We woke at 7am, had a quick breakfast and packed the car.  Then we drove over to Marigny in convoy with Gerry – this didn’t take long.  In Marigny, we parked in our usual spot, not far from the start area.  We wandered down to see the first unlicenced rider start, at 8.35.  We were pretty glad we were in the Corpo category, as with clear skies and no wind, it was really very cold.

The Duo Normand is a two-up team time trial that attracts competitors ranging from the beginner to the professional cycling teams.  The course is a 54.3km circuit round the town of Marigny in Normandy (see map below), and encompasses a range of terrain, from relatively flat and fast sections, to rather technical and hilly sections.

Back at the cars, we set up the bikes, turbos etc, then warmed up for a bit.  With about half an hour to go, we packed away turbo, rode around  then popped down to the start area to see if UCI bike checks were being done in our category (they weren’t).  After one more spin, we moved to line up next to the start ramp.

All of a sudden we found ourselves climbing on to the start ramp, and after the obligatory photographs, we were off and climbing the start lane.  Cresting this lane, we slipped into formation, only to have it disrupted by a recumbent rider riding on the course.  Once back in formation, Gerry gasped something about having a hard time (apparently, as I later discovered, he was having difficulty breathing fast enough).  Accordingly I started taking longer pulls at the front.  By this time, we’d acquired a leading motorcycle escort, which seemed to be there to ensure extraneous vehicles got out of our way (but this was only partially successful).  The motorcycle was with us until we returned to Marigny at a little over 40km.

As usual we soon found ourselves riding fast along descents through the bocage fields, until we suddenly found ourselves confronted with the sharp left onto the main road. During this section we encountered the first of many groups of cars – usually a one or two supprt cars plus a couple of others – in this case, we’d been overtaken by one of these, then had to pass the car again.

We negotiated the turn with some style, as the junctions was being policed by gendarmes to prevent problems with oncoming traffic.  I pressed on along the main road, then pulled over to let Gerry through.  By this time his usual strength was showing, and he powered us almost to the next turn, a right towards Tribehou and the “causeway”.  Along this section, Gerry’s strength was clearly returning, but as we proceeded over the causeway (over some marshy fields), I couldn’t help recalling our first ride at the Duo, when he suffered badly from cramp from this point.

No worries this year, as we both started taking strong turns at the front.  We roared down to Feugeres then began the first serious climb (eyeballs out, so no notice taken of the ancient cider press!).  The next few miles passed in a blur of sinew-straining climbs (on some we touched speeds as low as 12mph) and knuckle-whitening descents, culminating in “ghoul corner”, where Gerry held back as usual.  No problem for me, that let get some oxygen back into my system.

One more climb and descent, and we were riding round the square in Marigny – once again in full view of the crowd, we were pleased to pass through riding close and looking like a team, unlike some riders.  Gerry led us out on the final 10km hairpin loop, as I crashed through a pothole, yelping my discomfort.  A spell at the front made me wince: the climbs was steeper than I remembered, and my legs were painfully aware of the long pulls at the front earlier in the event.  Fortunately Gerry was riding very strongly, and dragged us up the inclines.

By the time we reached the final turn, I was watching the kilometer markers with avid interest and hoping that the finish would come soon!  Once round the turn we had the bit between our teeth. Over the crest of the final rise, and our speed picked up as we accelerated down to cross the finishing line in 1:24:22.

After recuperating a bit, we returned to the car, changed, and went to wander about, and order photographs – this was pretty efficient: gone are the days when one had to wait an hour of so for the photos, this year a battery of photo printers produced the prints immediately.  But was our time good enough?  Fortunately the results were available quite quickly this year – to our delight, we had won the Corporatifs category, and by quite a margin.

We retreated to the Sports Bar for a celebratory beer, and wonder how the podium presentation would be organised.  We decided to go back to the house and return for whatever antics were required for the podium.

The podium was an odd experience.  They called up the minor categories first, finishing with the elites (1, 2 and 3).  We all got the Franco-double kiss, a bunch of flowers and a glass trophy each.  We quite quickly realised we were the oldest riders on the podium by quite some margin, and the pro riders looked about 15 (and very small!).  Still, a victory’s a victory!

And here’s a photo of Team Grumpy with trophies and flowers:

Number Place Duo Time
250 1 “ORAM Gerard – SAUNDERS Robert” 01:24:22
274 2 “SAMSON Pascal – OUTREQUIN Olivier” 01:32:57
254 3 “ENGUEHARD Christophe – THEAU Christophe” 01:32:58
269 4 “GIROUX Yves – MAUGER Laurent” 01:33:12
253 5 “DOUAT Jean-francois – LEBIEZ Alain” 01:33:31
255 6 “LEFRANCOIS Denis – LECONTE Serge” 01:33:38
272 7 “DUMESNIL Micka‘l – DUMESNIL Florian” 01:33:57
260 8 “MAYBERY Gerard – EDWARD Malarczyk” 01:34:56
261 9 “PATRY David – FOUQUE Sébastien” 01:36:17
264 10 “HANNOT Stephane – BIGARD Frederic” 01:36:18
266 11 “VASSEUR Rudy – SAMSON Alain” 01:36:21
276 12 “FERON Jérôme – BELLAIS Jacky” 01:36:58
270 13 “PIERRE Gilbert – MAGDELAINE Jonathy” 01:37:28
258 14 “MILWARD Andrew – BRACE Alexander” 01:37:40
273 15 “LE MARQUAND Hubert – MAHIER Gilles” 01:37:50
256 16 “GENOVESE Mario – LESACHEY Jérôme” 01:38:12
251 17 “DOUCHIN Yann – LUX Jean-pierre” 01:39:42
252 18 “HERVIEU Michel – LEBRUN Olivier” 01:39:45
265 19 “MOYSON Fabrice – CLIN Jean-michel” 01:40:07
259 20 “TOSTAIN Frédéric – LEFEVRE Christophe” 01:40:22
263 21 “DESGRANGES Thomas – DURAND Charly” 01:41:28
268 22 “BORDAGE Régis – BILLAUDEAU Franck” 01:42:50
271 23 “OURSSAIRE Lo•c – LEPETIT Pascal” 01:44:50
275 24 “ZANELLO Bruno – HERMON Francis” 01:54:01
257 25 “TOURNIERE Thierry – LEGRAND Richard” 02:05:01
262 26 “HERPE Didier – HUE David” 02:26:5