After a fatality due to a collision between riders and another team’s following car a couple of years ago, a change in course was pretty much inevitable. In 2017, the teams’ following cars were taken off the course prior to the final out and home section of the course, as it was owing to the design of this part of the course that the accident was able to occur. For 2018, the organisers have announced a new course. This takes in about half of the ‘main part’ of the old course (but ridden in the other direction), before heading off eastwards.
I had made an approximation of the new Duo Normand course on Garmin Connect. Note that there’s a little uncertainty around the precise start and finish of the course. It’s likely that the finish line will be as before , in the main street by the square, and that the start will be nearby, heading downhill initially and then on to Montcuit. The profile of the course suggests that a reasonably flat and quick section is bookended by some pretty hilly stuff, some of which will be new to Duo Normand riders.
While on holiday in Normandy, I had a leisurely tootle round the course on the tandem, getting a bit of a feel for it, and how it compares to the previous course. Of course a ride on TT bikes will give a better idea of how it’ll play out. The Duo Normand website has a video of some sections of the course. Some thoughts arising from our easy ride round the course:
  • The start seems like it’ll be quite quick as riders start on a descent. But it quickly gets a bit tough, particularly on the long climb to Montcuit (in the old course this was a fast descent leading to a very sharp left hand turn that Team Grumpy dubbed Ghoul Corner. In reverse, this is a sharp right hand turn, and it’ll be important not to lose too much speed.
  • There’s a fast descent next.
  • Shortly after, there’s a lengthy climb to Le Mesnilbus.
  • Then a lengthy, twisting descent through Feugères down to the marshes, and round to Tribehou.
  • Just after Tribehou, the course turns left, away from the road used on the old course towards Le Hommet d’Arthenay. This bit is quite flat with some gentle drags. At one point we ride through a dense woodland.
  • Le Hommet d’Arthenay has a couple of relatively gentle traffic calming speed humps – worth keeping an eye out for.
  • Then there’s a lengthy rise as the course approaches the main motorway to Saint-Lô – the course flops from one side of the motorway to the other, eventually reaching a double roundabout.
  • There’s a lengthy climb to La Chapelle-en-Juger – probably this is the toughest climb in the final hilly section of the course.
  • We then go through La Chapelle-en-Juger to Montreuil-sur-Lozon, where there’s a sharp left turn onto the final approach to the finish. There’s a long drag to a summit that experienced riders will remember from the old course’s out and home section, but after this there’s a really fast mile or so to reach the finish.
All in all, this looks to being rather a good change to the event. It’ll be safer without the hairpin section, and the sections used in the old course are now new to us as they are being ridden effectively in reverse.