Rocket Rich
© Rocket Rich 2018
When I signed up for DUO Normand, I pictured a nice sunny day, maybe a slight breeze, flying around the French countryside on my Estrella Fugaz, with team mate Ian Hayden. In reality, we did fly around the French countryside, only it was throwing it down with rain and the wind, well that was pretty tough going! Good to know that the day after the event, it was sunny with very little wind!! We had a 2 hour drive to get to Marigny from where we were staying, it was pitch black when we left and already it was wet and windy. We’ll ignore the part where I went the wrong way down a one way street, only to bounce across a raised central reservation at the end, whilst avoiding a car! Good job we were in our SUV is all I can say! Personally I blame the French roads. For the whole journey it just got wetter and windier, so no hope that it would be dry or better for the time trial. We spent the last half an hour of the car journey, hoping it would be cancelled, or finding a reason why we couldn’t do the ride. Unfortunately we had all the gear with us, so no forgotten shoes or wheels. The event didn’t look anything like being cancelled, so there was no other alternative but to race. We got ready in a little car park in the village, on the plus side, the rain was starting to stop. We made our way to the start line, whilst waiting to get on the ramp, the rain started again! We rolled onto the ramp and posed for a few pictures. A rare event, I let someone hold me for the off. We rolled off the ramp and straight away got ourselves into formation and set off down the road. The first climb was quite a brute, especially for a TT. Once over it though we had quite a nice run for some time. The only issue was that on the descent I couldn’t see a great deal, I was wiping my visor, but I couldn’t see. The wind was driving the rain into the top of my visor and therefore the inside of it, so I couldn’t clear it. I only had one option, remove the visor. Obviously I couldn’t stop, so whilst keeping up speed, I unzipped my skin suit a little way and pulled the visor off my helmet, then stuffed it down my top and zipped back up. I could see! But descending was still difficult with the rain rushing into my eyes, and the wind giving it some extra oomph! The KM markers were flying past and we were flying past lots of teams. We battled with the headwinds and the rain that at times felt like hail. We turned onto one section of road about half way and immediately got blown to the other side of the road, it was one strong side wind. We battled this for about 500 metres, forcing the bikes back to the right hand side of the road. Up ahead I could see some houses, so I drove us towards them and then a little bit of relief as the houses cut some of the wind down. As we got closer to the end the rain got heavier still, we had stayed together very well, working as a team. For the last 500 metres we came in side by side, elated to have finished and in a strange way, really enjoying the challenging conditions. When we stopped, the sides of the roads where like rivers, water everywhere! We were absolutely soaked, swimming pools in our shoes, we were just so wet. My skin suit was wetter than when it comes out of the washing machine, it was comical. Our fun didn’t stop on the finish line either. We headed straight for the car and the only cover we had was the boot door, which was basically no help. So there we stood with towels wrapped around us, stripping off and trying to get dressed as quickly as possible, to get our jackets on to keep dry. It was hilarious. What I would like to mention is the performance of my Estrella Fugaz, “Vader”. Now, anyone who has followed me this year will know that I am very happy with this bike and its great performance. However it excelled itself at Duo Normand in horrendous conditions. The bike was so stable, despite being pelted with strong gusts and furious side winds. I can honestly say at no point did I feel like I was going to come off or lose control of the bike. It cut through the winds supremely! It remained as comfortable as ever and I could still relax on the bike. I was already attached to the bike, but on such an event in those conditions, I truly love this machine, it is simply awesome. I feel very lucky to have one and very proud to ride it. We covered the 50km course in 1 hour 27 mins 58 seconds, climbing over 1,300 feet and fighting the awful conditions. We came in 9th out of 83 in our category, so as you can imagine we are very happy! A prestigious UCI run event, DUO Normand is awesome, we will probably be back again next year, hoping for better conditions, to really fly!
DUO Normand