Adrian Hawkins at the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships

I arrived in Albi a week before the race to get acclimatised and get some much needed hill work in.

The week was fairly hectic with the usual fussing, running around making sure I had registered, recced the start area around the Cathedral and also the finish which was at the motor racing circuit.

The weather was hot with temperatures in the mid to high 30’s so lasting the distance and hydration was in the forefront of my mind.

Race day arrived. My start time for my age group was at 08:51, each age group setting off at 7 minute intervals. The first group off, the 19-34 age group set off at 08:30.

We were corralled into the narrow side streets which were heaving with cyclists trying to find their start gate. I hustled my way into the pen part wheeling part carrying my bike above my head trying to get a good spot as close to the front of the group as possible. Quick last check (which seemed a bit futile, because if I had forgotten anything, there wasn’t a lot I could do about it now!) of my gels/bars in back pocket, check of drinks bottles were still full up. We were called up to the gate and then counted down. The air horn sounded and there was a sudden synchronised cacophony of shoes being clipped into pedals and we were off.

As predicted, the first 10k was frantic as everyone jostled for position. I managed to thread my way through the bunch to get right up near the front and then tried to settle down which didn’t happen as the bunch accelerated then braked, accelerated then braked as we went through narrow sections, with occasional heavy braking, squeals from carbon rims and heavy smells of rubber and hot carbon. At about 15k there was the inevitable crash which happened all around me. I managed to stop right up against a bunch of riders with six or seven going down. I thought I had got away with it until I got rear ended and someone took my shoe out, taking the tightening mechanism off, leaving my she dangling!

I thought it had been sheared and suddenly felt my heart sink looking down at my shoe thinking that my race was over before it had started!

I rode on for another 10 miles with my foot flapping about in my shoe trying to fix it and wondering how far I could go like this. Eventually I realised that it hadn’t sheared and that it could clip back in. I done the shoe up and was relieved to be on the go again. By this time the front bunch had gone, but in my head I kept reminding myself not to panic, stick to the plan, run my own race or I could burn out and never make it at all.

I settled into a good pace and picked off groups of riders, using them to sling shot me onto the next group. I reached the first climb and reminded myself to pace it, don’t overdo it.

I made it to the first feed station in good nick, I had plenty of fluid left which was just as well as the first feed station was woefully low on water. I rode on and attacked the first descent making up a lot of ground and passing groups from earlier.

The second climb arrived and the heat of the day was getting up to the low 30’s already, I could see people starting to struggle and pay for their early hot pace and were dropping off. I carried on with my set pace up hill, not wavering far from it, not getting caught up with trying to chase people up the hill. Again, I reached the summit feeling ok and did the same again on the descent, quickly picking off those that left me on the climb.

I seemed to spending a lot of time riding alone apart from the odd spell sat in a group and then moving on or a faster group catching me and I would jump onto the back to get a tow for as long as it was comfortable to stay with them.

As the miles went on and the day got hotter, I saw more casualties by the side of the road suffering from the heat, I saw more and more ambulances flying past to pick them up along with the usual crash casualties. I kept pushing on, taking my gels and drink religiously as well as chewing on the occasional energy bar.

When I saw the 50k to go sign it felt good but that last 50k was the longest, hottest, hardest 50k I have ever ridden!

The energy sapping heat was starting to take effect and every rise seemed to drain me, the strength was going from my legs. I just dug in trying to keep my momentum going, keeping my cadence up and keeping to a rhythm.

There were just the odd riders here and there dotted about now, no real group to attach to.

The temperature had risen to an energy sapping 36 degrees!

I saw the 10k to go sign, then 5k. Each kilometre seemed to get longer and longer, it felt like I was going backwards at one point! As the final kilometre arrived we headed onto the race track and ride the last kilometre around the track.

Adrian was finally placed 20th Brit out of 111!! – well done

Post by Colin Robinson

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