La Provençale Sainte Victoire cyclo-sportive / Aix-en-Provence / 30 April 2017
La Provençale Sainte Victoire cyclo-sportive took place over the weekend of the May 1st bank holiday, which was an excellent excuse for Lisa and I to take a 5 day holiday in sunny South of France and get some extra cycling in before and after the event. At the last minute, Caroline and Sudeep decided to join us, as did Anthony (from PCG) who has a house outside of Aix. The race was capped at 1200 people, yet it was still possible to sign-up the day before; so good to know for those that like to decide at the last minute! This also gave the event an intimate feel and a really friendly atmosphere.
Sudeep was the first to set off at 8.30am on the 133km course. We cheered him out of the gates whilst frantically changing my flat tyre that had happened overnight following the little 60km “warm-up” ride Lisa and I had done the day before to check out the area. Note to self – get down earlier in the morning to check over the bikes! So, by the time we made it into the stadium to line up on the track for the start of the 95km race, we were unfortunately at the back of the pack… Not ideal, but we had said we weren’t really racing, but rather going to enjoy the scenery and stick together …. Hmmm, that didn’t last too long and after 15km and the first hill, I had got the racing bug and wanted to see how fast I could push it.
The route heads east from Aix through beautiful rolling countryside towards the Sainte Victoire Mountain that is flanked with vineyards. Anthony and I stuck together and worked well as a team – he was stronger up the hills, but less confident on the descents, so I could catch him on the downhills. The race has 4 main climbs, with a 1259m elevation gain. Between the two main cols, at c. 40km in, we managed to get ourselves into a good peloton on the flat and took our turn on the front sustaining 40-45km in the pack! This felt amazing, but it took its toll at 70km when we hit the last and steepest Col du Sambuc with a headwind! The descent was worth the grind to the top, but I hadn’t been able to catch up Anthony and so found myself in ‘no man’s land’ at the bottom of the hill with no energy left and 15km still to go to the end. Luckily I got swept up by one of the 133km pelotons and I was able to hang on their back wheels as they sped past at 50km an hour (no exaggeration!)
Entering the stadium, I saw Anthony just ahead on the track and crossed the line just behind him in 3 hours 32 minutes, with an average pace of 26.9kph and having reached a max speed of 63kph on the descents! This turned out to be 20th women out of 57 overall and 11th (of 22) in my age category. Lisa was then shortly behind 10 minutes later and Caroline came in just ahead of Sudeep! It was then into the gym for the post-race lunch, which of course included a glass of rose de Provence!
I would highly recommend this race. It was well sign posted, closed roads, the course took us through beautiful rugged countryside, and the climbs were manageable. Aix is also a beautiful town to spend a few extra days in, especially at the spa hotel Aquabella, where we have spent some good recovery time after in the pool and spa!! I would definitely do this event again and try and get in the top 10 next time!!
Above/Lisa, Caroline, Sudeep, Kathryn
Left/ Kathryn, Sudeep, Lisa
Right/ Kathryn, Anthony C