First race of the season – The Mountainbike season here in France runs from September to September. So far there’s only been one competitive event, and that was the Chrono (MTB time trial), at Panazol. So this’ll be the first chance to see who’s hot and who’s not. It’s 45kms, one big loop, ridden as seen.
Let me set the scene – I’m still on my way up form wise. Nowhere near as fit, or light, as I was when I broke my collarbone in June. I’ve been struggling this week. Sometimes when I overdo it some of the muscles around my good/bad shoulder get really stiff. From Wednesday onward I’m ramrod stiff, and despite the team masseuse doing her best, and me topping up with anti-inflammatories it just won’t let go. During the night before the race I wake up many times uncomfortable. I decide not to race as the outcome is bound to be a negative one.
On the day – We are up early and on our way. It’s a cold crisp morning. Carla is racing, I’m just doing the rando. At the race site, in the bustle of activity, I go into auto pilot…. sign on, number on bike, warm up, and as if by magic, I’m on the front row of the grid, the starter is counting us down from 5, we’re away on 3. There’s some pushing and shoving as we funnel into the first trail. I’m sitting just near the back of the lead group, we’re going fast!!!
On the first climb, I pass a few, a few pass me. It’s tough, and I don’t feel good at all. I’m starting to lose ground. Some of my Veteran B rivals come past Jean-Claude Sansonnet (Nantiat), Marcel Buisson (Nantiat), Dominique Vrignaud (EC Ambazac), Jean Luc Gromet (Beauvallet). This is going horribly wrong.
When you’re going backwards and you feel like sh*t it’s easy to back off, you need a strategy. Here’s what I do…
Stay calm, stay focused, stick to the task. I tell myself that’s what I’m doing (self talk?). Often, when I’ve been going really well I’ll have a tune going round and round in my head. Not always the same tune, but one tune that’s worked for me on many an occasion is Kylie’s ‘Can’t get you out of my head‘!. Not the whole song, just the “La la la, la la la la la, la la la” bit. I call on Kylie voodoo to help me out, I focus on what I’m doing, and push on.
I seem to be going OK on the descents, and I’m gaining on Jean Luc. There’s a tricky section with big rocks as we drop onto a road. Jean Luc over cooks it and crashes. He’s OK, it’s a low speed tumble. I squeeze by. On the tarmac now, chasing to get the wheel of Marcel. I catch him as we go off-road. It’s Marcel who’s set the circuit. He knows every twist and turn of these trails, and it shows. Firing into blind bends at the perfect speed and line for the exit. I put my faith in Marcel and follow as tight as I can.
We catch Jean Claude! As we pass I ask him if he’s OK. He says he cannot breathe, the air is so cold. Onto big wide tracks now heading in the direction of Lac St Pardoux. Jean Marc Restoin (AS St Junien) arrives. He’s a strong roadie and on the open trails he’s going like a train. Only thing is, he’s towed Jean Claude back up!
Marcel has dropped off, we’ve caught Dominique. Jean Marc is doing the lions share of the work, and the kilometers are flying by. As we get into the narrow technical stuff JC thanks Jean Marc by diving in front of him. Down a rocky descent Jean Marc struggles, Dominique and I give chase.
On the twisty singletrack by the lake (St Pardoux), JC on the front, me glued to his wheel, Dominique glued to mine. It’s quick, but not desperate. I glance at my watch, one hour done, I reckon we’re halfway. Turning away from the lake, climbing what seems like a forever climb JC edges ever so slowly away. I try to go after him and get rid of Dominique, I can’t. Dominique tries to get rid of me, he can’t. JC stays in sight, just up ahead.
Almost two hours on the clock, and I’m really struggling, I’ve had enough, I’m looking for the finish. There’s a sharp right, and a granny ring climb, I hear Dominique miss his gears, I kick hard. I can hear the PA system announcing riders home. The finish can only be just around the corner. Dominique is back. I recognize where we are. A short twisty 500metres to go. I give it my all, and as we drop out onto the short finishing straight I sprint. No one comes past.
Wrap up – So, seeing as how I wasn’t gonna race. It didn’t actually turn out too bad. I’m second Vet B around a minute and a half down on JC (who’s been going extremely well). I’m 14th scratch out of 106 finishers, again, no too bad. I’m exhausted, it’s been a tough one.
Thanks to the Nantiat club who hosted the race, and Marcel for a superb circuit (course). Thanks to my fellow racers for a great workout, and thanks to Kylie – “La la la, la la la la la, la la la”. 🙂
BTW – Carla came 4th in the ladies race.
A copy results in Excel is here.