Sunday, September 04, 2016

Brevet du Couraillon Cycle Race


Marcus and Agata have wanted to get more into multi day cycling and running competitions for some time.  So when our friend Agustin said he had found one that

- did not cost a fortune
- started and finished locally in Lausanne
- comprised a 300Km cycling course

well, we just could not refuse it could we....

Some preparation

Some Preparation

Starting Lausanne
The start was 8am, September 3, 2016,  at a park in Lausanne, by the lake.   We arrived to find a hospitable and informal atmosphere.  Even better it was actually not only dry but quite warm.

We had to register and pay and say that we would abide by the rules.  We received a wonderfully arty plastic card and the idea was that we will punch the card at each of the 4 checkpoints along the course.  After the 4th checkpoint return to Chailly Lausanne.

We are allowed to select any route to get to the checkpoints, the key thing is to have fun, and cycle responsibly, and not the cheat  (i.e. hop on a train!)

Before the race Agata had loaded up her Garmin Fenix 3 watch with the entire route, that she had manually created using the 4 GPS locations specified in the race email.  This was not trivial and I can say for sure that Marcus could not do this!  We would of course all have access to Google Maps from our Smartphones for the entire trip  (and at 4G access speeds), however simply /navigating to the next town/ approach is simply not as good as following a predetermined track.

Like I say this route planning is non trivial.  Also, we gambled that Agata's Fenix 3 (unlike Marcus's Garmin 920 XT) would last 2 days on battery saving mode so we would not need to bring a charger.

Col de la Croix  (70Km, Day 1)
Checkpoint 1: Route du Col de la Croix, 1867 Ollon

GPS 46.324570, 7.126853

Towards Col de La Croix

 Agata and Agustin cycling towards Col de La Croix

 Agata punching her card at this first Checkpoint

Marcus, as usual in the /House of God/

Some Attractions:  Gstaad Darling

Along the way there was so much beautiful Swiss scenery and quaint little and large towns.

 We did stop for breaks, food, coffee and occasionally to admire the sights

 We saw some familiar sights like Col du Pilion

With my awkward gear ratios, everytime there was a significant ascent I had to pound/strain up the incline in my 44:25 gear ratioed bicycle  (Agata is 39:28 by comparison).   It was quite a strain, this bike is setup for Triathlon races only, the ratios are  55/44 Front to 11/25 rear.  Hmm.    The only positive is that I get to ascents first and then have time to take photographs.

Agata photobombs the music at Gstaad

We cycled through Gstaad.  Or as Marcus calls it /Gstaad Darling/ in view of the fact that it is absolutely the poshest part of Switzerland imaginable.  This weekend there was the Cows down from the mountain festival.  And hilariously there were cleaning vehicles removing /what Cows produce a lot of/ from the streets.
Switzerland is just full of beautiful scenery.   But we are on a race so I don't officially have that much time to take pictures.

Spiez  (150Km day 1)
Checkpoint 2: Spiez Schiffstation
Seestrasse 69, 3700 Spiez
46.688466, 7.689837

 Agata punches her race card at Spiez

Agustin and Agata by the very pretty lakefront

After arriving Spiez and punching our cards the plan was to have a meal and then goto the guesthouse that we had booked for the night.

At least some of the competitors would cycle the entire 300Km without a break for sleep, but we are not so hardcore. But Agustin's knee injury that had started on this Saturday afternoon made some small changes to our race plan. After a nice Pizza in Spiez, Agustin decided to retire from the competition and headed back to Lausanne on the train with his bicycle. I think this is the right decision because continuing to Day 2 might trigger a serious injury that could take weeks to recover from. And recall that all of Marcus and Agata and Agustin take great pains to do daily exercise. Let's not risk a screw up indeed.

Meanwhile Agata and Marcus cycled another 10Km to the Guesthaus, by now in the dark, making a small but important Google search, then diversion to find some bedtime Chocolate and Ice Creams. We arrived to the Guest house about 22.00. Marcus remained very busy saying hello to the kitties of course.

Sunday Morning

Sunday morning report

Fribourg  (50Km Day 2)
Checkpoint 3: La Coutellerie
Rue la Grand-Fontaine 1, 1700 Fribourg
46.805478, 7.160651

Fribourg might have /only/ been about 50Km from the start but it was very cold in the morning and the checkpoint quite difficult to find.

 We met 2 other competitors who were so hardcore they made Marcus and Agata feel like wimps

- They both had large rucksacks
- They had brought hammocks and presumably sleeping bags?
- They had cycled until 2am then put hammocks up on some trees in a wood along the course
- And one of them was cycling in training shoes i.e. NOT using clipless cycling pedals.

Wow!  We would meet them again at the post race party and shake their hands.

We did see some great sights in Fribourg, but I did not stop to take any photographs save this rather boring one.

Coffee Stops
On this 2 day event we mostly ate the gels and energy bars that we had taken with us from the start. But since this is a 'gentle race'  we decided to take a break and stop for Coffee before the last Checkpoint  ..

Romaimotier   (110Km day2)
Checkpoint 4:  Parking ombragĂ©
Route de Vaulion 3, 1323 RomainmĂ´tier
46.694078, 6.461152
Time for a sit down in Romainmotier to try and find the checkpoint.  Did you know that you can simply type in the numerical longitude, latitude  numerical reference into Google maps, separated by commas and it  jumps to that position.  Eventually we found the checkpoint ...

The only slight issue now was that we are both out of water, and this area of Switzerland is (of course) complete with fountains.  But the water is /non potable/ i.e. not for drinking.  We tried all the fountains here and in the next 3 towns, and over 15Km away but nothing :-(  Eventually after almost 20Km we found water, which was really necessary.   [NB: Obviously no shops are open in Switzerland on a Sunday, so buying water is a little tricky]

Arrival Lausanne (150Km day2)

After the last checkpoint we left not time and steamed the last 40Km or so to get back to Lausanne. Our main motivation was to get home and have a long hot shower, oh, and perhaps a glass or two of wine.

We arrived, at about 16.00 Sunday.

The Party and Prizes

 The fastest solo women rider

The fastest team who covered the 300Km without stopping in a totally amazing 14 hours of so.  A real achievement.

Route and Statistics

Marcus only took a 500 ml water bottle and excluding coffee stops, and meals drank approximately 2000ml water per day during the ride.  Over 2 days I ate 4 solid Energy and 2 SIS liquid energy bars

The Weather
An event like this hinges on dry weather. Even cycling an hour in heavy rain is misearble, and we made about 16 hours of cycling total. We had nervously studied the prospects of rain as the weekend had approached along the entire cycling route.  Rain was only predicted for Lausanne on Sunday evening.  And sure enough after we walked back from the Party and just got back inside our front door the heavens opened, and heaven rain fell.


Thanks so much in so many ways to the organisers.   This was designed as a low stress and maximum enjoyment event.  And for Marcus and Agata it delivered!

It gave us the push to do a multi day event, with the extra planning that this entailed.

The atmosphere of the riders, organisers and particularly the after race party was warm and welcoming.

I hope they plan something like this for next year too.