The pace didn't relent at any point though. The field remained strung out, and I had to try and find my legs, so I could move to the front and be a part of the activity. The team did a good job of being present in the constant string of attacks. Given the nature of the race, no solid break ever really formed. Instead, the constant effort wore guys down until only the strong remained. When we entered the local circuit, which we would do 4 times, a group of about 20 riders went away. We had Gregory in, so our situation was ideal because he is riding with great form right now. I figured again that this could be the race. Rather than stop at the bus though, I made the decision to continue to fight, hoping I might followed the right counterattack and make it across to Gregory.
Bad luck struck Gregory for the second time on the day though when he flatted out of the front group. Laurent gave him his front wheel, and Gregory was able to make it back into my chase group. Our group continued to ride, and on the last lap, a small group of us made the junction with the front group. I was back in the race! And better yet, Gregory had managed to fight his way back in again. I asked Gregory if I should ride for him, but he said to just go for it myself. Unfortunately, I lost the good position I had on the final run into the last km: race over. I battled as my bike and body rattled and bounced over the jarring cobbles, but there was nothing left to go harder. My reserves had been emptied. I don't think I ate enough throughout the day as I battled the conditions and position war. If I remember correctly, I ate only half an energy bar, a mini Snickers, and 3 or 4 gels. That's not enough for a 200km race that claimed 4000kjs by the end. Despite the disappointment in my mistake(s) and missed opportunity at a high finish, I am happy to say I fought the war and survived. I finished completely destroyed physically and emotionally.
Two races remain for my 2012 season: Paris-Bourges (Thursday) and Paris-Tours (Sunday). I've done both races in each of my first two seasons. Each presents a good opportunity for me with moderate climbs and a general war of attrition. Crosswinds can wreak havoc on both races however, so I will have to remain focused and motivated to make sure I put myself in a position to make the selections. I think my condition is still good, so if I can put it all together, I hope to come away with a good result. Check back for the reports!