The day before races can be tough when rest is the prescription of the day. Not so when entertainment is available in abundance. With the Tour de France opening up in Monaco with a challenging TT I was captivated to French TV all day. After watching talented rider after rider tear up the course the favorites started taking their shot. Seeing Fabian Cancellara obliterate the field by 20 seconds was stunning. I put my hand on the TV while they showed replay after replay of his dominance in hope of absorbing some. I scrutinize his form for any secrets that I might incorporate. Yes, this would surely make me faster for tomorrow’s Triathlon in Le Mans.
Knowing little about this race other than the competition would be good with Stephan Bignet, Gregory Bouttier, and Christian Mac Cartney and that it was a river swim, I was excited for the new experience. The woman got a 10 minute head start and I watched Hortense go off with the front of the pack. It was several minutes later before they let the men enter the water. The refs ever present in their authority. The men packed the entire width of the river a few scores deep while I lined up in front on the left side. You couldn’t see far down the river because of a quick left turn followed by a right. The gun went off and I was challenged by Bignet and Allen for the lead. My speed in the beginning proved to be enough as I took the lead and kept the pace honest the rest of the way. It was cool to see the crowd running and fast walking along the river bank to keep up and see the swim take shape. I did my best to make the spectators run.
It always feels good to be leading a race but there was some unnecessary fatigue. Concentrating on my form kept me in front but Bignet and Allen were enjoying a comfortable draft. The three of us had gaped the rest of the field. That surprised me a little being that the down river swim was more likely to keep everyone close.
Thinking ‘Cancellara’ I hoped on my bike and took off like the famed Tour de France rider. Well, OK, maybe if you add another 200 watts to my output. Especially, considering my legs and lungs did not seem up for the task of speed. A short ways into the bike leg Bignet took hold of the race. Five miles later and Bouttier rode by staying on the horizon for a while before pulling out of sight.
Allen and I rode in third and fourth the rest of the way. I rode in third the majority of the time and always felt like my effort was too easy or to slow. However, my body didn’t want to be talked into anymore than it was already putting out. It’s funny; leading into this race I would have thought my race would be better than the week before in Saint Jean de Mont. It was not to be, the sun, and travel, and training had enhanced my fatigue.
In the last half of the first lap on the bike I saw Hortnese in front of me. It revived me to see her and made the suffering less so. It was good to see her so close to the front of the race, riding in 5th position.
With about 5 kilometers to go I entered a round-about and turned down the wrong street. Oblivious to my mistake I pedaled on. Allen followed me. Then, something didn’t feel right and the road looked unfamiliar. I heard some shouting, horns, and whistles. Allen had realized the mistake and was turning around. Augh! I turned around and 200 meters ahead I saw Mac Cartney correctly navigate the round-about.
Christian was first out of T2 and his pace was too much for me to match. Allen and I hung around each other a while before I faded. And faded, and faded, and faded. The humidity was stifling me and I could barely jog. It surprised me to be so completely exhausted but I trudged on as best I could.
Down the finishing chute I let the bad feelings and suffering wash itself away and managed a smile. The crowds are really something in France. A race that stared out well and went sour none-the-less rewarding in its experience.
Starting in on several cups of coke, water, OJ…like 10 Hortense was already in the finishing area. She explained to me how she was DQ’d. Her race belt had fallen off during the bike, which must be on you at all times for the bike and run. A ref found it on the side of the road. Coming into the second lap on the run a ref held up her ‘found’ race belt and gave her a red card. To be honest, if her second lap was going to be anything like mine was…she was fortunate. But she was hungry to do the second lap anyway and disappointed. I had to talk her out of running it, ‘just for fun’.