Lara Gillespie Rider Race Report From Pont-Chateau

Lara Gillespie was supported by the Women’s Commission in the Pont-Chateau World Cup.

Read her personal Rider Race Report below:

“Three Irish competitors travelled to France by plane from Dublin with 6 bikes packed into 3
boxes. A short flight to Nantes, hired a car at the airport and the PontChateau organisers
sent a van to collect the bike boxes thanks to Andy’s contacts.

We drove directly to our Airbnb which was 9km NorthWest of PontChateau in an eco house.

It was ideal as there was a garage/workshop adjoining the house where we could store bikes and bike boxes!
Next it was time to go to the Supermaket and get food for dinner and the next couple of
days.

Home again and we cooked a big, delicious pasta and creamy chicken carbonara
sauce and salad.

Practice on Saturday was scheduled for 2pm but we were reliably informed that this was
flexible and planned to cycle in to the course as a group and do it in our own time in the late
morning after putting the bikes back together.

We saw some of the big names which was exciting and being with Andy Layhe (who knows lots of them) we got to meet with Marianne Vos and her brother Anton which was amazing.

David, Lucy, Andy, Paul and I did several laps, checking out any tricky areas and headed home for lunch.

Andy went to the Team Manager meeting for us while we relaxed at home and got ready for the next days race.

He came home with numbers and parking stickers etc….. now the nerves were
starting…..exciting but also a bit nerve racking too.

The numbers have the timeing chip attached – 3 numbers per person. Next was dinner then we got all our equipment organised, worked out our schedule for the next day and headed to bed early for a good rest.

Sunday morning David left first as his race was starting at 11.30. The ladies race wasn’t until
1.30 so we left later after our pre-race food. Mum did a few runs in the car with spare bikes
and wheels and we cycled in with Paul – it was a good way to deal with the nerves cycling
slowly along through the picturesque French countryside on a cool but sunny January
morning.

Who’d think we were off to cycle in our first ever World Cup as we cycled and
chatted. Once we arrived at the venue and could hear the Junior Mens race commentary over the
microphones the nerves started for real.

Course opened again for practice, I did a quick lap just to re-familiarise myself with the course and the conditions – it was fast, very fast.

The Junior race was won by Thibau Nys . Sven Nys’ son – they were crazy fast! It was a cold
morning so we got into the car to stay warm, relax and mentally prepare for the task ahead.
I borrowed Davids fold up feedback rolers (thank you David) and did my warmup in the field
we were parked.

We heard that Tom Pidcock had won the U23 race with an average speed of 29.1km/h!

Next up was Lucy and I. The start of cross races are always manic, trying to squeeze through
spaces that might not even exist while being safe at the same time. I moved up well through
the field, until me and another rider locked handlebars and I got pushed into the netting and
a pole.

I got tangled in the netting and lost a lot of time… After that I just had to put my
head down and fight the whole way. I got pulled out with one lap to go for me, as Marianne
Vos rode swiftly by to take yet another World cup win.

I was really motivated after this race, being in a race with the best of the world is really special and inspiring. We got some post- race famous chips and watched the thrilling mens race.

Home, pack bikes, cooked and packed and cleaned the house. Set the alarms for 5.30 as we
had to be at the airport for 7. However this turned out to be fortuitous as we got to see the
Blood Moon as we packed the car on a what was a very clear frosty morning. The moon was
clearly visable and was a firey orangy/red – amazing. The sky was full of stars and Andy,
who knows a bit about these things was able to show us the planets so this was an added
bonus to the trip.

We arrived at the airport at exactly 7, the plane was scheduled for 9 and
we were back in Dublin Airport by 10am Irish time, got the bags and boxes, said good bye to
the others and headed back on the M50 for school.

All in all an easy enough race to get to, once we had the help of the UCI with the Bike boxes and mum to drive the car….. However we couldn’t have done it without the financial assistance/bursary of the Women’s Commission – so Thank YOU!