I've now lost count of the number of years that British athletes have competed in Roubaix in both the individual 28 hours and of late, the 24 hour team relay. Must be even longer as I've only been there since 1990 with 24 appearances at various distances. Ken and Bob Watts have notched up 29 years both competing and lap scoring for the event. Last year we had no athletes in the 28 hour race (sadly, a first) and only 2 relay teams.
So this year, it was a great relief when Suzanne Beardsmore and Richard McChesney entered the 28 hour race, topping up the Lightening Lades 24 hour relay team.
Richard's comment on our own Facebook page:
“How’s everyone feeling this week?
Kathy – are you still planning on going to Roubaix?”
That was all I needed. It was settled. I would be joining Suzanne and Kathy Crilley in Roubaix for the 64th edition of the Roubaix 28 hour race in less than 2 ½ week’s time!
The Lightening Ladies have competed in the relay since 2009 and its fair to say we have had mixed results! Centurion captain, Kathy Crilley, has been a team member from the start, Norma Grimsey every year bar one (broken arm one week before the race) and other members have included Sue Clements, Sereny Queeney, Cath Duhig, Chris Flint and Dave Hoben..... The 2017 team was Kathy, Norma and recent Centurion qualifier- Joyce Crawford.
The individual race saw the top few places change rapidly over the 28 hours - as it was bound to do over such a long period of time. From the off, it looked as though Osipov had lost it.... but no, true to form, having bided his time, Dimitri came through to win. He is certainly one of the greatest ultra distance athletes of all times. Once upon a time it was the Polish athlete, Klapa, but I believe Osipov has now surpassed him. Local Roubaix club member,DavidVANDERCOILDEN, certainly put up a good fight. David is such an aggresive walker and it is hard to wonder how he can keep going at the pace he walks.Very impressive!
Other walkers in the mix were,Yves-MichelKERLAU ((FRA, CM Roubaix), Cedric VARAIN (FRA - AC Ch. Thierry) along withour own Centurions GuidoVermeir and Chris Cauwderberghe (both AC Gent, BEL) and Johan Koning (SVLP Amsterdam). Of course we Brits were rooting for our Centurions. Guido won the Centurions 100 miles at Bury St Edmunds in August and Chris was 4th. I'm sure that last year in Roubaix Johan said "never again..."
Such is the camaradie between Centurions that we were all cheering each other as we passed on the "dog legs" - so many thanks to Chris Cauwderberghe for your support over my 24 hours relay.. Very much appreciated.
Richard McChesney and Centurions Vice Captain, Suzanne Beardsmore, also walked extremely well in the 28 hour race. In reality, they didn't have much expectations of top placingsas it was only a few weeks after both of them participated in the 6 day race in France (as,indeed, I did). But good performances from both of them. And again, tense times as Richard looked as though he would be in the top ten finishers, but in the end, Richard finished 11th. Nevertheless, he was very pleased with his result. Suzanne finished 5th lady - a good result coming back from illness and injury. Read Richard's account of the race on his Richard Walks London blog.
In the ladies race it was always going to be a contest between Tatiana MASLOVA (RUS) and Irina POUTINTSEVA (RUS) . Both previous winners of this race and indeed the Paris Colmar/ Alsace race. Tatiana did look very comfortable and composed as she walked an extremely well paced race. Interesting that she had support from only a supoprt team of one and out of car. How simple is that?
If anyone was following the race on the Centurions Facebook page (and indeed the live transmission from the race organisation), you will have read my blogs on progress of the race - especially the Lightening Ladies 24h relay team. Apologies, I may have got quite carried away at times!
You may be forgiven to think that the 24 hour relay is the easy option in this race. Wrong!
The 24 hour relay race, since its inception, has always been a hotly contested race. And 2017 was no exception. We were totally gobsmacked to realise that our team was in the lead... and in fact we led for the first 8 hours. Unheard of. Frankly, still not sure what went wrong for us to lose the lead and I'm still analysing the team results!
Team tactics -How we work our relay change-over:
We do the actual change over where we are "camped" and not at the start/finish area. This gives us sight of the approaching team member and time to prepare and warm up for our next lap. We do a continuous one lap each through out the 24 hour race. Some teams do two lapseach and change over, or even 2 hours each... But the Lighgtening Ladies prefer the ne lap approach. It keeps us in touch with the race progress (with technology), stops us from seizing up or heaven forbid, falliing asleep between laps!
This year year we were some 250 metres away from the finish area, so consequently we really didn't have time to slow/stop as we passed the electronic display monitor. So it wasn't until I logged on to the live transmission that we realised what was going on. Ah, technology can be so wonderful! So instead having to trot back down the course throughout the race, all I needed to do was track progress on the internet. Magic.
I have to say, of course, that this is the norm for the French races..... I seemed to spend my entire "rest" period on line working out who was where, how far in front/behind we were of other teams.
But talk about pressure!! Once we realised we were the leading team and then agonisingly lost it, it was a matter of pride to beat the French ladies team of Josy, Claudine and Nicole. This became very tense when we approached the 24 hour cut off as we were a bit unsighted as to how the team finish would be computed.So I called on my Fench friends (Catherine and Lise) who could speak English (my French certainly wasn't up to it!) and we went to find out what the protocol was. Good job I did. This meant that Joyce (as she went through the finish at 23:47 mins) was shouted instructions. .." dont' stop and give it all you've got" - and so she did. Our blast (!) ensured that Norma had to take over for a last lap - and just when she thought it was all over.... Meanwhile, I was just watchingfranticallyfrom the fiinsh line!! But we did it! This was have to be the most fought over race ever. So proud of my team mates.
So we were third overall and 1st ladies team. A first!!!
As always, the French races provide extensive results adn ROubaix is no exception with final results, 100km times, 24 hours times, lap times of all individuals and teams. Very impressive.
The results are generated by chip timing. The chip is very small and attached to the inside of the bib number (worn on the front!). Just listen to the beep as you cross the mat...
The monitor tells you a variety of of inforrmation: Posiiton.. pace.. speed...time between walker in front...behind. in fact everything you would ever want to know if only you had time to stop and read it all !
Bur actually, over a 24h/28h period on a 2804 meter lap - you do actually have time to assimilate this info. Just look for the most important info you want... and it won't hurt to slow down for a few seconds..
The race was, as ever, extremelywell organised by CM Roubaix.
As any race organisers will know, they can only operate within the bounds of the local environment - local council, police and whatever is happening in the local vicinity.
2017 provided a few challenges for the race organisers as the Davis Cup (tennis) final was on the same weekend. Hotel rooms were therefore at a premium (both in availability and hiked prices). Need to find different hotels...
So, this year, we were all accommodated in the Ibis Budget hotel in Wasquehal (about 4km-5km outside central Roubaix - but slightly closer to the race venue). CM Roubaix President, Claude Lebon, was there to welcome us when we arrived and eased our booking in process.
The team relay paid 70 euros for our accommodation (2 rooms) dinner and hotel breakfast (for 3 people). The evening meal was 10 minutes walk from the hotel.
There is often some travel subsistence money (as long as qualifying distances have been reached and walkers cross the finish line at 24/28hours)
The presentation on Sunday was at the magnificant Hotel de Ville in Roubaix. Norma valiently chauffered us all there and back! Then we had a post race celebration meal at the aptly named Beers & Co restaurant just a 100 metres walk for the hotel. Perfect.
car: Ferry to Dunkirk or Calais and just 90 minutes drive.
Eurostar to Lille then tram or metro to Roubaix.
The organisers take care of booking hotels for both Friday and Sunday (as long as you tell them your plans!). But, as ever, I am willing to coordinate everything.
For the statistically minded - Guy Legrand has just (at 27 Sep 2017) compiled an amazing list of all Roubaix performances.
Initially, I have taken my own best performance of 203km as a benchmark (I will change this to all performances over 200km and highlight Centurions best performances). This will take time as the document is 34 pages long....!
107 men have walked more than 203km in 28 hours.
13 women have walked more than 203km in 28 hours.
Delighted to say many of these are Centurions.
Just watch this space!!!
Thanks to Guy Destre for some of the photos (below)