Epic Camp France 2011 – Day 6 – The ‘Easy’ Day

After five hard days of training, a chance to kick back and relax; at least after Epic Camp’s easy training is done. There was no lie in, not that I’d slept much in our hot hotel room; window open, the noise of Annecy kept me awake, peaking with a 5am brawl outside our hotel. Tired from my restless night I joined the others in the lobby for a quick coffee. Then we made our way to the lake for the pre-breakfast Aquathon.

I wasn’t enthused and neither was my roommate Douglas. Both of us would have preferred to sleep a few more hours and perhaps recover before the final big days. We made our excuses and set expectations low, but once the race started I don’t think either of us held back. I sat on Douglas’s feet for the entire swim, though I was polite enough not to tap his toes. I crawled through transition whilst he shot off onto the run.

The chase was on and I spent the next 5K trying to run him down. I closed the gap, but with only a kilometre to go he held me off and ran strongly. I had nothing more and there was no way I could take him.

Being an easy day we had a leisurely breakfast, over two hours before the next piece of camp training. Traditionally Epic Camp easy days have allowed some gentle riding, but things change – there was a hill for KOM points. Not a trivial bump, but 16km of climbing to an altitude over 1600m. I was not looking forward to this.

When we rolled out of the hotel most thoughts were on the prospect of an afternoon off. A chance to relax and take a break from training. At the bottom of the hill these thoughts vanished, I tried to stick with some of the initial surges, but was soon off the back of the lead group. Too strong for me, too early in the climb. Accepting that they were gone I settled into a rhythm.

Over my shoulder I saw Douglas in the green jersey, not far off, but this time I was going to stay ahead. Midway through the climb the road flattens and I pushed the pace to open the gap; it seemed to work as soon he was out of sight. As the road pitched back up to 9% I settled. A short while later I spotted a rider in dark kit one hairpin back. It took me a minute to realise it was Scott closing in on me.

Motivation! I was determined to hold him off and upped my effort. I spent more time out of the saddle doing all I could to drop him. The gap didn’t open, he seemed to be closing, but I kept pushing. There was at least 6km to go and I felt close to my limit, my only hope was he was too. I dug in. The next twenty minutes were some of the toughest riding on the camp as I kept pushing myself until the gap opened.

I had to be sure, I couldn’t let up, and perhaps with enough effort I could bridge up to Steven and Ian who were within site. I really was on the edge though and each new pitch took my legs closer to the limit; corner after corner the top was never in site and Scott was always somewhere behind. I never quite bridged up to Steven, I came close, but mercifully the summit arrived.

Being an easy day the whole camp stopped at the summit cafe for lunch, ice creams and a moment to chill. After a relaxed lunch I just swung my leg back over the bike and rolled down the hill. An easy descent, no effort, spinning the legs out to the hotel.

With the rest of the day free a few of us headed into town to take in some of the sights and find ice cream. I didn’t take up the buy five scoops get one free offer, sticking at a more reasonable two (plus two Magnums spread throughout the day). Tomorrow it’s back to training with another 100 mile plus ride and a few cols thrown in on route.