La Ronde Picardie - The fastest one
2015 & 2016 – The trip to La Ronde Picarde is not really a trip as we only slept there on Friday evening before the race. This Gran Fondo is listed here to give a complete overview of all Gran Fondos we have riden.
La Ronde Picarde is a Gran Fondo which is not about climbing, as it are only 1300 altitude meters on 184 km. But it’s the speed and the wind that makes this a hard race. The start is in Abbeville and the finish is in Eaucourt-sur-Somme, where you already pass early in the race. The first edition there was a start zone for the gold finishers of previous editions and they started about 5 minutes for the other riders. Like this the group was split and according to me this was safer. In 2016, when we were located in the first zone due to our good result back in 2015, this split was not made, and everyone started right after each other. So instead of starting with a priveliged group of 200 we started with 600.
With the fast start on the main road, with such a big group it was quite dangerous. The first 13 km till the first hill, I had an average speed of 41.8 km per hour. There are several smaller climbs and when you are not a real climber like me (1.91m with 83 kg) it’s key to know the parcours. I made sure I was in the front when we started a climb, and like this I could ride my own tempo and end the climb in the back of the group. As from there I could again start to move forward in the group.
When you reach the sea in Ault, there is a little steep wall to overcome. When you are in the back of the pack, like I was in 2015, you start almost from standstill, and with a percentage above 20% it’s a hard one. In 2016 I turned on the hill as second one of a group of + 80 riders and by taking the turn correctly I was almost three quarters on the hill before I noticed it. This was a huge difference. As from there you have a long flat part next to the sea, where they ride really fast. As I was in the front it was quite easy to follow. What followed was about 20 kilometers with an average of above 40 km/h.
Then you reach the provisioning point where almost nobody stops. Most riders either have people that provide them with food and drinks, or they have everything with them, like we had. Of course this is your own choice. There are also plenty of people who stop. It might be wiser if you look at the cost. We pay quite some money, but don’t use the provisioning… In 2016 I was about 6 minutes faster at the provisioning as compared to 2015 due to the big group in which I was riding.
When you leave the sea, there is an endless road with crosswinds. In 2015, when there was a split of the 2 groups, we were here with a group of 50 people and I could ride in the front and help to beat the wind. In fact this is often easier than riding in the back, where you cannot protect yourself behind another rider. In 2016 we were with a group of 100 people or more, with a lot of stronger riders, so I was pushed to the back, which made it harder. I almost was dropped by the group, but a strong guy pulled me back to the group. Thank you for that 🙂
Where back in 2015 I was one of the drivers of our 40 riders big group, in 2016 I really suffered to stay in the big group. In 2015 we stayed together with our group till the finish line where I was even able to wint the sprint. Well, the sprint for place 177 🙂
In 2016 it was a different story. There I was really suffering in the big group. When we all had to stop for a tractor which was blocking the road, I doubted a little too long, and as there was not a lot of room, the group became a long ribbon and I overlooked the climb a little further. So when we came there I was too far in the back and there, at about 153 km with an average speed above 37 km/h I cracked and stayed behind. The last part of the race I almost rode alone and there I lost the 6-7 minutes I was before my schedule of 2015. I continued my road and arrived at the finish with a difference 7 seconds! As I had to let the big group go, I only finished on place 212. I could have won quite some places if I did not cracked on that hill, but in the end, it really doesn’t matter if you end 150th or 212th 🙂 I ride these races for myself.
We slept twice in the Ibis which is about 2.9 km from the start, and 6 kilometers from the finish. It’s location is thus very convenient. The rooms are basic and has such typical plastic bathroom. There was breakfast included, but we brought our own food, to be sure we got what we wanted. There was early breakfast possible, but the area was very crowded, so we were happy to eat quietly in our room. There is big parking lot, so even after checkout you can leave your car on the parking of the hotel.