Epic Camp France 2011 – The first two days

Day 1 – Hard riding and Accidents

I came into Epic Camp at a new level of bike fitness and spent the first day testing this. Tactically foolish and in opposition to my objective of controlling my effort. We drove to the start of the first ride, 120km to Embrun with a Col or two between us and our destination. Starting strongly I kept near the front; once Douglas threw in a little effort I raised the pace all the way to the first aid station. Camp always starts out too hard, we’ll settle into it.

Despite the power meter’s warnings, it was fun. I tried to keep the pressure on, holding a little back as the first King of the Mountain was still to come. Steven and I took turns on the front – tactically foolish. An early jump by Steven did nothing to shake the group, we reached the bottom of the climb together. I held in, but couldn’t stick with the repeated attacks, ultimately dropping back to fifth.

A regroup and onto the reverse of the first climb on the Embrunman course. My head encountered a wasp on route, but I didn’t have time to worry about that, I needed to pull myself up to the main group after the descent. Once there I pulled away with Zach, one of the strongest climbers here, and we pushed a solid pace up the climb. With no more points there was less pressure to race and time for a photo stop at the summit. Christine caught up with us and led much of the roller coaster descent that followed.

Not everyone made it to town in one piece – a crash a short way back from us involving Douglas and Steven, left Steven’s bike in bad shape and forced him into the van. Fortunately the damage to the bike was repairable and Steven escaped relatively unscathed. The first day was proving eventful.

After lunch we headed back in to town to register for the race. I cruised up after the main group, under no pressure, an easy ride in my running shoes. Then I clipped a tiny curb and followed with an impression of superman; flying over my handlebars and skidding on the ground. A favourite jersey from kona ruined and road rash on hands and elbow. Adrenaline flowing I rushed to registration where I learned the main group had an accident at the same point. I wasn’t the only stupid one!

So many accidents, so early in camp; lots of waiting to register and get everything sorted. I have to confess I wasn’t that keen to run or swim, but if I wanted to be in contention for a jersey they had to happen. Mercifully the sets were kept simple and late in the day run and swim were completed.

Leaving us with the trip to our Internet-free Gite and a late dinner to deal with. No jersey today! Clas took yellow, Zach Polka Dot and Paul Green for embodying the Epic ethos by running first thing. Steven laid the seeds of an idea to grab yellow, a bold two hour run the following day two’s race. Tough, but worth considering in pursuit of a jersey?

Day 2 – Racing and Motivation

An antihistamine ensured a good night’s sleep. I woke feeling a better. I’d ladid everything out the night before, so it didn’t take long to get ready and rush through breakfast. There was a lack of enthusiasm in the group as we milled around in transition, bikes were quickly setup and without much to do we moaned about all the preparation involved. Still, there was no backing out and I felt no pressure to perform.

Somehow, in the confusion of where the start actually was, Douglas and I ended up at the back of the swim. It added to the low pressure of the race. Based on reports from the front it ensured we missed the worst of the melee. I jogged into the water and settled into a relaxed swim; I swam wide, gradually working my way from the back. I arrived in transition in a reasonable time or at least assumed so not having started my watch.

Transition was slow. I put on mitts to give extra cushioning for my road rash and took my time to ensure I was properly prepared. The bike starts straight into the first climb so I pushed hard, moving through the field. Slowly I worked my way up, passing a few of the other Campers on the way. Reaching the plateau the course undulated and I continued to make progress until the descent. A little unnerved by my minor crash and not being the best of descenders, I held back. Watching athletes I’d easily passed on the ascent go flying by was frustrating.

I bided my time until the flat, then the best time trial effort I could manage on a road bike. I pushed past people and discovered the final 10K wasn’t as flat as expected – a few rollers sat between me and transition. There was no let up, I wanted to bike hard as I doubted the run would be up to much.

The run course was relatively flat with a lot of it on soft surfaces; perfect given my desire to avoid injury. My focus was on practicing good run form and not aggravate my calf any further. Slowly I moved my way through the field and also through the Epic Campers. There were points for placing in the race, better not to give many away. I misjudge the finish and had to hold my final surge far longer than expected, when it came the line was a relief.

No idea of time, no idea of place, but fourth Epic Camper to finish. I was pleased with my cycling, bar the descent, and also that I’d run. It lacked speed, but I’d held together and come out of it in good shape. Technique work is working.

After lunch a few of us rode back up to our accommodation – 10km of climbing with 750m of gain. I was feeling reasonably good so opened the pace out; no points on offer I kept the effort on and had an enjoyable climb. Once we’d made it back Steven headed out on his two hour run for the Yellow Jersey, I’d already decided it wasn’t for me.

How much do I want a jersey? I knew it would be tough, but perhaps it’s more than I expected. Strong climbers and athletes willing to turn themselves inside-out for it. I might have survived a two hour run, but I promised myself I wouldn’t risk run injury on this camp. Perhaps the long game will pay off. There are big days to come and a lot of tough riding ahead.

Instead, this afternoon I relaxed, blogged and got myself a massage.


A huge day of cycling to Briancon with the Col de Vars and the Col D’Izoard on route. Based on experience so far it’s going to be a long day in the saddle. We’ll warm-up with a run of course and if I’m fast enough I may be able to swim too.