15th Ronde des Sangliers…

Ronde des Sangliers
Been looking forward to this one for a while. Why? because it takes place in the Monts de Blond, one of my favourite mountainbiking areas. By the way, Sangliers means wild boar!

The weather just lately has been awful, you might have seen something about it on the news, breaking records for rainfall, flooding, and more of the same to come. However, I’d decided that I was gonna do it “come hell or high water”……and so with bike fully prep’d for wet conditions I found myself with coffee and croissant in my belly racing away from the stade in Blond.

I got up near the front straight away to avoid the chaos that would surely ensue when we hit the first rocky climb. Judging by the crunching of gears and the swearing I could hear behind me it was the right thing to do. A french rider wearing number 13 on his shirt opened up a gap, and I chased after him. Two kilometres later we were joined by a young whippet of a rider who pushed the pace a little taking the three of us well clear.

Disaster struck for the young whippet, he puntured. Number 13 went to the front and we pushed on. The pace was fast-steady, and while no one closed on us from behind I was happy to let 13 lead the way. This seemed the sensible thing to do as some of the descents were tricky, and I felt safer letting 13 find the suprises.

I wasn’t sure if 13 would stop at the revitalment, and I was only gonna stop if he did. Luckily he did, which gave me enough time to grab a couple of bits of brioche and lube my chain. I was just about to leave when the young whippet, punture fixed, showed up. The three of us rode away together. Although the young whippet had fixed his punture I noticed that his tyre didn’t look very hard.

From the revitalment there was kilometre after kilometre of swooping downhill. Young whippet led the way 13 and I hung on as best we could. Disaster again for the young whippet/chauffard as his rear tyre blew out on a particularly rocky section. Number 13 went to the front and we pushed on.

We were now at about two thirds distance, and time was getting close when I would have to make my move on 13. We hit a long dual track drag, and I rode to the front, more to show that I was willing to work rather than to attack. To quote Paul the Painter, 13 “fell apart like a cheap watch”. By the time I crested the drag he was gone. I pushed on knowing that if young whippet had the ‘kit de reparation’ he would have his puncture fixed and be in hot pursuit.

I rode as hard as I possibly could on the climbs, went as fast as was sensible on the flats, and took it steady on the desents. All too soon, as I was enjoying the course so much, I was at the finish, first rider home on the 36km loop with 2:15 on the clock. Time for more coffee croissants, brioche, fruit.

One of the best circuits I’ve ridden, and nowhere near as muddy as I was expecting. Well worth the effort of carrying my GPS to record it so that I can take friends on it. Watch out!!! 🙂

Thanks to la guidon bellachon for a matin fantastique

Saint Laurent Les Eglises Randonnee

I should have guessed what it would be like when we had the thunderstorms the day before, or on the drive there when the early morning mist was wetter than wet. Even the relatively small turn out combined with the light drizzle didn’t drop the penny for me. When the lead motorbike set off, and the organiser waved the “grand depart” adieu something was lacking, enthusiasm. C’mon you lot! Lets go!

Keen to be away I set off after the motorbike and was never seen again! The heavy rain had taken it’s toll, mud that was worse than Bringewood in March, tractor ruts that were axle deep, and stream/river crossings that were worryingly deep. You know how when it’s muddy it’s a good idea to run through the puddles to keep your bike wet? Well that’s what I did, and it was more like steering a boat than riding a bike. I got the bike cross-rutted endless times, must have run/staggered kilometres, but once you’re wet and dirty it becomes great fun.

I nursed my bike as much as I could by running the chain as straight as possible, as using the brakes a little as I could get away with. The mud was very gritty. I rode my Stumpy hardtail, and I reckon I made the right choice, full suspension was not needed.

I took a last drink just before I crossed the edge of the field where the muck spreading was in progress!!! Wasn’t gonna drink from it after that. The nice ladies at the revitalment stations confirmed that I was first rider through, as did some of the locals in one of the villages. I pushed on.

I’d been out around an hour and a half the “arrive” came into sight, just 500m away, but then the course arrows turned us away again. Up through the village, out the other side, down down down into a steep valley with a switchback trail that was technically challenging 🙂 Back up the road from whence we came to finish. Tired and dirty, I was the first rider home.

Grand Traversee Du Limousin VTT 2007 – Debrief

On the last stage Ben rode to an amazing 9th place, and won the junior category. I was second team rider home in 31st :). I placed 9th overall in the master 2 category (FFC), but if they had a category for the over 50s I would have been second! Pete and Phil finished lower down the overall master 2 rankings, but that was due in part to the tactics we used. Overall we were 9th team, but as we were the first Equipe Anglaise (English Team) to ever enter they honoured us at the prize giving with a trophy and a huge hamper!!! Not bad for three ‘old fellas’ and a kid! You’ll find a full set of results here.

Equipe Anglaise plus Gary

It was a fantastic event, and in all the years I have ridden and raced it must rank as one of the best I have ever done.

My Bike? – I used a Specialized Epic comp with Rebas, shod with a Spesh Rockster on the front, and a Specialized Chunder on the back. Both run with tubes at 45psi. It was just right for the job, and I made the most of the rear suspension on the rocky trails. Of course I’d love an S-works carbon one for next year!!!

My Training? – I spent months training for this event, doing long rides on heavy tyres. As the event got nearer I put long rides back to back over consecutive days. I even lost weight. It felt great to line up on the start line knowing that I had the miles in my legs. Riding so strongly on the third day, maybe I could have swapped some miles for speedwork. I was expecting to be in the saddle longer each day.

Would I do it again? – Can’t wait until next year! 😉

Grand Traversee Du Limousin VTT 2007 – Day 3

Day three schedule - Gueret La Souterraine 60kms
Gu̩ret РLa Souterraine 60kms

After a great nights sleep it’s an early start for the final stage. Crawling out of my sleeping bag I feel pretty good, nowhere near as stiff and tired as I was expecting. It’s now 6am, and what happens in the next hour and a half is nothing short of amazing. By 7:30am over 250 riders have been fed, their bags packed, and the hall cleared. We joke that there must be a basketball match on at eight.

The overnight bike park at Gueret

We are on our bikes rolling along in a neutralised sort of way through the town of Guéret enroute to the start. Our plan today? Every man for himself! After two days of waiting for the ‘old fellas’ Ben is keen to race near the front. I’m keen to measure myself also as this is my first big race for years. The obligatory speech from the organiser and we’re on our way.

It’s uphill out of the town, but it’s not too bad as it climbs then eases then climbs again. The pace is high, and it’s hard to move up. On the higher ground the terrain is more rolling. I’ve managed to claw my way onto the back of a group of ten riders being dragged along by a couple of engines. I cannot believe how fast we are going as the two engines batter against each other. Why? I know not, maybe it’s personal.
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Grand Traversee Du Limousin VTT 2007 – Day 2

Bourganeuf – Guéret 60kms - schedule

Bourganeuf – Guéret 60kms

Right, day two… after a reasonable night sleep I’m awake on a half-deflated air bed, dying for a pee. It’s 6:30, and there are riders up already fiddling and fussing. Now breakfast isn’t until 08:00, and the race don’t start until 10:00, so what they are doin’ is beyond me. I go for a pee, then get back into bed to watch. Conserving energy seems like the sensible thing to do. OK, some of them are preparing camelbak type things with powders etc. Dudes, there’s revitalment stations every 20km! Why would you need 1.5ltrs of water strapped to your back?

Breakfast is continental style, croissants, coffee, cereal, juice, biscuits, fruit, bread. Followed by…..a big dump of course! 😉 As I put my fresh cycling kit on and pack my bag it occurs to me that I don’t feel too bad. Bag loaded onto the camion, I’m ready. Carla’s voice in my head, “you should be spinning those legs by nowâ€?. So I ride around outside in an easy gear to loosen my legs. “Have you done any stretching?â€?, I go through a short stretching routine, then begin to warm up more purposefully.

I notice some of the “fast boysâ€? checking out the first kilometer or so. I join them. A flat start 500m dash, then a left-hander onto a short steep tarmac ramp (probably a minutes worth), then a right across the top of a field, and into singletrack. I reckon It’s gonna be a painful mad dash, might even throw breakfast back up…. Continue reading

Grand Traversee Du Limousin VTT 2007 – Day 1

Day one scheduleThe GTL is a three day mountainbike stage race for teams of four across the mountains in the Creuse France. Now in it’s 5th year, I first heard of it two years ago, and this year I finally got the chance to ride it.

Our team consisted of Pete Harris (Pearce Cycles), Phil Roach (Rugby Velo), Ben Roach (Rugby Velo), and me. We were registered as Pearce Cycles/Rugby Velo, but as the days went on we became known as “Equipe Anglaise”, more on that later.
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