I’ve been looking forward to this one…. It’s one big loop of 50 kms from Nantiat, up around Lac St Pardoux, and back. Ridden as seen, all I know is that there’s a tough climb around 3 kms from the finish. Marcel Buisson who set the circuit explained it to me, adding, “if you get to the top of that climb 10 seconds ahead that’s how you’ll finish!”.
I’ve put in a lot of hard work for this one. I know I’m going quite well. I’d like a little bit of luck – no punctures or mechanicals, and I’d like to get on terms with Jean Claude Sansonnet. Maybe I won’t beat him, but I’d like to let him know I was there.
The start – I’m suprisingly calm on the start line, and get away with no problems. Into the first chemin and the pace is frantic. There’s lots of young guns hammering past, as we hit the first climb there’s a lot of them coming backwards. I’m feeling pretty good, I can see JC about 5 places up in front. Out onto the tarmac I move up a couple of places. Onto the next chemin, another climb I move up another couple of places. Now I’m right on the wheel of JC. This is good.
The climb hardens up, there’s some loose rocks, JC misses a gear, now I’m in front of him. This isn’t quite so good. I try to move up a few more places. As the pressure goes on gaps start to appear. I manage to scramble onto the back of a group of riders on a tarmac section. We’re moving quick. I glance over my shoulder, there’s a good gap to the chasing group. The pace is tough, but manageable. The trails are bone dry, and fast.
Tour of Lac St Pardoux – In what seems like no time at all we’re firing down the super-fast trails to Lac St Pardoux. I’m still in more or less the same group, and I’m still clear of JC. In fact looking back on the long straightaways there’s no one in sight. The group is down to six now, and it’s Stéphane Bernard (Ambazac Sprinter Club) who’s doing the lion’s share of the work. Every now and then Fabien Souchaud (Guidon Bellachon) goes to the front and tries to ride away. I make the occasional contribution when I can. The trails around the lake are root strewn, rocky, twisty, total concentration is required so as not to catch a pedal, or clip a tree.
The run for home – As we make the run for home Fabien Souchaud has opened up a gap, Pierre Flauraud (Bonnac VTT) is trying to get across. Stéphane is still working hard. Tight on his wheel is Thierry Germaneau (Oradour su Glane AC), then me. We pass the 10 kms to go sign. Not far now. The pace quickens a little. On some of the wide open tracks I go through and make a contribution. Then Stéphane comes firing back through as if to say, “stay out of the way you daft old bugger!!!”.
There’s a sharp right, Thierry touches Stéphane’s wheel and goes down. I ease a touch to make sure he’s OK. He remounts and we chase Stéphane.
The last climb – There’s a short tarmac climb to a road crossing. I lock my forks out and climb roadie style. By the time I cross the road Thierry has dropped off. I’m wondering if maybe he’s a bit shaken from his crash. I cross the road, and onto the climb proper. The first section is incredibly steep. I get off and run. Big rocks, big roots, big steps. The gradient eases a little and I get back on. I can see Stéphane up ahead and I’m gaining on him slowly.
I pass Stéphane, and catch Pierre. By the top of the climb I’ve passed Pierre as well. It’s pretty much downhill all the way from here. Pierre comes past on the descent. That’s OK, I’m thinking I’m first Vet. Just before the last road crossing we catch Davy Baborier. He looks cooked, and makes no effort to hold us off.
We’re racing across the finish field like madmen. Suddenly Pierre brakes hard and puts his bike sideways. There’s a drainage ditch that can’t be seen until you’re almost on it. I brake hard as well. I’m glad I wasn’t on the front for that one.
I cross the line 8th scratch, and 1st Vet B, in fact 1st Vet. I’m very pleased with my ride. One of the first things I do is thank Stéphane Bernard for all his hard work. I owe him.
Wrap up – It turns out that today’s Vet podium is 40 yrs and over. Lucky for me then that Thierry dropped off the pace, as he’s 41. Meanwhile JC was well down. I spoke to him after, and he told me that almost from the start he felt rough. He’s had well over twenty victories this season, so he can afford an ‘off day’.
Many thanks to all at the U S Nantiat club for a totally superb event.
Here’s a copy of the results.