Quick Study: Team Direct Energie’s Lilian Calmejane On E. Midlands Club 10’s & Grand Tour Stage Wins

An audacious attack in the opening week of the 2016 Vuelta a Espana. Far too early to succeed: 8km out on the skirmishing ramps of the day’s final climb. Pah! But, of course, I will the chancers on as I calculate whether there’s still time to stick the kettle on before it all really kicks-off. Except this is one of those magical days: The elastic stays snapped, the shoe-ins – nailed-on Mountain Goats and Great White Hopes all – race for who-cares-what place as a Neo-Pro steals a Grand Tour stage from under their noses and a forgotten kettle whistles forlornly out in the kitchen. And then, something even more fun: Social media, its piercing, post-stage light shining into every corner as ever, kicked up a result sheet from an obscure evening ‘Club 10’ time-trial that took place a few km from my house some 4 years ago. There’s a French guy’s name on it… my mind drifts back. I start to remember – yes, there was a French guy racing the  local 10’s for a summer back around then – I think I even (maybe?) pinned a number on against him and that damned clock… Surely not? Could it really be?…

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Ciclissimo! So, how did you come to find yourself racing Club 10’s in Nottingham? What was it that brought you to this slightly obscure city in UK’s East Midlands?

Lilian Calmejane: It was in 2012. At this time I was more implicated in my school time than my cycling life. I did a business course for 3 years and we had a foreign internship during the second year. My first goal was to improve my English and I found an internship that gave me free time to discover England, enjoy it and ride in this country. My school had a contact with Paul Wilde, a man who is responsible for Erasmus exchanges from universities in the UK to the rest of Europe and also from Europe to UK. So, that’s why I spent all my summer 2012 in Nottingham.

C! Whilst here you raced a few local ‘Club 10’s’ – Mapperley CC & Nottingham Clarion to name a couple. I remember seeing a mystery French rider in a red & yellow race kit who posted some impressive times on a standard road bike. Which team were you racing for at this point?

LC: At this time I was riding for an amateur team in southern France whose name is Occitane Cyclisme Formation. There are other professionals who where in this team at their beginning, for example Blel Kadri who went on to become a stage winner at the Tour de France.

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C! How did you enjoy the Club 10’s? Not that I’m really sure it’s possible to ‘enjoy’ those violent little efforts though!

LC: At this time I was very surprised and excited by this kind of event because in France you don’t have the culture of time trial and often you can’t do this on the road because people are more and more annoyed by riders.

C! Did you race any road races whilst in the UK?

LC: Yes: I was hoping to race more but it was difficult for me without an English club and also without personal car. I did a critérium in Nottingham with some riders of Team Raleigh I remember. I finished 11th, it was short effort but good to renew with competition.

C! After you left Nottingham, talk us through your racing career in terms of key results – you have had some great placings in many youth category races in the last couple of years that surely helped you get to the point you where you signed for Team Direct Energie

LC: Exact, after this experience in Nottingham, in 2013, I passed my exams with success and I decided to take a chance to ride as a Professional. That’s why I went to Vendee U, one of the biggest teams in France for young riders. I did two years with lots of good results: Stage win in the mountainous Ronde de l’Isard (MU 2.2), a stage win in the Tour de Bretagne (2.2), winning a stage and overall classification at Triptyque Monts et Châteaux (2.2) and lot’s of French Elite races.

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C! So – the big topic: Your first Grand Tour and you take a very classy mountain top victory! How did the stage evolve after the race began?

LC: The day before my win, we saw that a breakaway took the win. So, at the beginning of stage 4, lots of riders were motivated to take part in the breakaway. I lost lots of energy to take part in it but we were 21 riders so we had good chance to play for the victory. I felt in good shape so I decided to focus on the last climb. I stayed at the back of the group because the goal was to be forgotten by the other riders. I attacked at 8km from the finish and I gave everything: During those 20 minutes I had an of average 410W with a gap between 15 and 30 seconds. I think the other riders were surprised by my attack – they were more focused on riders like Atapuma or Rolland.

C! Did you believe all the way after your move was made or was there a point when it hit you that the stage would be yours?

LC: I understood that I had good chance to win the stage after the small downhill at 4km to the finish line, but I was focused on my effort because it was still more than 10 minutes of racing and the hardest percentages of the climb to come. I really knew that I would win the stage at 500 meters of the finish line. I could enjoy it and zip up my jersey to thank all the partners of the team and celebrate it.

C! Can you even put into words how it felt to cross the line on that day?!

LC: I had lots of adrenaline, i was crazy and it felt awesome with the whole crowd, those Spanish fans. When I crossed the line, I had a special thought for my friend Romain Guyot who died tragically in March. I did a heart for him because it was the way he celebrated his win.

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C! There was a crazy day later in the race, one that will be talked about for years to come: The day of the Contador/ Quintana massacre on Stage 15! What was the atmosphere in the peloton like as it dawned on everyone what had happened and that the race had been blown to pieces?

LC: I think that the day before, that one killed everybody. It was completely crazy, the scorching heat, the vertical drop, the speed of the race… So when Contador and Tinkoff attacked at the beginning of stage, there were lots of damage into the bunch. Froome was trapped up front; his team-mates too – but in a third group – in reality the bunch, around 100 riders. We chased during 20km but the gap just grew more and more. Sky stopped chasing and all the riders were surprised: Nobody wanted to ride for Sky. Charismatic riders decided to neutralize the group and ride calmly, within us. We knew that we would recover.

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C! On the final ‘competition day’ you had another great result, 8th place. You clearly felt good so deep into the 3 weeks: How was that day? It must have been a great morale boost to find you could be so competitive on the final weekend?

LC: For me it was important to finish well the Vuelta for the future, and also because I had some very bad moments in the end of second week. I knew that in the group there were better climbers than me but I wanted to give all my best to finish the Vuelta. It was not planned because the tactic was to stay calm in the wheel, to recover as well as possible for the next week and the European Championships with the French national team – but my spirit was stronger than reason!

C! What were you emotions and stand-out memories as you found yourself in Madrid after finishing your first Grand Tour?

LC: When you across the line you are very happy to finish because you know the pain and you know that you will be not suffering anymore. Then you share this special moment with your team-mates and the staff and you feel proud of yourself, mostly of when we won a stage!

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Sirotti images courtesy of Team Direct Energie, other images from Lilian himself – Merci!

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The Tickler – TCOD ‘Zine

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I did  a couple of bits for a new ‘zine on the market that was launched at Look Mum, No Hands in August ’16. One was an article pulled from an email I sent in conversation to Steve Hockett, the main mover over at The Coefficient of Drag, the ‘zine in question, about a chance encounter with Daniel Teklahaimanot. That was fun and so is the ‘zine

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The Tickler: Yes. Geez, he’s always floating around town. He’s so F’in tall you would not believe. And a nice guy…He was just back from Dauphine and called by Chrono-bikes as I was in the back of the shop getting my bike and getting my shoes etc. Pala, the Padrone of Chrono, calls through to me “Hey, Tim, Come and meet my friend Daniel”, so I walk back through and DT is there, just hanging out at the shop and we say ‘Hi!’ and shake hands and he gets the due complimenti on his KoM jersey from the race which he smiles about – “It’s so hard, the race is so, so hard..”

He tells me he’s off to have a couple weeks rest from racing before the Tour and is off to catch a train the next day to get back home.

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“Always like this on the bike…” Pala twists his torso around to mimic a mis-aligned position “One leg it is shorter than the other – so always this way on the bike, not straight”

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The next day we’re sat across the street from the shop at a cafe with post-ride espressi. The Tickler flashes past on his team issue, yellow Qhubeka Buffalo Bike (all the Lucca  guys on the Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka squad nip around town on them to fetch the milk etc), carrier bag in one dangling hand and more luggage strapped to the cargo rack above the back wheel. Pedaling this all terrain, bomb-proof thing in and out of the crowds like it was 6kg of race-tuned, carbon-fibre exotica. First leg of his journey: Off to the train station. Off home…

Photo credits: Pala d’Chrono & Ciclissimo!

 

 

 

Rural Britannia: Caja Rural-Seguros RGA At The 2016 Tour of Britain

 

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Tour of Britain 2016 supplied yet more of the aggressive, exciting and unpredictable racing that is fast becoming the hallmark of the event. The route seems to be carving itself into a recognizable shape, featuring key stages and set-pieces drawn from the UK’s wealth of relentless, begging-to-be-raced-upon terrain.

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This year, Ciclissimo! threw its hand in with Caja Rural–Seguros RGA, the combative, youth-development focused Pro-Conti outfit from Pamplona. The squad had enjoyed a tapas-sized bite of racing in the UK at the 2016 RideLondon-Surrey Classic and eagerly returned back to British shores for the full eight course meal that the Tour of Britain serves up.

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Outside of the constant aggression from the men in green & white – driving the breaks throughout the week and a brace of highly creditable bunch-kick placings in the face of stiff World Tour competition for squad-sprinter Carlos Barbero’s (stage 4, just off the podium in 4th and stage 7b, 5th) – there was much to enjoy in this year’s race. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s Steve Cummings’ vicious yet measured assault over Lakeland’s wonderfully named ‘The Struggle’ (laying the keystone in his eventual, hugely popular, win) on stage two; the Ian Stannard Shut-Out on stage 3 for Team Sky; the masterclass in aggression and souplesse from Cannondale-Drapac’s Jack Bauer to just hold off the clinical (but ultimately not quite clinical enough – I considered working out the percentage short-fall in meters from the full race distance but.. well, you know) pursuit of the charging peloton on stage five.

 

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Over here at Chez Ciclissimo! the highlights of the week were the arrival, finally, at Lotto-Soudal’s top table of James Shaw who ground the peloton into the asphalt at the whim of Andre Greipel and the fight and panache of Caja’s indefatigable escape-artist, Miguel Ángel Benito Díez.

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Not since Thomas De Gendt’s fledgling tour de force in the 2009 edition of the race has so certain a bet been available as to who would be out in the day’s escape in an attempt to break the race wide open. Benito’s never-say-die spirit and happy disposition (that heart-warming moment when he skipped his breakaway pace-line turn to drift roadside and hand up his bidon to a wide-eyed young lad among the most enduring images of the race) has won him big fans right here.

 

Photographer Andrew Peat took up position with his various lenses to bring us these images from the race’s final three days as the team rolled the dice at every opportunity in the breaks – often long after time had been called upon escapees in the eyes of almost everyone – and then fought out the sprints on the days when the peloton got it right in their efforts to bring the fugitives back to heel.

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I myself caught up with DS Josemi Miguel Fernandez and the baroudeur Benito under the shadow of Big Ben as they prepared to pull down the visor and tilt at all comers one final time in the race’s finale around the iconic streets of London to get their feelings and thoughts on the race and also their time with rising British star, Hugh Carthy, who has just inked a World Tour contract with Cannondale-Drapac after a stellar season with the Spanish squad.

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 Miguel Ángel Benito Díez: “It’s fun a race, I rate the race. it’s a long race; it’s not usual to race eight days, usually on the eighth day we’re finished – usually we riders are on our way home and very tired… only not this time! But, we are loving racing here in the UK – we’d like stay and go riding for a week more here but we have to go as we have some more racing to do over in Italy and France”

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“Which was my favourite day? Hmm… The first day! The easiest day, when Greipel won! (laughter) An easy day in the bunch, eating, speaking with friends, drinking! (more laughter!) But now, we look to today. The plan today is to be in the breakaway if we can, but if we can’t – Carlos; Carlos Barbero is our fast man so, if we are not able to breakaway, the plan is to be with him to take him into pole position for the sprint. He’s already had a fourth and a fifth; he is in good fitness. He can do it if he finds the good feelings today…”

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 Directeur Sportif Josemi M. Fernandez “I really like the race, it’s a great race due to every day being quite different in character so it makes for good racing. And the crowds – The crowds! I was really surprised with the sheer numbers of people out supporting the race: Yesterday, in Bristol, it was very impressive – at the level of the best races in the world!

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“Yes, we’ve been good. I feel we have been main characters in the race, we have each day tried to get ourselves out on the attack and break the race: Benito – he is a fighter everyday. So I am happy; but, of course, as always, you want to achieve a better placing as a team in that competition and also in GC…”

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“Hugh Carthy? He’s great, he’s been really good addition to the team this year – he learned to speak Spanish really quickly – as you can see, this is really important on this team! He’s off to Cannondale-Drapac and and we really do wish him the very best with that move. We are going to miss him, a great rider and team-mate, but we will be meeting him again at the races – maybe in a slightly different way out on the road, but we look forward to that too!”

Image Credits: AP Sports Photography

Postcards From Spain: Team Dimension Data For Qhubeka’s Nic Dougall At The 2016 Vuelta

British-born World Tour rider Nic Dougall is making his Grand Tour debut in the late summer sun of this year’s Vuelta e Espana. The Team Dimension Data For Qhubeka engine room stoker will be dropping Ciclissimo! a postcard from the hotel lobby to chronicle his maiden 3 week voyage whenever it doesn’t impinge upon his sangria time. Guappa!

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4th September, 2016: Sabinanigo – Sallent de Gallego-Aramon Formigal (118km)

“Hey guys, sorry – have been under the pump a bit the last few days. You watch today? It was insane. 90 riders dropped in the first 20 kms. And I can tell you that we didn’t sit up and let them go. They rode us off the wheel – Oh, don’t get me wrong: It was an amazing race! It must have been fantastic TV to watch. And those 70 guys that actually managed to race the whole way today deserve a sh*t load of respect.

Kristian (Sbaragli) rode the Vuelta last year. He has the same amount of fatigue in 14 days that he had last year after the whole  race. That’s a whole extra week of fatigue crammed into seven less days. It’s been insane. Guys are genuinely empty. Not just the ones at the front. Everyone is suffering big time; the thing that’s been destroying people is the first two hours of racing. There hasn’t been an easy break go all tour. But they don’t show that on TV unfortunately (although I hear that some channels showed the two full days this weekend – that’s good: At least then everyone knows what’s happening!). The best racing has sometimes been the first two hours. Should be a sprint day tomorrow to Peniscola but you never know at this race – some guys are probably going to get sh*t on by their directors tonight so could be a hard start…

Ciao!

ND”

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The only place where there is a semblance of order in the whole Vuelta…

 

 

 

 

Two Gentlemen of Girona: Nathan Haas & Chris Williams Stalking The Shadows Of The Barri Vell

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“…there are plenty of places to hide away if you don’t want to be seen. I know how to walk the shadows… but one of the main things is that everyone realises it’s nothing personal if they see some friends out having dinner together and they weren’t invited. If we invited all our friends to every dinner, it would be a massive blow out every night!” Nathan P Haas

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Photo Credits: Laura Fletcher, Cassette Media; Nathan Shots & the lovely sun setting over the walls of the Barri Vell/ Kim Daebong courtesy of Team Novo Nordisk; Chris Williams/ Ciclissimo!; others.

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Hidden Girona, the Pro’s eye view was the mission from Always Riding. I had the pleasure of a travel guide in the shape of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s Nathan Haas to provide the inside line in advance for our whistle-stop visit. When it became known that Nathan was to head off to find his fortune at the Vuelta e Espana, Team Novo Nordisk’s Chris Williams stepped in as route-meister deluxe before also heading off himself to race at the Tour Des Fjords in Norway. Read the full article here

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“Go to the Haribo factory outlet store? No? You must stay up late one night to catch the live music at Lola Bar” Nathan P Haas

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“We have a term there called “Getting Spained”. It refers to things such as when an apartment key breaks inside a lock of one of the old buildings to misadventures at the post office, or like, mistakenly ordering uncooked meat…” Nathan P Haas

After meeting Chris for coffee & croissants at La Fabrica we set off through the winding cobbled alleyways of the Barri Vell, or Old Quarter, across the river to the newer town on eerily quiet streets and quickly emerged into open farmland.

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Gently rolling roads swept us through sleepy villages as church bells chimed flatly out across the freshly harvested arable land. A meandering 3km climb temporarily thinned the conversation out before a wide, sweeping 10km descent delivered us to the edge of the azure sea and sand at Tossa del Mar…14233625_1287262167980760_1038317658_o

“…Part of me envies those who get to be professional cyclists and live in their home towns, but the larger part of me knows that this is a much more enriching experience. What I will take from my time as a cyclist goes well beyond results on paper. I love this life…” Nathan P Haas

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The Turkeys of Sant Aniol: End Of The Road.

 

Monday – Take the road straight out of Girona, keep on going until it runs out, cafe stop, then turn around. 25km each way, we’d be done within the hour. That’s what the guy in the bike shop had told Lanterne, anyway.

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On the way out it was arguable as to which we passed more regularly: the kilometre posts or the pros coming in the other direction. “That was Matt Brammeier and Nikki Harris, not sure who the Lotto rider was though” said Tessa casually, already an expert at identifying 55kph blurs.

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Once we got to the ambiguous “end of the road” (“I think we can go up this 25% gravel path, if you like”) we awkwardly turned around and rolled back through the “village” (a very small collection of seemingly abandoned farm buildings). I noticed a small driveway that I hadn’t seen on the way up, with three smart plastic geese at the entrance. The geese moved and I realised they were real. They waddled towards a scattering of mismatched ancient garden furniture, behind a rather rusty trampoline. My eyes widened as I saw a random selection of poultry. For some reason we had just ridden onto a random . . . farm?
Lanterne’s attempts to determine whether or not this was a cafe or just a movie set from a horror film resulted in a woman disappearing inside, returning with an apron (to keep up the “professional” look that this place had going on). Three Coca Colas appeared, three smartly matching ice-filled glasses, three thoroughly confused cyclists. Trying to pay was another challenge, Lanterne eventually managing to force a wheelbarrow-wielding passerby to accept money. Not sure if he was actually connected to the “business”, but since he insisted that the bill for three identical drinks was €4 then I really hope he wasn’t in charge of their accounts.

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The ride back seemed easier somehow, the road looked the same but somehow everything was different . . . I gotta say it was a good day.

If you find yourself in Girona and in need of similar farmyard/ wildfoul adventure, check in with Dave & Saskia at the Girona Cycle Centre

Words – Nathan Thomas

Photo Credits: Tessa Langley & Lanterne Blanc et Bleu