In March Alistair Forbes (Living in Paris) received an invitation from the race organiser to enter a team in this year’s Tour Nivernais Morvan, a 4-day stage race in central France.

The event consists of a long team time trial, two hilly stages, a mountain stage, a “flat” stage to finish, and lots of transfer between stages. – Reported by Paul Coats – Back home I coordinated a Scottish squad who could represent well in what was known to be a very difficult race. Dooleys RT were contacted, and it was agreed that Paul would guest for the team.

The team being Paul Rennie, Michael Nicolson, Graham Mc Garrity, Stuart McGregor, Arthur Doyle and me as a guest.

This was the first time a Scottish club team has raced at this level. The field was made up of French Elite 2 teams, (elite 1 being the full pros we see on the telly) almost all composed of full time bike riders with a sprinkling of ex-pros, plus two Dutch teams.

The star team is Creusot Cyclisme, led by reigning French RR and Time trial Champion & Olympic silver medallist Jean-Christophe Peraud. This guy can really motor – he put 10 seconds into Sylvian Chavenal in the French TT champs. Thus the boys were in for a kicking… but they were all up for it. The final team changed slightly because sadly Big Arthur couldn’t get away from work.

We were all gutted and at very short notice wee jocky Alastair Kay (now alias Piepoli) was in. The team was being directed by Alistair Forbes and supported by Cammy Fisher and Graeme Ward. Arthur back at home won the national 25 today, so he kinda made up for missing the race in a way.

Tour Nivernais Morvan
Morvenais.

The route includes a short team time trial plus 4 road stages, one of them “mountainous” – having said that, this area of France is what is called “medium mountains” which means there aren’t any major cols, but the area is without a metre of flat road. The list of previous winners of this race is impressive, with many Tour de France stage winners & yellow jersey wearers among them.

Likely favourite is local rider Benoit Luminet (CR4C Roanne), an ex-pro who has won over 200 races in his time. The result of the race in 2005, won by Luminet, makes interesting reading – Christopher Sutton 16th, Geraint Thomas 50th, Matthew Goss 55th, Mark Cavendish 73rd & Ed Clancy 74th (out of 75 finishers).

Another well known name is Mark Scanlon, former World Junior Champion, who was 7th in the race in 2002.

Tour Nivernais Morvan
Dooley’s work well together in the TTT.

Stage 1, Cercy la Tour – Cercy la Tour, 29km Team Time Trial

Our first impression was the sheer scale of the event, way beyond anything in the UK, both in terms of organisation & in terms of competition.

All the stages were much faster than even the organisers had predicted.  At some points, especially the stage finishes, the crowds were of TdF proportions. Forgetting the ferocious competition the race got off to a bad start very high temperatures and fatigue from the long journey.  On reflection we should have gone out a day earlier. Coats had driven 850 miles through the night the day before and every one else who flew was up at 4am; bad move.

During the TTT of 29kms we had a mechanical incident which cost us about a minute.

Our plan was to wait for any rider in trouble before 20km where other teams didn’t do that, so we lost out. We were gutted when we saw how much we were beaten by but on reflection it appears much worse than it really is. We had never practiced a TTT, the course was lumpy and we had some trouble too not to mention not having the French TT champ, 2nd in the Olympics driving the train.

Tour Nivernais Morvan
This race is very well organised.

Stage 2, Varennes-Vauzelles – La Machine, 97km

Later today day there was a very hilly road stage and Paul Rennie was simply overcome by the heat (over 30° C at the start) and had to abandon.

Then I was delayed behind the only bad crash of the race. I got back onto the convoy and for 10km tried to bridge the last 200 meters the commissaries were holding between the cars and the peloton. I just couldn’t do those last few metres and eventually blew.

The speed was phenomenal. Michael and Alistair finished well in the main bunch and the rest of the guys finishing behind.

Tour Nivernais Morvan
Stage Winner Jean-Louis Paiani.

Stage 97.9 km (62.5 miles); 43.858 km/h (27.4mph) 1 PAIANI Jean-Lou  02H13’56″00 (27.4mph) VELO CLUB LYON VAULX EN VELIN 2 LEFRANCOIS Olivier  02H13’59 @03 U. V. AUBE 3 LE HYARIC Steven  02H14’06 @10 VELO CLUB LYON VAULX EN VELIN 4 DE VECCHI David  m.t. ” FRANCE POLICE 5 HALLEGUEN Mathieu  m.t. ” CÔTES D’ARMOR – MAITRE JACQUES 6 BOURDILLAT Nicolas  m.t. ” CREUSOT CYCLISME 32 KAY Alastair  02H15’18″00″ @ 1.20 DOOLEYS CYCLES RT 72 NICHOLSON Michael  m.t. ” DOOLEYS CYCLES RT 87 COATS Paul  02H19’09 @ 5.13 DOOLEYS CYCLES RT 89 MALLET Tony  02H30’18 @ 16.22 V. C. ROUEN 76 90 MC GARRITY Graham  m.t. DOOLEYS CYCLES RT 91 MC GREGOR Stuart  02H36’44 @ 22.48 DOOLEYS CYCLES RT With day one over we are on the way to the hotel very tired and with sore legs. Day two can only get better!

Tour Nivernais Morvan
A taste of continental racing will do the lads a world of good.