It’s only a few kilometers from home. I know the circuit like the back of my hand (aaarrrgghhh! what’s that 🙂 ). Almost half a lap uphill then half a lap downhill. The climbs aren’t steep, but they are long. It’s a tough circuit, and it’s seven laps.
First and second category riders are going off together. I dunno whether that’s a good idea or not. Firsts are wearing black numbers, seconds including me have red numbers. Oh, and firsts are doing one more lap. The promoting club is the ASSJ (St Junien), and they have all their riders out today. I’d say there’s more ASSJ than any other club.
The start is a fairly civilised affair. One of the ASSJs goes to the front and sets a sensible pace all the way up to the top of the circuit. There’s one or two attacks along the top, then we’re into the descent all the way back down. It’s narrow, there’s lots of gravel, and a couple of greasy corners. Back in the bottom of the valley there’s a short flat run, then a short climb through the finish to start the second lap. We’re still all together.
Second time up the climb it’s a little more serious as some of the first cats flex their muscles, but it’s manageable. Along the top road there’s a flurry of attacks. A group of riders are caught, I’m coming up fast, there’s a gap, I shoot through and attack myself. I’m away! Maybe the first cats aren’t interested, and the second cats are waiting for the firsts to respond? I dunno, I get comfy and work hard, not flat out, but hard. A rider comes across to join me, it’s Jean-Marc from the ASSJ, he’s a second cat too, i’ve ridden with him before, he’s a hard worker, we push on together.
On the climb going out for the third lap, we’re still away, but only just. Carla shouts, “10 seconds!”. As the climb bites we work hard, and at the top were still away, but joined by another rider, a first cat. We’re working hard now, just managing to stay clear. A quick glance, I can see another rider coming across, a big powerhouse, he takes a few seconds breather on the back then comes through driving hard. Down the descent I’m topped out, bouncing in the saddle, 50*12.
Back up again. We’re staying away, but not far enough. On the top of the circuit we’re joined by four more riders. The whole peleton is almost on us, and then we gel, everyone goes through, and we’re gone. They won’t see us again.
Now here’s the best part. There’s only three second cats here, so that’s the podium sorted. We have three Rochechouart riders, Eric (1st cat), David (2nd cat), and me. It’s in our/my interests to work hard so this group stays away.
With two laps to go the infighting starts. As we climb, one of the first cats attacks, another goes after him. I’m feeling OK, as if I could go after them, but I might get eaten alive, I stay where I am. I go to the front and work hard. Some of the riders seem to be tiring. By the top of the course we’re down to five. We still have three second cats, and two first cats, we’re still working hard, and we’re still well clear. It’s looking like we’re gonna stay away.
I need a plan. If it comes to a sprint I reckon Jean-Marc is gonna take it. David seems to be goin OK but he’s stretching his back a lot, and doesn’t look comfy. Last time up the climb now. I’m feeling pretty good. I give plenty. As we ride along the top of the course Eric comes alongside, and gives me the thumbs up. I’m hoping he’s right.
On the desent now for the last time. It’s getting a bit cagey, I’m sitting second in line behind Eric, I know exactly what I’m gonna do. At the greasy corners it’s hard to get any power down until you’re back out onto the straight, there’s a slight rise here. Into the corner I carry as much speed as I dare, then jump hard, really hard. The road here is narrow, Jean-Marc and David are held up behind the two first cats. I hear Jean-Marc shout. Now, neither Eric or the other first cat are gonna chase me, and David my clubmate ain’t gonna chase me, and if Jean-Marc chases he’ll be throwing any chance of the win away as David will be right on his wheel. It’s a win-win situation for the Rochechouart. I’m hoping it’s a win for me.
Down the descent like a nutter, spinning for all I’m worth. There’s a sharp left at full tilt (whoa! steady dude), then a sharp gravelly right (don’t stuff it up now!) onto the finish road. A quick glance under my arm, it’s Jean-Marc who leading the chase. I’m gonna win it, but just in case the tar melts, my tyres go flat, or the finish line moves away faster than I can move towards it as time becomes elastic, I get out of the saddle and sprint. Got it! David takes second, Jean-Marc third.
Thanks to my team mates Eric and David for their help. Thanks to Jean-Marc for working so hard, and thanks to all the ASSJ riders who worked to make sure that Jean-Marc stayed away, and to the ASSJ for putting on a great race. It really couldn’t have gone any better………. and then it did…at the prize ceremony I was given a spectacular Pelargonium (it’s a plant – Carla loves it), and, and, there was whiskey and chocolate biscuits. Carla drove home 🙂
Meanwhile – well done to my friend Davy who won the third cat race, and well done to all the Rochechouart riders. With prizes going down to 5th for each category almost every Rochechouart rider who raced was a winner.