On the podium in the 25th Fréderic Mistral VTT Raid

25th Frederic Mistral VTT Race

Yeah!!! I made it onto the podium in second place! Don’t get too excited though, I was second in the over 60s category. However, I did ride well, and I thoroughly enjoyed the race. The 25th edition of the Frederic Mistral. One big 42km circuit around the magical mystical and very beautiful Monts de Blond.

How’d it go? I rode a measured, safe, calculated ride. I had a plan and I stuck to it. The plan was to take it steady for the first hour to hour and a half then turn it up. I started steady and found myself in the company of two other 60+ riders. One of them dropped his chain and had to stop, so I knew he was behind. The other was right in front of me. He was riding well, so I stayed where I was and shadowed him. I played it a bit cute, I didn’t want him to know I was there. I didn’t want to take it on too soon. With an hour and a half gone I was looking for an opportunity to sneak by. There was a sharp bend, and moment of confusion two or three other riders, I slipped by on the inside and upped the pace. I didn’t see him again. I pushed on hard thinking I was leading 60+ vet, but unbeknown to me there was another who finished some 7 minutes ahead of me. No matter, I had a fab day out, and loved every second of it.

Haute Vienne VTT Championships…

It was the departmental MTB championships for the Haute Vienne at the weekend. I put my guitar away and rode my bike instead. The circuit at Panazol just outside Limoges was one of the best I have ever ridden. Superb roller-coaster-whoopedoope stuff for the whole 9kms. I wasn’t gridded for the start, I rode a 26 when most were on 29ers, I’m not really super fit – getting the excuses in here! But, I managed to just get on the podium!!!

VTT_Champs

Jean Claude Sansonnet won easily – a true champion. Super strong Michel Guene was a comfortable 2nd. I was gifted 3rd place by Marcel Buisson who punctured at the end of the second lap.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day. My first race in the 60+ vets category. It’s a start! 🙂

Championnat Départemental VTT – St Leger La Montagne

Podium Vet B
Last time I raced the Haute Vienne MTB departmental championships at St Leger La Montagne in 2008 I punctured on the last lap with 3kms to go. I was in the lead at the time and threw the win away by not being careful. This time it was different.

Here’s how it went – I haven’t raced recently, so I wasn’t gridded. That’s OK, I was just looking for a good ride. I got away OK, the pace was tough, I was middle of the field. On to the first climb, the rider in front of me snaps his chain. Meanwhile Pierre Chenaud (ASSJ) comes backwards with a puncture. This is a tough circuit for bike and body. Just riding round the practice lap had been hard enough, racing it was brutal.

I make a special effort to be kind to my bike, and ride smooth. Not running the chain across the cassette, staying loose over rocks and roots. At the end of the first lap I’m sitting in 2nd place, I have a couple of riders close behind me, and 1st place is nowhere to be seen.

I really want to get rid of the two behind me, so I work a little harder to snap the elastic. I get a gap. I start to catch a glimpse of the leading rider Pierre Barateau (Ambazac Sprinter Club). I’m gaining on him. I catch him on a short steep climb. He’s off his bike. I ask him if he has a problem. “Cramp!”, he tells me. Like I said, it’s a brutal circuit.

So, now I’m in the lead, with a lap to go, and no one close behind. All I have to do is keep it sensible. I ride hard, but with care. My chain is dry and complaining on some of the steeper climbs. I change to a lower gear and spin. The last climb, it’s very steep. Taking no chances I get off and run.

A quick look back. No one in sight. I take it easy down the last desent, and I’m home, winner of the Haute Vienne Departmental Championships for 2013 (over 50 vets)!

I’m pleased! This wasn’t expected. But let’s just put this into perspective. The recent creation of a new category for over 60 vets meant that some riders have changed category. The 40+, 50+, and 60+ vets all set off together, the same start. The 40+ had to do 4 laps, the 50+ and the 60+ had to do 3 laps. Now, combine the 50+, and the 60+ vets! There was just one rider who was faster than me. A whopping 8 minutes faster over the three laps!!! 1:39:27 vs 1:47:43 The true champion, the 66 year old Jean-Claude Sansonnet (Cyclo Racing Club Limousin). Chapeau Jean-Claude!

Departemental VTT Champs 2013, Haute Vienne

Not forgetting – Many thank’s to everyone at Saint-Léger-la-Montagne VTT Rando Club for putting on a great race. A superbly tough course! 🙂




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National VTT Championships at Rodez

Imagine a 4 hour car journey through some of the most beautiful countryside in France in glorious sunshine, stopping for a picnic along the way.

Imagine arriving at the race site the evening before the race and kitting up for a couple of practice laps. Know that the weather has been good for months, and the ground is bone dry.

Imagine one of the best mountaibike race circuits you have ever seen. Now imagine one better! It’s was fantastic. A great start area that favours no side leading to some moorland with sweeping off-camber corners, bombholes, super fast straightaways, the lot…..also add in that the taping/marking out are superb allowing the rider to be creative with line. Follow that with 3 kms of superb roller-coaster singletrack that draws you on faster and faster. I was looking forward to racing this circuit so much. I went to bed imagining racing, and racing well.

Imagine being woken in the early hours of the morning to the sound of thunder and torrential rain! The rain continued throughout the night. By breakfast time it was still raining. I made my way from the excellent B&B back to the race site. I changed my tyres in the back of the van. The drop in temperature from the day before was incredible I was cold…..and still it rained.

With about half an hour to go the rain stopped. With twenty minutes to go we were gridded for the start. I was on the third row. Bang on time we were away. I got a good start, held my place up the first climb, passed quite a few riders over the moorland. It was wet. Diving down towards the single track was a little slippy, and then…three kilometres of singletrack on foot. The overnight rain had made it unrideable. A total nightmare. It was a procession, impossible to pass, difficult to even stand in places. Each lap it got worse. By the final lap the mud was like glue. If you tried to carry your bike you could hardly stand, and if you pushed your bike the wheels clogged up and wouldn’t turn.

I finished well down in the twenty somethings. I was not happy. My bike was in a real state. Drivechain and disc pads trashed. To add insult to injury the sun came out!!! Imagine how I felt.

Come Forth…..

Come forth…. So I did, twice…. 4th in the Departmental VTT Champs, and 4th in the Regional VTT Champs. 4th is bad innit?

4th in the Departmentals at St Gence in the poring rain just eight seconds behind 3rd and 30 seconds behind 2nd. Wasn’t with the gridded riders so had to come from a long way back. It was all going so well, I was with the two other podium riders, then a lapped crashed right in front of me. I lost ground, was making it up, but ran out of time. In the meantime my old mate Jean Claude Sansonnet was minutes clear to take the win.


4th in the Regionals on a fantastic bone dry circuit in the Monts de Blond. Again, I wasn’t gridded. We were racing with the over 40s. They had red numbers, us over 50s had black numbers. On the second of three laps someone told me I was in third place. I could see a black number not far behind me. I rode very hard to try and open the gap on him. Bear in mind, I can see his number, but he can’t see mine. It worked, and by the top of the circuit I was out of sight. Out for the final lap. About a third of the way around I see Jean Claude coming back down the circuit, he’s abandoned the race. More of this later. So now I’m thinking I’m in second place. There’s lots of supporters around, and nobody is telling me any different. At the top of the circuit I’m still clear. All I have to do is ride the descent without puncturing. Carla tells me I’ve done a great ride, and I’m 4th!!! again. Which is pretty bad, but actually I wasn’t that much off the pace (4 mins).

In the meantime, my old mate Jean Claude is on his way to hospital. He has 6 broken ribs, and the medics are worried about his breathing! Flippin’ ‘eck JC!!!! I wish you Bon Courage and a speedy recovery.

Cat’s Arse Trophy – 19th Fréderic Mistral VTT Raid

It’s my favourite race. Made the podium for the last three years. But not this year.

Training had gone well. I had a new bike. I was well up for it. I’d pre-ridden the circuit twice in the previous weeks. But it was just not to be.

I warmed up well, got a good start and established myself near the sharp end. The leading vet B was just a few places in front of me. I was in no rush. He punctured after about 5 kms leaving me in front. I just continued to ride purposefully. My old mate Jean Claude caught me at around 15 kms. He passed me and opened a gap on a long climb. No panic, I worked hard to keep him in sight, and pulled him back a little on the flat.

On the long climb up from Arnac I can see JC, he’s about a minute ahead. There’s 15 kms of tough trails left to go. I’m planning on making the most of it on my Specialized Epic. Like I said, I’ve pre-ridden the circuit, I know what’s coming and I’m up for it.

But then, I start noticing that something is not right. The back end of the bike feels soft. Yeah well that’s because the rear shock has lost pressure! I pull over and try to get some air into it with my pump. It works a little, and I remount. Within a few minutes it’s soft again, and I’m bottoming out.

I have no option but to pull out. If I don’t the last 15 kms will trash my bike. I’m gutted. At the next road crossing I leave the race and head home. Just to cap it all, I get a punture!

Back at the race village I watch the riders coming in, and imagine what might have been. You know, that bike has been great all summer. Only ridden for best. Not a single problem until today. It turns out to be just the shock sleeve that’s come loose. Fixed in a jiffy by a mechanic who knows what he’s looking at.

Meanwhile my friend James had a great ride. Him being a good rider, visiting me just to do this race, and very keen to beat me…. oh and he’s the machanic too. See what I’m saying? 😉

St Leger Magnazeix road race…

Let me set the scene – I’ve been having a little trouble with the gears on my road bike recently. Adjusted them twice, then they’re OK for a while, then not. I wondered if the cable could be slipping through the rear mech, so on the morning of the race I nipped it up a touch with an allen key, readjusted the gears, and was ready to go.
Attacking the bunch out of sheer frustration at St Leger Magnazeix
St Leger Magnazeix is quite a distance north of me. Up above Bellac. The terrain is flatter, more rolling, but still tough. A warm up lap confirmed that this was gonna be a fast one. As we waited on the start line black thunder clouds threatened, and a few spots of rain fell.

3 – 2 – 1, and we’re away. There’s an attack right from the gun. I dunno, maybe these “crazy guys” think that they can complete the race before they get a good soaking. There’s no let up for the whole of the first lap. My legs are stinging. On the second lap it settles down a bit, though there’s still lots of jumping about and nervous energy being spent. Round the back of the circuit there’s a slight rise. Someone attacks, there’s a surge, I change down and climb out of the saddle, and then……..

……and then my gear cable breaks! The chain crunches down the block and I’m stuck in my biggest gear! I quickly check to make sure it’s not hanging off the bike. I reach down to see if it’s still in place under my down tube.

I’m just a little miffed. Actually, I very annoyed. I’ve never broken a cable before in all the years I’ve been cycling. We’re on a slight downhill now, the speed is high, I’m OK in my 50*11. Out of frustration I put in a hard attack. If I can’t win, I’m gonna let them know I was there!!! I get a gap, a good one. I was going to pull out at the end of the lap, but I don’t I carry on. I’m away, one daft idiot singlespeeding roadie! A quick check back, I have a good gap, and two riders are coming across to me.

Unfortunately for me, as we go out on lap three and start to hit the more rolling part of the circuit my legs fill up with lactic acid, as my cadence drops to Phil Bayton style monster mashing. The two arrive, it would have been perfect, but I can’t stay with them. They look at me like I’m some kind of idiot. I am.

Suddenly it occurs to me that I have two gears… big ring and little. I drop onto the little and spin. The bunch arrive, I tuck in.

The rain never came to anything, a bit like my race really. I stayed in for the full 8 laps with two gears. One too big, and one too small. It was good training, I think.

Championnat Regional VTT

Yep, it’s the Limousin region mountainbike championships, and I’m invited to ride! I don’t have great form, though I am improving. I don’t have many race miles in my legs this season. But, I’m gonna go and do my best.

The race is at Beynac in the Correze at the Etang de Miel (Lake of Honey!). It’s a beautiful spot, and the weather is fabulous. The circuit is 7kms, fast, flowing, dry. I like it very much. I’m guessing between 20 to 25 minutes a lap, and we (vet Bs) are doing 4.
Regional VTT Champs. I'm gridded on the front line!
I’m gridded on the front line! I wasn’t expecting that. We’re going off together with the Vet As. I’m sure there’s some faster guys behind me. I’ve clocked all the Vet Bs on the front line, so I know who I’m tracking.
I get a great start, and as we leave the arena I’m on the wheel of the leading Vet B.

It’s very fast. Along the fast forest track in the dust over the rocks there’s riders everywhere scrambling to get the best wheel they can before we hit the tarmac section that will take us to the first real climb.

First place seems to be easing away, but no panic, I’m sat in a group containing 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. We’re moving quick. As we continue through lap one we change positions, but nobody makes a move. Onto lap two, a rider from the Correze kicks. I go after him. Now it’s hard, very hard. My throat is burning, I haven’t tried this hard in a while. By the end of lap two we are clear. I’m looking at a podium finish.
Regional VTT Champs - It was great to race in warm sunny weather!
Then, it all goes wrong! I seem to be going backwards. Dominique from the US Nantiat comes past, I can’t hold him. As we go out for the last lap I’m gone, and within the last 2kms I drop to 5th. I’m almost 5 minutes off the pace. Ouch! What a kicking! Thanks guys! 🙂

But, it was still a great day out, and still great to see a lot of racing buddies who I haven’t seen for a while.

1 GODOT FRANCIS VC GOUZON 01:23:20
2 REBEYRAT JEAN ACMO TONIC 01:25:44
3 VRIGNAUD DOMINIQUE US NANTIAT 01:26:06
4 STAMM ALAIN VC AUBUSSON 01:27:54
5 BENNETT STEPHEN ROC ROCHECHOUART 01:28:11


Paris-Nice not nice!

Stage 3 of the 68th “Race to the Sun” Paris-Nice was due to start at St Junien yesterday. I’d been looking forward to it. Planning on going down to see it on my bike. Hoping that I might catch my bar end in someone’s lycra and get whipped along in the excitement of it all.

Paris Nice 2010 stage 3

But it wasn’t to be. Overnight snow, overnight snow I tell ya!!! meant that the start was delayed, and moved 55 kms down the road to St Yrieix-la-Perche.

I was a little disappointed, but it was bitterly cold, and It was good that the organisers had the sense to give the lads a break. Later in the day the weather improved, and the sun came out!

Slovakia’s Peter Sagan, the youngest rider in Paris-Nice, won a shortened third stage over 153 kms in Aurillac, while the peloton’s elder, Jens Voigt, seized the yellow jersey.The race unfolded in the last climb, the Cote de La Martinie, three kilometres from the finish, when six riders revealed their ambitions in this 68th Race to the Sun. Ireland’s Nicolas Roche was the first in action, followed by Sagan, Voigt, Tony Martin, Joaquin Rodriguez, but also Alberto Contador.The 2009 Tour champion acceleration in the last climb showed that his crash in the first stage was but a memory and the Spaniard could even have done better if his pedals had not snapped in the final sprint.Yet the day belonged to the young and the old, the 20-year-old Sagan trailing the 38-year-old Voigt by a slim six seconds ahead of a potentially decisive 4th stage to Mende on Thursday…..from the official website letour.fr

On the podium in the 18th Fréderic Mistral VTT Raid

On the podium in laFrederic Mistral 2009 - I won the Vet B category

One of the best races of the season. I’ve been looking forward to this one. A ‘full on’ mass start race. One big 42km loop. Raced as seen.

I love this race. It has everything. It’s tough, technical, some of the descents are tougher than some of the climbs, there’s some super fast stuff, and the scenery is beautiful!!!

Preparation for this race started months back with extra training rides in the area. A couple of weeks ago a group of us spent a happy afternoon on the trails pre-riding what we thought was the probable circuit.
A bunch of vets pre-riding the circuit for La Freceric Mistral!

Imagine my surprise then when we’re on the start line, and Antoine of the Guidon Bellachon announces that we’re racing a completely new circuit today!

The start – Counted down from 5 we’re away on 2 ish! A dash down the start field and back before turning onto the tarmac. I’m fully expecting to turn left, we turn right!!! 50 metres then left, for the first climb. Rocky, steep, but rideable, chaos, someone slips, and we’re all off and running. I’m well back in around 30th place.

Over the top and away. I’m managing to move up a couple of places here and there, it’s very tough, and very fast. With about 3 kms done we hit a section of pavé. Jean Claude Sansonnet comes by on my right. I need to keep him in sight.

Through the tiny hamlet of Le Charlet, and onto a wall of a climb. JC is piling the pressure on. By the top of the climb he only has a few seconds on me. On fast rocky trails now, I’m chasing hard, and there’s JC with his back tyre flat! It won’t take him long to fix it, I push on.

We hook up right, a short climb, and we’re on the top of the Monts de Blond. The trail leads along a ridge here, there’s big rocky steps, two riders ahead of me are on foot. I shout to them that I’m coming past. I’m desperate.

Complètement fou! – As we drop off the ridge, I’ve opened a gap on the riders behind me, and I cannot see the riders ahead. Something doesn’t seem right. There’s lots of tyre marks on the trail, but no arrows, or tape. I ease a touch. Right at that moment a bunch of around 20 riders comes towards me. We’ve all gone the wrong way!!! I’ve only lost a few seconds, but some of these riders must have lost a lot more. I make a U turn.

Now we’re back on track, but running into the back of riders who hadn’t gone wrong. The next few kilometres are a bit fraught to say the least. I have no way of knowing what my position is now, but I feel reasonably confident that I’m leading Vet B. There’s no choice but to keep pushing on.

Some of the trails we’re riding are brutal. Some of them I’ve seen before, and some of them are new to me. I keep thinking I know where we going, and then there’s a turning that I wasn’t expecting. I’m in a group of four riders, were going quick, I’m starting to suffer. My own words come back to haunt me…

Any fool can ride a bike when they’re feeling fine fresh and funky. But when you feel like sh*t, and someone’s turning the screw, that when it counts!

With 1 hr 45 mins on my watch I’m guessing that we have about 30 mins to go. We’re on a rocky descent, I can hear a rider behind me. He comes past. I recognise him. He’s the full-sus rider that was first home in the Mandragore earlier in the year. He looks old enough to be a vet, maybe even old enough to be a Vet B, like me. Just when I thought all I had to do was hang on for the finish, now I’m gonna have to raise my game.

I’m sat just off the back of the group trying to come up with a plan. We’re heading down the road towards the Frederic Mistral monument. It’s a run up. I suss that we must pass it, then descend down the far side to get home. I dismount early for the run up and stay to the right. By the top I have a few seconds gap. I didn’t really want to be first down the descent, but I jump back on and go for it. It fast, it’s loose, it’s steep, with some big drop offs, and some tight rutty corners. I make it to the bottom in one piece, still at the front.

A tricky stream crossing, I jump off and run it. I can hear shouting and swearing behind me, I don’t look back. Now a road crossing, then a steep ramp up a trail to the right. I lock my forks out and sprint it. It’s agony. A quick glance over my shoulder. The chasers are on the ramp.

I’m committed now. No fingers covering the brakes, I hold the bars tight and go for it. My S-Works hardtail comes to life, and I rattle over the rocks like a man possessed. We’re almost home, they’re taking us down the way we came out! Down the last rocky descent going for it. Sprinting across the finish field to the dead stop turn 50 metres from the line. There’s no one there. I’ve got it. I hope!!!

Wrap up – I’m 15th scratch, but first Vet B. Turns out that the late arrival was a Vet B. I managed to put one minute into him in that last dash. Not much, but enough.

JC fixed his puncture, but punctured again and had to abandon.

Many many thanks to all at Guidon Bellechon for another superb Fréderic Mistral.

Copy of the results here.