Last weekend we raced a 3 day, 4 stage tour in central France. We were all a little nervous on our road form, not having raced a real road race since the spring, though we all had good strength to get us through the long stages.
Stage 1 155km. Matt Randall made the early break of 10 riders, so we just kept cover on the bunch, which was easier said than done with 100 Frenchies attacking non stop. This took its toll, with our bunch, the main bunch, only finishing with 15 riders. Matt finished 8th on the stage, and I came in 16th a couple of minutes down in the second bunch with Pete Latham also.
Stage 2 154km. This stage was fairly flat and with the yellow jersey's team keen to control things it looked like being a fairly straight forward stage. Another break went away early, I tried hard to make it but I had the white jersey on my back for the espoirs competition, as the real leader was in the points jersey, meaning I wasn't able to move at all. After around 120km the break came back and the attacks started again. We put a man in everyone until Pete slipped away in one not far from the finishing circuit. With a wall in the circuit the trackie legs weren't loving it and Pete rolled in 8th, still a solid top ten finish.
Stage 3 13km tt. It was back to the secondary school days (what great days they were) for me, as I had no aero bars, so it was on to the hooks. I actually ended up alright, coming 13th just under half a minute down, so I was pretty happy after seeing a few of the hitters roll past on full tt rigs.
Stage 4 100km. The plan was to stay near the front early on then try and split it in the cross winds but with very undualating territory it wasnt that easy. Mark (dream) Ryan and myself were right near the front at the start and went with a few moves, though they all came back. Matt took a spill on a down hill just before a climb but got back up. Then as more attacks were launched at the yellow jersey, I jumped across to a move on a crazy little decent. I joined 6 guys then 5km later another 6 joined us. With 12 guys working hard all pushing for GC places the time gap went out. We went to over three minutes at one point and held three to the finish. With 12 guys coming into a crazy down hill sprint it was all on. I knew the guy to watch as he had been sitting on the back all day. Yep, sure enough he was, though he flicked me wide on the last corner and I didnt quite come back at him. So I ended up 3rd and also moved up the 4th overall on GC.
I was pretty happy to get my first podium in France, though now a win is even closer and willl come. The team that I am looking at riding with next year were also there so they were really impressed with my racing. We leave again tomorow for a week of racing near Lyon.