My season will finish up with 3 rounds of the UCI World Marathon Series spread over 4 weeks. The first of these was held in Arbent, France which is in the Jura region. This round was part of La Forestiere which is a mini cycling festival with a packed schedule of events over the weekend including road events on Saturday. It was my first visit to the event and was surprised how easy it was to get to. Having flown from Heathrow to Lyon it was a short 45 minute drive to Arbent which is where registration and the finish venue are. The logistics for the UCI Marathon then get a bit more complicated as the start is an hour’s drive away in Saint Claude. I’d travelled alone to France so left the car at the start and will collect it tomorrow by doing a little 40km recovery road ride over the hills!
The race itself started up a big climb with 1000m height gain in about 15kms. I suffered so much in the first hour, there was quite a lot of time spent off the bike with the steep rocky trails just too slippery to ride. Apart from the lead motorbike which had got stuck on one of the steepest muddiest climbs it seemed like everyone was riding or walking away from me. I had to remind myself it’s a long way to the finish; another 85km’s and the next part of the course will suit me better.
From the top of the mountain I didn’t get overtaken again and began to make up places using the full suspension bike to my advantage. I got in a good group of 4 which only split when 1 person crashed on a muddy descent, he looked like he’d separated his shoulder, ouch! The group was down to 2 of us and we worked together until I dropped a bottle just as we’d bridged to the next group. Another downside of no support is I would receive no bottles throughout the 5 hour race, I started with 2 x 750ml bottles and pockets full of USN Vooma gels.
After stopping to retrieve the dropped bottle I had a long chase back to the group which wasted considerable energy. Fortunately I felt strong enough to catch that group and then drop them to chase down the next riders in sight. Before dropping the group we narrowly missed a car accident, the marshals were doing a great job closing the roads as riders approached. A motorbike pulled up and stopped rather sharpish and the car behind didn’t react quick enough slamming into the motorbikes pannier which flew in our direction along with the motorcyclist! That was close!
After this road crossing we were on trails I’d pre ridden so I could push on. Nearing the finish I could see 2 riders ahead but couldn’t quite catch them, maybe if I’d known beating them would mean a top 10 I’d have taken a few more risks. Really happy with 12th place, my best UCI World Marathon Series result so far. A top 10 would have great though; maybe in 2 weeks time in Portugal I can make that dream a reality.
The race was won by Portuguese National Champion Samuele Porro with Swiss marathon legend Urs Huber in 2nd. A trio of AG2R road team riders rode the event as a bit of fun to end the season, it seems their idea of fun is still pretty fast! Alexis Vuillermoz finished 3rd, the trophy I’m sure will line up next to his winner’s trophy from the Tour de France stage 8 earlier this year. Karl Platt was 4th. Markus Bauer 5th. The ladies UCI marathon was won by Helene Marcouyre with Lene Gerault in 2ndand Annette Griner in 3rd.
Make sure to add La Forestiere to your 2016 calendar, it’s a fantastic end of season festival.