de Bretagne (3rd Running)
Stage Race Somewhere Near Roscoff
- 26th May 2019
Mike – celebrating the 65th
Voltarol Slow Step
Mike – Road Captain
Cafe de Columbia
Cocaine Cartel Quick Step
John – Road Captain
Taking advice from sports scientists Team A’s training comprised reasonably gentle rides to Box Hill on Friday mornings, a few ballet loops and a couple of pretzels; it may be concluded that Team A had not over-trained and hence the team looked fresh and honed for the main event. Team B, however, had ignored the best of contemporary sports science and had trained hard in the old-fashioned way; excessive mountain-biking, iron-manning, long fast rides and generally sweaty stuff – it remained to be seen whether this team had indeed over-trained.
There was some confusion as the
two teams seemed to share the same basic Ardechoise kit and also the same
directeur sportif – a challenge for the commentators.
Mardi 21st May – Prologue Stage 1 Roscoff to Huelgoat
64.1 km, 3h40’,
Off the ship early so the first
stop is at St Pol de Leon to clear the Boulangerie of croissants.
The panoramic trip to Morlaix included a brief spin across an artichoke
field bizarrely full of ramblers. If
you are going to fall off your bike do it at very low speed in a field rather
than on the more traditional tarmac – the field is pain-free but leaves you
looking like you’ve done a shift in a china clay quarry; the tarmac just
leaves you with a sorass. A long
lunch was still not long enough to prevent early arrival at the much-visited
Hotel du Lac where beer by the lake is fair reward for thirsty riders.
A walk in the woods (still no definitive answer to where those huge
granite boulders come from?) a meal in the hotel and a cursory visit to the
Brittany Bar (just three of us made it for one beer!) still did not waste enough
time to prevent a very rare event for all non-Scandinavians – going to bed
when it’s still light!
Mercredi –Stage 2 Huelgoat to Huelgoat
57.8 km, 3h07’,
863 m climb
Having read a couple of pages of Prof. Hawking’s famous book, your reporter is well aware of the complications related to time (What time does the ferry arrive? French or English? Do we get an extra hour? What’s the time at home? etc.). Malcolm was enjoying a good lie-in at 7.45 English while the rest of the riders were enjoying their breakfast at 8.45 French! As the science suggested the Team B over-trainers had been affected by their excessive effort; JR was laid low by a chill as a result of hanging around waiting for slower riders and Frank, unable to cope with the slow pace and short mileage, took off on his own. In consequence Team B was down two riders by the second stage. The survivors had an early opportunity to check out their lowest gear (would it be low enough?) and then had a very pleasant ride NE from Huelgoat and, of course, a generous lunch.
Evening dinner at the
L’Aristide restaurant was rather extreme – the three large, interesting and
tasty courses were so filling that a quick trip to the Brittany Bar was rather a
hopeless exercise as there was no room left for beer.
‘Going to bed in the light’ with a belly full of rich food –
‘never again’ was the call.
Jeudi– Stage 3 Huelgoat
89.9 km, 4h50’, 1137 m climb
Heading off SW to Chateaulin via the Montagnes Noires with a lunch-stop pencilled in for Laz; it didn’t look to big on the map and on arrival the population of the town appeared to be just three persons – the choice was simple; either hang around to await the opening of Laz’s new restaurant in 2020 or double back down the hill to a larger town, Chateauneuf. This was the classic menu fixe where one doesn’t know what is coming up for your 11.50 Euro. The wine appeared, followed by a plate of beetroot and then a generous plate of quiche – followed by coffee that would be quite reasonable. Then the chicken and pasta appears followed by the cheese board and a dessert – so for a tenner that is five courses with wine and coffee – value. On the road to Chateaulin, our leader decided to take a more direct route and suffered the consequences with a double puncture – you’re always safer in the pack! On arrival, Chateaulin appeared quite attractive and possibly lively – at that stage we did not realise that the town had been declared officially ‘morte’ in 2017. How do you know when a town is dead? – even the Irish bar doesn’t open in the evening! We did manage a few beers in the PMU before it shut and crushed into the pizzeria for a much lighter evening meal. After that it was tumbleweed and stray dogs before ‘bed in the light’
Vendredi – Stage 4 Chateaulin
68.1 km, 3h48’, 948 m climb
Another day off and yet again Frank deserted his team for a stiffer challenge. An excellent ride SW to Douarnenez and a search for the place for lunch. The tin shack didn’t look that promising but with a view over the ocean and some top fishy nosh this was definitely the top location. We duly rehydrated with a bucketful of local cider. This was the official day for ‘the swim’ and the perfect location was identified at Plage a La Palud. The excuses (reasons) for not swimming were: red flag spotted somewhere, slightly windy, tide was out, the all-Britanny children’s sports day on the beach would not welcome half-naked members of the JSCC in its midst. A certain amount (not too much) of shame but the swim was postponed.
Chateaulin seemed more lively on a Friday evening and this was celebrated with an extended early session in the PMU. We then found a good very local restaurant, and against all expectations Paddy (more likely Pierre) had kept his bar open for us allowing a few late beers and a witnessing of it getting darkish.
Samedi – Stage 5 Chateaulin
74.0 km, 4h13’, 944 m climb
The transfer to Landernau took in a detour of the Crozon peninsula. Your reporter was surprised that nobody, even those that hadn’t been there before, did not make a quick ascent of the Menez Hom, a mere 120 m of extra climbing to reach the highest point in Brittany. Instead we took some tracks and very small roads down to Trez-Bellec Plage, absolutely the last chance for the swim – the only excuses this time were that the coffee bar looked more enticing and that everybody in the sea was wearing a wetsuit. A good lunch in an Argol Creperie, back over the impressive Pont de Terenez, through Le Faou where we stayed last time (2013) and a long descent into Landerneau. It was during this stage that Team A riders had some words with their road captain; it was noted that he had been spending most of the Tour fraternising at the sharp end with Team B, probably looking for a more lucrative contract – he promised to stay at the back with his team who were at this stage showing signs of general weariness – a promise that lasted 15 minutes until the slow pace proved too much for him.
Landernau looked far more lively than Chateaulin, maybe because it was Saturday afternoon and they were having a celebration of the Breton ‘Orse – one of their number, probably ‘Big Lad’, no doubt cheesed off with being required to drag tourists round the block, made its complaint known in a typically ‘orsey fashion – the masterpiece that George Stubbs didn’t paint. In a moment of inspiration we decided to celebrate Mike, John & Evan’s birthday curry with a French-style ruby – very nice except the mean popadom supply. Post-curry we discovered the bar that a few decades ago would have been the setting for the last-night booze-up, possibly ending with dragging Frank away when he started threatening the locals and serious hangovers all round. However, we are now more sensible – one pint (very tasty) was deemed sufficient and it was off to bed (just dark).
Dimanche – Final Stage 6 Landernau
58.7 km, 3h02’, 339 m climb
The final stage was actually quite a challenge – not much spare time for sorting any problems – no matter, Frank went solo again. I had no idea what was happening at the front of the peloton throughout the Tour as I am indeed ‘the man in the rear’. Due to a lack of celebration from my Team A colleagues it is a reasonable assumption that they didn’t take any hill climbs and not many sprints (actually I’m sure Dave sneaked a few). However, for some reason, on this final stage, Team A did perk up with Malcolm, Dave and even yours truly picking up a few bonuses – the assumption is that Team B riders had decided the race was won and were chilling out. With a strong westerly tailwind the final run along the coast into Roscoff was most enjoyable and the ride finished in the most appropriate fashion – a Sunday lunch pint and a croque monsieur by the old port.
Who won? Who knows? At least Team A riders completed (relatively slowly) all stages – it’s one for VAR. A week after the event Team A were definitely suffering from weariness and lethargy – six stages – unprecedented! It’s back to light training in the Park – bloops, bagels, doughnuts and pretzels and maybe even ‘er outdoors’ favourite – ‘the breadstick’ – Ham Cross to Pen Ponds, bacon roll and coffee, back to Ham Cross.
Good luck to Frank for the ironmongery. Thanks to Mike for leading the Tour.
In the words of Samuel Pepys
“And so to bed......in the light”