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The Life And Times | When in Rhône

"The Rhône-Alpes Tour is one of the most fought-over spots at CR4C."

Back to smaller races after the excursion to Northern France and almost everyone on the squad was vying for a place in the Rhône-Alpes Isère Tour, one of the more local .2 races, only about 50 minutes on the other side of Lyon from Roanne. A couple of spots were assured but Richie and I especially were hungry for another taste of the big leagues. Well, the biggest leagues we could get to right now. Hayden started his European schedule with the U23 Course de la Paix soon too, however sadly there was no chance to meet up.

Our first small race back was five days after and was pretty flat, a group sprint was the result where one of our French riders, Fumeaux, took third. I had just tried to, once again, survive until the end and help out where I could but I couldn't quite match the pace to be of any service in the finale. The second was equally flat but more of a crit race - something I had a bit of experience with. I hung around amidst crashes and chaos and though my sprint was pretty average I managed to make another top 10, finishing 8th whilst Fumeaux was third again.

The third was a wee while away but took place around some foothills and eventually partway up the Puy de Dôme, a mountain where Eddy Merckx was punched, Anquetil and Poulidor had their famous side-by-side duel. I was unsure how I'd go and so got in the break for the hell of it. We managed to survive and work well until the penultimate climb where someone took a flyer from the pack and caught us followed by more and more people, including Richie and another French rider from our team who i didn't know too well. Richie was struggling a bit and I tried to stay in the wheels. With some pretty rusty French we decided I'd protect the former for as long as I could, which turned out to be barely 100m onto the final climb where I bonked completely. I did recover a bit to come 17th - not bad.

Not bad, but unfortunately not impressive enough to put me in the team for the big tour. I was a bit disheartened but then again, only Schultz made it of the English-speakers and it only made Ollie, Richie, Cad and I more hungry to get some results in smaller races and force our way into teams for bigger ones. Speaking of which, that night we fielded a call from Cycling NZ, who finally got around to planning our junior schedule, starting with the GP Gènéral Patton in Luxembourg early next month.
Before and After

"I knew the story of how this should go."

In many cases in life, you can split your day, week, year, education, job, any length of time or even life into a before and an after. The day you fell in love. The day you were paralysed. The day a parent died. The day you found out your life was not what it once was. The day your life became something else entirely. Of course, this doesn't always work - many times it's periods, or more muddied. This is the story of my moment that separated the before and after of 2013 and my time at CR4C.

You see, I knew how this was meant to go if I was going to be successful (already yes I was an idiot last year): The future pro goes to become an amateur on the continent, he settles in, he wins races, he works hard, uncovers some doping stuff that he does or doesn't do anything about (usually the latter), moves up to pros or CT, and then doesn't win as much. It was how they used to do it, it's how Hayden did it and I'll be damned it was how I was going to do it.

Two problems: I can't win and there's no doping here. First world problems to be sure.

Well then, the moment that changed involved, as I'm sure you've guessed, the winning of a race. Pretty simple, something I'd done before many a time. But never outside of New Zealand. The race was decently long - about 80km, and was hilly, finishing with a descent. Not too tough and so I felt I could muster something up. I stuck around in the pack over hills, and hills, and some more hills - so many hills sapping so much energy that I suddenly found myself in a group of six on the final climb. We watched each other nervously for a while before an older guy attacked. Me and two others managed to follow whilst the other two dropped off quickly. We kept taking turns up the hill before just as we crested it - I attacked. A pretty risky move but potentially my best hope.

I used every trick I knew to stay one corner ahead of them the whole way down and they just - didn't catch me, really. I took many risks and was exhausted and a little freaked out by the end of it, but as the road flattened out at the end I had enough time to soak it all in and cruise home, my first race in France won.


And although it was an amazing feeling, a huge confidence and motivation boost and a definitive point for my two parts of being at CR4C, what I thought it was at the time was wrong. Because being an amateur in a foreign country not even knowing what you're good at specifically on your bike and not knowing what to do or where to go is scary, and unpredictable, and certainly not bound the a strict schedule of winning all the races, turning down all the needles and going all the pro.
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@Tamijo - Yep, was really great for J Grin


"Buoyed by my first win, it was back up to 2.2 for a mountainous stage race."

You've got to be kidding, I thought. Four mountain top finishes in four days. These would be some of the toughest climbs I'd ever faced, and once again it was mainly the English speakers attending, with Richie, Schultz and I going along with Fumeaux and another French rider. The first day finished on the Plateau d'Assy, which the climb up to is more of a glorified foothill for Mont Blanc, but that's not how it felt when I got dropped early on, finishing 34th in the end. Richie, the other Frenchie (Gouijon) and Schultz all lasted longer and came 14th, 15th and 29th respectively.

The second stage finished on a Cat 1. climb, I tried but failed to make the morning break and so again I was dropped early but hung tough to finish an improved 28th, whilst Richie and Schultz cracked the top to in 10th and 5th respectively - impressive performances. Stage 3 I decided to try and go in the break again because tomorrow was twice up La Touissure. I managed to get in this time and won the two Cat. 3 KoM sprints.

Up the penultimate (Cat. 2) climb we were still in the lead and so I struck out with the hope of being the last man standing. I made it to the bottom of the deciding climb alone and survived for a couple of kilometres before being swallowed up. I tried to be of help to Schultz and Richie but dropped fairly quickly - they'd finish outside the top 10 but Schultz was still in the GC top 10 with Richie in 13th. I was actually 25th now but I was expecting to slip outside the top 30 on stage four and I duly did - I don't blame my pessimistic attitude, more the fact it was my fourth and toughest day yet in the mountains. In the end Schultz was 11th overall and Richie was 18th. I finished somewhere in the top 40 still.

A steep learning curve to be sure but one I needed to take, and though you always have crap days in the mountains, and I'd feel more helpless in the future, this was a very useful experience for the rest of my career (well, hopefully. I'm not even pro yet).
On Track

"Our first race on the junior circuit took us to Northen Luxembourg."

After a few more smaller races of no real note in June (I did take second in one in a four-up sprint from a break), we traveled to Luxembourg as an NZ squad of three for the GP Général Patton, a two-day hilly race contested by many of the biggest U19 riders in cycling. I'd tussled with a couple, including Mathieu van der Poel, who I vividly remembered trading elbows with in the pack sprint.

The first stage started nervously before a group finally got away. We missed the final cut despite Ollie and occasionally Richie trying to get in madly. The race was mainly controlled by the Dutch and Germans before with 10km to go and the break caught, an Italian rider jumped from the pack. We'd planned to try follow moves and though I missed it initially, as eight or nine other riders made a train to catch him and distanced the pack I found myself on the back of it. Once we had a clear gap the paceline started to form and we were making good ground.

However the pace was blisteringly fast and the hills brutally hard because of it, and after a few kilometres I couldn't work anymore and had to hold on for dear life. I tried to put in a turn after being yelled at in Italian I unfortunately understood, but it was no use. With 4k to go the gap was at 30 seconds and all I could do was stay in the wheels and hope to keep touch. Luckily for me I did and though I could only beat an Italian domestique in the sprint I came a credible 9th - Bokeloh, the German, was the winner. We finished 18 second ahead of the pack, also giving me an overall position to defend.

The second stage was held on a 7km course with a couple of tough hills, and the pace started very fast, sagged in the middle to just fast, and with 20km got to go very very fast as attacks started to fly off of the front. The pack turned smaller until it was just another group on the road - and an unproductive one too. It seemed the two or three riders from the move yesterday who were up the road would be the only ones with a GC advantage.

I estimated there were 7 riders up the road and, looking around at the sluggish pace, decided to go it alone. Well, not alone as it would turn out, a Slovenian rider tagged along and we fell into a good rhythm. There was no catching van der Poel et al. up the road and in the end my lack of punchy skills showed as I lost touch of my companion on the way up the penultimate hill, but I came 11th, enough to put me 9th overall in the end! Richie ended 13th and the same spot on GC, which meant a very good first junior race of the year for us.
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