After months of grey, mild and wet weather, we found Summer last weekend. For two glorious days, temperatures in the Nievre (Bourgogne, France) soared above thirty degrees. We had headed to the Nievre to climb and race La Jean-Francois Bernard. The race was through the Morvan hills lying roughly between Auxerre and Dijon, and south of both. From the profile, it looked to only have three climbs over the 167km course. In reality, it was much tougher as it undulated constantly through green forests, around dams and across lush farmland.
It would have been nice to enjoy all that countryside. And for the first thirty kms we did. But then yours truly was forced to the front to give way to one of the race cars, at the start of the first climb. A young whipper-snapper pushed on and we took turns stretching out the bunch, still largely in tact since the start. (It was at this point Cath started to regret her comment that the bunch was too big and needed to be broken up. She dug deep and hung on in the first group over the top, only to be dropped.)
From the top of the first climb, the lead bunch was about thirty strong. By the time we got just below the top of the main climb, around mid-course, we were fewer. Then the attacks flowed. We broke into three groups, before coalescing into two. Alas, I was in the second of these (six riders), a frustrating 30 seconds down the road and within tantalising sight of the lead bunch of nine. Chase as we did we couldn’t bring it back. And for all that effort, I paid dearly on the last climb, eventually rolling across the line in 13th in 4:54.
Meanwhile, Cath having resolved again to find a fat lazy husband, chased the one woman rider she thought was still up the road. In the end she was joined by the young girl from behind! But when a migraine came on, followed shortly by another, Cath couldn’t sustain the pace and the youngster escaped to win. Still, Cath found herself in a bunch with a couple of competitive women riders, one of whom we used to see at races when we lived over this way a few years back. The two spent much of the time trying to get an advantage over the other, streaking ahead of the blokes on the descents and generally towing them around. As they neared the finish, Cath ‘s competitor was joined by her Bleeksie-sized partner, from the roadside and ready to tow. Conscious of the dignity of the jersey, Cath jumped on the train and when the locomotive pulled aside just before the line, sprinted (a personal first) snatching second place – and the fine trophy below.
The trophy – timeless classic, or…?