My flatmate and team pocket-rocket Yordan Andreev returned from Bulgaria in July with some extremely defined tan-lines and a national title! He had won the national road race and podiumed in a 2.2 stage race in Macedonia.

He was clearly on good form and in high spirits and I was hoping some of that might rub off on me – my morale was the lowest it’d been this year and performances weren’t anything to shout about…

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GP de Harol

The first outing for Yordan’s national stripes was the GP de Harol; Five laps of a rolling circuit featuring the “mur de Harol” – a 600m wall peaking at 20% gradient. And if that wasn’t enough to suffer through, it was 40 degrees.

Yordan Andreev
Yordan Andreev (centre), on my left. Photo©James McKay

After the inevitably fast opening kilometres I pressed on, finding myself alone up the road after the first lap.

I went all in for the KOM competition, trying to hold off the bunch for as long as possible to get over the three climbs on the circuit as many times as I could.

But the heat caught up with me and I started cramping up. I gave last bottle to Yordan and went into self-preservation mode. 

The Bulgarian managed 3rd to the line on the last lap, leapfrogging me on the KOM competition in the process.

Yordan Andreev
Centre: Yordan Andreev with the flowers, right: me. Photo©James McKay

I felt quite mixed; I was delighted for Yordan but gutted to have nothing to show for my efforts.

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Training in the Swiss Alps      

Fortunately, I had something to cheer me up; a week away in the Swiss Alps with two mates from London.

It was a massive breath of fresh air to get away from the apartment in Nancy and into the mountains. But as well as a mental recharge, as all three of us are cyclists, it was a chance to get a big training block in by pushing each other up HC climbs.

Yordan Andreev
Photo©James McKay

The trip proved to be a roaring success and I banked 24 hours of riding in just six days with 18000m of climbing thrown in.

Moreover, I am hopeful that the morale boost will carry me through until the end of the year in France.

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Circuit des Mines

Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t the freshest for the Circuit des Mines just two days later.

Although not in a complete “box” I had extremely heavy legs from pushing big gears up mountains.

I planned on using it for leg speed and on being conservative but ended up in a front split after tagging a move. However, the group was just too big to be working well, and for the peloton to give it too much ground.

Once the race merged together again, the two DN1 teams present proceeded to shut everything down until the right formulation of four riders stuck.

In the final lap, Yordan clipped off with half a dozen others leaving me to try my luck from the remnants of the bunch.

I opened my sprint too late and could only manage 22nd overall which was disappointing.

* * *

Grand Prix de Bavay

The weekend after the Circuit des Mines, the team headed up north to the Belgian border for the GP Bavay – an elite national race.

Photo©James McKay

There were several foreign Conti teams from the UK and Belgium in attendance, along with a throng of DN1 teams amongst the 160-rider peloton.

The carnage started before the flag had even dropped, with a nasty pileup featuring a race motorbike in the neutral section.

Once the race was resumed I got stuck right in with the first attack and continued to race on the front foot, knowing that with such a large bunch, being anywhere but the front third was useless.

Photo©James McKay

This proved a good strategy as I avoided yet more crashes and found myself in the winning split of around 20 riders, which doubled in size with another group bridged over.

I cramped up on the final lap and was unable to contest the reduced bunch sprint – a finish which I really suited me, which was gutting.

Nevertheless, I managed 30th in very strong company, so I was proud of my ride.

* * *

My next racing block depends on team selections, but I’ll keep the blog up to date and let you know how it’s going. all the best, James.