ACT 2 STORIES

 

Several competitors have sent me their accounts of the epic ride between Issoire and St Flour. Who said it never rains in France in July?

 

Read on!

 

 

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For more photos, see the web site!

 

Neil wrote

Wow! Act 2 was an interesting experience!

  It rained, actually it poured from the moment we got into the pens. The first 40km were wet, but temperatures were at least in double figures.  From here it got worse quickly as we hit the first climb.

  By the time we arrived at the first food station I was on the verge of hypothermia, shivering uncontrollably, purple lipped and hands and feet like ice blocks.  Taking shelter in a boulangerie briefly and hugging a rotisserie, I donned a bin liner before heading further into the middle section.


 I think there was about an hour and a half of sun over the course of the day, the rest was wet, windy and cold.  Thankfully the sun broke for half an hour on the final stretch, and I crossed the line in sunshine.

I think I prefer the Etape when it's hot!

 

Photo courtesy of Roxy Erickson www.bicycleimages.com

 

 

TRIUMPH AGAINST ADVERSITY

Peter wrote:

Acte 2 was something else!!

 I had been alerted in advance to internet weather warnings, and to be fair the organisers made it quite clear over the registration period that weather was likely to be awful. It is indeed an ill wind.......... the Clothing guys in the Village must have made a fortune!

I had brought wettish weather gear with me but on the Saturday bought a Whozzo rainproof jacket and overshoes. Without the jacket I am sure that I would not have survived.

 

On race day I was caught in a heavy shower on the way to the start at about 6am. Thereafter it was more or less dry till the start itself. It was shortly after my start that the heavens opened. It was really miserable cycling in the downpour in to the headwind in low temperatures. If it had turned to sleet I would not have been surprised. Lots of people were chucking it by the 25 mile stage. There was a steady stream of folk going back downhill in the direction of the start. Lots of riders were already getting attention from emergency vehicles. There were folk standing in sheltered spots wrapped in the gold coloured wraps designed to retain body heat - presumably having been told to wait there to be collected by emergency vehicles. There were folk sheltering in doorways or in barns or anywhere really that would provide temporary shelter.

 

Later the course went over open moor land. I remember thinking that it resembled cycling over the likes of Rannoch Moor on the really filthiest January day imaginable. Nevertheless I must admit that at that point I was surprised at the no of folk who were throwing in the towel. Doubts in my mind started to grow on the descent to the first food stop which was at 45 miles. By then I was so cold and my hands were so numb that I had the greatest difficulty in moving the gear lever to change from the wee ring to the big ring and more to the point pulling on the brake levers.

 

 Anyway made the first food stop! The scene there was odd. There was none of the rushing about getting food and drink and getting back on the road as a.s.a.p. Folk were sort of milling about aimlessly. I remember standing at the stalls shivering fairly violently and being faced by another guy in exactly the same condition. I then became aware of hundreds of bikes being stacked against a wall behind the food benches and really only then realised how many folk were throwing in the towel. This actually inspired me!

 

 Being a contrary obstinate B I thought to hell with this. I am not coming all this way to chuck it after 45 miles and leapt on my stead to carry on - and as I did saw lots more folk disappearing up side streets walking with their bikes presumably to hotels if they had been quartered there or bars or cafes or whatever. I never looked back from that!

 

 The weather improved from diabolical to just horrible but a horrible that could be coped with. Hands thawed. It gradually became almost pleasant and I remember thinking how thankful I was that I had not chucked it and thinking how sick the guys must be who had chucked it and then seen the elements relent somewhat. There were no major crises after that and in fact at one of the food stations I stopped for a nice refreshing cup of tea.

 

I found time flying by in both Acts and in fact was not really aware of the time spent on the road at any point other than how much of a "bank" that I had built up to ensure that I stayed well ahead of Elimination times. It was only with about 10/12km of Acte 2 to go that I realised that I could beat 11 hours real time. At that point I had in fact been thinking of a short rest stop but that was soon hit on the head as I suddenly realised that I had a target time to go for - and which I made. Acte 2 was a real challenge weather wise but in finishing all the more satisfying because of the number of non finishers

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Roxy Erickson www.bicycleimages.com

 

 

 

 

AN EPIC RIDE

Christophe wrote:

Back to Issoire after the race, some guys told us that, out of the 6500 participants, 2000 had decided not to show off at the start, anticipating horrific weather conditions.

Being part of the majority of riders who stopped in Allanche, at the first food stop, this news kind of made me feel better. I felt I was at least part of the 4000 brave men who decided not to give up and to face the challenge.  

 

As always, there are 2 sides of the same coin.

 

On one hand, the weather conditions ruined the party and you cannot stop thinking that riding only 70 kilometers when coming from London is just not worth it. On the other hand, those 70 kilometers were simply EPIC, and make you feel you’ve been through a unique experience.

 

For the new rider I am (I started to cycle this year not being able to run as a result of a hip injury), those 70 kilometers will set the standard. I am pretty convinced that, whatever race I will be riding in the future, I will be able to tell myself while experiencing the pain: “hey, you can do this, it is by far not as tough as what you experienced back climbing the col du Baladour”.

 

Going back to the experience: I started to see riders cycling backwards from the 50th kilometer. I then realized that what was ahead of me would be pretty tough. As I was progressing towards Allanche, I could see bikes abandoned on the road, cyclists taking shelter wherever they could, either in the gendarme’s vehicles or in the few people’s homes they came across.

I still have the vision of that girl, sitting on the side of the road, shaking from the cold and crying like a baby, waiting for someone to rescue her!

 

Going downhill to Allanche, I was not feeling any longer my feet, my fingers. I was literally frozen and could hardly change gears. My brakes were hardly working.

 

Arriving in Allanche, it took me more than 30 seconds to understand what was going on, and that the vast majority of riders were giving up at this stage. When approaching the bike park, one guy asked me if I was giving up or wanted to carry on. I answered straight on: I’m carrying on, since, apart from the cold, I was feeling good.

 

Retrospectively, I feel I should never have got off the bike in Allanche. As soon as I got off the bike, and simply from standing still while grabbing some food, the cold hit me even stronger. I then looked around and the only thing I could see where guys shaking like disjointed puppets.

A guy came next to me and I asked him: “What are you gonna do? Stop or carry on?” He answered “In a nutshell that the conditions were pure madness, that everybody was stopping and that snow was even announced at col du Perthus.”

 

That was enough to convince me to play it safe. At this point, it’s all in the mind and I simply felt that to carry on, you either had to be unconscious or abnormally strong.

 

The friend I came with stopped in Allanche for 40 minutes, got back on the bike and finished the race. I sincerely cannot understand how he did this. Neither could I understand how some riders finished the race, wearing simple jerseys and no rain coat.

 

It is simply beyond my comprehension.

 

To conclude: The experience gave me the drive to train harder this year, to go back to it with just one goal: being a finisher next time!

 

Veni, vidi, vici!

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Roxy Erickson

For more photos, see www.bicycleimages.com!