Helping teammates and forming grupettos

So as some of you might know. I am now out in Martinique, racing a 9 day stage race. Here’s roughly how the first few days have gone…

Before that. It’s hot. Don’t mention my hair.

The first stage was 125km on what here is “flat” terrain. There was more elevation than I do in a week at home! With the jersey on offer straight away, the fight for the breakaway was on from kilometre 0. At 7km came the first climbing test of the tour. This climb is becoming notorious (3km at 7% but that doesn’t tell the whole story), it’s been in every stage so far and it’s disgusting. Super steep with multiple ramps. There is a very small descent half way up, but if you’re like me and chasing on, it all feels like a climb! I could hold the peloton to 5-10seconds over the climbs, so could roll back onto the bunch down the descents. After that came a long motorway section which was fairly chilled. The break had gone and no one was chasing, along with the fact no one seems to be able to ride on the flat here, it’s strange. At 50km in came the second catergorised climb of the day, again riding to my pace and regaining contact on the descent, in my head Fabian Cancellara style through the cars. Probably more like un gracefully trying to shout at the team cars to move while over cooking all the corners. Once over the climb and back in the group, after another few km of chill, suddenly a squeal of brakes and some shouts and a few riders ahead of me went down, one of them being my team mate. I hopped off, dropped my bike, removed some carabean definition of lean from his bike and thankful unhurt we got up and began to roll. The team car moved up and with some mechanical issues fixed on the move but we still had a big gap to make up as by now we were out of the convoy. Something that we’d come to confirm is that being British in a French speaking convoy is no advantage. The second the mechanical issues were fixed the Gendarmerie were telling the car to drive, leaving us in the middle of no mans land. With my team mate stronger and much more suited to climbs than me, I chose to get him back on. Absolutely full gas for 5mins chasing the speeding peloton. Luckily we regained contact just before the next climb, where I shouted for him to go. He was in the cars now, he was safe. Me on the other hand had plenty more riding to go. After parking up on the climb I was caught by my other team mate. We had both established the build of a British tester was not ideal for a mountainous carabean stage race! We rolled round the rest of the stage in the grupetto,  roughly 60km and made it home with in the time cut, but with a true idea of how hard this race was going to be.

Day 2 was much the same if not worse for me. Once again up the notorious 7km climb and once again regaining contact on the descent. Then onto a rolling road, but over one of the crests I see my teammate on the side of the road, wheel in the air. As he was fighting for top 15 u23, I stopped, quick wheel change and off he went. Stuck now waiting for the team car, the last one in the convoy dispite not being the last team. I got a wheel and that was me done for the day. 100km solo with the broom wagon for company. He was adamant for me to get in, but I just kept plugging away with the prospect of a time trial that afternoon. The time trail that afternoon was my best chance for a result this week. So to say I was annoyed at what happened was an understatement. It went something like this…

To start with, the course was different to the one in the manual. Okay if it was all barriers off and marshalled yes? I wish it was. Dodging live traffic, riders warming up and a fucking crazy lead car I was on my way. I caught my minute man at 2km, did his team car let me past? Of course not! Instead he decided to put me in the gutter on the way past. The lead car then deciding it was totalling okay to yoyo infront of me. Speeding off, then stopping to talk to the marshals making me undertake him. But then screaming back past. Rinse and repeat on each corner, and there was plenty in a town centre TT! Every time almost bringing me to a stop. Then to top it off he cruised in front of me through the finish barriers so I couldn’t even sprint in. I was fuming. I waved him down afterwards and he just told me to go away. Went to the commissars afterwards and was met with a laugh and a shrug. We hadn’t realised yet we had a different rule book to everyone else here…

Day 3 was another “flat” day. I spent the first hour and a half back and forth to the car feeding our GC leader. Every time our car getting blocked from feeding didn’t help. But I made it back in, ready for the big climb of the day at 55km. Half way up was time to check out again. I had to stop with the car to reattach a loosened bottle cage and in that time I was caught by my teammate and we started to tap away and what we knew would be another hard day in the grupetto. Once again we were well in the time cut and we were ready for the queen stage even if the legs were now getting a bit into the unknown.

I’m sorry if there is any spelling mistakes or un decipherable words in this post, I’m writing it on the bus on the way to stage 5 on my broken phone…

Thank you to everyone who has made this trip possible! I’m doing my best to finish this race, that is the goal now considering the circumstances and if I do I will be very happy!

Au revoir.

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