Teams, race category comparisons & the french lifestyle.
For the past 3 years between the months of February and July i’ve been living, racing and working in the south of France in the Carcassonne area. Over a series of posts, i’ll share my experiences from this current year and previous years within these blog posts, both from a racers point of view and as a coache. So stayed tuned! – Oli.
Teams, race category comparisons & the french lifestyle.
In this months post, i’ll be discussing my experiences with French teams, how the French categories correspond with the UK categories, and what the lifestyle is like here both as a full time cyclist and as a brit living abroad.
Unfortunately this year I was not so lucky regarding teams.
I was headed to a DN3 team who are based in Guadaloupe but had a calendar over in France, so I was looking forward to some quality racing in a team environment. But after arriving here I heard nothing from them. I didn’t receive a jersey or even a race licence which was a real blow for me.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the case for all teams here at all, I think I just got unlucky. My friend James McKay who’s also here with a DN3 team in Nancy has had a great experience with them.
Last year I had the opportunity to guest ride with a top junior team. The structure of the team was flawless and every race was taken seriously. Having a car in the convoy was always a great help and the staff did everything they could to ensure you were always in top condition for races, from carrying chairs around for you to sit, saving you the hassle of signing yourself on at the start to lugging around your kit incase you got cold and needed an extra layer. Its a great experience i’m pleased to have had.
I think if anyone has the opportunity to race abroad with a team, its certainly worth taking. You never know whats in store and you will most likely have a really good enjoyable time. So be a ‘yes man’ !
The categories are similar to those in the UK. You have PCO (cat 4), 3eme (Cat 3), 2eme (cat 2), 1eme (Cat 1) & Elite. The biggest difference here is that when applying for a licence, you can choose which category of licence you want. If you wish to get a cat 1 licence, you don’t need the points, you just buy it. However if you buy a licence and then collect enough points, you’re forced to move up to the next category like in the UK.
*Also to note, juniors don’t have categories here, they are simply just ‘junior’*
Race categories are also similar to the UK. You have the selection of 2/3/J (2nd cat, 3rd cat & Junior) races, toutes categorie races (1st,2nd,3rd,Junior,PCO) and then at a higher level you have the Elite nationale races as well as a selection of Division Nationale races.
The Division Nationale is the highest Amateur level, coming in at 3 tiers. DN1, DN2 and DN3.
The DN races are all team based, you can’y just rock up on your tod and sign on the line. DN1 is pretty much the highest level before professional here, or at least Continental. Although a few of the DN1 teams have riders who have dropped down from UCI teams in them. Basically if you in a DN1 team, you fast.
I’ve done mostly 2,3,J and 1,2,3,J races here. They’re hard obviously but similar to in the UK. An 2,3,J is like a 2,3,4 Regional A race and 1,2,3,J similar to a National B race. But like I said in the last months post its how they are raced which makes them so hard!
During my time here, the lifestyle has ben a sleepy one. But I do think this has a lot to do with how willing you are to put the effort in with language and socialising etc.
I’ve been lucky to work for the Carr family every year i’ve been here. Working a nice 8:30 – 12:30 day 5 days a week, giving me loads of time after work to train.
The first hear I was out here, I felt a little hard done by having to work. But in reality and as I look back on my years, I think its really important to disconnect yourself from a full cycling focus. I’ve heard stories from others who just couldn’t deal with the lifestyle of waking up, eating, training, eating, milling around, eating, going to sleep.
Last year the house was in the town of Limoux and I was staying with friends so I was never bored. I never had to think if things to do and there were always others around if I wanted to do something not on my own, as i’ve struggled a bit with confidence and am quite embarrassed how bad my french is!
However this year i’ve been living with another English guy who’s not a cyclist, which has been a nice change to not be talking about bikes 24/7. He lives the standard sleepy lifestyle of working/chilling.
The first month I was here I struggled a bit with boredom, I’d work, coach and train and then be left with nothing to occupy me for the rest of the day. But recently i’ve really started to try and do more with my time, researching tourist attractions as this is a very historical area.
I’ve a month left here until I return back to the UK at the end of May. There’s maybe 3 or 4 races left which i’m confident of a result after having a rough start to the season, and i’ve a couple of trips planned to see some interesting sights not too far from here!
Having a lot of time to yourself really gives you the chance to think about things. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes its not, but if you take a step back, adopt a positive and forethinking attitude, you can really make the most of an experience like this.
Its a little sad for me as this may be the last year I have the chance to come here for so long, i’m only just starting to realise what an opportunity i’ve had and appreciate it. So over the next month, i’ll be putting in as much positive energy as possible to make the most of the time left here.
Enjoying training, nailing races, not taking life too seriously and seeing the wonders Aude has to offer!
Thanks for reading!
Thats all for this post. I’ll be aiming to post a little column like this once a month or so, so follow my Facebook page and you shouldn’t miss any updates!
Feel free to leave a comment below about your own experiences.
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