Who said cycling could be so much fun? These three amigos.
“Riding with Alex definitely helped, there were some dark times especially towards the end…”
Racing. It’s one of those experiences that never leaves you. And what could be possibly be more alluring than riding with people from all over the world in the most beautiful of locations? Thomas ‘Gecko’ shares his journey to racing the Gran Fondo World Championships in Albi, France:
What got you interested in entering Albi?
Racing in Europe, on French roads, with the club. It was a great excuse to go on another cycling holiday.
What events, training and prep did it take to get to Albi?
Admittedly the bulk of my training had been for the UK races; the Tour of Ayrshire and the Tour of Cambridgeshire. I wasn’t able to do as much as training as I could have over the summer in preparation for Albi, so I wasn’t able to race it hard as I would have liked.
One of the hardest things I found about the race was dehydration and muscle cramps, given the length of the race and the heat on the day. Even if I had have been able to do more training, I am not sure what I would have done to better combat this.
I suspect the pizza we had on the drive down and the croissants we collected the day before the race were, however, spot on.
How did you choose what to enter and how early did you make your decision?
I had wanted to go to the gran fondo world championships last year (2016), having qualified at the Tour of Cambridgeshire. However, they were in Perth, Australia which was a bit far. Luckily this year Albi offered a far more reachable and accessible race, and so I had it earmarked at the end of the previous season. knowing that some of the other guys in the club were going made it an easy decision to sign up and commit to.
What was it like competing?
Hard. The front group went off fast so I didn’t see much of them. I remember the neutralised start, the first couple of KMs through town behind a lead vehicle, being a bit fast and frenetic for it being neutralised!
Watch the ReLive map video to follow the route.
Did it make a difference riding with British riders and what was it like riding with so many other nations?
I wasn’t particularly excited by riding with the British riders (of which there were many!) but really enjoyed racing with other nationalities and assigning different cycling personas to each. The Italians looked cool. There was a German guy in our group who did no work and sat at the back. I saw a Japanese rider clambering out of a ditch on the first big descent. There was an Indonesian rider who was struggling on the flats and was then smashing it on the climbs. Fun and games.
What were the peloton bunches like? Were the friendly or competitive? How did you get organised?
Once the front group had gone, I was able to join a group of 10 or so riders, including The Bear and 6 other Brits. We worked well together, sharing the load, and managed to stay together other the first climb and the subsequent descent. It was only when of the older age groups came by that our group got split up. After that I mainly rode with Alex, and dribs and drabs of other groups.
What kept you motivated in the race?
Riding with Alex definitely helped, there were some dark times especially towards the end. I distinctly remember being unimpressed when we crossed a 20km-to-go sign, when I had been sure it was only going to be 10km more.
Looking at what you know now, what advice would you give yourself if you were to race it again?
Train more and race more in the lead up to the race. Train for being dehydrated and experiment with nutrition to avoid cramps. Have fun (again). Try not to fall off when riding back from the registration centre the day before. Get some faster wheels?
Video by Super Shin Chan
The 2018 finals are in Italy. Will you be going?
Yes, qualification dependant, and Poznan in Poland ’19 too!
Albi, France: Distance 157.2km | Time 4.55 | Elevation 1,716m | Avg Speed 31.9km | 4,429 Calories