Spent the morning washing my bike, scrubbing my white bar tape, and eating lots in preparation. It’s fantastic weather, and there’s a four hour ride on the cards…
Rolling down through the town towards the Plan d’eau I feel funky and fine on my sprarkling bike. There’s a good dozen out today, and discussion is taking place on where to go. There’s mention of a loop in the Monts de Blond, that’s too tough for some who suggest a Charentine circuit. There’s shoulder shrugging and some boffing, and before you know it i’m in a group of four that’s doin’ the Monts de Blond loop. That’s Jean-Francois, Maxime, Eric, and me.
We set off towards Biennac, the two ‘young guns’ Jean-Francois and Max on the front. The pace is brisk from the start. Max is riding his new Scott CR1, he’ll be keen to show what it can do. They’re chatting, but unless I’m mistaken they’re also half-wheeling each other. I’m breathing quite hard, so is Eric. This could be a tough ride.
At Biennac we pick up ANother, he was on his way to the meet, but was late. He joins us, and Eric explains to him that we’re the fast group enroute for Blond, the cyclotouriste group has gone south. ANother says something along the lines of ‘feck my luck’ and tags along.
It’s a tough road all the way to Cognac le Foret, fairly straight, but with huge roller coaster drags of 1 to 2 kms. The young guns push on. I’m glued to the wheel in front like my life depended on it. As we begin the long descent to St Victurnien the young guns move across leaving Eric and me on the front.
We cross the Vienne and start the long climb up to La Barre. I go to the front to set a tempo that I can manage, and one that I hope will satisfy the young guns. Spinning a low gear, trying to look as comfy as I can, it does the trick. Over the top and on towards Oradour sur Glane. Jean-Francois is on the front now driving out a relentless brisk/steady pace. At Oradour we ride up past the ‘Village Martyr‘ and head out towards Cieux which is when the real climbing will start. At Cieux we turn our bikes uphill, which is ANother’s cue to peel off, “a bientot”.
Traversing along the south side of the Monts through pretty villages, and alongside numerous etangs the fairies take me away, and i’m floating along effortlessly. As the climb to Peyrelade starts to bite I’m brought back to reality. I go to the front and try the old tempo setting trick again, it works for a while, but then Max decides he’ll set a pace he’s happy with. Max rides quicker and quicker. By the time we reach the top i’ve got wobbly legs, but i’m still on his wheel, Eric is still on mine, and strangely Jean-Francois is a little off the back.
Down the northside of the hills into Montrol SÃ©nard, a lovely little town, with a super little restaurant, La Belle Equipe, and hey! it’s open, we could stop for a cool beer, and no we don’t, that just doesn’t happen, ever!
There’s a slight headwind blowing along the dead straight road to Blond. The pace has settled a little, and i’m on the front. This road gets used a lot for road races, I can see old paint from the Tour de Limousin, and the ASSJ St junien. A hard road to race on with nowhere to hide. In Blond we turn right to climb back over the hills.
It’s a tough climb, and like a madman who keeps repeating the same behaviour expecting the outcome to be different, I go to the front. I’m working hard, and with around 1km done Eric rides along side and starts to turn the screw. We’re climbing well, out of the saddle on the steeper bits, seated ‘on the tops’ on the shallower bits. As the road twists and turns first Eric is in front, then me. There’s a gear change behind me. Sounds like someone going up the block! Eric pushes on, i’m looking for the summit.
By the time we pass the FrÃ©dÃ©ric Mistral monument i’m on the rivet. There’s the summit, we get out of the saddle and sprint. “OÃ¹ sont les jeunes?”, I ask. There’s no sign of the young guns. Turns out Jean-Francois is still getting over a cold, and Max was letting the ‘old boys’ have their fun.
On the way home we do St Junien direct. Big fast smooth main roads with a slight cross-tail to help us along. Just got to cross the Vienne, climb out of the valley and we’re home. Jean-Francois peels off first near St Junien, he’s almost home. I cross the river with Eric and Max (father and son incidentally) and start the last climb. I’m on the front, doh! Just above St Martin de Jussac Mac comes by. “Bye”, he shouts, and takes off, “bye bye”, we say, and watch him go. He gets 200meters, then, whoa, wassappnin’, we’re out of the saddle chasing, chasing like madmen. 😉