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.

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. 😉

Winter Training : it’s cold, but it’s gorra be done!

I’ve said it before, but I’m gonna say it again. With the new racing season just around the corner, it’s time to get down to some serious pre-season training.
Winter training can be grimm
Whatever your cycling discipline (excepting track sprinters) your season will benefit from some winter miles. Staying safe and warm is paramount.
The following tips, and ideas will help you make those early season sessions pay off.

Here’s how to go about it…

Get dressed for winter!

Slap it on!..
Do like the cyclo-cross riders do, and rub on some hot cream. Knees, lower back, ankles, feet, elbows, shoulders, wherever you need it. Be careful if you have never used this stuff before; wash your hands before touching sensitive body parts. Embrocation is where it’s at.

Embrocation
Under Layer…

A t-shirt will soak up your sweat on the climbs, and freeze you on the descents, and will not do! Get a proper undershirt, one of the manmade fabrics that wick moisture away. A long sleeved that covers your wrists, and lower back is best.
Wear bib-shorts if you have them as they cover more of your torso.

Middle Layer…
A long sleeved cycling jersey, or two, or an old jersey cut up, and positioned to give you an extra layer over your chest. An old legwarmer can make a superb neck warmer.
CW models the chestwarmer!

Legs…
Get a proper pair of winter tights. Essential! Try a few pairs on before you buy, as the cut varies from make to make. Once you have a good pair of these you’ll wonder how you ever managed before.
I tuck these home made knee warmers inside my tights

Outer Layer…
A good jacket with a windproof front, a high collar, and good pockets will do nicely. Keep your cape in your back pocket, and only use it in an emergency. Once your cape goes on you will tend to sweat up, leading to de-hydration, and ultimately feeling colder. Put your cape on if you have to make a stop, but take it off again once you set off again.

Head…
Get a skullcap that you can wear under your helmet. The difference they make is amazing.

Hands…
A thin pair of under-gloves, then your real gloves. Mitts are warmer than gloves but are not so easy to ride in. It depends on your bike set up. If you have to stop to make repairs etc, and need to take your gloves off, put them inside your jacket so that they stay warm. Put them on the ground and they will be cold in a minute.

Feet…
Wear man-made or wool cycling socks. Those nice sports socks might look OK, but if they are made of cotton they will not work. A thermal insole can help. When it is really cold use a pair of overshoes. It is a balance between keeping your feet warm, and having your feet too warm so that they sweat, and then chill.

Accessories…
Glasses, for keeping stuff out of you eyes. Imagine trying to get something out off your eye when your hands are cold.

A scarf, can be great for wrapping round your face, neck, and if it’s long enough and wide enough to cover your chest, even better.

Lip salve, might be needed by some but real bikers don’t use it! 😉

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OK, so you’re done up like a kipper, breaking into a sweat just getting your bike out of the garage, now…

Canal towpaths…
are great for winter training, but they are next to cold water, and always seem to be a colder place to ride.

Roads…
or better still lanes are good, but use a slower bike. Heavy tyres, mudguards, stuff that mean you work harder while going through the cold air. Even if the day is bright, zipping along on your race bike is colder.

Forests…
are warmer! You get more shelter in the forest. Whether it’s an old road bike on the forest roads, a mountainbike, or a downhill bike you’ll stay warmer in the forest.

Wind chills; so if it is windy try to go out against the wind so that you have a tailwind on the way home. If it miserable battling against an icy headwind when you are tired and cold.

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A good winter training session makes you feel good, invigorated, and motivated to do more. But be sensible, please!

Let someone know what your route will be and stick to it. Include alternatives if you need to but don’t go off at a tangent

Small groups, of similar ability, are best, 4 to 6 riders are ideal, and you can share the work and look after each other. Any bigger than this and it becomes too ‘stop & start’ (waiting for x to get their gloves on or y to fix their bike etc). Any smaller than this and it can be dangerous if someone has a problem. Like if there is only two of you, and one has a crash you could be forced to leave the victim behind while you go and get help.

Each rider must be self sufficient, don’t expect to borrow a pump or Allen keys.

Take a mobile phone with you. Then if things go wrong you can call International Rescue! (That’s mum, dad, boyfriend, girlfriend, brother, sister, friend etc.
You could call the Emergency Services, but they are for Emergencies only and should never be used to make up for lack of planning or preparation.

If you don’t have a moby take coins for a phone box. BT also do a phone card which you can use from any phone, this gets charged direct to your bill.

Take a number of a taxi company you could use this if you need to get transport and there is no one else to help.

Watch the weather forecast the day before to get an idea of the best time to do the ride. This could make the difference between a miserable wet ride and an enjoyable one.

Take water – it may be cold but you will still need to drink.

Take food – ideally, pack food into small parcels using cling film, or foil.
Things like dried fruit, fig rolls, jam’n’cheese sandwiches, malt loaf are all good. Carry some emergency food, and to ensure that you don’t scoff it anyway, carry something that you do not really like. A mountain walker that I knew used to carry dehydrated dog food!

Essentials

Per rider: Tube/s, pump, tools, cape, food, drink, money

Group: mobile phone, whistle, light, emergency foil blanket.

Considerations:
Map, thermos flask, first aid kit, zip ties, Swiss army knife with one of those attachments for getting boy scouts out of girl guides!

Always puts a smile on my face…

I dunno why, it just does…….well more of a smirk really!
Carla in full racing tuck! ;)
See, when we do the Cognac la Forét circuit we always have a rolling race down the last tarmac descent to home. It started off as a test of rolling resistance of tyres, it’s turned into a ‘just for fun’ thing that we always do. It’s about a kilometer and there’s a slight rise just before the finish. My usual technique is to let Carla get in front then pass her on the slight rise. However, shes wise to that now, and she’s bagged a few wins lately. Gonna have to change my tactic.

Anyway, for some reason, and I don’t know why, when Carla passes me, crouched in full racing tuck, it puts a smile on my face.

Preparation is Everything…

3 steps to perfect preparation!

Step 1 – Saturday afternoon road ride with the ROCC. It’s a tough 95 km loop down around Montbron. Normally there’s around 30 riders to share the work, but with a lot away on a touring trip, a few on holiday, plus the very hot weather, the fast group is just 6 of us. All the way to St Mathieu a young lad from the St Junien club sets a tough pace, then he turns off! He’s racing next day and is just doing a brisk hour. We continue at a more sensible pace until we hit the climbs after Montbron when the competitive streak kicks in. We race up the climbs, then regroup at the top. On the way home, down the last 20 kms or so, the pace lifts. By the time we get to St Gervais there’s just three of us, and it’s tough. The one lad who’s been inflicting pain seems to be weakening. It’s pay back time. I move to the front and start turning the screw. The sun is on our backs now, so I can see the shadow of the following rider. I ride hard, very hard, even down the last descent into Rochechouart, no brakes, topping out.

Step 2 – Sunday – Rando du Menhir, a 56 km VTT rando organized by Briance Roselle Aventure. Just to make things a little tougher I’m late for the start. The tail end of 250 riders is just leaving when I jump on. My legs are a little jaded, so I spin rather than shove for the first few kilometers. These randos aren’t races, though there’s always a bunch who like to ride fast, me included.

I work my way through the back markers. As my legs loosen I’m going quicker and quicker. After one hour chasing hard I reach the first ravito (food stop) just as some of my racing buddies are leaving. I’d like to catch them if I can. I grab some food, fill my bottle, and give chase. I’m gaining, but painfully slowly, and while I’m working hard, they look like they’re cruising. It takes me a further 30 minutes to finally latch onto a group containing Nantiat riders Jean-Phi and Lionel. I stay at the back, eat some food, and try to recover. The pace is steady fast.

It’s all going well until a rider from the Ambazac Sprinter Club starts jumping about on the climbs. I was OK with the steady fast, but the steady fast with accelerations on the climbs finishes me. I’m yo-yoing off the back, and then I’m gone. I continue to work hard on my own, and I can always see the group not far ahead, but I don’t catch them until they stop at the final ravito.

Yep, and at the final ravito the organizers have put on a bit of a spread, on top of the usual stuff there’s hot sausages, ham, and wine. I know if I stop I’ll struggle to go again, and although Lionel is telling me how good the sausages are, I refill my bottle, grab a handful of sweets, and roll on. With 2:45 on the clock I’m thinking I can’t be far from home. Rattling down a descent something flies into my mouth, and stings me. I spit it out, but I’m going to fast to see what it is. Whatever it is it ain’t very pleasant. Just adds to the preparation eh?

Step 3 – Monday – Chasing the Tour de France. The TDF is racing out of Limoges on Tuesday. Monday is a rest day. My buddy Eric suggests that we ride into Limoges on Monday to see if we can spot any of the pro teams out loosening their legs. Cruising around Limoges looking for the TDF sounds great to me, there’ll probably be loads of riders out doing the same thing. I put my best kit on, and away we go. Only thing is, Eric’s idea is a little different to mine, and instead of the gentle cruise I had in mind we end up tearing around Limoges like nutters in search of something that we never find. Not one team car, not one rider, nothing. Some kids cheer as we ride by, maybe they’re mistaking us for pro’s (bloody wishful thinking that eh?). Whatever, it lights Eric up, and as the lights up ahead turn to red he sprints through them, I check both ways before following. Eric does the same through the next two sets of lights. Sprinting down the middle of the road like a madman. Eventually, at the fourth set of lights we have to stop cos’ were going left. A police car pulls alongside Eric and the Gendarme reminds him that red lights are for cyclists too.

I cannot face riding back through Limoges and home via Veyrac. I suggest to Eric that we follow the valley road along the banks of the Vienne to Aixe, cross the river there, then follow the opposite bank to St Martin de Jussac before climbing out of the valley for home. Eric agrees. The heat along the valley is intense. I’m absolutely cooked. I won’t be riding tomorrow cos’ I’m gonna go watch ‘Le Tour’. Getting low on water too. At times like this it’d be so easy to crash down through the gears and continue at a snails pace, but that just prolongs the agony. I cut the remainder of the ride into sections in my mind to make it more manageable. Valley to Aixe, Aixe to St Victurnien, St Vic to St Martin, St Martin to home.

Through Aixe I keep my eye open for a tap. I’m dry. Nothing. We cross the river, and continue along the other bank. It’s hillier on this side. I stand on the climbs to give my backside a break. I’m gonna stop at St Martin de Jussac for water. I tell Eric.

All that preparation, three days of tough riding, worth every second for….at St Martin de Jussac there’s a natural spring, and it’s drinkable. We stop. I rinse my bottle, then drink. Undoubtedly the best water I have ever tasted.

Cognac la Foret sur les Chemins

One of my favourite training rides is a loop up around Cognac la Foret. I use it for an easy spin, a balls-out loop, and it sections off nicely for interval traing. Straight out of the door riden briskly it’s roughly 2 hours in total. It goes summat like this……….

Through the chemin at the bottom of our road and onto the tarmac. Through L’Age then along the valley road towards St Auvent. Cross the foot bridge then climb the old Pavé, tough! Through the pretty village of St Auvent, and onto St Cyr. After St Cyr there’s an open track that leads right the way through to almost the top of the forest. A couple of tricky granny ring climbs, and you’re there, halfway round at the highest point of the ride. Dive down some swoopy stuff, some nice flowing forest trails before a fast blast across open farmland drops you onto the tarmac 2kms from home. I normally play time trialists here, seeing if I can stay on top of my gear on the drags. There’s a final singletrack descent into the village, and that’s it.

Why not give it a try yourself?…………………..

Monts de Blond encore!

Magical Mystical Monts de Blond
You knows I loves it up there dontcha? and I goes up there on me road bike and me mountainbike? Well last week I went up there no less than four times (2*VTT, 2*Road). I dunno what it is about the place, I just love it there. The magical mystical Monts de Blond have cast a spell over me such that yesterday I set off for a ride and just ended up there, by magic!

It was a lovely sunny afternoon. I set of with nowhere in mind really. Haven’t been up by Brigueuil for ages. It’s nice there. So when Carla asked me where I was headed that’s where I told her.

Muse de Corot, also known as the Carlabout!

Dropped down through St Junien, up past the cheeky “Muse de Corot”, then on towards Brigueuil. The road climbs steadily kilometer after kilometer. I’m in no rush, and as I amble along, my mind drifts. This was one of the first roads I ever rode in the area. I remember riding it with some lads from AS St-Junien. I don’t remember who they were, I was on holiday then, but I probably know them quite well now. I pass the road crossing point from the Departmentals a couple of weeks back, then the St Junien – St Junien VTT race. Into Brigueuil village, I remember we looked at a house here, once……..

I take the turn for St Christophe for no reason whatsoever. The Spring flowers along the side of the road are fabulous. The countryside looks so green and lush. I’m still gaining height. At St Christophe I take the Nouic road. Been there once before. As I drift along aimlessly on the deserted roads it occurs to me that drifting along aimlessly isn’t such a bad thing.

Still climbing towards the ridge up ahead. At the ridge there’s a road that looks as though it runs along it. I turn right. A few kilometers further on there’s a view point with views all the way back past St Junien to the South, and Bellac to the North. A road sign tells me I’m headed towards Salomon. I know where I am now. I cross the GR Mandragore trail. Yes, the very same one where I crashed last year in the VTT Rando Marathon en route to the Monts de Blond!

Just past Salomon I hit the main Bellac – St Junien road. I turn left for Mortemart. The super smooth road dives down through the trees on the North side of the hills. I’m topped out spinning. Into the old town of Mortemart, then right off the main road towards Blond. I’m now on the dead straight roller-coaster that runs along the back of the Monts de Blond. There’s old paint on the road from the 2007 “Tour du Limousin” pro’ bike race. I remember spending a happy afternoon watching that with Carla.

At Blond I turn right for Cieux. It’s a long climb back up over the Monts, not steep, just long. As I climb I pass other landmarks that remind me of races or rides that I’ve done. I’ve been in France full-time for two years now. That’s a lot of riding.

Along the top there are pear trees in full blossom. The bright pink against the blue sky and verdant green of the hills is beautiful. The road turns downhill now. Some fast sweeping bends with a vista over the sparkling lakes near Cieux. I glance at my watch. The spell is broken. I have two and a half hours on the clock, I told Carla I’d be three. Time to up the pace for home.

Cieux to Javerdat is a tough road. It’s a ‘rural’ surface with some tough ramps. I keep it in the big ring and power up them. My legs sting. Through Javerdat where the road is blocked by the bread van and a couple of dogs waiting for their owner who’s buying bread. I slow down a moment. The next section is fast. It’d be great if a moped would come along now so that I could try and get it’s wheel, but nothing.

Into St Junien, the traffic quite heavy as I race down through the town. I can see a cyclist ahead. He’s moving quite quick. He gets held up at the lights. It’s James from the ROCC. We exchange greetings. He tells me “J’ai été dans les Monts de Blond aujourd’hui. Il est très beau là-bas”. I agree 😉

A fast moving bunch…

Fast moving bunch
There’s a fast moving bunch of around thirty cyclists bowling along effortlessly on deserted country lanes of rural France. It’s a beautiful warm spring day. They chat about nothing in particular, everything in general. There are carpets of spring flower along the verges, and early blossom on the trees. This is the Wednesday afternoon ride out first half.

Same scene some three hours later. Now the bunch are moving much quicker. The legs are doing the talking now. The strong men have moved to the front and are taking it in turns to tow the bunch along. On the long drags the pace picks up even higher. Those who cannot hang on any longer are dropped. Inside the last five kilometers to home, just eight riders left.

A fantastic afternoon training with the FFC club riders from North Limoges. I really enjoy these workouts, they’re tough. Whooshing along in a hardworking bunch of cyclists mixing pain with adrenaline…… and after? a jam and banana sandwich with fizzy water. Awesome.

Wednesday afternoon training with the FFC

So, it’s Wednesday afternoon, and I’m on my way to meet Eric and Max at St Brice, then we’re gonna ride the 25km up to Couzeix to either ‘kick ass’, or ‘get ass kicked’ on the Limoges clubs training bash. Yep, every Wednesday afternoon riders from clubs on the North side of Limoges get together to ‘get it on’. Mostly riders who race FFC. These guys are serious!

I’m not feeling too confident today, and on the way there I’m happy to let young Max do most of the work while I save myself. My confidence sinks even lower when we arrive at the meeting place. There must be at least 60 riders, easily enough to make a race. There’s a few old duffers like me, but some of them look like pro’s, young guys with highlights in their perfect hair, on the latest bikes, full team kit. They look fast standing still.

We set off at 2pm sharp. I automatically shift into survival mode, and get right down near the front, it’ll be easier and safer there. The pace is easy, I’m OK. I see a few riders I know, manoeuvre alongside, shake hands, exchange greetings, enquire about form. Nobody admits to having any. 😉

Right on the front I spot Stephane from the Nieul. Seen him in action loads of times, a stylish courageous rider who’ll never give in. Saw him win the Departmentals last year. Attacked almost from the gun in the poring rain. Rode the whole race off the front. Almost collapsed when he crossed the line. He’s tough, and serious. Recently back from a training camp in Spain. He’s also an expert crashmeister like me. Can’t understand why he doesn’t wear a helmet.

I don’t know where we’re going to day, but we start off through Veyrac, then Oradour sur Glane. Maybe we’re going over the Monts de Blond. I hope so, and I hope not in equal amounts. I hope so because it’s beautiful, and I hope not because there’s some climbs that will blow the group apart.

We don’t turn for the Monts, instead we go straight on for Montrollet. The pace has been very sensible up to now, but after we cross the St Junien – Bellac road someone flicks a switch, and now we’re flying. I’m so glad I stayed near the front. We’re really motoring along, there’s a group of six driving.

Things calm down a little, and we settle into brisk rather than balls out. Through Bussiere-Boffy, Nouic, then back towards Mortemart. Now, we’re on our way home, direction Blond, but whichever way we go there’s gonna be some climbing. There’s some new faces at the front, and they’re starting to push the pace.

There’s a long drag on the road to Vaulry, we’re on it, it’s tough, riders are going backwards. Over the top, a quick glance around, the once tight bunch has been stretched out. There’s some regrouping on the descent. On to the next climb, this one is a bit steeper, as it starts to bite I get as close to the front as I can. The pressure goes on, perceived effort rating where I’m sat is 9/10. It’s tough. Last 100metres to the top, there’s a bit of a surge, ouch…….. and there’s no let up! Double ouch!

A quick glance around, there’s only about 15 riders here, and so it continues, and each drag, climb, or slight rise in the road the screw is turned a little tighter. I’ve gone from knowing roughly where we are to not having a clue. I’m too busy surviving. Another climb, the pressure goes on, not far to the top, almost there, we turn a corner, and the road goes up again. Cracks are starting to appear, I’m fourth in line on the wheel of Stephane. The leading rider kicks and takes number two with him, a small gap appears. 50metres to the top Stephane lifts the pace to join them, I’m 10 metres off his wheel. Behind me, there’s nobody. I really, really, don’t want to be dropped here. Over the crest and onto the downhill I get the bike moving. The three in front freewheel on the descent, I keep pedaling, and I just get onto the back as we hit the next ramp. Luckily for me this one is short.

I know where we are now. We’re on the road from Thouron towards Limoges. I’ve ridden this road a few times. I should be OK, there’s just one more climb to make. We’re hammering along, I’m hanging in there, still on the wheel of Stephane. Assuming he’s on normal gearing he’s shoving 52*12. This is the hardest I’ve ridden for a long time. On to the last climb, it’s not as steep as I remember it, which is good, but we hardly even change gear or tempo, which is bad. C’mon legs don’t desert me now. The leading rider jumps out of the saddle, and as if synchronized we all do. One last effort, it’s agony!

They sit up. That’s it. Job done. I made it. Yeah, I know it’s not a race, and I know that even if it had of been I wouldn’t have made the podium, but I’m ecstatic mate. All those riders who set out, and just four left, and I’m one of them. Yeah, I know I didn’t do any work, and just hung on, but don’t spoil it for me!!! As we roll back towards Limoges in the late afternoon sun I’m feeling pleased. All I gotta do now is ride home.

Almost home, I’m running on empty, and I’ve got more than 5 hours in the saddle. It crosses my mind to text Carla to come and rescue me. Nah, that’d be soft. 🙂

Fish’n’Chips and strong lager

As soon as I woke up I knew it was gonna be a good day. I just felt so good, so energized. Started off by throwing 3cubic meters of wood into the back of my van, driving 40kms then throwing it out again. Wood delivery complete, I drove home for lunch.

It’s Saturday, the sun is shining, the roads are dry, it’s roadie training with the Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo (ROCC). We meet outside the chateau at 13:30, there’s a good turn out of around thirty riders. Normal routine is to take the first few kms steady. I find I’m struggling to hold myself back. I just wanna get on with it.

On the long climb into Pressignac I’m still in the big ring, it feels effortless. Maybe it’s because I’ve been slogging around on Big Bird all week. I dunno, but my road bike feels so light and fast, like a toy.

At last the pace picks up a little. Young SuperMax is turning the screw. Now it’s tougher, but I’m still OK. We’re on a long drag, and as we climb I can hear riders crashing down through the gears as they explode. When we get to the top I look around to see who’s there. Nobody, all gone, I’m surprised.

A similar pattern continues. I can’t believe how well I’m going, and how good I feel. If I could sing, I’d burst into song!!! Another long drag, another test, SuperMax turning the screw again, really turning the screw. I’m glued to his back wheel as he continues to pile on the pressure. Now I’m down to taking 10 pedal turns at a time. Stick it out for 10 pedal turns and if I’m still in contact, stick it out for 10 more. About 100metres to go to the top. I almost run in Max’s back wheel I’m that close. I dunno if he’s overcooked it or not, but I jump past. Maybe he was being kind. He congratulates me on riding well.

A couple of hours later, we’re almost home, I feel as good as when we set out. On my own now for the last few kms. I sprint the last climb like my life depended on it. Now I shift down for an easy spin warm down. As I ride along I’m trying to understand where today came from, why I felt so good, what I could put it down to. Fish’n’Chips and strong lager. Yep, that’s what I had last night, slept like a baby woke up feeling like 10 men.

Fish’n’Chips and strong lager, it’s what I always used to have the night before a big race. See I used to travel all over the country to race. Rather than go to a dodgy restaurant I figured that Fish’n’Chips was the safer option. It’s sterile, ‘cos it’s cooked in boiling oil, and if it’s not too greasy and you don’t eat the batter on the fish, it’s fairly nutritious. Back at the B’n’B a can of strong lager was always enough to put me into a deep ‘sleep like a baby’ sleep, and I’d wake up feeling fresh and ready to go. So, I reckon that’s what happened. My body remembered those heady racey days and went into race mode. 🙂

Try it, it might work for you!