In my final event of the 2014 season I thought it would be great to write about the hidden gem of an event in the Northern part of France called the Duo Normand. The event is a 2-up team time trial held every year in Marigny, Normandy.
The event takes place over a road circuit of 54km every September. Whilst the first three editions were only for amateurs; from 1985 in the fourth edition professionals were permitted to enter.
There are several categories that can be entered, from Professionals, Amateurs, Mixed, Women, Tandems and Faired recumbent bikes – it doesn’t matter what your standard is you can go and compete with your partner on the same course as the pro’s and see how you fair against them.
Entry is all done online and it is certainly an event that everyone should do once in their cycling career.
First time for everything
This was my first time entering the event, and I opted for the mixed category with my partner Simon Wilson of Wheelbase. I suppose really alarm bells should have started ringing when he did a 47-minute 25-mile TT the week before, I’m pretty sure some relationships have probably ended based on riding this event!
Chris Boardman rode the event with Jens Voigt back in 1999 and their record stood until it was broken last year by Luke Durbridge and Svein Tuft, other top riders that have competed in the past have include Bradley Wiggins, Alex Dowset, Sylvain Chavanel and Filipo Pozatto.
Not to be outdone by the boys, the womens category has also had some great riders with Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten both from the Rabo Liv team as well as Jeannie Longo and Wendy Houvenhagel in the mixed categories.
This event is on closed roads, so for those riders who are put off by entering time trials on dual carriageways and chasing fast times, this course is ideal – it offers absolutely everything from flat, technical, undulating… Start ramp, crowds, commentating, photographers and a real party atmosphere.
Registration takes place the day before in the town square, there you are presented with your car name plate to be proudly displayed at the front of your follow car…. Follow car…. Now that was something we didn’t have, it turned out it wasn’t necessary but in our very best pigeon French we managed to persuade one of the locals to follow us in his car, naturally we had a number plate with 118 on.
Come race day, the early starters are off around 9am, we were off at lunchtime – the whole town is shut off and there is ample parking nearby for warming up, no complaining locals about the sound of turbo trainers or rollers – instead locals and cycling fans coming and looking and having a chat.
We rolled over to the start, and you get the same experience as the professionals, start ramp, the photographer in your face catching those pre-race moments of focus and concentration, followed by the time keeper counting down in French with his hands in front of your face. 5,4,3,2,1 down the start ramp and your off. We managed to settle into a rhythm pretty quickly, for me the only job I had was to hang on for dear life!
Top tips for riding a 2-up definitely ride with your partner before race day and include some efforts, or try and do a couple of trial events to ensure you know how to pace yourself and how to make the transitions smoothly.
The course goes out of the town and then comes back in again before heading out and back on a dog leg section, the atmosphere passing through the town was amazing, and to finish off in the centre – well you have to experience it. Then as with every time trial it’s the waiting game for the results board.
We won our mixed category in a time 1.16.31 – by a slim 3-seconds, for both of us it was great to finish the season in an event like this. We went to find our driver to keep our name placard as a souvenir – he simply got out the car and shook our hands, I don’t think he was expecting to have to keep up at 40mph in some sections.
Onto the presentation, and its completely different tothe village hall, cup of coffee and cake – we were pretty much put into a cupboard on the back of the stage vehicle waiting for our presentation.
Race day was pretty toasty in the 20 degrees mark, so it was rather warm in the broom cupboard. For me the finest hour possibly did not come when going onto the stage for presentation.
We wait in the room – “Next the Categorie Mixtes” we get ushered to the stage entrance, then they announce our names to which I promptly get a shove onto the stage to have a microphone put in front of me – “Where are you from?” I looked at him, then looked out at the crowd of people watching eagerly anticipating some good answer, he asks again “Where are you from..?
I look like a startled rabbit in headlights… In a rather high pitched shaky voice I manage the word “England”…. “ah okay – are you nervous?” I manage a whimpering “yes” whilst looking for Simon to bail me out of what is becoming an increasingly embarrassing situation. Luckily he’s pretty accustomed to this kind of thing so hopefully we got away with it.
After a few poses on the stage with trophies, flowers and a bottle of water in hand we head off for our end of season holidays. It was a great way to end the season – and will we be back… absolutely!