XCRacer - On Tour: Day Three, Dropping Like Flies


This morning we were catching up on some much overdue sleep. We haven’t had very much of this lately. We were originally booked on the 6am ferry from Dover to Dunkirk, so we had intended to get some sleep at Dover before boarding it. However, when we arrived at about 2am we were asked if we wanted to get on the 2:30am boat to Calais instead, so we did. We had to stop for a nap somewhere on the motorway south of Calais, and then stopped for an overnight rest before Dijon. Yesterday we left Dijon and headed south, did about 6 laps of Lyon and then found our way to Chambery, the Frejus tunnel and the Italian border and then down to Finale, arriving just before midnight.

We therefore decided not to set an alarm this morning and so it was quite late when we did get up. We went for a walk around the venue to assess the layout and see what’s what and then had breakfast and a much needed shower.

 Pleasant view from the racetrack

It was a nice day so we sat outside with our pen and paper and actually made a plan for the race. This is all new territory for me, especially an eating strategy, but it is great to have someone who knows what they are doing helping me out.

With our plans all laid out it was off into town to stock up on food. This is actually quite an expedition, town is only around 8 miles away but the road down to it is very steep and very very windy, I’ve lost count how many switchbacks there are on that hill. An aging Ford Transit may not be the ideal vehicle for such steep switchbacks, nor for the narrow medieval streets and allyways at the bottom.

This hill is significant because this year the race will begin in the town and so we will be racing up it right at the start, which I am sure will be a lot harder than I think it will be.

We eventually found the necessary shops and went to get the food, except for the marmite, which doesn’t seem to be sold here and so I have asked Jon Hobson to bring some with him when he comes on Wednesday. Marmite is all part of this plan, salt and B12 are both very important, and as I am a veggie marmite is a good source of both. No, I’m not sponsored by them, I just quite like it.

Talking of sponsors, some new bits arrived just before I set off, I now have an Exposure Maxx D and a Joystick for the race, both excellent pieces of kit. The Joystick is of course the smaller of the two, being designed primarily as a helmet light and yet is sufficiently bright to illuminate pretty much the whole of our campsite from it’s position on the roof of the van while I am sitting writing this. I rode a lap earlier with it on my helmet and can honestly say that I could not tell it was there (it’s the weight I’m referring to, it was daylight!) My previous experience of helmet lights and video cameras hasn’t been great, the extra weight does funny things to my neck, but this one is a massive improvement over what I’m used to.

 Another pleasant view from the racetrack, don't look down!

Anyway, back to the main point of this post. While we were in the shop buying the food I received a message from Elena saying that she has crashed her road bike at in a race at about 90km/h and ended up in hospital, so it is looking unlikely that she will be able to race here this weekend. We wish you all the best for a quick recovery. She won the solo race at Finale in 2013 and was keen to repeat the performance, but she was also one of our team hoping to be able to do the double and complete both the solo and then the team races back to back, 48 hours of racing. One team member, Craig, had always been a ‘maybe’ but he confirmed at the end of last week that he definitely couldn’t make it. We had sort of replaced him, Spook from NoFuss had kindly agreed to ride a coupe of laps for us if required. However, we have now lost a second team member which doesn’t bode well for our likelihood of being able to even start the event, never complete it. I’m not entirely sure I would be capable of riding pairs straight after a solo, I’ll see what Jon thinks about it when he arrives…

It hasn’t been a good week for such things. John Buchan crashed badly at the West Highland Way ‘race’ last weekend (report on that to follow when I’ve finished writing it, and found some photographs which show more than just rain) and then Ritchie Rothwell crashed his road bike last Tuesday and broke his collar bone. He was absolutely flying at the WHW and must have been likely to be a contender for the win here. Apparently the phrase ‘really cross’ doesn’t quite sum up his feelings on the matter. 

Better news, I have ridden a lap of the course and it’s great.

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