Rochechouart Ride Out

It was one of those days when I didn’t want to faff around with a map. The sun was shinning, there was a light breeze. My plan was to ride upwind, then when I’d had enough turn around and ride home with a tailwind feeling like ten men.

I set off through the lanes to Rochechouart, descended down the back of the Chateaux, then on toward Babaudus. About a kilometer along I turned up a chemin for no reason other than I just did. The chemin climbed out of the valley in a middle-ring easy going sort of way, then across a road and on toward who knows where.

And so it was for the next couple of hours, I just rode along, in the warm sun, trending in the same direction, along fabulous tracks that just presented themselves one after the other like a gift, carpeted in spring flowers, not a care in the world, lost in the moment. However, with the realisation of being lost in the moment came the loss of the moment, and I found myself lost.

I had arrived at a huge lake, with a cafe, and a bar, and not a person there apart from mowerman. There were places launching saling boats, and signs that mentioned fishing, I wondered if the place ever got crowded, maybe in August, and how it survived the rest of the year. I spotted a path around the shore, I rode it.

By now my legs and hunger were telling me it was time to head home. As per plan, I turned to ride with the wind, noted where my shadow fell, and trended in that direction, it was that simple. Some time later, I grovelled my way back up the steep climb past the Chateaux with tired legs. On the run in along familiar roads I began to feel good. Maybe not like ten men, but certainly like a man who had enjoyed a gift of a day. Twenty minutes later I was back at home with a cool beer in the garden.

Back in the Ambazacs

It was around this time last year that I rode in the Ambazac mountains for the first time. Here’s what I thought of it then…

I spent the next three hours riding some of the most ball breaking trails I have ever ridden. Very tough around here. Yes there were some good bits, with fantastic views, but for the most part it was just too hard.

My second visit started off in much the same way, inasmuch as it had rained heavily in the days before, and just like last time, I dashed over there at the last minute to make the most of a ‘weather window’. Again, my guide was Paul Gibson, and again, he was pretty fit after a season of cyclo-cross.

The scene was set for suffering, but this time I really enjoyed it. It was just as hard, just as ball breaking, in fact some of the same route. I even had the same tyres on, probably pumped up to a similar pressure. Dudes, I probably even wore similar kit, as the weather was about the same. Only difference was that this time I rode a Stumpjumper hard tail. Last year I rode a Stumpjumper FSR.

The HT wasn’t the only reason I enjoyed it more this time though. I’m a little fitter this time, and a little more adept at dealing with the stony rocky stuff that riding in the Limousin throws up. We spent the whole afternoon riding rock, roots, leaves, wet grass, mud, and deep puddles along some fabulous trails. We were kept on our toes by the odd farm yard dog as we weaved our way along the mountainsides. We were treated to some stunning views, along with sunshine and showers. When we got back I had just enough strength to lift a glass of beer. “Cheers Paul!”.

I still think it’s bloody hard up there. You need to be fit to ride the Ambazacs, and they’d punish a careless rider, I reckon you could trash a pair of wheels every ride, but if you’re after a tough satisfying place to work on your fitness and hone your xc skills then I reckon the Ambazacs are superb. I’m looking forward to going again already, probably this weekend 🙂