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!
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! 🙂