Pascal Richard ~ UCI Round 6
The back end of August saw a trip to Switzerland for the Pascal Richard.
The first "professional" Olympic Champion at Atlanta in 1996.
This event takes place in and around Bulle; which really is chocolate box country. How can the countryside be so clean?
As with all of these UCI GoldenBike events the organisation is terrific and the goody bags just keep getting better and better.
Ville En Fete
The start takes place in the town square, where the night before they had some fantastic kids races.
The whole town enters in to the carnival atmosphere with side shows, bands, food tents and everything else you could imagine for a family-based, end of summer party.
Preparation is Everything
Seven-thirty next morning I'm up for breakfast. It seems most of the others at the hotel, only a kilometre from the start, are also there for the race. Just as we finish the ubiquitous continental breakfast the chef brings out a massive bowl of pasta. What a star.
After all the usual pre-ambles from the local dignitaries, and the photo's for the next morning's paper, we're off. Riding at a steady 30 kph, through the neutralised section. Which is 20k to the foot of the first climb the Col du Mosses at Chateau d'Oex.
Everyone tries to get to the front and somehow I find myself on the bumper of the Commisaire's car.
Four riders either side of me and 2,500 behind. What a feeling. Then the Commisaire, standing Jean-Marie Leblanc style out the roof, starts talking to me. I apologise for being English and he say's something I can't hear.
I can't hear because of the helicopter overhead doing low passes to take film shots for the video of the race. This is just like the real thing!
We get to the climb. Mr UCI waves his Swiss flag and accelerates off in a haze of diesel.
Like scalded rabbits they follow.
Me? I go backwards. I'll get them on the descent.
As we climb I grab the wheel in front of me. This fella is quite quick but erratic, he has no rhythm, he's beginning to annoy me.
I know if I go past I'll blow. If I stay where I am I'll be distracted. Just as we near the top he tires and I draw level.
He's only got one arm! He gives a smile, I give a wave (which wasn't the most tactful thing to do) and realise I've been an arse. I'll never complain again; I promise.
So it's straight off the Mosses and head for the Pillon. The roads are as you would expect in Switzerland. Billiard table smooth and totally predictable. I descend without a care in the world then I remember my one armed friend. So how does he get round these hairpins?
I hear a photographers motorbike coming up behind me. I wake up and jump on.
We scream down the mountain, I get through on the bends and he gets me on the straights. We pass other cyclists and come up behind a Commisaire's car.
The photographer dutifully sits behind as I pass on the outside as we brake for a mild corner. I can see the driver tut-tutting but I don't let it distract me. The car follows me for another kilometre or so then I don't see him again until the run in to the finish.
Now comes the second 1,500 metre climb and the 10% haul to the Glacier Station. It's hot, it's steep and it's in the middle of nowhere. And I mean nowhere. So why are people standing at bus stops? I don't dwell on this conundrum as I concentrate on getting to the station and the feed stop.
Once over the top and refreshed it's another perfect downhill to Gstaad, A league of nations type group forms and we all head for the Col du Jaun through some of the prettiest, and tidiest, countryside you'll ever see.
To get to the Jaunpass you also have to climb some of the steepest. A monster climb rises from nowhere to the clouds, through bend after bend.
When you look up all you see is more mountain. When you look down all you see is valley, hairpins and cyclists.
Home is the other side. As our musical friend once said/sang; "the only way is up".
Once again I climb the last mountain exhausted. Then once again I find energy from somewhere to scream to the finish.
It's all over in five and a bit hours and it only seems like a two hour race back home. I finish happy and I'm ready for lunch. Not too tired; just right.
A big bloke walks past and says well done. "Maybe I'll see you later". He's either mistaken me for someone he knows, or knows something I don't. It's the latter.
Dianne, who three months previous, never even had a bike, has ridden her first event. A 45k flat cyclosportive, see below for profile. Well as flat as anything can be in Switzerland.
Anyway, she made it around, never got off on the hills and finished with the leading groups after the first climb sort out. She used all her gears but then so did I. It was a defining moment.
Our new found friend heard her "English" voice and started speaking to her about the race. She said she'd already finished and was waiting for me.
She then explained that we're doing all of the UCI events except for the South African race. He thought that was a shame because he was the organiser!
He lived in Switzerland and worked for the UCI at Aigle. He said he hopes to see us there next year! This is a good event, he said but wait till you see 35,000 riders on the road. It must be quite a sight.
Anyway, our next stop is the final round, The Rider Man in Germany's Black Forest