What's Cool In Road Cycling

Personal Roubaix: An Englishman In France

By James Hewitt, Limoux, France –
Paris-Roubaix, a bastion of the sport, holds a special place in the hearts of many French cycling fans. Most sat comfortably at home or in Cafes, or lined the course to see the giants of the road battle across the cobbles. I would have watched it live on Eurosport had it not been for the small matter of a 154km road race in the Aquitane region of France. I drove to the race just North of Bordeaux safe in the knowledge that after finally figuring out how to programme it, the VCR was recording the drama for me to enjoy after my own exertions all be it with German commentary. Little did I know it would not be the drama I expected to see.

My race was the Circuit des Vins du Blayais, an Elite amateur race in a town called Cavignac. There were 198 starters; a quality field of top French amateurs and a spattering of former Pro’s who didn’t manage to secure contracts for this season. Oh yes, then there was me. James Hewitt, 19 years old signed up for the hard school of French amateur racing. It was a fast race, on a rolling exposed course. My primary aim was to stay out of trouble in the first 30 riders of the peloton keep my eyes open for any action. Sounds easy, but as many of you will know, pretty much everyone wants to be there. 3+ hours later at a 40km/hr average I arrived at the finish in the second group on the road 4 minutes down on thebreak.

I drove home and thought about the lessons I had learned, what I needed to improve, how best to apply it in my next races and looked forward to a relaxing evening watching the Hell of the North. I got back, sat down with a bowl of steaming pasta and switched on the VCR only to be greeted with a series of poorly dubbed German soap operas. Damn those French instruction manuals.

Basically, I’m 19 years old, British and living in the South of France racing for a team here: ‘Association Jeune Cyclisme Haute Vallee L’Aude Limoux’. No that name is not a joke but everyone calls it ‘JC Limoux’ for short. Having a great time, lots of racing involving lots of pain and suffering which I somehow find gratifying and fulfilling along with a considerable amount of time to waste writing e-mails and checking out the latest cycling news. (PezCycling News of course). The town I live in is called Limoux, its a great area for training and has provided many interesting distractions to ponder on whilst eating up the miles. Most recently this included a three month long festival involving local farmers dressing up in masks and parading around the square drinking copious amounts of alcohol twice every Saturday.

Why am I in France? Chasing a dream like hundreds of others – the illusive Pro-contract. Yes I know what your going to say, “so many people don’t make it blah blah blah”, but if I commit to achieving this 100% and it still doesn’t work out at least I can live my life without wondering “what if”. I chose France for two reasons: 1) already had good links to a team here 2) Races are hard and frequent. My team is JC Limoux, based surprisingly enough, in Limoux, a small town about 1 hours drive south of Toulouse. I live in a small town house, which has a great redeeming feature: a DVD player. When I’m not watching movies, the terrain here is perfect for training, flat roads for miles if you want, or HC mountains in spitting distance if your sado-masochistic streak kicks in. There’s also loads of French people, all speaking a foreign language, which I still don’t fully understand.

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