Spring is in full swing here in Chambéry, and that means beautiful riding weather! I had my first ride in just bibshorts and a jersey yesterday, and though I’m grateful for the weather, the 80 degree high prompts concerns for the temperatures the summer may bring. Below you’ll find a few pictures taken on some of the many beautiful days in Chambéry these past few weeks. Chambéry is located right next to the Lac du Bourget, which makes for some pretty stunning views!
Two weeks ago, I raced for the second time this season, at the Pelousey Classic, three hours north of Chambéry. After just 3 kilometers of racing, while working my way through the peloton to the head of the race, I dropped my chain: that is, my chain fell off. Since we were going fast on a false flat — a very slight uphill — I couldn’t reach down and restore it on the fly, so I had to stop. I quickly got my chain back on and hopped back on my bike, but the peloton was already out of sight. Instantly I was the last rider out of 123 in the whole race, and had to work my way solo through the team cars that follow the race, drafting off each car briefly to slingshot myself back to the pack.
Thankfully, after a solid chase, I got back to the field. That cost energy, and unfortunately, I was nowhere near the front of the field when the race-winning break was formed. My teammate Jordan Labrosse made that break, eventually finishing 9th, but for a while I couldn’t help my other teammates cover attacks, monitoring other riders who might “bridge” to the winning group up front. Eventually I got there and worked hard with them for the rest of the race, finally finishing 41st. I’m optimistic that I’ll get the chance to prove myself in the next few races, but for the moment I’m happy with my learning curve and progress in my first two weekends of racing. Some things you only learn by doing!
The next week, my AG2R Citroen teammates and I traveled four hours northwest to Varennes-Vauzelles in the Nièvre department for what should have been another quality race. The prior night, the préfet (regional government) put new Covid restrictions in place, limiting gatherings to six people for the next four weeks. The race organizers had received a special exemption, but two hours before the race, pressured by higher levels of government, the préfet revoked the exemption and cancelled the race! We had already driven 3.5 hours when we found out: so our day counted seven hours in the car for nothing. It’s 2021, and things like this are becoming the new normal, often, I remind myself, with consequences more far-reaching than a bike race. Covid cases are rising sharply in France, with a 55% increase in the past 14 days according the New York Times. Although I sincerely hope that this won’t affect our race schedule, as we were just beginning to get momentum, it seems likely that more and more races will be either cancelled or postponed.
Something that is often overlooked in cycling teams is the behind the scenes work that team staff and management do to make sure that training, racing, and travel run smoothly. For 15 riders, there are 24 (yes, 24!) people working on our behalf, some full time and some part time. In charge is Loïc Varnet, the general manager and founder of the team, dating all the way back to 2002. On the training and racing side of the team, we have three sport directors who run the day to day training and racing operations as well as drive in the team car that follows us during races. We additionally have one cycling specific coach and one strength coach. Our medical staff consists of one doctor, Eric Bouvat, who is also the head doctor of the professional team, three kinesiotherapists, who cover a range of tasks from massage to post crash checkups, and one psychologist. On the technical front, there are three mechanics, four assistant sport directors who, a maîtresse de maison (a french term that roughly means someone who takes care of day to day household tasks) who functions as the team chef, and a mechanic charged solely with taking care of team vehicles. The team has two large vans, a smaller van, and two cars used largely for following the peloton during races. These cars are fitted with custom made bike racks on the roof to accommodate up to eight bikes, enough for a spare bike for every rider in a race in the case of a mechanical issue. Lastly, the team employs one full time staffer and three interns to cover communication, social media, and marketing. I’m massively grateful to all of the staff for the work they put in to make our lives run smoothly, and it’s wonderful to see that they all take sincere joy in what they do.
Team staff: https://ag2r-citroen-u23-team.com/staff/
Theoretically (or as you say in French, en principe), I’ll race a few more times in the next few weeks. This Sunday will be the regional team time trial championships, a good chance to test our legs after focusing on the discipline at training camps. The day after, Monday April 5th, comes a 122km road race. Then, after five more days of training back in Chambéry, we’ll do a mountainous road race in Martigny, Switzerland, at the junction of the French, Swiss, and Italian borders. We’ll race the same course that the UCI Road World Championships were to be held on in 2020, before Covid restrictions shifted the race to Italy. I’ll also start training on the track next week, which I’m massively looking forward to after nineteen months without having ridden on a velodrome! I’ll train once per week at the Bassin Velodrome in Eybens, a concrete 250-meter track near Grenoble, 45 minutes from my Chambéry base.
Hopefully I’ll have some racing to report back on next time I check in!