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.

I’m lovin’ the snow – epic fail

I’ve been enjoying the snow and freezing temperatures. Riding in the snow can be great fun if you are properly prepared. You know, plenty of thin wicking layers, double socks, over shoes, skull cap, buff, double gloves – a thin pair under a thicker pair, and spare gloves in a rucksack. Talking of the rucksack I’m carrying spare gloves, a spare undershirt, foil blanket, all that on top of the usual tools and spares. I’m also carrying some spare food, and a moby. Plus i’ve detailed my route to Carla and I’m sticking to it. See, I’m riding on my own. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll see anyone. If I have a problem it could so easily turn into something serious in the sub zero temperatures. So i’m using my head and adopting some mountaineering thinking. But – EPIC FAIL!!! I forgot to put my helmet on!!!

I carefully donned all my kit, and sped off for a couple of hour around the forest. It was fanatsic. Most of the trails were virgin snow just deer tracks, and tracks left by other small animals and birds. I’m hammering along thinking that even if I do go down it will be OK because I’ll slide and be unhurt.

I arrive back at home feeling great. On a natural high. Calm, serene, all stress and aggression removed. I reach up to unbuckle my lid!!! Doh!!!

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.

Bon Noël a tous….

I hope all is going well for you. Fully Christmassed up, stuffed and looking forward to the Queen’s message….as is tradition….and, as is tradition I went for my usual Christmas Day ride. Just a couple of hours to build up an appetite. Carla came with me for the first hour. I did the second hour on my own. Cold, but sunny, with a biting North wind. I stayed on the trails close to home chosing the hardest going to keep warm. The ground was frozen, but not solid, more crusty, which was interesting/sketchy/fun. I rode Big Bird. She was great. So comfy.

It was a really nice ride. Just what I wanted. Hardly saw a soul about…..and all those geese at the farm by Troupen… all gone!!! Bon apetite! Bon Noël! Merry Christmas! 😉

VTT Rando Nieul – A blast!

No gig this weekend so we got up early and went to the VTT Rando at Nieul. I opted for the 40 kms loop. Carla did the 30 kms. We were away at 08:45, a beautiful morning though a bit windy. Anyways, now the cyclo-cross season has started a lot of the young racers were missing. I found myself right up near the front with a gang on veterans including the current departmental champions for road and VTT!

After about 5 kms a group of three began to pull away. I went after them. Don’t forget, I’m riding my Spesh Epic, what an awesome bike. I’m gaining on the three, probably about 30 metres behind them. There’s a sharp right over a small footbridge, into a chemin. The three have disappeared! Just as I’m thinking they can’t have suddenly gone much quicker I hear them off to the left. They’ve missed the turn. I give it all I’ve got in an attempt to get out of sight. 😉

I’m absolutely flying along, feeling the good pain. I’m making the most of my bike, railing over the rough ground, carving the turns like a man possesed. At the end of a long straight I take a quick look back. No one there! I push on, hard.

The trails are bone dry, and very fast. I’m sliding in some of the corners and using the edge of the trail as a berm to get me around. At the last moment I spot a mud hole. I’m going too fast to miss it. I look straight over it, and pedal as hard as I can. It’s deeper than I thought it might be, and slippy to. It shoots me to one side. I bang my knee hard on the handlebars. I come through in one piece, still upright, still on the bike. I have to ease up while I wait for the pain in my knee to subside. I change down and spin an easy grear.

A few minutes pass, and I’m picking up speed again. A rider arrives, he comes past, he’s riding hard, I chase after him. It feels like he’s trying to drop me. Some few kms later he pulls over and stops. I dunno why. He seemed to be going OK.

Back on my own again, and pushing hard. A marshall tells me there’s 10k left. Those last 10 kms were real roller-coaster stuff. Awesome trails, a real blast. 40 kms banged out in 1hr 49mins. Thanks to all at Cyclo Club Nieul for a great morning’s riding.


Yesterday was different…

When I go on training rides with my friend Cyril he insists that we sprint for village signs (panneau). He always beats me, he always rubs it in, calls me his “Papi” (grandad!). But yesterday was different! Oh yes. Yesterday was very different. Ha ha ha!!!!

Hey, did I tell ya ’bout when I go on training rides with Cyril??!!! 😉

Team Dave’s mission….

Remember a little while back I was telling you about my buddy James, and his Land’s End to John O Groats ride? Well. he mentioned that the euphoria and sense of achievement was somewhat marred by the fact that when you arrive at John O Groats there’s only you and your team there. All your supporters and friends are back home, and to get back home you have to climb in a vehicle for the 8 hour drive.

Team Dave banner

Now, Dave Price (James’ cousin – also a compulsive cyclist), and Dave Lewis (yet another Pearce Cycles Dave aka Sparky Dave), fancied having a go at the LeJog, unsupported…….. and were discussing James’ comment when they had this lateral thinking brainwave. They both live close to the LeJog route, so why not ride to Lands End, then ride to John O Groats, then ride home! Effectively doing the length of the country twice, unsupported, and ending their ride as homecoming heroes on their own doorstep. What a genius idea! Plus try as they might, they couldn’t think of a single reason why they shouldn’t do it!!! So they are….

Starting Sept 11th 2010, Team Dave will cycle the length of the UK twice unsupported in 20 days, covering approximately 2000 miles, raising money for Air Ambulance.

You can follow their progress on the Team Dave website. I urge you to support them by sponsoring them here, or here. It’ll raise their spirits, and drive them on. I mean like, c’mon, 2000 in 20 days, that’s 100 miles a day for 20 days!!! That’s awesome! What a schedule.

Bon Courage Team Dave. Good Luck for tomorrow, and the next 19 days. We’ll all be willing you on.


A trip back to the UK…

I hadn’t been back to the UK in almost three years. We we’re due for a visit, an opportunity arose, and we took it. Actually I was a little aprehensive about it. They drive on the wrong side of the road in the UK!!!!

So what was it like after three years away? Well it was an interesting experience…….

The people speak English! – I know that’s obvious, but it felt strange going into a shop and being able to ask for stuff in English, and even stranger that I found myself thanking them in French.

They drive on the wrong side of the road! – Even although I’m driving a right hand drive vehicle, I’ve become used to driving on the right. It seems like the norm now. Also, when I first came to France I remember always looking at the passenger of oncoming vehicles. I’ve got used to treating oncoming vehicles as Left Hand Drive now. So, at first, it really was quite hard work switching back. Roundabouts were especially challenging, and the thing was, getting it wrong in the busy South East UK was potentially more serious than getting it wrong on the quiet roads where I live.

We screwed up at one point. We had some directions to a friends house. We reckon we needed the third exit from a roundabout….would have been correct if we went the wrong was around. Confusing innit?

But, we made it safe and sound to our destination near Malvern. Over the following few days I was able to get out and do a few rides on some of my old stomping grounds. One thing that struck me, was how beautiful the countryside was. Just as I remembered it. For me, Worcestershire, Shropshire, and Herefordshire, have some of the most beautiful and unspoilt countryside in the UK. It’s just so English. If I was going to bring a Frenchman to see England, this is where I’d bring them.

My 2010 S-Works Epic in Wyre Forest
Ride 1 – Wyre Forest. I’d picked up a brand new S-Works Epic from my friends at Pearce Cycles that morning, so headed out to Wyre Forest with my road racing buddy Marcus Walker (Bush Health Care) for an afternoon riding the forest. Those of you who are familiar with Wyre will know how hidden the good stuff is, but I managed to put together a great three hour circuit. Three years down the line it was interesting to see how some trails were showing signs of more biking activity, but right over the back of the forest, the trails were just exactly the same. Just as if I’d only been away three days. Conditions were perfect, and the forest was a beautiful as ever. After the ride we took a beer at the Duke William. It was great to see Daisy, she’s calmed down a bit since the last time I saw her.

On top of Breedon Hill with Marcus
Ride 2 – Breedon Hill. We rode from Marcus’s place on a mission to the top of Breedon Hill. Marcus pushed the pace all the way. I was bloomin glad when he snapped his seatpost bolt. We managed to make an emergency repair, but it knocked the wind out of his sails, and the pace was a little more bearable. Breedon Hill has some great riding on it, though getting on it and off it is tough. We could see where Marcus lives from the top, so we sent semaphore messages to our wives to get dinner on!

On top of Worcester Beacon Malvern.
Ride 3 – Malvern Hills. We parked up near the Gullet Quarry and spent a couple of hours riding to the beacon and back. The views are stunning, and I find it hard to ride there without something by Elgar playing inside my head. It was my third ride on the Epic, and I was really starting to feel at home on here. I’m thinking, best XC race bike I’ve ever ridden.

On High Vinnals with JW
Ride 4 – Bringewood. Back over to Ludlow to meet up with the master of shape throwing that is James. Yep, he took me on a loop of his favourite trails, I was totally out of my depth, hanging on as best as I could, and marvelling a how I could get away with much more than I thought I could and still stay upright. Someone has built some super new trails on the Vinnals side, and we checked ’em out at speed. Blurred speed that is! 😉

Ride 5 – Malvern Again. It was the day we were due to leave. I knew I would be spending the next few days driving back to France, so I made the effort to get up early for one last ride. By 6am I was heading up the zig zags enroute to Worcester Beacon. It was chilly, but sunny. I worked very hard, feeling the good pain. I rewarded my self with a 15 minute stop on the summit while I studied the panorama and thought about the last few days. Who knows when I’d be here again. I wanted to take a while just to replay it, think it all in, savour it. Then I pointed my bike downhill and was gone.

The journey back to France was long and hard. I stopped off to visit my Dad on the way back. That’s a whole other story on it’s own.

10 days, over 1500 miles driven. All the family visited. All the wine drunk, and all the tomorrows turned into yesterdays. It was a great trip, and one that will keep us going for a long time, at least until who knows when.

Love is – A Valentines Day Ride

Ma and my Valentine!

We had some nice nosh lined up, and some Champagne, to celebrate Valentines Day. So we thought we’d go for a good blast on the bikes to build up an appetite and earn it.

Conditions here are very cold, and a lot of the trails are frozen. We stayed quite close to home, on tracks that are pretty tough. The idea being that we’re working hard, keeping warm, but not moving too fast.
We were about 40 minutes from home when my freewheel packed up. I just couldn’t get it to bite. I tried banging it, and dragging my brake on a long descent to try and get some heat into thinking it might have been frozen, but nothing.

Had to run the steep climbs, freewheel the descents, and the rest of the way my lover towed me. Yes, Love is – towing your partner on a freezing cold day when his freewheel won’t work!!!

Happy Valentines day my lover! xxx

Ist ride out of 2010…

First of all….. Happy New Year!!! I hope you all have a great season.
Premiere sortie 2010
Right, so first outing of 2010 was with the ROCC boys on the road. I checked on their website to see where they were going, and decided that I’d go on my mountainbike. Why? Because i’d stay warmer working that bit harder to keep up, and I could cut the circuit short at St Martin de Jussac. I persuaded my visiting friend Marcus to do the same.

We met up with the guys at the usual meeting place near the Chateau in Rochechouart. Evryone was in jovial mood, greetings exchanged, and so on, then off we went…… yeah, but not on the published route, oh no, somewhere bleedin’ else. Certain riders voiced there concerns about not following the published circuit. The answer was that the published circuit was too hard!!!

As the ride progressed, certain riders began to push the pace. It became very brisk. Certain riders began hammering very hard. This is not good early season training in my book. We pulled out, with certain riders being noted for a damn good kicking later in the season! 😉

We rode home steady. We’d done two hours forty five, plenty. We cracked open a can of beer, and talked about who should be top of the hit list amongst the ‘certain’ riders. 😉