After gaining enough points last week by winning the Tour du canton de Domme, I now moved up into the higher level of racing in the 2nd category and my first race in it proved to be a very eventful one indeed:
The Tour des Deux Vallées started and finished in Saint-Cyprien, a commune located in the Dordogne and part of the Black Perigord. The town itself is located on the side of a hill positioned on the right bank of the valley the Dordogne river. The parcours is what I would describe as being very selective and took in four large climbs with a number of smaller ones along the way. It was also more complicated than usual in that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd categories all started together meaning that you had to be very aware of who was slipping off the front and who would and who would not be willing to work/chase in any give situation.
In terms of my form, I was obviously in good overall shape having won the week before, but I had had a somewhat poor week of training as I was suffering from a light head cold, so I was not sure exactly how I would go. Added to that this was my first 2nd cat race. Anyway my attitude was to give it my best and there really was no pressure at all and to go with that, my race number was 51 – the mos winning number in the Tour de France, so I took that as a good omen.
The first 22km on rolling terrain was fairly predictable with a number of breaks trying to get away, however all were brought back, the last of which was right at the foot of the first hard climb up to the town of Belves. I was right on the front at the bottom and probably got a little too excited and moved a few meters clear for a short while, but then eased myself back into the bunch, realising that I was just wasting energy. Anyway with more than 1km to go a few guys started to go REALLY hard, my legs felt dead and I almost immediately went into the red and began to slip out of the back of the pack. I also managed to drop my chain near the top, but quickly got it back on without having to stop, however it lost me some more momentum. Over the top I was distance from the front of the bunch along with a number of other riders.
Luckily after the descent and a reasonably hard chase of about 5km and with the help of my 1st Cat Cyclo4 team mate, Romain CONCHOU we all got together again. At this moment I thought I was in for a really bad day, but from then on things got better for me. Looking back I think I just hit the bottom of the climb too hard and so when the accelerations happened near the top, I was not able to respond.
Over the next climbs things were far better for me and whilst the best 1st Cat riders went clear, I was in the bunch that contained all the main 2nd Cat players and a few 1st cat guys.
On the second to last climb, I went to the front and along with my friend David Nicita really pushed the pace and by the top we had thinned out the bunch a fair amount. The last climb consisted of quite a few kilometers of “false flat” at less than 5%, much of it probably around 2% and then probably 1km of the steeper stuff towards the top. At the bottom the pace was really quite easy and David just eased off the front…. and we all watched him go. At the time I remembered thinking that he was going too early as there was still more than 20km to go, especially alone…. that was the last we saw f him and he finished alone with a beautiful victory – his first in the 2nd Category so massive congrats to him.
I waited towards the top of the climb before putting in an effort along with a few other guys, but were were unable to shake anyone off the back. For me is the biggest difference between the 2nd and 3rd categories – the racing is just as difficult, it is just now that there are more guys performing at a higher level.
From the top of the climb to the long descent into the finish town of Saint-Cyprien, I continued to attack to try and get away on the rolling terrain but was unsuccessful. On the descent, my Cyclo4 team mate, Romain CONCHOU told me to get on his wheel and he set a furious pace and then he chased down anyone who tried to get away. This really helped me as I did not have to do any work.
On the final short climb with only about 200m from the finish he went really hard and I just stuck to his wheel until the top where I went as fast as I could for the line.
Jean-baptiste Guezet from CC Marmande produced a powerful surge and finished a clear second (big congratulations to him), whilst I diced with Duncan Emmerson of VC Domme. On the day, I was given 3rd for the podium but it could have gone either way and indeed it seems the final results have me as in 4th position, which is a little confusing but also understanding: The next couple of photos are from the Velo Club Trelissacois website and I thank them for that:
In this 1st photo above you can see I was in front of Duncan but in the second one below, it shows him just in-front of me, but rather frustratingly it was taken a few meters after the line! Even with these photos I am not sure who won, but I would like to thank Duncan for his complete sportsmanship as he said that he thought I had beaten him and that I think is why I got onto the podium on the day.
Whatever the result, I was happy with my performance especially considering it was my first 2nd cat race on a hard course and because I was not at 100%.
I would like to take this opportunity to offer a huge word of thanks to the organisers, Vélo Club Trélissacois for laying on this beautiful race and all the hard work that goes on by all the volunteers in the background as well as the beautiful Lisa Bonnemaison (Miss Périgord 2015) for taking the time out to join us and offer out the prizes. It is really appreciated and I really look forward to coming back again next year.
- Alexandre LEON (TEAM VOLKSWAGEN Perigueux)
- Valentin MOULENE (Gourdon Cyclisme)
- Julien AUSSE (Gourdon Cyclisme)
- Ludovic FINET (CC Bosmie)
- Adrien Lacombe (Sprinter Club Du Perigord)
- David NICITA (AC Chemin Long)
- Jean Baptiste GUEZET (CC Marmande)
- Duncan EMMERSON (VC Domme)
- Jason WHITEHEAD (TEAM CYCLO 4)
- Quentin ROLLAND (US Villenave)
- Tom DONNENWIRTH (AOL Bergerac)
- Pascal MEGUI (AC Chemin Long)
- Pierre FOUQUET (Uc Sarlat)
- Bruno VIELCASTEL (Vc Domme)
- Julien GUIBAL (Gourdon Cyclisme)