After my last update I’ll continue the story about Tour de Normandie, following on from my letdown at stage six. I took yellow then when I got three bonus seconds in a breakaway but in the end lost eleven minutes. My race was over, but it was far from over for Endura Racing. We still had Jack Bauer and Alexandre Blain up there in the GC and we were going hard for this the whole week. Not a good time to stop already!
Stage seven was another lumpy 170km stage. The start was one of the fastest this week and after a while a group of 24 went clear and got some time up the road. We had both Jack and Alex in it. When the numbers came up on the board and they realized we had them up there, I could smell panic!
They did stay away for a while and Jack took important seconds in the bonus sprint. However they came back at the feed after 90km. A new three man break went clear and it was time for some recovery. The chase started and with 45km to go we almost caught them. Attack and attack again, and after a few tries Alex got away in a good break with about ten others. None of them was a direct threat to the GC, even if it was close, and they got a nice little gap. But the break stayed away and when we hit the final three laps they still had 35-40sec. The speed was high but we didn´t catch them. Alex’s break stayed up there to the finish line and he outsprinted them and took the win. With the bonus he also sized yellow, so we had the yellow jersey in Endura Racing!
Stage eight was next and it was the only stage with a bit of rain in other very nice, calm and dry Tour de Normandie. We had claimed a big task and we were very motivated to keep the yellow jersey on Alex´s shoulders. We just had four men in the team after Ian Wilkinson´s bad crash and snapped collarbone at stage two and we lost the other Wilkinson (Collum) on stage five because of a time-cut. But we could do it!
We tried very hard and brought everything back, sometimes with help and sometimes not, and it stayed together. With one kilometres to go to the three final 3km circuits we drove the last guy back to the pack and it ended up in a bunch kick with all of us in there and Alexandre Blain kept yellow! He got up on the podium wearing a nice, new, shiny yellow jersey and we had done it – we in Endura Racing had sealed the victory in the Tour de Normandie!
Let’s end with our winner's words after the award ceremony:
“Awesome! That is the word. It was fantastic to win the Tour de Normandie. My teammates Jack B, Alex W and Jack A and I did some very strong and impressive work to control and finally lead the bunch for a sprint and permit me to win the GC. All the week we did the perfect race focused on the GC, sometimes losing strength for stages wins. But finally that hard work paid off. I was personally a bit tired but still focused. The breakaway went at 25k to go with 17 riders and I was in it. When I saw that the bunch didn't organize a chase immediately I understood that it was the one! So I stayed calm and let others attack. My legs were painful but my head never dropped off. I played poker and it worked!
“I won the stage and took the yellow jersey by five seconds. We were in a real good position to win the GC but with only 3 teammates left (Wilko broke his collar bone on 1st stage) we knew that it was going to be really hard. But we did it and have now the respect of all the teams present here. They've seen an impressive Endura Racing squad riding as a unit. It isn't just The Alexandre Blain win, but our Endura Racing team wins. Everybody played in the same way, going for the one goal of winning that GC. I was just the striker who finished the job and smashed the ball inside! Personally it was really nice to win in France, ahead lot of professional French riders and shown that there is also cycling in Britain.”
So that’s it – an important moment for the team!
Thanks for reading,