August 9th, I arrived in Embrun to participate in my first Divison 1 French Grand Prix ever. I was part of Metz’s team alignement, with goal of helping them back into the ”safe zone” (the last three teams of the rankings move down to Division 2) after a difficult start to the season resulting in a 15th team place. We were staying in a chalet high in the mountains at an altitude of about 1450m.
The next morning, on race day, the atmosphere was pleasantly relaxed in the house, probably caused by the late 1pm start and the fact it was more of a team race, not as individualistic as usual. Arriving on the race site, however, stress inevitably made its way, a bit intimidated by seeing all these WTS regulars.
Comes the time when teams are called one by one to their boxes, Metz are called in 15th position, followed by the start horn, given so quickly I almost miss the start. I therefore have rather bad start, attempting to avoid unnecessary contact with my teammates (which proved quite hard), surrounded to my left by a fierce team. The first 325m was a constant battle to keep my position. Approaching the second half of the swim, I managed to extricate myself from the ”washing machine” and catch my way back up to 25th position at T1. The bike start was very intense into the first short hill, in an attempt to catch the first group. Afterwards, for the short descent and the flat part near the river, my group slowed to a (very) easy speed, maintaining that same pace up to the bottom of the climb. The ascent was quite the opposite (read: Very Hard!) but I still managed to reach the top with the third group on the road. Feeling comfortable in the descent, I gradually got closer to the front, to finally lead my group for the second half of the downhill. At the bottom, I realized I’d made a 15-20s break with Le Corre and Dodds, and decided to work to maintain this small advantage on a group of men that would all run faster than me. On the last hill, I got dropped by Le Corre, therefore entered T2 in 11th position, about 15 seconds before the small group behind me. Riding without water for the last few kilometers of the bike, I was a little dehydrated and looked forward to the first water station. It never came! I therefore ran quite slowly and suffered from the heat on this run course in direct sunlight for the better part. All in all, a satisfying 23rd place on my first ever D1 race. The team placed 10th, climbing to 14th place in the season rankings, one point away from the «safe zone» (avoiding relegation into 2nd division).
In retrospection, the experience gained by participating in this race is invaluable, especially considering the nice depth in the men’s field. I also really enjoyed the team atmosphere, very welcoming, where the team exceeds the personal benefit. This race also had a unique bike course, which resulted in a unique and refreshing dynamic, and is a great opportunity to compare myself with the world’s elite, coming into the World Junior Championships. Huge thanks go out to Metz for giving me this opportunity!
For the curious, click here to see the full results.