The field sizes at the Coup de France VTT are always huge, and the round in Lons le Saunier was no different with over 100 starters. It is rare to find this outside of the World Cups, so racing in France proves a great place to prepare and get used to that ‘fight for every place’ style racing.
It had been five weeks since I’d last taken to the start line so was looking to fine tune my form for the coming European World Cups and test how my back held up to competition after the rest and rehab.
The track in Lons was about 98% singletrack and surprisingly flat for a European race with only 100m of climbing in each 5km lap. However the climbs were brutally steep and the singletrack rough, rocky, and rooty. Gratefully the organisers hadn’t shied away from routing the course through some technical features to kept things interesting.
I wanted to collect some in race data to assess where my fitness was at, so for any numerical geeks out there here is some info:
- Race time: 1hr35
- Average heart rate: 180bpm
- Max heart rate: 191bpm
Once again it emphasises the importance of actual racing in preparation for big goals.
I struggled to find a good rhythm during the race, and found myself slipping back a few places in the second half. But I hadn’t expected an amazing result given the long break since South Africa and the fact I didn’t taper my training during the week. The main goal was to gain that race sharpness again and just get back into the routines that come with competition.
One of the great positives was the atmosphere out on the track – the spectators were fantastic at cheering everyone, particularly on the steep climb (“allez, allez!”). This is one of the best things about racing in France and Europe in general. I was slightly nervous of being interviewed in French on the start line, but luckily I was tucked away on one edge, and perhaps the commentator spotted the fear in my eyes and took pity!
The weekend was slightly overshadowed by Seb’s absence, we always enjoy racing together, and at the time we thought he was merely resting off a knock sustained in training a few days before and would be back for the World Cup. Of course it materialised a day later that he had in fact fractured his knee cap (full statement here). There’s nothing ‘arder than a Yorkshireman!