The Tour De Limousin was the first race the Australian Development Squad competed in this season. The team, which ultimately consisted of Leonie Burford, Ruth Corset, Louise Kerr, Josephine Tomic, Peta Mullens and myself, congregated in the small town of St Sulpice Lauriere.
Arriving a couple of days before the tour began gave us plenty of time to familiarize ourselves with the course. However it only took a kilometre to figure out the tour was going to be difficult, when we started heading up a category one climb on our first training ride.
Not everyone had these same pre-race preparations though. Louise took one for the team by teaching us not to eat sandwiches from French petrol stations when she came down with a nasty case of food poisoning forcing her to spend the day before the tour in bed.
Meanwhile Marc, our awesome mechanic, wished he had a bed to sleep on when it broke in the middle of the night and he found himself on the floor. So the week started off with some good stories and the tour hadn't even started yet.
The opening stage of the tour was a prologue. The course started with a small rise, followed by some technical corners, a descent and a 'pinch' to the finishing line, all in an epic distance of 4.5 km. The team managed to get five riders in the top 20 (Tomic ninth, Corset 10th, Mullens 11th, Burford 16th and I finished 13th), putting us third in the teams classification.
Day two covered a distance of 121 kms. The three category two climbs and category one climb weren't long enough however, to do a lot of damage to the peloton. But add some wet and technical descents and the three girls who got up the road where soon out of mind. The day finished with a bunch sprint and our 'sprinter' of the team Peta came fourth in the kick placing her eighth for the day.
Saturday's road race looked like the hardest stage of the tour and it lived up to the expectation. The group split up going up the first category one climb of the day, but came back together before we got to the second major climb. The next category one climb saw a number of attacks by Edwige Pitel, who was leading the tour. This split up the group again and this time it didn't come back together.
I survived the attacks and managed to stay with the front group, whilst Peta and Ruth were in the chasing bunch, with Josie and Leonie safely tucked away in the surroundings of 'groupetto'. Unfortunately Louise got dished with some bad luck, and after puncturing found herself walking five kilometres in search for a spare wheel. When the 'sag wagon' following the last rider came with no spares in the back, she was forced to hop in the car. The stage finished with déjà-vu, with three riders escaping off the front group again. This breakaway would decide the three places on the podium, but the order was yet to change.
The team strategy for the last day of the tour was to try and get the young rider jersey. With Peta coming third in Under 23 category and myself in second, we had nothing to lose and were in a good position to try. However 31 seconds can be a lot to make up, especially when you are in the pain box and it wasn't to be.
Overall the team had some good results and efforts. Josie did a great job in trying to get in some early breakaways, Leonie always represented us well at the front, and Louise, despite her bad luck, was extremely talented at being a soigneur for the last day. I came 10th on general classification and second in the young rider classification, Ruth was 11th and Peta 13th, whilst being third in Under 23 standings.
The town of St Sulpice Lauriere came alive that night, and for the first time in the whole week we weren't the only people on the streets. John and Marc had done some sweet talking and the local pub allowed us the use their barbeque. So, the tour finished with a good night.
To top off what was already a memorable trip the car died it on the way home. With the temperature gauge going in the red whilst going 50km/h on an autostrada (freeway) we quickly decided to ditch the car and put what we needed in the van.
Leaving John and Marc behind for some bonding time turned their 10 hour drive into an epic journey back home. We, on the other hand, arrived just in time to meet up with Rochelle Gilmore and Hayden Josefski at Bar Cavour, a popular restaurant for the cyclists, to fill us up with a salad and fill them in on all the gossip.
Until next time,