Mike Woods Reports on the Final Stage of the Tour de Beauce

Mike Woods of the Stevens Racing p/b The Cyclery men’s team is racing in the Tour de Beauce with Canadian National Team. The Tour de Beauce is a six-stage stage race that attracts some of the top professional riders in North America. Mike has provided us with a report from Stage 6 of the race – a challenging circuit that so many riders not being able to finish.

Since arriving back from Beauce, it has been pretty hard to get motivated to write a blog. Actually, I take that back, it has been pretty hard to be motivated to do anything. Doing a 6 day stage race, then following it up with a 6 hour drive that brought me home 2:30 AM left me feeling pretty low in energy. But this morning, I woke up, and told myself “Mike, think of the fans man, think of the people who followed you when you were just posting about your results from Mississippi mills. Forget the ones that tuned in only after their facebook page became inundated with you bragging about yourself, and liking comments that sung your praises. No, do this for the hardcores.” And so to all you hardcores out there, I present to you:

TOUR DE BEAUCE – STAGE 6 RECAP

This past week, I raced over 760km, and did not lose a single pound. In the past 6 days, I am pretty sure I ate more than what a family of four would eat in a month. Not losing any weight in a 6 day stage race, is almost as hard as actually racing for six days straight. Thinking of how much I consumed over this past week makes me hope that this blog is not circulated in third world countries. If you are reading this blog, and you are one of the billion impoverished people in the world, please ignore these next few paragraphs as it will likely make your head explode.

For the past 6 days, my daily eating ritual would begin at 7:30 AM. Each morning I would wake up, feeling as if I had not eaten in the past week. Pulled out of sleep by the most ravenous, primordial hunger one could imagine, I would rush to the buffet, and stuff my face with eggs, bacon, croissants, fruit, potatoes, milk, coffee, waffles, and crepes. This obscenely large breakfast would be followed by second breakfast at 9:30 AM, where I would have a peanut butter and banana sandwich, a couple of pieces of fruit, and a granola bar. This would normally tie me over for race time at 11:00 AM. During the race I would consume approximately 2-4 energy gels, 3 energy bars, and 2-4 mini-croissants filled with creme-cheese and kiwis made by our super star soigneur Michel. I would wash all of this down with a couple of energy drinks, and a can of coke. Post race, I would be greeted with a can of coke, a carton of chocolate milk, a granola bar, watermelon, and a giant baguette sandwich. When I say giant baguette sandwich, this thing would be a monster. Michel would literally buy 3 thick baguettes cut them in half, and make the six of us a ham, cheese, tomato, lettuce, mustard and mayo sandwich. In writing this, I am reminded of just how awesome Michel L’Hoest is as a soigneur. Michel, a former pro rider, was flown in from Belgium to be our team’s soigneur, and he was brilliant. Not only did he massage us after each race, but he prepared our bottles and pre/post race food. The best way to describe how good Michel is, whenever I finished the race, before I could even imagine what I wanted–a cold beverage, a towel to clean me off, a chair to collapse into–it would appear in front of me thanks to Michel. As a cold can of coke, still dripping from the ice water that it had been submerged in, was thrust into my hands, I would think “I did not even ask for this, but this is exactly what I want right now.” The guy has been involved in the sport for so long, that he just knew exactly what I wanted; it was miraculous

Most of our races would end at around 2:00-3:00 PM, and dinner would be at 6:00 PM. This would mean that I would be faced with the prospect of going 3 hours without food. Being the forward thinking man that I am, I would steal copious amounts of apples from the banquet hall, and in the time between my 20inch sub, and dinner, I would consume 2-3 apples. These apples would be just enough to allow me to survive until dinner time. For dinner, I would normally have between 2-3 servings of salad, pasta, fish, chicken, potatoes, bread, and 2-3 pieces of pie and brownies. Finally, for a pre-sleep snack, I would stash a couple of pieces of fruit in my pockets, and a couple of sweets from the buffet, and snack on those as I prepared for my much needed slumber.

Yesterday being the first day that I have not raced for a ridiculously long period of time, I made an attempt at eating like a normal person. My body being habituated to consuming over 6000 calories in a day made this a pretty tall task. However a computer generated image of what I would look like 8 weeks from now if I were to continue this diet, has inspired me to cut back.

In terms of actually racing on Sunday, this one was a grinder. Each night before our race, we would have a team meeting, and Svein Tuft and Christian Meier would say “this course is tough.” Each following day, I would go on to find that this was always an understatement. Well I would venture to say that Sunday’s race was likely the toughest of the tour. Like Saturday’s 125km 10 lap circuit, this race covered the same distance in the same format. However it featured a hill that was far more prominent than on the Saturday. For all of you Ottawa folk- think Pink Lake Hill, except longer and steeper.

Since we had Nic Hamilton sitting in the polka-dot jersey (king of the mountain) it was my job for the day, to try and get in the breakaway and protect Nic’s KOM points. Unfortunately, I followed numerous attacks, and even initiated some moves myself, but I was unable to get into the succesful break. Exhausted, and disappointed in myself, I was relegated to the peloton for the remainder of the race. My time in the peloton was not without drama though. In the penultimate lap of this slug fest (only 50 men finished of the 90 that started) my chain fell off on one of the descents. I was forced to stop and pull to the side as the peloton whizzed away going well over 50K/H. Because of this high speed, my chances at getting back into the race were minimal. Nic, who noticed me steer to the side, saved my butt. In seeing me drop out to put my chain back on, he too stopped, and told me to just hop on his wheel. With a pull that almost turned me inside out, we caught back on to the main peloton.

As both Nic and I were not able to make it into the winning break, we were unable to defend his KOM jersey and we ended up losing it by a mere 5 points. This was a tough pill to swallow. However the crew did race strong on Sunday, and I was really happy with both my positioning and my final sprint. By taking a huge inside line on the second last turn (I was forced to bunny-hop a curb while traveling over 40K/h in order to get this line) I moved from 30th, into the top 20, and finally sprinted for a 13th place position, finishing with the same time as the rest of the field (save the surviving members of the breakaway). In placing 13th, I moved up 1 position in the general classification, to place 20th overall. Christian Meier, and Svein Tuft finished 3rd & 4th respectively in the general classification, and our team placed 3rd in the team category; the highest placing ever for a National team at the Tour de Beauce. I owe a big debt of gratitude to both Svein, Christian, and our Director Sportif Stefano Rover, this week, as they could have had me work for them the entire race, and not let me focus on my own results. Instead they gave me a ton of opportunities to shine, and taught me a ton of valuable lessons.

I am pretty pleased with this showing. In my mind there are obviously places where I think I could have improved, and had I not crashed on Wednesday, I think I could have been far higher in the general classification. However pretty much everybody in this race could say something along those lines: “had I not got a flat I would have made the winning break. ” “Had I suffered just a bit more I would have got the win.” It is terrible to live in hypotheticals. I spent the last four years thinking that had I not done one thing I would still be running, and this only takes you down a dark and sleepless road.

Time to look ahead to Nationals this next weekend!

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