Paying the price of good form

The midweek training bash with the ROCC started of OK, yes it was cold, at around 4 degress, but OK. We rode down through Chabanais, and enjoyed 500 metres of the awful river crossing main road, choked with logging trucks going to the paper mill along what I call ‘the road to hell’. Within a couple of minutes we’re back out of town on deserted roads. It’s cold today, and we’re pushing on to keep warm.

Training on a cold wet day
At Lesterps a light rain starts to fall, the pace picks up. With Oradour sur Glane still 25kms away the light rain becomes a steady drizzle. All banter has stopped, and we work hard together to get the job done, this is training, you can’t just go home when you feel like it.

Oradour behind us we climb towards La Barre, the roads are soaked now, and water sprays up off our wheels, my fingers are numb. The descent towards St Victurnien is a long one, by the time we re-cross the river I’m feeling cold. My hands are numb. I’m glad to be climbing again and I work hard to generate some warmth. By the time we get to Cognac le Foret I’m fine apart from my hands.

Only 10km left to do, it’s raining heavily now, we’re motoring. It’s cold, wet, and tough. As I roll into home I have over four hours on the clock. This is the price of good form. Dripping wet I strip off in the garage. A quick shower, some warm clothes, and a cup of hot tea with a dash of whisky in it.

ROCC rideout

The warmth of the sun has brought them all out. Best bikes, best wheels, best shades. Looking around the group it’s like those who are on steel or aluminium are the minority. There’s carbon everywhere, a couple of riders are sporting carbon wheels. With all the best bling out I’m hoping for a blast of a bash. By the way, I’m ashamed to say my bike is not looking it’s best. I haven’t washed it in a fornight, it’s filthy.

Off we go along the valley road towards St Laurent. We’ve only gone about 3kms and I realising that I’m overdressed, I remove my skull cap, not enough, I remove my neck warmer, and gloves. My pockets are full now, so I festoon my handlebars with neckwarmer and gloves. I stop to tie them on tight, I don’t want them dropping into my wheel, or anyone elses!

ROCC rural rideout

On the rolling climbs towards St Auvent a few splits appear as Maxime and Jean-Francois sprint each other for crests. It looks like fun, I go to join in. They’re young blokes, I can’t match them, but I can have a good go. Through St Auvent, then right towards St Cyr, we cross the river then start the climb out of the valley, it’s probably about 1km to the village, Jean-Francois is on the front working hard. Max comes flying by, Jean-Francois clangs up a couple of gears and gives chase, I’m chewing on my handlebars trying to hang on.

We stop at St Cyr to regroup, riders arrive in twos and threes some look like they’ve been trying hard. All back together we’re off towards Cognac le Foret. Steadily climbing up through Vedeix, the sun on our backs, it’s a corker of a day. From Cognac it’s mostly downhill all the way to St Victurnien. It’s a super sweeping roller-coaster of a road, and by the time we reach St Vic we’re flying. Crossing the river Vienne we swing left towards St Junien, and this is where the real action starts, I dunno why, or who said it should, or who or how it’s decided, it just does.

Maybe its because we’ve turned onto the circuit that is used for the St Junien road race, and the racers among the group get a surge of adrenalin, or summat, but now the pace is high, and there’s no let up. Whatever happened to tempo base training? It’s like a race, by the time we reach St Junien there’s 5 off us. Back over the river Vienne and onto the climb out of the valley once more. Maxime and Jean-Francois are dishing it out again. I chase after them, I’m being shadowed, but can’t see who it is. Max is coming back to us, Jean-Francois goes again, as we reach the top of the climb my shadow comes flying by. “Merci pour le taxi Steve”, says Eric.

We’ve almost completed the 70km circuit as described in the ROCC’s ride calendar, but we decide to add another loop on to bring us closer to 100k, and of course everyone is up for it. I’m quite tired by now, not that I’d admit it 🙂

Jean-Francois is still pushing the pace, we’re going up a long drag, all of a sudden I’m suffering, i’m starting at the block of the bike in front of me, sitting tight on the wheel waiting for the pain to end. Now I’m training. This was exactly what I wanted. 🙂

Learning French – Getting the Miles in…

There can be no nicer way of seeing France than from the saddle of a bike, and there can be no better way of learning French than swapping banter in a bunch of French cyclists. Well that’s how it felt yesterday when I joined the Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo on their wednesday afternoon training bash.

Rochechouart Cycling club Wednesday training bashWednesday afternoon training bash? Yes, I’m sure the whole of France stops on a Wednesday afternoon for cycling. About 10 riders showed up at the Plan d’ Eau for the 1:30pm start. Within a few minutes of handshaking and greeting the route had been decided on and we were on our way. Did I mention it was a beautiful sunny day with a bright blue sky? It was 🙂

Rochechouart > St Mathieu > Montbron > L’Arbe > Massignac > Rochechouart. A straightforward route on main roads that would take us over the highest point of the Charente. The pace was effortless brisk as we bowled along chatting about all the usual things that cyclists chat about, bikes, rides, races, the stock exchange! I listen hard, and join in when I can. It’s great practice for me, as it’s the more or less the same stuff we talk about every time.

After a couple of hours we’re on top of the col at Chatain Besson, a high point of the ride. It’s not alpine by any means, but huge rolling hills under a massive sky. Not steep at all, a relentless middle of the block climb of around 7km. Looking out at the panorama it’s green as far as the eye can see, no big towns or cities, just the odd village or farm, just the odd church spire or water tower.

Through Montbron, we swing right, heading for home. All the way up to Massignac and beyond the road surface is super smooth, and traffic free, we glide along. We see a couple of groups of cyclist heading the other way “Salut”…..

As we get closer to home the pace pics up, the chat stops, we sprint for village signs, for fun. Down the last few kms we’re motoring. Down the last descent back into Rochechouart we’re racing, for fun. Up through the town riders start to peel off, “a bientot, a prochaine….” By the top of the town there’s just Eric and me. Eric lives just across the valley from me. We ride the 10km home together.

With 4 hours of riding done. I’m tired, and could murder a can of beer, but I haven’t got any. I put my bike away and shower, while Carla pops into town for a couple of tins.
I love riding my bike, and I love that woman! 🙂

ROCC Rando

The Grand Depart of the ROC Rando
Last weekend was the Rochechouart Olympic Club’s Randonnee. The weather was perfect, and the trails were in top condition. Almost 400 riders turned up for the early morning start. As we rode away from the ‘plan d eau’ the mist was still swirling around, but a warm sunny day was on the cards.
We opted for the 46km route which took in trails heading out in the general direction of Presignac. Now some of the trails I already knew, but I learned some excellent new ones that I can integrate into my rides around the area. Can’t wait to try them out on someone! 🙂