“The Hell of the West” otherwise known as Tro-Bro-Léon is only 37-years-young. And yet in a sport with so much history and tradition — it’s already gained a legendary status in the cycling world.
The race is often compared to Paris–Roubaix because of its tough terrain paired with an intense and unique atmosphere. One can feel that just by watching the race, whether it’s on the television or in person. An electric energy was everpresent amongst the riders as the fans watched them take on cobblestones, dirt paths, unpaved roads, and gravel on their route.
Our roster was excited to take on the 207 kilometre route yesterday with 26 sectors of “ribinoù” (Breton for “rough farm tracks”). The race promised to be very taxing and delivered on that front. The weather was relentless and unforgiving on the already winding and unpredictable roads of Brittany.
Yet our riders seemed to enjoy every painful minute of it.
“There were lots of elements out there with the wind, rain and of course the gravel. There were no results for us, but all six of us gave everything out there,” said team road captain Mitch Docker.
Perhaps they didn’t finish with the results they wanted, but teammate Julien El Fares finished strong in the top twenty group. This could be attributed to his own experience growing up riding in the French countryside or his bike handling skills. Skills that were very much needed throughout the day.
“It was a great experience with the team. Everybody was focused and fought hard to stay all day in front of the pack. My teammates and I took great pleasure in it, especially in the gravel section,” said El Fares.
One rider on the team who fought particularly hard was Hideto Nakane. At one point, he boldly tried for a breakaway escape but then proceeded back to the peloton due to the harsh winds coming off the coast. At one point, he even took on the role of a mechanic. “I gave my front wheel to a teammate and then pushed him back into the race,” said Nakane.
After spending time in the region, it’s hard to fathom that only one generation ago the Breton people spoke their language in private. This race is almost a perfect reflection of its people: resilient and dignified.
“That was a tough race. Fast, hectic, and hard fought,” said Docker.
It’s a race really like no other. Until next time, Hell of the West.