Classic Challenge No. 3 – Paris – Nemours – June 17th 2017
Race Reporters Kathryn and Chmou
It’s Friday night and I am at this fashionable new Italian restaurant in Paris called Pizza Populaire. I am looking at this enormous dessert called “Profiterole”, which I am just about to eat, when I have the guilt that it may not go down too well and that perhaps I should go easy before the following morning, as I would be riding in the third Classics Challenge going from Paris to Nemours.
The Classics Challenge is an organisation (founded by Francois, who is also a member of PCG and Club Cyclo Sport de Pantin) that arranges a long ride every month, departing from Paris to distant towns in the wider region of Paris, with multiple pace groups departing at 15 minute intervals throughout the morning. I have done the last two rides; the first Paris to Rouen and the second to Evreux! This time, I was going to be joined by fellow ExpaTRIés teammate Kathryn.
The third ride to Nemours was going to be no joke, at 163 km and would be a great training ride ahead of Ironman Frankfurt in three weeks. For fellow ExpaTRIés teammate Kathryn, it was going to be her first of the Classic Challenge rides and she also needed to get the kms under her belt ahead of her upcoming trip across the Pyrennées! It was a beautiful route via the south-east near the Fontainebleau Forest looping by picturesque towns and along the banks of the River Seine, around and around until finally reaching Nemours.
Both of us had gone out the night before for friends’ birthday drinks, so the 6am alarm came after only a short sleep (glad I didn’t make the decision to go on to the bar for ‘one last drink’ as my friends finished at 8.30am on Saturday…!)
I am trying to think about all the stuff I need for this long ride (note from Kathryn – perhaps should have prepared this before going out the night before!!) :
- Put the porridge in the fridge
- Remove my tri bars from my bike (it’s going to be a group ride and tri bars can be dangerous there and add weight) and adjust the seat height and position without tri bar position
- Pump the tyres
- Take gels
- Prepare a sandwich (some pelotons never stop for a pause and just go straight)
- Fill up bidons with cold water
- Credit card, money, ID etc..
- Bibs, Jersey
I am almost ready when I realise that my white helmet wasn’t matching my black and red outfit and where was the red one I have? The all important matching of kit meant I searched everywhere for it and was now running 10 mins late to meet Kathryn at the departure point of Velodrome Jacques Anquetil in Vincennes and meant I had to sprint in a high gear to get there in time for our speed group departure of 7.15am.
I arrive in time to have my picture taken with Kathryn in front of the Time sponsored advertisement, pick up a freebie in the form of a cycling hat and we start with the 30-35 kph group. We were supposed to have been the 2nd group to leave, with the >35+ kph group leaving before. However, this time, they set us off together, so we were in the mix with some very fast people. Neither Kathryn nor I expected to be able to hold that speed for the whole distance, but we did our best to hold on for as long as possible, and I had made the promise to stay with Kathryn whatever happened.
We set off steadily to move through the outskirts of Paris and then they picked up the pace. We stuck with them for the first 30km, but after a sustained period of 30 minutes riding at over 40 kph, we decided to drop back and form our own 30 kph pace group and see how long we could stay in front of the 27-30 kph group behind us. Would some of the faster riders in that group catch us?! This was extra good training for me to get some time in the wind, and Kathryn said she was happy to sit on my wheel (although she did her turn on the front occasionally!!)
We kept a good 30 kph pace through the wonderful countryside of the Seine-et-Marne (77), flying with a light wind behind us and a predominantly flat road; not even stopping when Kathryn felt she’d been stung by something. It wasn’t until we stopped at the beautiful village of Branly 10 minutes later for a quick sandwich break and photo in front of the Chateau that she realised she’d made a friend as she was stung again by the wasp that had somehow got into her jersey and was stuck under the sleeve! Turns out she’s not allergic to wasps, which was a relief for both of us!
We left Branly just as the next pace group was arriving (we decided to push on ahead of the pack, as they were stopping for coffee!). The route took us through the picturesque Brie-named villages, as well as Bombon, Chartrettes and Bois le Rois (home to the Trialong L distance triathlon as ExpaTRIés alumni member Suzie!). Some of these places were truly stunning that despite having grown up in Paris, I had never seen or imagined that there could be such beautiful places in such easy reach of Paris.
By 150km, we had reached the Forest de Fontainbleau and the route became evil, as it teased us by looping in and around the forest, turning in every direction except to the one signposted to Nemours. Kathryn got hopeful every time she saw a sign to Nemours, but the route would always take us in the opposite direction and having ridden for the last 10km with a burning sensation in her feet, she was pleased to to finally see the route go in the direction of Nemours with 5km left to go!!
We finally arrived there, after what ended up being a staggering 170km ride in 6h05 with an average of over 28 kphh. Pleased to have finished it, we celebrated with a fabulous lunch in the sunshine with homemade organic ice tea. It was now 3pm and time for us to take the train home. Unfortunately, talking to the organisers at the station meant we missed our train by a minute and had to wait an hour for the next one, which meant we missed the start of cheering on the ExpaTRIés in the 5k Open Swim Stars race..
Yet, what a great day. We both agreed that this is one of the most scenic rides we have been on, and we’d made a great effort riding most of it alone. The Classics Challenge will never fail to deliver beautiful routes. So, our recommendation to you is to come join us and sign up for the next one!
Kathryn looking sad having just missed the train