Monday, April 21, 2008

My first Podium in France.

The team readies to tackle the 70km circuit race in Ox, France near Muret. Myself, Yannis, and Laurent would make up a strong 3-man team, as we battled the terrible April weather of rain, wind, and cold.
The big crowd of riders was lessened today due to the weather, but a strong 50-man field took to the road.

The Podium from Left to Right. The girl didn't race, but presented the prizes. Not a French model by anymeans, but we are in Ox of all places.

So this Sunday was my first race with my new Toulousian based French team Cassoulidet. They are just a couple of buddies who love racing there bikes and have started a team sponsored by a local bank. This experience has really brought me back to my roots of cycling and every ride with them reminds me of why I love to ride….and race my bike. They don’t have power meters, or even heartrate monitors at that. They don’t care how many watts at threshold they can produce or even know what that means. Laurent comes from a football background (yes, soccer America) and Yannis grew up playing rugby. We ride 4-5 days a week together and they take me on some of the most beautiful French countryside rides that you could ever imagine. I occasionally will see a VeloTour Group pass by and I realize that those people are probably paying $3000-$4000 to get to do what I am doing everyday! Back to the racin! We loaded up the caravan of Laurent, Yannis, myself, and Laurent’s father Helios, who provides post-race gateaux’s (mini-cakes) which I love and a roof rack for my bike. The weather here in SW France has been atrocious this April. Lot’s of rain, wind, and low temperatures. Today would be no different as we took to the starting line with rain, wind, and 12°C. The field was smaller today as the weather keeps the French racers inside, hence the reason they haven’t had a Tour champion in 20+ years. Fifty or so riders took to the 5.5 km circuit, which was pancake flat. Within minutes, I could taste and smell the local produce and animals of the surrounding fields as the waste washed onto the roads and into my eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. In all honesty, I thought I had a piece of Chevre cheese caked in my nose and in my teeth because all I could taste and smell was GOAT! Now I know why half of the pro racers in Europe have unheard of intestinal disorders and are constantly sick from racing and training on these roads:) This race was pretty easy to read and after watching the field chase down everything that got a 20 meter gap, I decided today I would tryout the new 70kg body for the sprint. Sure enough, we hit the last section coming into the finish and a two-man break had snuck off the front 2km before and the one guy would solo in for the win. The field flailed every which way preparing for the nervous sprint and before I could wind up my cheese & pate power punch, some guy jumped the field to finish 2nd, and I led the sprint home for 3rd. The first podium for the team this year! I got to go up on stage as my “unrecognizably pronounced Walnofer with a French accent” name was blasted through the speakers. I gave my podium kiss to a 12-year-old local girl and gladly accepted my two bottles of wine and size Large T-shirt. A nice Cahors Carte Noir (Black Wine, Malbec) Red and a Table Vin de pays du vin Rose (Bordeaux style). Amateur races in America should ditch the $50 prize money and do as the French do and give regional specialties as prizes. I know I appreciate this more than any “gas money” I won back in Arkansas. I bought a nice cheese at the local market this morning that will pair nicely with that Cahors for dinner. Cheers!


Anonymous said...

Hell ya Wally! Live it up...CMac

Lance Arguello said...

Congrats on the third place win! I wonder how they would say Arguello in French???