Grand Prix des Nations
September 19, 1999
GP Nations is a big-deal, single-day Time Trial. There are events for all
categories - pro men and women, under 23 men, junior men (I'm not sure about
young women, either under 23 or junior), and then lots of sport and veteran
categories that went off first. It was 35km on a 100% rolling course - no
flats at all. All the climbs were big ring climbs, though I used some big
cogs in the headwinds. The women did one lap and the pro men 2 laps for a
total of 70 kms. On race day the wind blew harder than it has during our
whole stay in Europe. I was sure my TT helmet would fly off my head and I
would sail off the road.
After thinking we were closed out of the race, we found out Thursday that we
might be in and Friday morning that we were, in fact, in. Many of the riders
had dropped out, leaving space for both Mari and me. Mari wanted to race to
get UCI points to move her up from 11th to 10th overall. I wanted to do
another TT before World's.
Friday morning, Chad, our mechanic, checked out our TT bikes, we packed up
the car and drove off the US Air Base, where we've been staying, at 11am.
The drive turned out to be much longer than we thought. The Air Base is near
Kaiserslauten, Germany and the race was in Normandy, France (somewhere far
north west of Paris). It was a 600-km drive. We arrived just in time to get
our race numbers and race packets. Our hotel was 40km still farther. We got
there past 7pm and ate dinner.
The next morning we had the typical French hotel breakfast of baguettes,
croissant, jam, butter, cheese, coffee, tea, cocoa - not enough for race day,
if you ask me. Then into the car again, back to the race site and lots of
circling while Henny figured out how to get onto the course. We wanted to
drive it before racing it. Then we found a parking spot, checked out the TT
bikes on the road and then hopped onto the trainers for the more intense part
Riders started at 2-minute intervals. I started behind a Swiss rider I don't
know about halfway through the 20-rider field. The race was hard. The
rolling terrain and wind were quite brutal. Not knowing the course and
corners was difficult too. At the halfway checkpoint I caught my 2-minute
rider. At 10km to go I had a breakdown of some sort and just didn't keep it
together through the corners, nor go hard enough. At 5 km to go I got it
back together and picked up speed again.
Mari got a front flat quarter of the way through the race. She changed wheels and
that one didn't work and ended up changing bikes.
Anna Wilson (Aussie) had a stunning race, finishing :30 ahead of Longo. I
was third :10 back from Longo. Then came Marion Clignet and Hanka
After the race I had drug control. We then got back into the car. I had to
beg Henny to stop to let me pee (a hazard of drinking enough for drug
control). Then we all had to wait for two hours to get to the highway before
we could eat since highway food is so much better than what we would have
found in these little French towns. I was very hungry.
Back at the base before 1am.