Archive for September, 2017

Following years of preparation and minutes of planning, CCC was victorious in the inaugural El Sokhna 96 road race

September 29, 2017

With a CCC’s ranks depleted with the recent departures of riders such as Geoff Crawley, Rick Harman, Pat Brennan, and the injury sidelined trio of Chris, JP and Fritz, our race day team consisted of Luis, Joe, Pascal, Euan, and Marcel along with new additions to CCC, Jerome and Yan, both strong riders, and young Hussein along for the ride. We made our way to the rallying point at the Master Express gas station just before the Ain Sukhna Rd. toll gate, some riding others chauffeured, where numbers were affixed and final bike prep was completed in a far corner of the packed parking lot.

To organizers’ credit, the level of inclusion was commendable. A walk/ride around provided an illuminating look at the competition; from the sharply appointed Rapha-wearing crews to the tracksuit panted trainer-wearing enthusiasts, the field was wonderfully diverse. There were a good number of youngsters, and women present whose ranks also represented a good spread from absolute novices to seriously strong riders. With Hussein in his early 20s and Joe in the northern 50s, it’s fair to say that CCC captured the range of ages better than any other team. There were teams from Alexandria and Asyut adding to the national importance of the event. The variety of bikes was equally impressive, with many a Trinx lining up against a variety of high-end brands, a flood of Giants, and other assorted machines – with prices ranging from USD$100 to perhaps USD$10,000.

The published start time of 7.30am came and went with extended warm-up loops, final preparations, and humorous strategic “planning” ensuing. As ½ an hour of waiting turned into 1+, unplanned refueling before the race was necessary, with pre-race nerves beginning to get the better of some of the less experienced.

The support vehicle, manned with Chris providing tech support & driving, JP as a very vocal Director Sportif and Fritz providing encouragement, water, and capturing the event on video, headed for the start line just inside the toll gate and prepared for further waiting. It was pleasing to see a familiar and formal start line – complete with sponsor flags and banners, and an inflatable rainbow arch noting the apparent UCI sanctioning of the event!? Welcome to Egypt.

The course consisted of a stretch down to the second underpass, at the Regional Ring Road, looping back to the Cement Plant underpass and round again to the Regional ring road underpass before heading back to the finish line just inside the Cairo toll gate; all up about 69km. With a staggered start at 5 minute intervals the juniors,  then women went ahead of the 18-35 group, named the ‘Challengers’, with Euan and Hussein, followed a further 5 minutes behind with the Masters bunch containing the bulk of the CCC riders. Among the masters group were a few dark horses, one – Jesus, would figure prominently in the final outcome. While there were familiar faces in the bunch, Omar Mostafa and David Gamal were organizing the event and not riding.

Early efforts by CCC riders to start out at a fast pace with Joe blasting along at about 40kph were not successful with the bunch preferring tempo of around 35kph. As with many of the group rides, CCC riders did much of the work on the front and many others opting to preserve themselves. Jesus also made efforts to lead out and or push the bunch, but as with Joe’s, Marcels, and Luis’s attempts had less affect than desired. Pascal, as always provided a much needed engine in the bunch.The long steady climb toward the first turn started to sort the masters group as it had with the Challengers earlier. It had also decreased the gap between the two groups with the masters already gaining ground on the younger bunch.

Euan and Hussein were riding strongly in the Challengers but were faced with a rather more organized effort supporting one rider in particular. Euan in particular tried to instill a more orderly etiquette amongst the group but it was clear they were outnumbered and it was hard to function together. Many of the Egyptian riders had begun falling off the back during the first loop, and further confusion and splintering of the group occurred at the off ramp to the underpass when one of he race “helpers” wrongly directed at least four riders to continue on straight, missing the turn and losing any feasible chance to get on the podium. This was not the only confusing issue in the event. The support car had to make a long loop just to get back in touch with the race due to unclear turns and a pit stop. Euan and Hussein continued to utilize the other riders the best they could, with Euan making the smart choice to identify his biggest competition and stick to him like glue.

The final loop completed, the Masters’ bunch was now quickly coming up on the thinned out Challengers, and having shed their fair share of riders as well, including the hardworking Joe and Jerome who had both helped propel the Masters to catch the Challengers, burning many boxes of matches along the way, but none the less pushed for the finish just shy of the front group. Hussein had punctured shortly before. The CCC support car got him back on the road with a new rear wheel and towed him back to the nearest bunch and despite a valiant effort; Hussein wasn’t able to bridge from this group of dropped Masters and Challengers back to the main peloton. After heavy preparation in the months prior, and strong performance in the race, this was a bitter disappointment for him. It was made worse as there seemed to be none of the promised support from race officials.

The wind had been a factor from the start with a decent crosswind on the way out, and now, on the way home, it had become more of a headwind coming in from the right and the bunches were forming messy echelons from time to time with support vehicles and spectators getting a little too close. Finally the Master’s group swarmed around the remaining Challengers and began to dictate pace and positioning. Even in the combined group there was still a noticeable tendency to let CCC do the work and several attempts were made to lift the pace, Marcel and Luis both hitting the front only to find few takers. There were also some very half hearted ‘breaks’ by others, notably Mohamed Khalid, the Egyptian triathlon champion (?). This, coincidentally, is who Euan chase to stick to earlier in the race and there was tension in the riders supporting Khalid.

With 4 kms to go there seemed to be no useful organization of the bunch and with all breakaways aborted or caught quickly, it was looking like a bunch sprint would be inevitable. Then with about 2km to go, on the last down hill stretch, Jesus who had ridden a clever race, made a powerful move and pulled away from the peloton. The reaction from the peloton came from Luis, Yan and Marcel, but he managed to keep some 100 meters between himself and the group.  At 1 km to go, it was Mostafa Mahmoud and Mohamed Khaled,  who restarted the chase followed by Euan on the wheel of Mohamed Khalid and several other riders followed, including Pascal who had momentarily missed the break but worked tremendously hard to bridge, and the peloton was split with Marcel, Yan and Luis, who, having worked so hard all day, delivered our sprinters to the front. Pascal had made the jump to the lead riders but unfortunately noticed too late that the wheel he’d caught was done and with 500m to go had to go around the blown rider for another bridging effort.

With about 170 meters to go Euan saw his chance and started a magnificent acceleration away from Mohamed Khalid and Mostafa Mahmoud, quickly passing the now tiring Jesus on the uphill, 130m from the finish line. Head down and legs pumping, Euan continued to pull away to seal a clear and amazing victory well ahead of the 2nd place Khalid. Euan rode a smart race with little support for the majority of the ride.

CCC riders placed well both categories with Euan’s overall win placing him first in the Challengers.  In the Masters Jesus was the well deserved Champion, with Pascal 2nd and Yan 3rd, and  Luis finishing 4thand Marcel 5th. Post race speculation asking whether Euan’s dramatic sprint finish was boosted by his recent foray into interval power sessions at the Power Ride gym. However there was beer involved..

Chris Dermody

CCC Team, from left: Pascal, Luis, Marcel, Euan, Jerome, Yan, Hussein and Joe

 

Challenger Category on the way

 

CCC Masters controlling the race from the very beginning

 

Masters on the way

 

Euan in the Challengers peloton, doing his homework

 

Joe, Luis, Pascal, Marcel and Yan in the Masters peloton

CCC Race finishers, all in one piece

Luis receiving from Race Director Omar Adel the recognition to the CCC

 

 

 

Masters awards go to Yan, Jesus and Pascal

 

Challenger Category go to Mohamed, Euan and Mostafa.

 

Euan breaking a Velominati Rule !

 

Pascal’s customized cassette for the race, but where is the magic gear for the final ?

and the best for the end, the race showdown:

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