As we sat round the table in chateau de Quay the chatter was about our efforts of the day before. Who blew up, on which hill …how come Nick’s shirt was clean at the end while Peter’s was splattered with mud…how did Gemma save enough energy to out kick Luke at the end… should we buy Mark a sat-nav… all the usual craic.
Then the messages started coming through. We’d twice driven past the incident while supporting Luke and Gemma, seen the damaged vehicle and paramedics, but hadn’t appreciated how serious it was. We’d left Marigny after watching the pros finish, still knowing nothing. Now all the previous day’s fun paled into insignificance.
The weekend of the 24th/25th Sept 2016 is one that I will remember both with great fondness for the fantastic time spent with Team EGCC on our Norman adventure, but also for the tragic accident that took the life of fellow competitor Ian Bashford while Gemma and myself were out on the course competing. At the time, and for hours afterwards, we knew nothing about what had happened, as the organisers had, after discussion with Ian’s friends, decided to continue the race. It was only afterwards, when we were back at the house that the news filtered through to us and we remembered the police carefully guiding us around what must have been the scene of the accident, as we set out on the last 10km of our ride. A chilling reminder that sometimes when you feel safest, which we all did during the race, you can be at your most vulnerable. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ian, his family and friends. He died doing something he obviously loved, riding his bike.
Duo Normand is a UCI registered 2-up time trial held annually in the small town of Marigny, near Caen. It’s one of the few events open to both professionals and total amateurs, and is held on a mixture of closed and semi-closed roads over a 54km route.
The “EGCC Norman Invasion” consisted of 3 teams of two riders each, plus the all important support crew. First off in the “unlicenced” category were Peter and Nick. Gemma and myself entered the “Mixed” category, and Steve and Mark the 3rd Category. Carla and Mikey rounded off the team not as riders, but as great company and vital support.
Last year, regular EGCC evening ten riders Emily and Henry impressively came second in the mixed category, so we had our work cut out to match that.
Saturday was signing on day. After a late night on Friday, we leisurely made our way from our Friday lodgings in Pont Audemer to Maringny after lunch. After signing the startsheet and flashing a BCI licence or medical certificate at the officials, we were presented with a big printed board with our names and numbers on, along with with our race numbers. This board was to be attached to the front of our support vehicle, and we also had numbers for our bikes, and the usual ones to be attached to ourselves. You don’t get all of that in a CTT event. Unfortunately, what you do get in a CTT event is pins, but a request for pins in my best French resulted in shrugged shoulders from the guy with the numbers, so Carla heroically set off on a long walk to the local supermarket while the rest of us hopped on our bikes and did a gentle recce of the hilly course.
Sunday: Race day. Peter and Nick were off early, around 8.30, around the time the rest of us were happily and leisurely destroying the breakfast bar in the hotel, and commenting on the distinct lack of amusingly named cereals on offer compared to me and Mikey’s hilarious supermarket visit on Friday. A large bowl of cereal, croissant, lots of bread & jam, and (most importantly) three coffees later, and I was fuelled and ready to go (Mikey topped that breakfast the day before with half a box of Alpen and 7 eggs).
Pete and Nick completed the course in 1.50.03, well under their target time decided the day before.
A short drive in the van, and after faffing around with everyone’s wheels and tyres, and working out the logistics of two pairs of riders and support vehicles, there was no time for a warmup, so Gemma and myself headed to the start ramp, which is at the base of a small but steep hill.
The beginning of the course is relatively flat after the start, so we set a brisk pace doing minute turns at the front and our best impression of the GB team pursuit squad, keeping as close as we could for maximum aero effect. My Garmin’s battery had died, so Gemma was going to be our pacekeeper. Luckily she’s good at maths as she didn’t have average speed as a setting. I think my shouts of OK? were starting to annoy her around midway. After a few miles we had already passed two sets of riders, and our support team of Driver Peter, Mechanic Nick and “Photographer-for-hire” Mikey, had caught up with us after their late start.
As we turned into the wind, we had to change strategy slightly, especially when gale-like sidewinds meant riding with a disc forced me to lean as if I was cornering in a straight line. Team Jersey eventually passed us, and Gemma gave me a worried look when I told her we were going to take that minute back before the end. Next up were the hills. Our pre-planned strategy of Gemma on the front setting the pace uphill, and me leading kamikaze style on the descents worked pretty well, and.. YES! Success we retook our position from the Jersey team, although there’s a chance there may have been a wheel change involved, but that’s racing!
We passed families who were enjoying a long lunch by the side of the road while watching the race, and giving words of encouragement to the riders. Allez Allez!
Eventually we rode back through the town for the final 10km out-and back, which is where we later heard Ian’s accident had occurred just half an hour before, on the return leg. We upped the pace to go as fast as we could sustain on the out section, but cresting one of the hills I heard shouts of what I thought was “Go Faster” from behind, so I stomped on the pedals..“NOOO Luke! NO faster!” sorry Gemma, my mistake, we need to work on that one. The return leg hurt as there wasn’t much left much in the tank, but up to the line Gemma pulled out a sprint from somewhere, we finished 1.31.32, good enough for 9th place.
Back to the van, bikes and Mikey thrown in the back, and it was our turn to follow Mark and Steve. It had started to rain and the conditions were obviously slippery as cornering looked a bit tricky at times. It looks easy riding at 30mph from a following car! By the time we passed the people having lunch again, their bottles of wine had emptied and they were mainly indoors sheltering from the rain. A good effort put them in 10th place with a time of 1.18.44
After watching the pro teams in action, it was time to bid au revoir to Mark & Gemma as they headed home, and we went in search of wine for the nights celebrations. Unfortunately, everything was closed, but we made do with the one bottle we had at the house.
It was late when I found my phone in the van and the messages about Ian’s accident. Complete shock. I only knew his name from time-trial start-sheets, but he had wished Steve “good luck” just hours before. Next year we hope to return and he will be in our thoughts as we race.
As someone who did not actually race Duo Normand, I was given numerous other titles to console me; mechanic, director sportive, team manager, photographer but not driver, that was made very clear on a number of occasions.
The recce ride of the route consisted of Gemma and Luke practising their conversation pieces for what proved to be an impressive 2 up result especially considering the amount of talking they were doing. Mark and Steve were also practising their 2 up style whilst I decided to try some sprint efforts. I timed these efforts terribly as when I dropped off Mark and Steve to allow room for the sprint, this is when they decided to go race pace (or as they call it 80% effort). My short sprint efforts turned into full on time trial to catch the wheel. I then caught my breath, the pace slowed slightly and I dropped off for another spri…… no, again it was a time trial, my mistake. I didn’t learn. I made it to the end though.
Race day was a new experience for me as I was to be photographer in the following car instead of racing myself. Nice because I was not suffering at all when going 30mph and it was interesting to watch the race unfolding and how various people went about their race tactics. However, as I soon found out, I would experience the racing from predominantly one angle. Behind. Over 300 pictures of backsides later and the racing was over but for some people like Luke Durbridge and Sven Tuft who still wanted to set a course record or something.
However, the thing I wanted to highlight was not the racing but the ride in France the next day. Luke and Steve agreed to a ride the following day with me. Mark and Gemma had left after the race to get back for work, Nick and Peter had just headed home and Carla was doing her thing at the house. It was a chilly morning so I decided to put leg and arm warmers on the appropriate limbs, this called for some jokes from both Steve and Luke, despite being fellow cyclists. With my companions on their time trial bikes (race numbers and everything) we set off on what was the best ride I have been on so far. Everything was nice. I managed a couple of KOMs on some hills and felt strong for the entire ride even with Steve’s customarily high pace (he had limited himself to his inner ring, which made little difference, I put it down to his snacking on our amusing breakfast cereal). The descents were perfect, wide roads to play with whilst technical enough to feel pro. The hills were mostly even gradient which makes getting a rhythm going easier and the climb more fun. And the flats were scenic and through quiet towns with smooth roads. I can’t remember any potholes in the ride. I was then tasked with taking the KOM on a nasty kick up to Luke’s house which I managed with a lead out from Mr Dennis. We were back at the house just in time to get into the van and miss our train home.
The trip made me realise that all these old people are still brilliant fun to be with and are able to not only take banter but dish it out on all fronts. Cheers everyone for a wicked time.
From the Old Portlian’s website:
“The club ride on Saturday 1 October will be in memory of Ian Bashford. Ian was hit by a car and tragically killed during the Duo Normand time trial event in Normandy on Sunday 25 September. Ian leaves a wife, a son and daughter, four grand-children, this great club (which he loved) and the whole cycling community. Every club has someone like Bash and now we’ve lost ours.
The ride will meet at Corkscrew in the usual place at 10.30. We will follow the usual Saturday route up Jackass and through Downe to the Shampan. We will then go through Tatsfield, down Clark’s Lane and onto Pilgrims. We will go past Chevening, over the motorway and then cut back through Dunton Green, along the Filston Rollers, through Shoreham and past the lavender fields to Lullingstone Country Park and the cafe. We will be at the cafe at about 12 to 12.30. Leaving the cafe, we will go up Bodens and follow the ‘old’ route back to West Wickham. Riders are welcome to join at the start or anywhere along the route or meet at the cafe.
The invitation is there for riders from other clubs to join. If you know Old Ports who may not look at this forum regularly, please tell them about the ride.”