The Duo Normand is a 54.3KM cycling time trial held in the French town of Marigny. It comprises teams of two riding together across a variety of categories including men’s, veterans, corporate, mixed men and women’s teams, tandem, handisport (disabled), Elites and UCI Professionals.
As it’s just a short hop across the channel to Normandy this is a popular event with UK ‘testers’ (time trial riders) as well as those from France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. In fact for this, the 34th edition held on 27th September, riders travelled from as far afield as Slovakia and even Afganistan!
It’s an event I’ve always wanted to do but never had the chance, so I was really looking forward to it. As it happens new pilot David McGaw (Cambridge CC) had been keen doing the ‘Duo’ for several years too. We entered the tandem section rather than take the handisports option as thought there would be more competition.
We caught the overnight ferry from Portsmouth arriving in Marigny the day before to recce the course and get some rest ahead of the big day. The course (or parcours – that’s as good as my French gets) was varied with flat, straight, technical and hilly sections (see course map and profile below).
You can have a following car at this race which is pretty cool and so teams are provided with a name plate to put in the window or on the front of the bonnet. It’s not usually like this when TT’ing in the UK!
After rolling down the start ramp (don’t usually get that in the UK either!) things kick off immediately with a not too inconsequential hill through the town before levelling off as you get into the lanes. Passing through small villages, some have speed bumps adding a bit of excitement at 30mph+ before you reach the wider main roads. For a number of KM’s it’s then downhill or flat and therefore fast – we could have done with a bigger chainring in places! There’s a big temptation to push hard and go faster here but, having ridden the course we (sensibly) chose a more conservative approach. In reality you’re probably still working hard, and this was clear from my heart rate which I was struggling to keep below 180BPM right from the start…
Once back in the lanes things get a bit twisty requiring good bike handling skills, with the odd little draggy rise here and there to soften the riders up. Then BOOM! – you hit the hills on the road back towards Marigny. With 4 or 5 fairly tough climbs coming one after another speed just drops away. You try to recover on the decents, but still have to work a bit in order to carry as much speed as possible into the next ascent. We climbed reasonably well, but we were working for it – 192BPM was showing on my Garmin so I just stopped looking at it!
Now back in the town you feel like you’re over the worst and whilst that’s probably true there was still an 10km dog-leg to complete – the race could easily be won or lost here. I pushed on and so did David. It was fast in places but the road still had some nasty, quite long uphill drags that were hard on tired legs.
We made the U-turn at the end of the dog-leg after about 49km of racing and started pushing for home. As we were first off from the tandems we begin to wonder how long it will be until the opposition would come into sight travelling in the opposite directions, and whether we’d be up or down on them. I saw a few bikes, but couldn’t tell if any where tandems.
We gave it everything over the last uphill and carried our effort on the downhill into the town hitting 42MPH as we screamed over the finish line in front of a small but noisy crowd.
Had we done enough? We weren’t sure. We’d caught 15 ‘2-up’ pairs but that didn’t mean anything really.
Throughout the day we could here our names being mentioned over the speaker system – something about having one of the top 3 fastest times, until some of the Elites/Pro’s raced anyway. There were no printed results and nobody spoke much English, so from finishing our race mid-morning we waited all day until the prize presentations in the early evening for the outcome.
Thankfully we won! We’d beaten the team from Guernsey by about 90 seconds who had taken victory for the past few years (and incidentally we would have won the handisports category too). As the pair from Guernsey were riding a Matrix tandem, I guess my amazing bike sponsor would have been happy either way:-)
It was nice to also be able to watch the Elite and Pro teams race later in the day – some were taking it very seriously, whereas other teams looked there were just there to have fun. The times produced probably reflected this as some were barely quicker than us whilst other were a full 10 minutes faster!
The results are here.
Some additional photo’s are here.
A cool video of the route by one of the teams is here also.
If you like time trialling I would thoroughly recommend going to the ‘Duo’ at least once. It’s a really great event that caters for everyone. A couple of words of warning though: –
- Don’t expect to have a clue what’s going on until you get there and even then there might be a bit of guesswork involved unless your French is better than David and I managed.
- Watch out for other riders and their following cars – we witnessed some very interesting driving and let’s say a bit of gamesmanship from one or two teams!
Mind you it all added to the fun!