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.

National VTT Championships at Rodez

Imagine a 4 hour car journey through some of the most beautiful countryside in France in glorious sunshine, stopping for a picnic along the way.

Imagine arriving at the race site the evening before the race and kitting up for a couple of practice laps. Know that the weather has been good for months, and the ground is bone dry.

Imagine one of the best mountaibike race circuits you have ever seen. Now imagine one better! It’s was fantastic. A great start area that favours no side leading to some moorland with sweeping off-camber corners, bombholes, super fast straightaways, the lot…..also add in that the taping/marking out are superb allowing the rider to be creative with line. Follow that with 3 kms of superb roller-coaster singletrack that draws you on faster and faster. I was looking forward to racing this circuit so much. I went to bed imagining racing, and racing well.

Imagine being woken in the early hours of the morning to the sound of thunder and torrential rain! The rain continued throughout the night. By breakfast time it was still raining. I made my way from the excellent B&B back to the race site. I changed my tyres in the back of the van. The drop in temperature from the day before was incredible I was cold…..and still it rained.

With about half an hour to go the rain stopped. With twenty minutes to go we were gridded for the start. I was on the third row. Bang on time we were away. I got a good start, held my place up the first climb, passed quite a few riders over the moorland. It was wet. Diving down towards the single track was a little slippy, and then…three kilometres of singletrack on foot. The overnight rain had made it unrideable. A total nightmare. It was a procession, impossible to pass, difficult to even stand in places. Each lap it got worse. By the final lap the mud was like glue. If you tried to carry your bike you could hardly stand, and if you pushed your bike the wheels clogged up and wouldn’t turn.

I finished well down in the twenty somethings. I was not happy. My bike was in a real state. Drivechain and disc pads trashed. To add insult to injury the sun came out!!! Imagine how I felt.

Championnat Regional VTT

Yep, it’s the Limousin region mountainbike championships, and I’m invited to ride! I don’t have great form, though I am improving. I don’t have many race miles in my legs this season. But, I’m gonna go and do my best.

The race is at Beynac in the Correze at the Etang de Miel (Lake of Honey!). It’s a beautiful spot, and the weather is fabulous. The circuit is 7kms, fast, flowing, dry. I like it very much. I’m guessing between 20 to 25 minutes a lap, and we (vet Bs) are doing 4.
Regional VTT Champs. I'm gridded on the front line!
I’m gridded on the front line! I wasn’t expecting that. We’re going off together with the Vet As. I’m sure there’s some faster guys behind me. I’ve clocked all the Vet Bs on the front line, so I know who I’m tracking.
I get a great start, and as we leave the arena I’m on the wheel of the leading Vet B.

It’s very fast. Along the fast forest track in the dust over the rocks there’s riders everywhere scrambling to get the best wheel they can before we hit the tarmac section that will take us to the first real climb.

First place seems to be easing away, but no panic, I’m sat in a group containing 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. We’re moving quick. As we continue through lap one we change positions, but nobody makes a move. Onto lap two, a rider from the Correze kicks. I go after him. Now it’s hard, very hard. My throat is burning, I haven’t tried this hard in a while. By the end of lap two we are clear. I’m looking at a podium finish.
Regional VTT Champs - It was great to race in warm sunny weather!
Then, it all goes wrong! I seem to be going backwards. Dominique from the US Nantiat comes past, I can’t hold him. As we go out for the last lap I’m gone, and within the last 2kms I drop to 5th. I’m almost 5 minutes off the pace. Ouch! What a kicking! Thanks guys! 🙂

But, it was still a great day out, and still great to see a lot of racing buddies who I haven’t seen for a while.

1 GODOT FRANCIS VC GOUZON 01:23:20
2 REBEYRAT JEAN ACMO TONIC 01:25:44
3 VRIGNAUD DOMINIQUE US NANTIAT 01:26:06
4 STAMM ALAIN VC AUBUSSON 01:27:54
5 BENNETT STEPHEN ROC ROCHECHOUART 01:28:11


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

Mudguards

The picture below is a comp from a set taken by a photographer at “Les Gantiers” VTT Rando. The photographer was stood about 2 kilometers from the finish. So about 38 kilometers in. Now, which rider do you think is using a mudguard?
Guess who has a mudguard!
The trails have been a bit wet and mucky lately so I have fitted my THE Industries front mudguard. It’s a great bit of kit. It’s light, it’s easy to fit, it doesn’t mark your bike, and it does exactly what you need it to do, which is keep the muck out of your eyes. I reckon it’s the best front mudguard for XC racing out there. On the back I go for a Mr Crud Race Guard. Again, dead east to fit, and keeps your rear end dry and clean. It’s not very pleasant riding in wet shorts, and a constant spray of cold water onto your back can’t do much for the strong muscles in your lower back.
THE Industries front mudguard - the best there is.
Of course there are those who say that mudguards have no place on a mountainbike. They’ll be the ones struggling to wash mud out of their eyes while I’m enjoying a nice post rando cuppa!

Make a nice Christmas gift, some mudguards! 😉

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.

On the podium in the 18th Fréderic Mistral VTT Raid

On the podium in laFrederic Mistral 2009 - I won the Vet B category

One of the best races of the season. I’ve been looking forward to this one. A ‘full on’ mass start race. One big 42km loop. Raced as seen.

I love this race. It has everything. It’s tough, technical, some of the descents are tougher than some of the climbs, there’s some super fast stuff, and the scenery is beautiful!!!

Preparation for this race started months back with extra training rides in the area. A couple of weeks ago a group of us spent a happy afternoon on the trails pre-riding what we thought was the probable circuit.
A bunch of vets pre-riding the circuit for La Freceric Mistral!

Imagine my surprise then when we’re on the start line, and Antoine of the Guidon Bellachon announces that we’re racing a completely new circuit today!

The start – Counted down from 5 we’re away on 2 ish! A dash down the start field and back before turning onto the tarmac. I’m fully expecting to turn left, we turn right!!! 50 metres then left, for the first climb. Rocky, steep, but rideable, chaos, someone slips, and we’re all off and running. I’m well back in around 30th place.

Over the top and away. I’m managing to move up a couple of places here and there, it’s very tough, and very fast. With about 3 kms done we hit a section of pavé. Jean Claude Sansonnet comes by on my right. I need to keep him in sight.

Through the tiny hamlet of Le Charlet, and onto a wall of a climb. JC is piling the pressure on. By the top of the climb he only has a few seconds on me. On fast rocky trails now, I’m chasing hard, and there’s JC with his back tyre flat! It won’t take him long to fix it, I push on.

We hook up right, a short climb, and we’re on the top of the Monts de Blond. The trail leads along a ridge here, there’s big rocky steps, two riders ahead of me are on foot. I shout to them that I’m coming past. I’m desperate.

Complètement fou! – As we drop off the ridge, I’ve opened a gap on the riders behind me, and I cannot see the riders ahead. Something doesn’t seem right. There’s lots of tyre marks on the trail, but no arrows, or tape. I ease a touch. Right at that moment a bunch of around 20 riders comes towards me. We’ve all gone the wrong way!!! I’ve only lost a few seconds, but some of these riders must have lost a lot more. I make a U turn.

Now we’re back on track, but running into the back of riders who hadn’t gone wrong. The next few kilometres are a bit fraught to say the least. I have no way of knowing what my position is now, but I feel reasonably confident that I’m leading Vet B. There’s no choice but to keep pushing on.

Some of the trails we’re riding are brutal. Some of them I’ve seen before, and some of them are new to me. I keep thinking I know where we going, and then there’s a turning that I wasn’t expecting. I’m in a group of four riders, were going quick, I’m starting to suffer. My own words come back to haunt me…

Any fool can ride a bike when they’re feeling fine fresh and funky. But when you feel like sh*t, and someone’s turning the screw, that when it counts!

With 1 hr 45 mins on my watch I’m guessing that we have about 30 mins to go. We’re on a rocky descent, I can hear a rider behind me. He comes past. I recognise him. He’s the full-sus rider that was first home in the Mandragore earlier in the year. He looks old enough to be a vet, maybe even old enough to be a Vet B, like me. Just when I thought all I had to do was hang on for the finish, now I’m gonna have to raise my game.

I’m sat just off the back of the group trying to come up with a plan. We’re heading down the road towards the Frederic Mistral monument. It’s a run up. I suss that we must pass it, then descend down the far side to get home. I dismount early for the run up and stay to the right. By the top I have a few seconds gap. I didn’t really want to be first down the descent, but I jump back on and go for it. It fast, it’s loose, it’s steep, with some big drop offs, and some tight rutty corners. I make it to the bottom in one piece, still at the front.

A tricky stream crossing, I jump off and run it. I can hear shouting and swearing behind me, I don’t look back. Now a road crossing, then a steep ramp up a trail to the right. I lock my forks out and sprint it. It’s agony. A quick glance over my shoulder. The chasers are on the ramp.

I’m committed now. No fingers covering the brakes, I hold the bars tight and go for it. My S-Works hardtail comes to life, and I rattle over the rocks like a man possessed. We’re almost home, they’re taking us down the way we came out! Down the last rocky descent going for it. Sprinting across the finish field to the dead stop turn 50 metres from the line. There’s no one there. I’ve got it. I hope!!!

Wrap up – I’m 15th scratch, but first Vet B. Turns out that the late arrival was a Vet B. I managed to put one minute into him in that last dash. Not much, but enough.

JC fixed his puncture, but punctured again and had to abandon.

Many many thanks to all at Guidon Bellechon for another superb Fréderic Mistral.

Copy of the results here.

18éme Sentiers des Etangs – Nantiat

Specialized Stumpjumper S-Works HT I’ve been looking forward to this one…. It’s one big loop of 50 kms from Nantiat, up around Lac St Pardoux, and back. Ridden as seen, all I know is that there’s a tough climb around 3 kms from the finish. Marcel Buisson who set the circuit explained it to me, adding, “if you get to the top of that climb 10 seconds ahead that’s how you’ll finish!”.

I’ve put in a lot of hard work for this one. I know I’m going quite well. I’d like a little bit of luck – no punctures or mechanicals, and I’d like to get on terms with Jean Claude Sansonnet. Maybe I won’t beat him, but I’d like to let him know I was there.

The start – I’m suprisingly calm on the start line, and get away with no problems. Into the first chemin and the pace is frantic. There’s lots of young guns hammering past, as we hit the first climb there’s a lot of them coming backwards. I’m feeling pretty good, I can see JC about 5 places up in front. Out onto the tarmac I move up a couple of places. Onto the next chemin, another climb I move up another couple of places. Now I’m right on the wheel of JC. This is good.

The climb hardens up, there’s some loose rocks, JC misses a gear, now I’m in front of him. This isn’t quite so good. I try to move up a few more places. As the pressure goes on gaps start to appear. I manage to scramble onto the back of a group of riders on a tarmac section. We’re moving quick. I glance over my shoulder, there’s a good gap to the chasing group. The pace is tough, but manageable. The trails are bone dry, and fast.

Tour of Lac St Pardoux – In what seems like no time at all we’re firing down the super-fast trails to Lac St Pardoux. I’m still in more or less the same group, and I’m still clear of JC. In fact looking back on the long straightaways there’s no one in sight. The group is down to six now, and it’s Stéphane Bernard (Ambazac Sprinter Club) who’s doing the lion’s share of the work. Every now and then Fabien Souchaud (Guidon Bellachon) goes to the front and tries to ride away. I make the occasional contribution when I can. The trails around the lake are root strewn, rocky, twisty, total concentration is required so as not to catch a pedal, or clip a tree.

The run for home – As we make the run for home Fabien Souchaud has opened up a gap, Pierre Flauraud (Bonnac VTT) is trying to get across. Stéphane is still working hard. Tight on his wheel is Thierry Germaneau (Oradour su Glane AC), then me. We pass the 10 kms to go sign. Not far now. The pace quickens a little. On some of the wide open tracks I go through and make a contribution. Then Stéphane comes firing back through as if to say, “stay out of the way you daft old bugger!!!”.

There’s a sharp right, Thierry touches Stéphane’s wheel and goes down. I ease a touch to make sure he’s OK. He remounts and we chase Stéphane.

The last climb – There’s a short tarmac climb to a road crossing. I lock my forks out and climb roadie style. By the time I cross the road Thierry has dropped off. I’m wondering if maybe he’s a bit shaken from his crash. I cross the road, and onto the climb proper. The first section is incredibly steep. I get off and run. Big rocks, big roots, big steps. The gradient eases a little and I get back on. I can see Stéphane up ahead and I’m gaining on him slowly.

I pass Stéphane, and catch Pierre. By the top of the climb I’ve passed Pierre as well. It’s pretty much downhill all the way from here. Pierre comes past on the descent. That’s OK, I’m thinking I’m first Vet. Just before the last road crossing we catch Davy Baborier. He looks cooked, and makes no effort to hold us off.

We’re racing across the finish field like madmen. Suddenly Pierre brakes hard and puts his bike sideways. There’s a drainage ditch that can’t be seen until you’re almost on it. I brake hard as well. I’m glad I wasn’t on the front for that one.

I cross the line 8th scratch, and 1st Vet B, in fact 1st Vet. I’m very pleased with my ride. One of the first things I do is thank Stéphane Bernard for all his hard work. I owe him.

Stephane Bernard Ambazac Sprinter Club - Tireless engine!

The tireless Stéphane on his S-Works HT.

Wrap up – It turns out that today’s Vet podium is 40 yrs and over. Lucky for me then that Thierry dropped off the pace, as he’s 41. Meanwhile JC was well down. I spoke to him after, and he told me that almost from the start he felt rough. He’s had well over twenty victories this season, so he can afford an ‘off day’.

Many thanks to all at the U S Nantiat club for a totally superb event.

Here’s a copy of the results.

Some people…

Some people train hard, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after yeah, it’s tough. Some people race hard, go down, get straight back up, and have the scars to prove it. Come summer, winter rain or shine, you’ll find them working hard on the bike.

Carla on the front cover of the UFOLEP Magazine

On the other hand, some people don’t really train at all, and only ride when it suits them, when there’s not something else they’d rather be doing. Some people just flash a smile and get their face on the front cover of a sporting federation’s national magazine!

There’s two sorts of people in the world this month. Those with their picture on the front of a national magazine who ride for CC Beauvallet, and those who don’t. Where’s the justice eh? 🙂

Les Mégalithes – 16éme édition – VTT Rando

Les Megalithes - JaverdatLes Mégalithes, it’s the one where we started, the first Rando we ever did when we moved to France. Today was the fourth time I’ve ridden it, and it’s still one of my favourites.

42 kms around the western end of the Monts de Blond taking in some trails that I just love. There’s no “grand depart”, you’re free to start any time between 08:45 and 09:00. You ride at your own speed. It’s not a race. But on such a beautiful morning, on fast dry trails, riding my race bike, I can’t stop myself.

What is it about ‘Les Mégalithes’? Every time I’ve ridden it I’ve felt just great. For the first few kilometers I ride brisk, but steady. There’s some greeting and handshaking to be done. Then the pace picks up. On the first long climb, I’m breathing hard, and my legs are stinging. Feels great! On the first big descent, foot out, throwing some random shapes, I’m all over the place. Awesome.

In what seems like no time at all I’m hammering down the wide tracks back into Javerdat, in my biggest gear and mashing like a good ‘un. I rode it as hard as I’d race it, while still showing some courtesy to other riders. 42 kms blitzed out in 1:50. I’m euphoric! Just had my fix!

Many many thanks to A. C. Oradour-sur-Glane, and A. S. Saint-Junien Cyclo for a superb rando. As usual Les Mégalithes = Nickel!.

A big “Hello!!!!”, to Stephane of the Ambazac Sprinter Club, and Marco of the Saint Leger la Montagne. Haven’t seen you guys in a while. It was great to ride with you again.