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מועדון אופניים תל אביב

Yarden Gazit on the Tour de la Guadeloupe

Hi All,

As most of you already know, I recently completed the 10 day Tour de la Guadeloupe. I apologize for not writing much during the race, but fatigue combined with a tight schedule and a somewhat robotic mental state prevented me from doing so. I shall now try to describe my experiences. I am writing in English so that all can understand. For the Hebrew speakers who are too lazy to read a long passage in English, you can Skype me and I will be glad to share my experiences with you in what the Guadeloupeans call the language of Jesus

 

The Tour de la Guadeloupe was held August 1-10 for the 58th time in the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe. The course covered over 1200 km (~750 miles) all over the hilly terrain of Grande Terre and Basse Terre, the two islands that form Guadeloupe. The race was divided into 12 stages: 1 prologue, 6 "flat" stages, 3 mountain stages, one individual time trial and 1 team time trial

 

 

  

Twenty two teams participated in the Tour: Foreign teams came from France, Italy, Slovakia, Martinique, Canada, Haiti, and of course, the Tel Aviv Cycling Club of Israel. The rest of the teams were local, but included riders from Columbia, Poland, the Dominican Republic, Kazakhstan and France. The most interesting name on the start list was Maurizio Vandelli, 44 years old, who was a professional for 17 years and finished 10th in the 1988 Giro d'Italia. Other big names were Eddy Lembo who won a stage in the Tour de Suisse, Cameron Evans who rides for the professional team Symetrics, and Colombian Flober Pena Pena, a three-time winner of the Tour de la Guadeloupe
   

 

  

Our delegation comprised of six riders, a team director, a mechanic, and a masseuse. We arrived at Pointe-a-Pitre, the capital of Guadeloupe, the evening before the race. While walking towards the bus that would drive us to the hotel we got a first hint regarding the popularity of the race: journalists from two radio stations approached us with microphones asking us about our aspirations for the Tour. As I was the only French speaker on the team, I was the one interviewed
 

  

 

The next day was the rider presentation and prologue. Thousands of people came to downtown Pointe-a-Pitre and stood in the blazing sun and in the rain that came and went to watch the beginning of the Tour. This weather pattern was very common: On a very hot and humid day (every day) suddenly heavy rains begin falling for a few minutes. Then the clouds disappear and the roads dry within minutes. Sometimes it seems as if the road doesn't even get wet as the rain evaporates immediately as it hits the warm earth
 

 

  

Over the next 10 days I think I saw every one of the 400,000 people who live in Guadeloupe cheering along the roads. Many thousands were handing out bottles of water and coke to riders on every hill. On TV there was live broadcast of every stage through many motorbike cameras and a helicopter. In the evening all four TV channels, as well as all radio stations, had programs dedicated to the Tour. The race also made the top headlines in the morning newspapers. For us coming from a country in which the national championship is held early in the morning and in the middle of the desert so that it won't cause problems to drivers, this was quite a shock. All the locals I spoke with were passionately involved in the race, gave tips, told me about the course, and asked about our opinion on the race. I was very happy that my French was good enough to communicate with the locals; otherwise I wouldn't have been able to grasp the Tour-mania

 

 

 

The first day was 170 km "flat" stage, yet we discovered there are no flats in Guadeloupe. The terrain is very hilly, and even though none of the climbs of the day were of significant length, we were always riding up or down, like on a roller-coaster. The day started and the biggest of the three velodromes of Guadeloupe, as always with many spectators cheering us off. I don't think there was a day in my life in which I drank more than on this day. The heat and humidity were strong, and the body still not used to such a climate. Luckily there were so many spectators with cold bottles of water

We got into our daily routine very quickly. In such a tough and demanding race the riders need to focus only on racing and recovering, and therefore everything else is organized by the staff. It is almost like being a robot. We woke up in the morning and ate breakfast (lots of fresh pineapple). Then we headed to the two buses (one for the riders and one for the bikes) that took us to the start of the race. A short warm up prepared us for the start of the race, but everyday we needed a slightly longer warm up to get the fatigued body running. After we crossed the finish line we first went to the water and coke ladies and immediately drank a litter or more. Then we searched for a pretty young lady (many of the Guadelopean women are indeed very beautiful) with a sign that reads Israel. She would take us to the showers, and then to lunch that was organized at a gym or cafeteria for the riders, staff, course marshals, etc. about three hundred people. Then we would climb back on the bus and get back to the hotel. Then a quick dip in the sea, another shower, laundry, massage and dinner. After dinner we prepared our bags for the next day and had a team conversation about the next day's race. After all that came the much-appreciated sleep
 

 

This lifestyle is so busy and repetitive that we lost all sense of time or any relation to the outside world. Each day was not Wednesday or Thursday but stage 5 or stage 6. In fact, on one of the bus rides, none of us six riders could agree on what day it was. As everything on TV was bike racing we didn't get any news from the outside

And so the race went on, and we got into the mountains. None of the climbs were very long, but some were very steep, with gradients of 10 – 20 % that were sustained for two or three km. If I thought there were a lot of spectators before, now I had to change my perspective. In some parts you could see no road in front of you, only people cheering, pouring bottles on riders' backs and listening to race reports on the radio

 


  

These were very hard stages, but after we got out of the mountains the terrain remained hilly, only the body was weaker. Heart rates are lower; riders are falling asleep on the bus or on any possible occasion. Even though we were enjoying this experience very much, we were looking forward to finishing the Tour

Out of the 130 starters, 91 reached the finish line in Pointe-a-Pitre August 10. The winner, for the 4th time, was Colombian Pena Pena. All six of our guys finished, an achievement only 4 out of the 22 teams can claim. I finished 62nd, and our best ranked riders was Niv, who finished 37th, and also finished 12th on one of the tough mountain stages

 


 

Very tired we sat in the closing ceremony with many thousands of spectators, listening to the music, watching the dancers and hearing the fireworks. But the fatigue did not bother our sense of satisfaction from meeting such a tough challenge, the Tour de la Guadeloupe. Even though I did not win, this was perhaps my most rewarding cycling experience

 


 

Thanks to all who followed, to my fellow riders, and especially the supporting staff – Nimrod, Roni and Osnat

Best regards

Yarden 

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