No medal. No goodie bag. No hat. No t-shirt. Just very sore legs. This is a race, not a sportive and there are World Champion Rainbow Jerseys up for grabs!
The 3 Team Wheelers who qualified and signed up for the Amateur World Championships set off for Albi as part of a massive Team GB representation. There were around 2,400 riders from 53 countries, with Team GB by far the largest. There are in fact 18 races across all the age categories for male and female riders! Each category has a mass start, with commissaire car and moto support with 7 minute intervals between each race. The largest race was my group of 50-54 year old males with 340 participating. There was also a special 100 year+ category with a 106 years old male rider who looked amazing for his age :-0
Sign on and race brief was on Saturday, all very easy and smooth. Suggestion was to park at the finish and ride the 3Km into Albi for the start and they even put on shuttle buses for the support crew to cheer you at the start and finish. Race brief made a point of emphasising the riders responsibility for doping control! Turns out you have to check at the end to see if you are one of the random checks and failure to turn up results in positive result and a 2 year ban from the UCI!
Even with a reasonable start time, we were still up at 5am for breakfast and set off from our hotel at 6am! Parked up at the Albi Race Circuit where we finish and get ready before we ride into Albi to the start area.
Each age group sets off at specific times, so Jamie bids farewell and off to his pen, Karen’s last off so probably still in bed at this time 😉 We then have some fantastic French organised chaos. Could get some lessons on start protocols from the other euro events! Somehow we all manage to get to the line at our allotted time. My age cat has the biggest number of all with 340 in a mass start.
The first 2.5Km were apparently neutralised behind the commissaires car and outriders. It was carnage! Almost wore out my brake blocks as the peleton was squeezed, sprinted, stopped, repeat. The first crash of the day was in the first 2Km, there were many more! The speed was not very neutral.
At the km 0 sign the flag dropped and hell was unleashed. It was fast, very fast and unrelenting and not my usual Sunday run! I have no idea what the route was or what the scenery was as I saw nothing but the wheels in front as we made it to the first climb at 35 miles in 1hr 25. The race then blew apart. Found myself in groups for the lumpy section as we all pushed on as best we could.
The middle section was hilly and then the sun came out. It was way too hot for a pasty Scot. Temperature apparently was 35-38 degrees. It felt like riding in a sauna with a hairdryer blasting your face. Reports that they ran out of water at the second feed stop, which is just unacceptable at any time, never mind the heat we had. So the last 25 miles were torture as cramp set in due to excessive heat and excessively sore legs! I limped home, barely able to hold any wheels that passed.
Did get a bit of lift towards the end with help from a kind Aussie and then the final run in as we turned onto the Albi Race Circuit for the last Km on the race track. I didn’t trouble anyone in a sprint and rolled home, burst.
The greatest thing of the day was the lady with the hose showering you as you finished – bliss. Caught up with Karen who had a superb ride and Jamie who like me had a tough day at the office.
This was definitely not your usual sportive, a different class of rider, which you’d expect with a Rainbow Jersey on offer for each age cat winner! Was a great experience though and seeing all the various countries in national colours was great.
The results for Team Wheelers were:
- Karen 2:55 for the 97Km route for 13th in her age category (winner was 2:37)
- Jamie 4:52 for the 155Km route for 150th in his age cat (winner was 3:53)
- Graeme 4:45 for the 155Km route for 216 in his age cat (winner was 4:02)
Nothing left but to relax and a well earned beer or two for us and the support crew.
Qualifying ride is Ayrshire again for the 2018 Worlds being held in Varese, would recommend it, great experience.
The Garmin stats and route are: