Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with our typical weekend of climbing, racing and Cath’s trophy-winning ways. This weekend was little different as we headed to northern France to race the 185km La Ronde Picardie. It was the final race of the Grande Trophee series, not counting the finale in the Caribbean, and it was packed. Luckily, we had been given numbers that enabled us to start with the first 300 of over 1000 riders. Even then, once we got underway, it was a mad dash to be anywhere near the front (by which I mean within the first 200 riders). Once we turned off the route nationale onto the narrow back-roads, it was all over.
Still, the course was over pretty country-side, dotted with chateaux, cornfields and along what passes for a beach in these parts. And while the course was long, there wasn’t much climbing (1200m in total). In fact, the biggest hill I saw was the pile of riders and bikes that formed in front of me as one rider went down and the next six or seven blokes fell on top of him. Luckily it was on a climb and into a stiff breeze, so we weren’t moving that fast; on flatter sections we trundled along at 50-60km/h.
The rapid pace made for a relatively short race. I came over the line in 5.09, about 18 minutes behind the winner. Cath came in not long afterwards, in around 5.34 – third sheila and second in her age classement. We were in for another wait for podium duties and another haul – this time, a tasteful glass trophy, some flowers, a helmet, a tee-shirt, local pear cider and another terrine (to go with the 67 or so she won in Burgundy and which still fill our cupboards). Getting this all back to the car at the start village some ten kilometres away was ‘entertaining’.
More impressive than this haul, however, was Robert (photo below). He posted a modest time for a modest (45 km) course. But at a few weeks shy of his 100th birthday, we – and the crowd – didn’t care. A group of young riders (whose ages collectively wouldn’t have reached Robert’s) chanted ‘Robert, Robert’, as the man himself lapped it up and regaled the crowd with tales of ages long gone by. Or maybe he was just passing on some fashion advice. Either way, my French couldn’t quite make it out.