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A gem in Britain’s cycle racing calendar
The 2012 edition of the CiCLE Classic was characterised by torrential rain and storms. It was a day to remember for all those cycling and all those spectating. There was no place to hide out on the course. This week, we speak to Frenchman Alex Blain who was victorious on that day.
Q: Hello Alex, you won the CiCLE Classic in 2012 when only 22 finished the race – the conditions were driving wind, rain, freezing for the time of year. How do you feel about that?
Alex Blain: Bad conditions are my favourite. Even though I live in a warm and sunny place and never train outside when it’s raining, I enjoy racing in the worst weather possible. When I’ve got a number on my back nothing can stop me and bad weather makes racing easier when you keep your head and motivation up.
Q: What do you remember of the day you won in 2012?
AB: The incredibly good legs I had that day. Of course the chaotic conditions we had, but my body was so well prepared that day, that I didn’t get affected by the weather.
Q: How did the conditions change the way you raced?
AB: I knew I’d have to force the tempo straight away. Doing that, riders who were a bit down, looking outside, could lose wheels really quickly. So I used the crosswinds with my team to split the bunch as soon as we got the opportunity to do it. After, I knew I had to pass sectors and not get mud in my eyes and would have to choose my way and corner as fast as I could to make the race as tough as possible.
Q: You come from Nice, France, a warm, Mediterranean climate. How did you adapt to racing in GB?
AB: Racing in UK is hard to adapt to, not so much about the weather, because as I said earlier I’m stronger in bad conditions, but more by the way the British bunch is used to riding. It’s completely different.
Q: What do you like about the CiCLE Classic?
AB: The fact that the CiCLE classic is a “classique” with sectors. Races with dirt sectors are my favourite. Of course my heart is still beating for Tro Bro Leon in Brittany with the same profile as the CiCLE classic but it has 40kms on the sectors. It’s the 2nd biggest classique in France after Roubaix. But Roubaix and Tro Bro are completely different. Cobbles and dirt are totally not the same and I definitely prefer racing on dirt. I’m sad not to be taking part in Tro Bro Leon this year, 1 week before CiCLE, and the first time I will miss it after 7 years as a pro, so I will use all my frustration to try and win the only good spot and classique I’ve got this year on my calendar, the CiCLE classic.
Q: What is your home town like?
AB: My home town is called Peillon, and is also famous as a classified old medieval village built on a rock.
Q: Coffee or tea before cycling?
AB: Green tea at breakfast and coffee just before the race. But a real espresso!!!
Q: What is your favourite English phrase associated with cycling? Or the one you use most?
AB: Go one dude!!!!
Q: How do you keep focused on your goals?
AB: Training, eating, sleeping, thinking about it 2 months previously, or sometimes from December if you’re speaking about Tro Bro Leon.
Q: What was it like on your team training camp in France this year?
AB: It was a bit special for me because I was just coming back from 7 weeks off the bike after a bad injury. So I was trying to keep the rhythm and feelings as it never happened for me in February.
Q: What bike were you riding when you won the CiCLE Classic?
AB: A giant TCR advanced sl.
Q: When did you become a professional cyclist?
AB: In 2008, signing for Cofidis
Q: What’s different about British and French single day racing?
AB: It’s completely different. In France the bunch is organised and all the team ride for one or two leaders and try to bring them in, in the best condition in the last kilometres and make a difference with a strong and quick effort during the strategic part of the race. In the UK if you miss the early breakaway you’re over. Nobody wants or can ride behind. Something I learnt in the UK is never to miss the first train because there is not a second. In France you have to be patient and save your energy. In the UK you must jump on every wheel like a terrier. If not you can say bye bye for a win.
Q: What does the CiCLE Classic represent to you?
AB: A little Tro Bro Leon, but my favourite race on UK soil for sure.
Q: What other career path could you have chosen?
AB: I could’ve become a coach with the diplomas I got at university or I could have become a pro footballer or triathlete.
Q: What is your biggest ambition?
AB: To come back one day to Paris-Roubaix and to win Tro Bro Leon.
Q: Cycling is a hard sport, what else can you say about it?
AB: Yes it is. It’s all about motivation and bravery. You have to live it 100% to enjoy it, even at an amateur level. But when you live that sport in your heart, any tough times never occur and the pleasure is you get to ride your bike every day.
Q: What do you do in any free time? Perhaps in off-season?
AB: A lot of travelling with my wife all over the world. And practising every sport we can. We love all sports.
Q: Have you any other skills apart from cycling?
AB: I could be a good long distance triathlete I guess, not because I’m a good swimmer, for sure I’m not, just because I can run fast after cycling. And I’ve got some good knowledge on training and coaching too.
Q: What favourite route do you have in mind when you think of cycling in France?
AB: The Col St Roch, a long and steady climb just outside my home gate.
Q: How does the CiCLE Classic differ from other races for you?
AB: Its specificity with sectors makes it completely different. Racing in the front and making your efforts strategically, is the key. What is more, I have won it, so like other races I have already won, I always want to try to do it again.
Q: Do you have a favourite sector on the course?
AB: The Somerberg of course. The toughest!!!
Q: Do you have any special routines before a race?
AB: A special pre-race warm up with some exercises.
Q: Do you have a favourite cyclist and why?
AB: Not really because I’m not from a cycling family. I made my own way in cycling and discovered it late.
Q: Sum up this cycling lifestyle in 3 words
AB: JRA: Just Ride Along
Q: What keeps you motivated if you do have to go out and train in cold, wet conditions, for example.
AB: I never train in bad conditions. It’s the best way to get sick or crash and get more days off the bike. Anyway in Nice it generally never rains 2 days in a row.
Q: What type of rider are you? Has your style changed?
AB: Pure Flandrians classics rider. Strong and fast enough and it won’t change because it’s the best I can give.
Q: Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, CiCLE Classic?
AB: No, Tro Bro Leon, Paris-Roubaix, Flanders and CiCLE classic. But if the CiCLE Classic can turn to a 1.1 maybe it can get second in the rankings.
Q: What is it about cycling in Britain that you like?
AB: In the UK, cycling is a fashionable sport and a lot of riders and the public are young. In France cycling is done by and made for older people. When you’re a cyclist in France, you’re out of the young people’s style of life. And in the UK it’s exactly the reverse.
Q: How would you describe the intensity of the CiCLE Classic using French words?
AB: “Un vrai beau chantier.”
Q: What’s your favourite snack in a musette?
AB: Lightly salted sandwich with ham and cheese for morale, but gels for the Somerberg and the last sector…
Q: What do you think the race is going to be like this year with new team mates, Ian Wilkinson and Yanto Barker?
AB: I just hope we will attack alternately in the last sector. Means the three of us will go clear, like the Mapei team did in Roubaix a few years ago.
Q: When and where did you start cycling? Did you join a club?
AB: In 1997 in my village mountain bike club. I rode as a MTB DH rider for 2 years before becoming a cross-country specialist
Q: Favourite post-race meal?
Q: Do you do any other form of cycling?
AB: Anything with 2 wheels: MTB XC-DH, track, Cyclo-cross, BMX
Q: Your best memory, cycling so far?
AB: The CiCLE classic 2012 is equally as best as my tour of Normandy victory in 2012 and all my podiums in different French champs I got a 3rd in 99 XC junior, 2nd in 2003 XC U23, 2nd in 2006 and 2012 in track point race.
Q: People have said that because of its intensity, the CiCLE Classic is quite a hard race to feed on. How did you find that?
AB: I don’t really agree. If you’ve planned your race before in your head, no worries about feeding. Anyway if you wait for hard times to feed, you’ve already lost the race…
Q: We’ve added a new Junior Men’s (17-18yrs) CiCLE race, based on the senior race, with off-road sections. What do you think about that?
AB: A really good idea. The kind of races like the CiCLE are a good opportunity to have a taste of world tour classics. The sooner you’re used to riding classics the better it is. It takes a long time to understand it well and learn all the strategies (not just racing, but mechanics choices, feeding, helpers…)
Q: We’ve added a new women’s pro race to our CiCLE Classic family in Thoresby, Notts– any cyclist you’d like to see compete at that race?
AB: Sorry girls I don’t know anything or any names in pro women’s cycling. A shame I know…
Q: Is there a race you’d recommend for Junior Men (17-18yrs) in France?
AB: Paris-Roubaix junior just before pros.
Q: Have you a message to the spectators on 27 April 2014
AB: I’d like to see a lot of French flags flying alongside the union jack along the road and sectors…
Thanks for your time Alex.
And for your part in our CiCLE Classic history 2012.
Press Room – Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic
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