Epic Camp France 2011 – Day 3 – On the Front

End of the third day of camp and I’m exhausted. Fortunately when the day started I’d managed eight hours sleep thanks to a pair of ear plugs and some antihistamines. I’d slept well, but my reaction to the previous day’s wasp sting had left me with a swollen head, I could barely open my right eye. Aside from looking like Quasimodo I was feeling good.

We started early with a trail run at altitude. The initial pace barely counted as running, but it was the best any of us could manage. I trotted along, clock watching, desperate for the turn around point to arrive. When it did I found a little more energy and rushed back to the hotel for breakfast, narrowly avoiding a wrong turn on route. Happy to have run well, though concerned by a little soreness in my right knee, I was a little nervous about the ride ahead.

At least it started well, the advantage of being based at the top of a mountain is the first 10km of the ride is a descent. I barely turned a pedal to reach the bottom with the main group. We stayed together along the lake and as we turned into the hills I pulled round to the front and settled into a solid pace. My usual nervous descending saw me head back in the group whenever the road went down.

Eventually we reached a gradual climb through the valley and after a lead out from Clas I hit the front and kept the pace on till the aid station. I knew this was the same stupid tactics of previous days, but then I couldn’t compete for Yellow or Polka dot Jerseys anyway. I applied the same tactic from the aid station through to the base of the Col de Vars. Once the road steepened I was left behind by the strongest climbers, but slowly ground my way up to finish in fourth.

We enjoyed lunch in the sun on top of the Col, then descended to the second climb of the day. Steven dropped his chain on the descent and believing he was okay the group continued on. As we’d discover on the lead in to the Col d’Izoard he wasn’t too pleased we’d not eased up more. I’d happened to pull of the front shortly before he re-caught the group, he thought I’d been attacking. As it was my aim was simply to get to the bottom of the final climb fast and see what happens.

Legs numb from the work so far I had nothing for this climb. It was brutal with stretches in excess of 10%, bottom gear stuff. I ground my way up again, but couldn’t chase, it was only seeing Christine a switchback behind me that spurred me on to the top and a second fourth place of the day. Exhausted, I took my time before descending with Douglas.

The normal 12 hour rule had been waved for the day if you wanted to swim. I debated, I was tired, but Epic Camp was about the training. The points wouldn’t get me yellow as Steven had committed himself to a 6K swim with sets for extra points. I ended up in the pool at quarter to six and slogged out 3km without much enthusiasm. As it was with only Steven and I swimming at least 3K we were the only ones to gain bonus points; Christine had gone to the pool, but getting out after 2K meant no points. I moved into second place on yellow, a huge 10.5 points behind Steven.

Back to the hotel in time for dinner I was exhausted. I had one more task to do, having taken responsibility for the points spreadsheet from John. Between courses I totalled up the days scorings and the KOM competition. Zach dominated in the mountains, but Clas sits only a single point behind him, plenty to play for there. Steven’s lead in Yellow seems insurmountable at this point.

Finally the day finished with a briefing in the hotel bar. Tomorrow we ride up the Alpe D’Huez, have a run race at the top, then ride back again; everyone needs to swim this time for camp completion. Zach was in Polka Dot again and Steven in yellow. And I was in Green! Finally I had a jersey after so much effort, my work on the front had paid off.

Another big day tomorrow and I’m in Green. Time to sleep.