away from the din.  Tomorrow, day three and the final run into Paris.

Key Observations
  • Most people were getting the hang of the peloton, but not all.
  • The wind was tough and it's always important to keep a close eye on your eating and drinking in conditions like that, it's easy to bonk!
  • Ride captains did a sterling job in the conditions. Chapeau!
  • It's important to have a good 'craic' when times are tough, keeps spirits up.
  • Real food tastes great after two days of sugary carbohydrate based products.  The ham and cheese baguette at lunch tasted divine!

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