The skinned cat, Gandalf the Grey and the cave man: Kimberley Wells on Route de France stage five

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We spoke to Kimberley Wells following the queen stage of the Route de France. The penultimate day of racing was a heavy hitter with a finish atop La Planche des Belles Filles. You might remember the name of the climb from the Tour de France. It was last used in the 2014 Tour de France. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) won the stage en route to his overall victory.

(Quick aside: Carlee Tayler (Lotto Soudal) has the Strava QOM for the climb)

Wells grovelled and grimaced her way up the climb and then fielded our phone call from her team car as she and her teammates were making their way to their accommodations for the night. Between a crash and some hotel dramas yesterday, we missed our daily check-in with Wells following stage four. And although we spoke with Loren Rowney, Jenelle Crooks and sport director Donna Rae-Szalinski for a Q&A yesterday, , we had a lot to discuss with Wells today. She filled us in about her crash and subsequent injuries, dished a bit more on the previous night’s accommodation fiasco and gave a colourful description of Friday’s stage five.

Wells is racing in Europe as part of the six-rider Subaru High5 Australian National Team. The Amy Gillett Foundation scholarship holder, Wells secured her spot on the team with her scholarship. Shannon Malseed, Jenelle Crooks, Jessica Mundy and Ellen Skerrit earned their spots on the team at the AIS selection camp in May. The group is joined by veteran Loren Rowney (Velocio-SRAM) who provides critical leadership to the eager but inexperienced squad.


Race leader Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle Honda) soloed to her second stage win at the Route de France, winning atop La Planche des Belles Filles. The Italian crossed the finish line 45 seconds ahead of Amber Neben (BePink Laclassica). Claudia Lichtenberg (Liv-Plantur) rounded out the podium at 1:10.

It became a race of attrition over two major mountains in the 87-kilometre stage. Riders climbed across the line one-by-one. Jenelle Crooks was the ninth rider to reach the summit, crossing the finish 2:29 behind Longo Borghini, enough to keep the U23 jersey.

In her own words, Wells re-visits stage four before giving us the low-down on stage five.

MY CRASH YESTERDAY

We were about three kilometres from the end of the race, and the whole Subaru High5 team had come together to do our first-ever lead-out. We were lining the sprint up for me, but somehow I lost my back wheel in a corner and crashed. It was race over, which really, really sucks when you’re getting so geed up for a sprint. Luckily, Loren Rowney resurrected it and went for the win.

THE IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH

I left skin on the road and my bike was intertwined with one of the Optum team bikes. After a good game of tug-of-war, I got my bike back. Someone from the crowd handed me my Garmin back, which was really nice of them. I rode slowly to the finish from there. I was feeling pretty devastated at that point. I had no idea Loren had gone on to win, so in my mind, I had stuffed up our chances.

THE DAMAGE FROM MY CRASH

I skinned myself a bit. It’s not the worst skinning I’ve ever done. I shredded my gloves quite a lot, actually. That’s evidence right there for why you should always wear gloves in a race. I’m glad it was my gloves and not my hands.


IMPACT OF YESTERDAY’S HOTEL FIASCO

I was the skinned cat in the team. All I wanted to do was get in the shower and scrub everything out and put some dressing on my wounds. Driving around, doing hot laps with the music blaring, wondering if we were going to find somewhere to sleep – that was not my idea of a good time yesterday. It was really frustrating actually.

We went to this French buffet thing called Flunch, so that was fun. I still had blood on me when I was going up the buffet. I don’t know if that’s a faux-pas when in France. There was a look or two that suggested it might be.

This would be a great new fun exercise to do at the AIS selection camp:

  1. Get yourself some road rash
  2. Eat dinner at Flunch
  3. Try to find accommodations at 8 p.m. at night for a group nine without using any money

FUN FACT

They give goblets of fire here in France when you win a race. We now have a giant Harry Potter goblet for Loren Rowney to eat her Wheatbix out of every morning. I don’t want to call Rowney “Hagrid” because she’s certainly not fat but she is quite tall.

Editor’s note: Loren piped up to declare that she far prefers Gandalf the Grey to Hagrid.

MY MORNING

I woke up this morning feeling stiff and sore. Every time I rolled on my left side, there was a bit of a sting. Equally concerning was the stench. The entire team smelled as if we had been clubbing last night because our rooms reeked of cigarette smoke. We had “eau de fumer” in our hair. There’s your French phrase for the day.

We actually got to go to the hotel where we had meant to stay last night and had breakfast with the team that stole all our rooms. There were maybe a few glares, but, to be honest, I don’t know that the riders realised what had happened. We did make sure that we showed up to breakfast early and ate as much food as we could in the hopes that there would be no food left. You know, to return the favour.


The hunt for a good brew was fairly successful today. We went to this cool little chocolatier café in the start town that was full of all these yummy chocolates. They actually made a really good cup of coffee, too.

THE QUEEN STAGE

It was a hard one. There were two major climbs, and each had a QOM on the top. The hilltop finish was this switchback mountain used in the Tour de France.

The last four kilometres of the first hill was so ridiculously steep that it was almost worth getting off your bike and just walking up it. My Garmin got up to 25 percent at one point. It started raining while I was climbing, and the roads were really slippery on the descent.

My job today was domestique. I’m honestly not sure why they wouldn’t back me in the hills. It’s a bit rude.

The aim today was to look after the little climber kids. We have Jenelle in the U23 jersey, so it was important to work for her and Ellen Skeritt today. This would allow them to do their thing with the most amount of energy when possible. A few of us, myself included, covered attacks, got bottles and cracked jokes. Then the race just exploded on the steep part of the first climb.

You know that song “All By Myself”? Yeah…

In the end, I rode with Nettie Edmondson (Wiggle Honda) nearly to the end. Jenelle was ninth, and she stayed in the jersey, which is super exciting. To come in top 10 on a stage like today goes to show what a burgeoning talent we’ve got in Jenelle. It was really a tough day out there. You can’t hide. Well, maybe you could hide in the forest, but you probably wouldn’t finish if you did that.

THE BACKSTAGE BARTERING

We got some RockTape from Wiggle, and Donna gave them a packet of lollies in return. I also managed to get some coca cola from Nettie. She wanted to get rid of some weight before the climb, and I put it to good use. Win-win.

We’re going to work really hard to do some washing bartering tonight. Everything we have needs a really good clean. Napisan commercial, you know. It’s gross.

MY HIGHLIGHT TODAY

The crowds. While it was really hard out there, it was certainly reassuring to see so many people out there cheering us on. I grimaced the whole way up the end of the last climb, and then, maybe 100 metres from the finish, there was a dude dressed as a cave man holding a giant bone, which I thought was funny. He got a smile out of me.

There was also an Australian guy at the bottom of Planche des Belles Filles wearing a national champion jersey and some GreenEdge knicks. Not sure who he mugged for that, but kudos.

MY BIGGEST CHALLENGE TODAY

Twenty five percent. TWENTY FIVE PERCENT. In the rain. That’s a challenge.


We’ll have one last check-in with Wells tomorrow following the final stage of the Route de France. Have anything you want us to ask her or the rest of the Subaru High5 Australian National Team? Let us know in the comments below.

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