Tour du Vexin Cyclosport

April 20, 1997

If I forget next year, remind me that I don't like to ride north of Paris, especially in the winter and spring. There, in the north, it is flat, cold, and, worst of all, windy. Give me a nice climb any day, but forget the wind.

How to Get Lost in the Vexin

To be sure to get lost you must:

  1. Tell the person who caught up with you and with whom you are riding that you are American, that you don't know the region, and that you are afraid of getting lost. She says that she knows the region well and will stay with you until the finish. Then she quits at the first rest stop.
  2. Ask the driver of the follow vehicle for directions. Ask him explicitly if he is going to follow you because you don't know the region and you are afraid of getting lost. After he gives you bad directions, you never see him again.
  3. Study the ride card provided by the organizers. It lists towns that aren't where you are. There is no map, no indication of distances, no phone number to call for help.
  4. Ask directions of any local residents you can find on a Sunday afternoon in France (not many). They tell you the ride card is wrong and you must backtrack and/or take different roads.
  5. Know that your teammates are waiting for you at the finish, but you have no way to get in touch with them. Thanks to their patience, they are still there when you arrive several hours after the agreed time.

This cyclosport event, the VCL Tour du Vexin, was originally 155 km, then, due to a course change, it became 167 km. I ended up with 177.8 km, most of it alone in the strong, cold wind. Riding time: 8 hours 43 minutes (average speed 21.7 km/h); total time: approximately 9 hours 45 minutes because I had to stop several times to ask directions.

The second food stop was not there when I arrived, and I had no water by the end of the ride. When I finally reached the finish, not much food was left but people found something for me to eat. Never mind that I had paid 50 ff for a meal that I didn't get.

Fortunately, I have wonderful teammates: Guy Brousse, who is one of the most patient people I have ever met, and Nicolas Moreau-Delaquis, who understands the necessity and benefits of hot chocolate after such a ride.

Nicolas is a journalist for the magazine Cyclo Passion. In his article about this ride he wrote, "Au chapitre des volonté de Barbara, une Américaine licenciée au Levallois S C, qui, malgré la fatigue, boucle en lanterne rouge l'épreuve en 10 heures."

Thanks Nicolas, but it wasn't fatigue. I had no choice but to reach the finish. Also, I was rather angry at the apparently lax attitude of the organizers -- they knew I was out there -- and that useful emotion kept me going.

I cannot recommend this ride and will not do it next year!

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Barbara Leonard