Saturday 14 September 2013

Chrono des Nations 2013

20.10.2013 Official Site
France, ITT, 20.87km
UCI 1.1

Race report here

After several months in which there's been a race every weekend (sometimes, two for each weekend) the Chrono Champenois marked the beginning of a five-week period with no Elite Women's races at all, a sign that the end of another cycling season is almost over.

The Chrono des Nations isn't quite the last event of 2013 because the African Championships will take place in November, but it's the last non-championship race until 2014.

The Chrono started life as the Chrono des Herbiers in 1982, when it was open to men only (a British rider, Gary Dowdell, won that year; another one called David Akam won a year later - and thanks to two victories by Chris Boardman in 1993 and 1996 and one for David Millar in 2010, Britain is the second most successful nation in race history after the French, who have seven wins). The women's race, which was added in 1987, is especially interesting in that it reflects the long career of Jeannie Longo which, whether one considers her an inspiration or a (probably doping) dinosaur, is remarkable: she won the first edition, then won again in 1992, 1995, 2000, 2009 and 2010 and is still racing to this day. She will turn 55 years old eleven days after this race.

In 2006, organisers joined forces with the organisers of the now-defunct Grand Prix des Nations, which had been in existence since 1932 and was widely regarded as a Classic (the only time trial to be given that honour) and as an unofficial World Championship in the days before the time trial was added to the official UCI Championships - it was at the GP des Nations that Beryl Burton, the most successful British athlete of all time, surprised the men in the race when she achieved a time not too far off that of winner Felice Gimondi in 1968. With the introduction of an official World Time Trial Championship in 1994, the GP began to decline in importance and when the ProTour series was inaugurated in 2005 it was omitted from the UCI calendar. When the two races merged, the Chrono des Herbiers became the Chrono des Nations.

2011/2012 winner Amber Neben
Previous Winners
1987 Jeannie Longo, 1988 Maria Canins, 1989 Maria Canins, 1990 Astrid Schop, 1991 Nathalie Gendron, 1992 Jeannie Longo, 1993 Roselyne Riou-Chalon, 1994 Marion Clignet, 1995 Jeannie Longo, 1996 Chrystèle Richard, 1997 Zulfiya Zabirova, 1998 Zulfiya Zabirova, 1999 Zulfiya Zabirova, 2000 Jeannie Longo, 2001 Edwige Pitel, 2002 Zulfiya Zabirova, 2003 Margaret Hemsley, 2004 Edwige Pitel, 2005 Edwige Pitel, 2006 Priska Doppmann, 2007 Susanne Ljungskog, 2008 Susanne Ljungskog, 2009 Jeannie Longo, 2010 Jeannie Longo, 2011 Amber Neben, 2012 Amber Neben

The Parcours
The name Les Herbiers comes from the lush and abundant plant life in the area, made possible by the rain - the Vendée department averages around 75mm in October, slightly more than London or Paris (which are famously rainy in Autumn). Since the Chrono takes place in late October, rain often affects the race: even if it doesn't rain during the race, slippery conditions can create problems - and there are a number of points along the route that are absolutely ideal places for treacherously slippery wet leaves to accumulate.

View Chrono des Nations 2013 in a larger map

Though much of the parcours is characterised by the long, fast straights that permit riders to crank up their cadences in search of high speeds and fast times, the five turns need to be treated with some caution. The first, leading from the Rue du Onze Novembre 1918 onto the Rue Nationale, can be hazardous due to the large number of trucks that use the route - spilled diesel is almost impossible to see but is highly slippery, especially during and after rain. The second turn, on the D755 leading onto the D79 at Le Croix Barat, has a traffic island placed slightly off-centre just around the apex of the turn; it was presumably put there to slow down traffic and considerably reduces space. The third turn, on the D79 at La Bonneliere, looks tight on the map but has plenty of room for a cyclist to negotiate it at speed; however, the road surface here is poor and there may be patches of loose gravel (it may also have been repaired recently). The fourth turn, on the D23 at St-Paul-en-Pareds, comes at the bottom of a short descent; it may be very slippery in wet conditions and there may be patches of loose gravel - fortunately, there is plenty of space. The fifth and final turn is in Les Herbiers at a roundabout between the Rue d'Ardelay and the Av. de la Gare; it's a very tight turn (almost 180 degrees) and wet leaves tend to collect on the road, forming a skidding hazard. The road in the short tunnel on the D755 may be slippery, but it's straight and shouldn't cause problems.

As revealed by the altitude profile, this is quite a rolling parcours though the gradient becomes challenging at only one point. There is a short descent immediately after the start, then the road climbs from the first turn and gains around 40m in 2km at an average gradient of 2%. This is followed by a fast descent along the D755 to a point just under 5km from the start where the road climbs again, this time gaining 64m in 2km - the average gradient is, therefore, 3.2%, but there's a much steeper section at 5km which surpasses 6% for around 0.15km, the steepest gradient on the parcours. Another descent with sections at -3.8% leads to the second turn, then flatter terrain leads to the third turn which is followed by the steepest downhill section with one short stretch at -7.1% - a chance for some riders to shave a few seconds off their times in the dry, potentially a dangerous road in the wet. From 15km the road climbs again for 2km, becoming no steeper than 3%; the remainder of the route is relatively flat with the exception of a 0.15km section which nears 3% along the Av. de la Gare leading to the finish.

1 (38) Bravard Charlotte Vélophile naintréenne Poitou-Charentes
2 (37) Artaud Audrey CSM Epinay-sur-Seine Ile-de-France
3 (36) Genee Laudine VC St-Malo Bretagne
4 (35) Fenart Ophélie CSM Villeneuve-la-Garenne Ile-de-France
5 (34) Sero Coralie Comité du Morbihan Bretagne
6 (33) Rochedy Emilie VS Romans-Péage Rhône-Alpes
7 (32) Vekemans Anisha Topsport-Vlaanderen Belgique
8 (31) Strappazzon Marine VC St-Julien Rhône-Alpes
9 (30) Longo Borghini Elisa Hitec Italie
10 (29) Favre Mathilde Lointek France
11 (28) Solovey Hanna équipe d'Ukraine Ukraine
12 (27) Rival Lucile US Pontchâteau Pays de la Loire
13 (26) Burgess Jay Ecosse Grande-Bretagne
14 (25) Leleu Fanny ASPTT Amiens Picardie
15 (24) Caetano Isabel CSM Epinay-sur-Seine Portugal
16 (23) Duval Joanne US Guérande Pays de la Loire
17 (22) Islas-Garcia Roxana Bourgogne Pro Dialog Mexique
18 (21) Parot Danièle Indre Vélo Passion Centre
19 (20) Drysdale Larissa Cycle Sport Groningue Pays-Bas
20 (19) Gambier Kelly CSM Villeneuve-la-Garenne Ile-de-France
21 (18) Simmonds Hayley Grande-Bretagne
22 (17) Rival Elodie US Pontchâteau Pays de la Loire
23 (16) Turvey Anna Ecosse Grande-Bretagne
24 (15) De Saint Jean Magdalena VC La Pomme-Marseille Provence
25 (14) Shaw Julia Grande-Bretagne
26 (13) Stienen Jutta équipe de Suisse Suisse
27 (12) Van Houweling Molly Metromint Cycling Team Etats-Unis
28 (11) O'Donnell Bridie Total Rush Hyster Australie
29 (10) Valsecchi Silvia BePink Italie
30 (9) Brulee Latoya CyclelivePlus-Zannata Belgique
31 (8) Lesueur Mélodie CM Aubervilliers Ile-de-France
32 (7) De Vocht Liesbeth Rabobank Liv/Giant Belgique
33 (6) Pitel Edwige SC Michela Fanini France
34 (5) Schwager Patricia équipe de Suisse Suisse
35 (4) Longo Jeannie ASPSA Rhône-Alpes
36 (3) Tetrick Alison Exergy Twenty 16 Etats-Unis
37 (2) Zabelinskaia Olga RusVelo Russie
38 (1) Neben Amber équipe des Etats-Unis Etats-Unis

Getting There
As already discussed, Vendée typically experiences rainy weather during October and, by the time the race takes place, temperatures will have fallen (and may even drop below freezing at night). However, Les Herbiers can be reached easily by road and, as a result, going to see the race could be an ideal short holiday for hardier cyclists looking for one last adventure on the bike before the weather turns too cold - in addition to the women's race, there are races for Elite Men, Male and Female Espoirs, Male and Female Juniors and for Cadets (mixed) taking place between the 15th and 21st, a cyclosportive and other sports in addition to various events going on around town including music (the jazz band is promising; the rest - including Veronique Cadanse and her accordion - might not be that tempting to foreign visitors), a Mexican evening (and why not?), a bike fair and, because this is France, more local food and drink than you could ever hope to consume and still ride home.

The most practical route to make the journey by bicycle would be to start at St-Malo in Brittany, to which ferries sail from Portsmouth. St-Malo to Les Herbiers is approximately 260km avoiding motorways, a distance that a very fit cyclist could cover in a day and most serious cyclists could easily manage in two days. The route suggested by Google is here. The journey by car is roughly the same distance and would take around three hours in light traffic; the route suggested by Google is here. Les Herbiers is not connected to the train network; however, Cholet is and lies just 25km away, making it possible to get most of the way there before cycling the remainder. Do check before buying tickets, though, as traveling on SNCF trains with a bike is not as simple a process as might be expected. Nantes Atlantique international airport is 70km away, a distance that can be covered easily by bicycle in an afternoon; the route suggested by Google is here.

Following the Race
The Chrono has its own radio station which is broadcast over the Internet as well as locally on 89.7fm. The official Twitter account is @ChronoNations; hashtags #LeChrono2013 and #chronodesnations return various results - use them to share any news you come across, too.

Are you going to the race? Could you provide reasonably regular and accurate coverage via Twitter? Let me know and I'll list you as a way to follow the race here!

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