Tour of the Megalithes – Monts De Blond

Spotted a poster for this VTT Randonnee on the door at Cycles-Pineau. At last, a VTT event that was on locally while we were around, we had to do it. On the day we were up early, and on our way to the start in the small village of Javerdat, not really sure what to expect. We were in for one great day out!

The village was teeming with cyclists, all sorts and ages, from youngsters to fat old blokes in denim look Carerra tights (straight out of the 80’s). From serious racer looking types to family groups, there really was a full spectrum of riders. We were not sure if there was a massed start, and by 5 past the official start time we decided that there wasn’t and headed off. I was following the blue 42km markers, Carla was following the red 30km markers, athough both routes followed yellow markers in places, they were for all riders. Sounded a bit complicated when it was explaned to us, but in reality it was very easy. Where routes split there were bigger than usual markers, and road crossings were marshalled.

I’d started with knee warmers, arm warmers, gloves, and buff, but it wasn’t long before I had warmed through. The had sun started to warm the air, it was turning into a glorious autumn day. I don’t know if it was the magic of the moment, but it felt great. The trails were some of the best I have ridden anywhere. Whooping singletrack hillside shelves, rockstrewn descents, switchbacks, the lot, even the odd farm yard or two.

After an hour or so I was thinking that I should eat some of the food I was carrying with me. No need! just around the next corner was a food station! Tables of food for the riders, with just about anything and everything a cyclist might want as a mid-ride snack. There were even bottles of wine!!! I took some briosch, a banana, and a cup of water.

As I set off again I bumped into one of the engines from yesterday’s ride with the ROC. We shook hands and exchanged greetings. We rode along together for a while, and for a rider who prefers riding road to off-road he was damn skillful, and very strong.

With just over two hours done, a fit looking rider on a full sus came past me like the finish was just around the next corner. Flicking his bike through the rooty sections, and pedalling hard through the wide turns, he was stylish and strong, and then….we arrived at the finish. 42km in just over two hours, could it be?

Back into the village, and the tables that had the breakfast stuff on now had lunch stuff on! Didn’t need to bring those sanwiches with us after all then. Past the bike wash, and the signs for the showers, back to the van. Carla was already there, she’d had a bit of a disaster of a ride, with multiple punctures, shed fixed one of the punctures with insulation tape! She’d done 30km, by doing the 15km route twice. We both agreed that the trails had been fantastic, and resolved to visit the area again when we could.
Still buzzing from the ride, I pursuaded Carla to take the van home while I rode. I slapped some lube on my chain, and I was away. Floating along on the smooth tarmac, in the sun, with a great ride under my belt, I doesn’t get much better than this. What a gift of a day.

ROC’n’Roll in Rochechouart

The ROC, or Rochechouart Olympic Cycling Club has it’s weekly ride out on Saturday afternoon, starting at 14:00hrs from the Chateaux. I’ve known this for some time, but this Saturday was my first chance to ride with them, and the first chance for me to ride with others on my new Spesh Roubaix.

It was a lovely autumn day, and I arrived at the Chateaux 10mins early to find that there were already around 20 riders there. Now, every rider must shake the hand of every other rider there, it doesn’t have to be the right hand, because you might be holding your bike with your right, but whichever had is closest or more convenient. As more riders arrived the handshaking and greetings intensified. The Church bells rang, and the ride began, handshaking continued as we rode out of town. Now about 40 riders strong, and most of the riders in the clubs blue and red kit. Now get this, as we snaked out of town on the main road towards Vayres the drivers of cars, vans, whatever seemed pleased to see us!!!! Gave us room, and time, and waved, and smiled!

We were all sorts of ages, sizes, styles, and the first few kms were very sedate. With the planned route for the day at 90kms I wondered if we would be back before dark. Then as we hit the start of the climb into Vayres four of the younger lads jumped up the road. I couldn’t stop myself, I jumped after them. My legs stung, but it felt great. As we approached the road sign for the village one of the lads jumped again, the others jumped after him. I was just dangling off the back as we crested the hill breathing very hard. That was the longest hardest effort I’d made on a road bike in a long time.

We continued along the main road at quite a pace, with repeated attacks, just for fun. At St-Mathieu we stopped and waited for the arrival of the whole group. The pace of the main group had lifted now, and seemed to have slimmed down in size. The next 40kms or so were fantastic. Bowling along on superb quiet roads with all riders tapping through to contribute to the pace. One of the riders told me that shortly we would be crossing the highest point in the Charente. As we started to trend downhill some of the engines came to the front and strung the group out. We hammered down the silk smooth road, my top gear of 50*12 only just enough.

At Vernieul we turned off the main road to ride through the lanes toward Chabanais. The pace slowed a little, just two or three of the engines keeping it moving, I tried to be one of them, but I was feeling a little tired, and I knew it was a stinker of a climb up out of Chabanais to the finish. The slower pace allowed a little chatting. As I stuggled with the French language I hardly noticed the kilometers passing by until one of the young lads who had instigated the original attack on the first climb of the day went up the road. We were almost home already.
Through Chassenon we started to catch some of the slower riders, who must have taken a shorter route. As we rolled into Rochechouart we had exactly 90kms on the clock. It had been a great ride, with a great bunch of riders. I had got exactly what I wanted from the ride, and it seemed to me that everyone else had to. I hope to be able to ride’n’roll with the ROC again soon.