Paying the price of good form

The midweek training bash with the ROCC started of OK, yes it was cold, at around 4 degress, but OK. We rode down through Chabanais, and enjoyed 500 metres of the awful river crossing main road, choked with logging trucks going to the paper mill along what I call ‘the road to hell’. Within a couple of minutes we’re back out of town on deserted roads. It’s cold today, and we’re pushing on to keep warm.

Training on a cold wet day
At Lesterps a light rain starts to fall, the pace picks up. With Oradour sur Glane still 25kms away the light rain becomes a steady drizzle. All banter has stopped, and we work hard together to get the job done, this is training, you can’t just go home when you feel like it.

Oradour behind us we climb towards La Barre, the roads are soaked now, and water sprays up off our wheels, my fingers are numb. The descent towards St Victurnien is a long one, by the time we re-cross the river I’m feeling cold. My hands are numb. I’m glad to be climbing again and I work hard to generate some warmth. By the time we get to Cognac le Foret I’m fine apart from my hands.

Only 10km left to do, it’s raining heavily now, we’re motoring. It’s cold, wet, and tough. As I roll into home I have over four hours on the clock. This is the price of good form. Dripping wet I strip off in the garage. A quick shower, some warm clothes, and a cup of hot tea with a dash of whisky in it.

ROCC rideout

The warmth of the sun has brought them all out. Best bikes, best wheels, best shades. Looking around the group it’s like those who are on steel or aluminium are the minority. There’s carbon everywhere, a couple of riders are sporting carbon wheels. With all the best bling out I’m hoping for a blast of a bash. By the way, I’m ashamed to say my bike is not looking it’s best. I haven’t washed it in a fornight, it’s filthy.

Off we go along the valley road towards St Laurent. We’ve only gone about 3kms and I realising that I’m overdressed, I remove my skull cap, not enough, I remove my neck warmer, and gloves. My pockets are full now, so I festoon my handlebars with neckwarmer and gloves. I stop to tie them on tight, I don’t want them dropping into my wheel, or anyone elses!

ROCC rural rideout

On the rolling climbs towards St Auvent a few splits appear as Maxime and Jean-Francois sprint each other for crests. It looks like fun, I go to join in. They’re young blokes, I can’t match them, but I can have a good go. Through St Auvent, then right towards St Cyr, we cross the river then start the climb out of the valley, it’s probably about 1km to the village, Jean-Francois is on the front working hard. Max comes flying by, Jean-Francois clangs up a couple of gears and gives chase, I’m chewing on my handlebars trying to hang on.

We stop at St Cyr to regroup, riders arrive in twos and threes some look like they’ve been trying hard. All back together we’re off towards Cognac le Foret. Steadily climbing up through Vedeix, the sun on our backs, it’s a corker of a day. From Cognac it’s mostly downhill all the way to St Victurnien. It’s a super sweeping roller-coaster of a road, and by the time we reach St Vic we’re flying. Crossing the river Vienne we swing left towards St Junien, and this is where the real action starts, I dunno why, or who said it should, or who or how it’s decided, it just does.

Maybe its because we’ve turned onto the circuit that is used for the St Junien road race, and the racers among the group get a surge of adrenalin, or summat, but now the pace is high, and there’s no let up. Whatever happened to tempo base training? It’s like a race, by the time we reach St Junien there’s 5 off us. Back over the river Vienne and onto the climb out of the valley once more. Maxime and Jean-Francois are dishing it out again. I chase after them, I’m being shadowed, but can’t see who it is. Max is coming back to us, Jean-Francois goes again, as we reach the top of the climb my shadow comes flying by. “Merci pour le taxi Steve”, says Eric.

We’ve almost completed the 70km circuit as described in the ROCC’s ride calendar, but we decide to add another loop on to bring us closer to 100k, and of course everyone is up for it. I’m quite tired by now, not that I’d admit it 🙂

Jean-Francois is still pushing the pace, we’re going up a long drag, all of a sudden I’m suffering, i’m starting at the block of the bike in front of me, sitting tight on the wheel waiting for the pain to end. Now I’m training. This was exactly what I wanted. 🙂

Friday Quiz!

Right, can you name these three very famous cyclists? Score one point for each one you get right…
Three Coustards
Once you have the names you can get extra points if you can give a reason why each one is an ‘odd one out’ from the other two.

Update and answers РThe famous cyclists are, left to right, Raymond Poulidor, Andr̩ Dufraisse, Eddy Mercx.

For odd one out you could have said…
Eddy Mercx – he’s Belgian, the other two are French.
André Dufraisse – he’s a cyclo-cross rider the other two are roadies.
Raymond Poulidor – he’s the only one of the three that didn’t win a world championship.

The thing that brings all three of them together in this picture is the L’Echappe Belle cyclo-sportive held here in the Limousin.

Learning French – Getting the Miles in…

There can be no nicer way of seeing France than from the saddle of a bike, and there can be no better way of learning French than swapping banter in a bunch of French cyclists. Well that’s how it felt yesterday when I joined the Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo on their wednesday afternoon training bash.

Rochechouart Cycling club Wednesday training bashWednesday afternoon training bash? Yes, I’m sure the whole of France stops on a Wednesday afternoon for cycling. About 10 riders showed up at the Plan d’ Eau for the 1:30pm start. Within a few minutes of handshaking and greeting the route had been decided on and we were on our way. Did I mention it was a beautiful sunny day with a bright blue sky? It was 🙂

Rochechouart > St Mathieu > Montbron > L’Arbe > Massignac > Rochechouart. A straightforward route on main roads that would take us over the highest point of the Charente. The pace was effortless brisk as we bowled along chatting about all the usual things that cyclists chat about, bikes, rides, races, the stock exchange! I listen hard, and join in when I can. It’s great practice for me, as it’s the more or less the same stuff we talk about every time.

After a couple of hours we’re on top of the col at Chatain Besson, a high point of the ride. It’s not alpine by any means, but huge rolling hills under a massive sky. Not steep at all, a relentless middle of the block climb of around 7km. Looking out at the panorama it’s green as far as the eye can see, no big towns or cities, just the odd village or farm, just the odd church spire or water tower.

Through Montbron, we swing right, heading for home. All the way up to Massignac and beyond the road surface is super smooth, and traffic free, we glide along. We see a couple of groups of cyclist heading the other way “Salut”…..

As we get closer to home the pace pics up, the chat stops, we sprint for village signs, for fun. Down the last few kms we’re motoring. Down the last descent back into Rochechouart we’re racing, for fun. Up through the town riders start to peel off, “a bientot, a prochaine….” By the top of the town there’s just Eric and me. Eric lives just across the valley from me. We ride the 10km home together.

With 4 hours of riding done. I’m tired, and could murder a can of beer, but I haven’t got any. I put my bike away and shower, while Carla pops into town for a couple of tins.
I love riding my bike, and I love that woman! 🙂

Monday recovery ride with a French tart

A french lady cyclistNo, not that sort of tart! Just an excuse to post gratuitous pictures really…… No, usually, of a Monday I ride Big Bird down to the Boulangers in Rochechouart and treat myself to a sticky tart, then I ride back, tart in rucksack, before enjoying a few minutes of self indulgence with the tart and strong fresh black coffee. This Monday was just such a day.

Anyway, who should I happen to meet in town, but international motorcycle enduro rider PK Cheetham. Now, PK has ridden with the best on a motorbike, and I reckon he’d love MTB’s if he’d just give them a try, but try as I might, I cannot get him to pop his MTB cherry. I try tricking him, “feel how supple the suspension is on Big Bird”, I say. I pick her up and drop her, she sticks dead as a dead thing, not a sign of rebound. “She’ll never buck you, here try for yourself”, I say and push Big Bird towards him. He pumps the suspension a little, “very nice”, he says. “Marzocchis!”, I say, knowing he’ll be impressed. “Where’s the engine? where’s the start button?”. If he’d just try her once, I know he’d be hooked. Any ideas how I can get him to give it a go?

Tart in rucksack I head for home. My legs are tired from the weekends efforts, I spin an easy gear. The real tart? She’s a beauty. Betcha can almost smell the coffee 🙂
A delicious French tart

VTT Randonnee des Petites Forets – Saint Priest Sous Aixe

At last, the rain had stopped, and a sunny day is forecast. It still gonna be a bit mucky, but judging by the number of riders that show up to ride the 15th edition of the ‘Randonnée des Petites Forets’, nobody cares.

We had a light breakfast before we set off, then another breafast at sign-on. The ‘Grand Depart’ was any time you like between 08:45 and 09:00 which meant that by 08:40 most had departed. Strange how the randos always seem to start early, but the races always seem to start late. So, we’re in a ‘beaucoup de traffic’ situation. Carla and I are both riding the 36km circuit today. I’m suffering from ‘dog off the leash’ syndrome, so we wish each other a safe ride, and I take off.
At the second ravitalment
The sun is up, and things are warming up nicely. The trails range from rocky super fast blast along to six inches deep super gloop think I might get off and run. There’s many a comedy moment along the way, and thanks heavens some of those electric fences that we’re veering towards aren’t turned on.

I’m looking for some of the riders I know. At the first ravito (food stop) I quicky scan to see who’s there, and ride on. A few minutes later I catch up with Eric, my friend and training buddy from the Rochechouart club. He’s riding brisk steady, and we ride together to the second ravito. We take a 5 minute break, and I use the time to wash my chain off and re-lube it from the little bottle of lube that I always carry on wet rides.

I’m keen to get going again, especially as i’ve just seen Jean-Claude Sansonnet go through. The trail sections now are superb, and I just can’t stop myself, I love goin’ fast on my bike, and I’m hammering like a nutter. Jean-Claude must be goin’ quick too because kilometre after kilometre go by and there’s no sign of him.

Jean-Claude Sansonnet avec punctureDown a rocky desent where the recent rain has washed the rocks clean, then the dirty VTTs have smeared it in a thin film of mud. Using the random line method, on the verge of control, almost over the verge of the trail, sliding around the corner, there is Jean-Claude. He’s punctured! I stop to commiserate 😉 he pulls out the old snake bitten tube and starts to fit the new one. Now, he might have been on the podium nine times in the departmental championships, but today…….. his tube wont fit! He has a presta sized hole in his rim, but he’s got a schrader tube! Doh!

Riders come and go, but nobody, it seems, has a spare tube that they can loan him. I’m not carrying a tube as I’m running tubeless (yeah I know the risk). Eric arrives and offers Jean-Claude a cannister containing latex to use on his old tube, but the snake bite looks to large. In the end we wish Jean-Claude a ‘bon marche’, and leave him! 😉

Carla, a little tired after the hard circuitI ride the last few kms with Eric. We’re home in just over two hours, it’s been a good workout over a tough circuit. We roll down to the bike wash in the village. A rack of about 8 hoses have been set up off the fire hydrant. It’s sunny and warn enough now for some good natured accidental soakings as riders wash their bikes. Back at the van I’m thinking about Carla, she’s gonna be very tired after that loop, just as i’m thinking about her she arrives. She’s telling me about her ride, a few swear words are creeping in, I can tell she’s enjoyed it, but now she’s shagged! 🙂

Quelque soit le temps training

My aged Polar HRM - My wife bought it me in 1993!… and still it rains! After yesterdays turbo session I really couldn’t face another one, so I took my dirtiest bike for a training wash. Stuck my aged Polar on the bars, wrapped in cling-film. I dunno why really, I just did.

Ah yes, it’s good to be out. Up through the woods the ground is very very wet, and what was the main trail is now a little stream. By the top of the woods my glasses have turned into blinds so I relegate them to the back of my head. Out onto the lanes and onwards towards…. erm, well I don’t know really, ain’t got a route planned, just see what happens.

Down the main road towards St Cyr, left at the bottom of the climb, up through a tiny hamlet, then left off-road. It’s wet, but not cold. I stop for a pee. I’m steaming almost as much as the piss! 🙂 After a while I think i’ve finished peeing, it’s hard to tell. It’s me age!

Climbing up the trail there’s plenty of grip, and I’m making good progress. Back onto the tarmac I’m heading towards Cognac le Foret. I climb up past the aviation masts. There’s no view today. Then take the road that runs along the far side of the hills back towards St Cyr. The rain eases a little, and the sky looks a little brighter. Hey, maybe the rain will stop, and I’ll dry out before I get home.

Back through St Cyr and on towards St Auvent where I’m planning on riding down the pavée section. Onto the pavée, it’s steep, wet, and covered in leaves, but actually it’s not too bad. I make it to the bottom with hardly a slip. At the footbridge I stop for a minute to look at the raging river. Next little challenge is the granny ring climb up towards the L’Age turning. Yes, the same one I like to rattle down when I’m going the other direction. There’s some tricky steps halfway up. I just about manage them though I do have a foot out of pedal moment.

Along the dirt road back into L’Age there’s a French gate (length of string) blocking my way. A farmer is herding some cattle out of a field. His dog comes and says hello, he’s nice. As the cattle move on down the track the farmer collects his gate and gets on his ancient peugot bike to follow them. He sees me, looks up at the sky and gestures in a WTFs with this weather manner… we both laugh and continue on our way.

Last climb out of the valley, almost home. I pass the post that I use as my sprint marker and jump out of the saddle for the usual 15 pedal turn sprint. My shoes squelch, and water wrings out of my gloves. It’s been a wet ride.

Tedious tiresome turbo training

Turbo trainingWednesday’s apre-midi session with the ROCC didn’t happen due to persistant pissing down and high winds. I took a day off the bike! Thursday started of dry, but by the time I’d had a pre-ride brew it was already raining. Only one thing for it, a turbo session.

I just detest turbo training. 5 minutes lasts an hour, and the harder you work, the longer it lasts. But, it does the training trick, and I’m desperate, so I did it. One hour working at a solid level 2 (heart rate around 150bpm).

I used to do quite a lot of turbo sessions at one time. I had a musicians metronome to keep cadence, and a heart rate monitor. Yep, even used to record my heart rate, plot a graph, and stick it in my training diary. Got to the point where I knew what gear and cadence would produce what heart rate, give or take a few beats.

With my 5 minute warm up under my belt I was on my way. Got a nice suprise to find that my natural cadence is quicker than it used to be. Got a bleedin’ shock to find out how hard I had to work to maintain 150bpm on the HRM. Daydreamed a bit, found that when I was thinking about upcoming races I worked harder and my heart rate went up – obvious I suppose.

With one hour done, soaked in sweat, I climbed off, and I’m thinking to myself…. wasn’t so bad was it? might do another one tomorrow NOT!

He wants her to be one of his girls ‘e does

Théodore Molina, el presidentéWho does? Théodore Molina, the president of the Cyclo Club Beauvallet that’s who does. He’s been after Carla for some time now. Even taken to giving her gifts!

Why? Well, first of all, Carla’s no slouch on a bike, she’s been on the podium in XC races before, and has the potential to do it again if she choses. Théo might not know she has podium palmares, but he’s seen her ride, and can see she has class. Secondly, there doesn’t seem to be many lady riders mountainbiking out here in France. Any that do ride are treated like royalty. For example, once when we were out on the trails we came upon a group of walkers. They heard us approaching and were more than happy to let us through. I was leading at the time, I got a ‘bonjour’, and a smile. When they saw Carla, she got a cheer, a clap, and ‘bravo’. See what I mean?

If Théo could get Carla to wear his club’s jersey it would be good exposure for his club. Though I don’t think that publicity for his club is his main objective. I think it’s notoriety….. you know, Théo, the one with all the girls! 🙂

Seriously though, cycling in France is all about the blokes. Théodore’s is working hard to promote ‘girls’ cycling, and he should be applauded for doing so. Well done that man!

Beauvallet Club Cylo logoBy the way, the CC Beauvallet annual VTT rando, ‘Virée des Copains’ takes place on 3rd February. Starting at Thouron, with circuits of 40, 27, and 12kms on offer. Why not go along and see whose riding? As if you couldn’t guess 🙂