Thursday, 22 September 2011

2011 Duo Normand report

On the back of a frankly lacklustre season, Team Grumpy were uncertain how things would go for them at the 2011 edition of the Duo Normand, the 30th time the event has been run (and the 8th in which Team Grumpy has competed.  Clear weather at sunrise soon disappeared at the mercy of oncoming cloud and wind - Team Grumpy looked apprehensively upwards and saw signs that the forecast heavy showers might well come true.  The team drove over to Marigny under darkening skies and rising winds, arriving in time to wander down to the start ramp to watch some of the non-licence teams start their race.  Not much sign of the usual crowds, but it was still early.

Back to the car to set up the bikes for a warmup before the scheduled TG start time of 10.41am.  Unfortunately, as 'Grumpy' Art Vanderlay and Grumpy Bob rolled away, the rain began.  And not some light drizzly sort of rain: this was the real deal of 'heavens opening' - made worse by 'Grumpy' Art's error in leaving his rain jacket back at the cottage some 16 kms away.. Both riders were rapidly drenched.

To make matters even worse, 'Grumpy' Art's bike developed a ghastly clanking from the bottom bracket area.  Despite this sort of thing being a regular part of Team Grumpy's annual foray into French racing, a hasty retreat to the team cars was made (the Team Manager actually thought we had decided not to ride), and a raid of Grumpy Bob's toolbox for remedial action was made.  Unfortunately, nothing seemed to actually respond to tightening.  But this did give both riders an opportunity to swap from sunglasses to low light lenses, without which vision would have been difficult at best...

Team Grumpy clanked off towards to the start area.  By the time they climbed onto the start ramp, both riders were shaking uncontrollably with cold and wet.  It was something of a relief to start the race!  The Team Grumpy game plan for the initial kilometres involved 'Grumpy' Art leading the team up the start lane, then for Grumpy Bob to take a lengthy spell while 'Grumpy' Art recovered from the gasping induced by his start effort.  In fact Grumpy Bob found himself pounding down the bocage lanes at speeds of around 30mph, and, due to volume of precipitation, unable to see further than a couple of metres ahead.

Team Grumpy leave the start ramp in less than ideal conditions...

Once Team Grumpy reached the first turn, they operated rather more as a well-organised team, although (it has to be said) not in their usual neat style.  The second aspect of the game plan was to capitalise on the faster early kilometres, and trying to hang in there through the hillier sections. As a plan this seemed to fare reasonably well, though the climbs before Marigny are always harder than Team Grumpy remembers.  The course was littered with fragments of water-sodden dossards, in some cases ground to a pulpy splurge by car tyres (Team Grumpy prepared their numbers with clear gaffer tape as soon as rain seemed likely, and consequently were one of the few teams in the Corpo category to finish with readable numbers).

By this time Team Grumpy, who as usual were riding without a support car, had experienced more trouble than usual with traffic on the course, and not just support cars, but extraneous vehicles waved onto the course in front of them and in one instance a milk tanker.  What really took the biscuit was the minor traffic jam experienced while getting through Marigny, followed by the usual traffic jams on the remaining hairpin section of the course during which Team Grumpy found itself frequently crossing the mid-line of the road to pass slower teams and their cars.

After what seemed like an eternity (both riders clearly flagging), Team Grumpy reached the turn and embarked on the final effort to the finish.  The finish was reached in a last ditch effort, with the line crossed at 40mph and followed by the usual frantic braking to stop before the barriers.

Team Grumpy finished in second place in the Corporatif category with 1:24:51 (this was 95th fastest of about 320 finishers in the 54.3km course, this includes riders from professionals downwards).

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