Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo

In order to qualify for entry to the races I want to do in France this year I have to be a member of a French club, and hold a French licence. So, I joined the “Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo”, also known as the “R.O.C.C”, or in English, Rochechouart Olympic Cycling Club. They’re a friendly bunch, I know lots of them, and they’re willing to have me. They’re kit looks good too!
Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo or ROCC
Now, can anyone think of a reason I shouldn’t join them? 😉

There’s only one thing…erm, actually there’s two!

I was gonna write a post about the one thing that’s stopped me training properly lately. It takes a lot to keep me off my bike, and like most compulsive exercisers, I trend towards exercising to the detriment of my health. Luckliy I have my wife to stop me from overdoing it…..

… and then, what’d’ya know there’s actually two things!

First, the first, is some nasty hateful bacteria type thing that has taken charge of my bowels thereby turning me into a prisoner in my own home, on a short leash from the toilet. Three days of flush gut! Then just when things were getting hard, I stole a recce of the departmentals circuit to be rewarded with a chest infection. Volcanic toilet action replaced with hacking up of frogs.

I’ve been trying to make the most of it, looking on it as an opportunity! Taking some much needed rest, and doing a little strength work with my Compex. Currently (geddit?) it involves strapping myself into a chair then putting as much current through my legs as I can bear while at the same time trying to flex my quads!

I went to watch some of my friends racing in the Veyrac Vétathlon yesterday. Looked like fun, wish I could’a been one of them. Took some pictures if you fancy seeing what it’s all about. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking towards the Regionals, and I’m getting twichy (might be the Compex). The only riding I’m allowing myself is a daily cruise around the manor on my jump bike.
Cruising the manor on my Specialized P1 jump bike.

Recce of the circuit for the Departmental VTT Championships.

Reconnaître le circuit Championat Departmental!
Saint Leger La Montagne VTT-Rando-Club put out an invite as hosts of the upcoming championships to all riders wishing to take a look at their circuit. Can’t not go can I? So we loaded up the van, and set off for the mountains on a beautiful spring day.

The venue is at the ‘stade’ just below the village. It’s a beautiful spot set amongst the rolling hills north of Limoges. There’s quite a lot of riders turned out, and the host club has riders kitted up and ready to act as guides. There’s a guide who’s offering to take the faster riders round, and ‘cor blimey guv’, knock me down wiv a feather, it’s the mad bad ‘Epic’ rider I raced with at La Souterraine last year.
The ‘mad bad Epic rider’ at the top of the course
First lap – From the stade we’re into a straightforward sweeping trail with plenty of passing places. A short section of tarmac then we dive down left for 500 metres whoopy doopy before spilling out onto a bumpy slow field. Out of the field and onto a short granny ring sprint bank, some cyclo-cross style tech’ bits, now we’re on to the first climb proper. In fact, if you discount smaller banks and dips, it’s the only climb, and it’s a long one. Not steep, but tough with plenty of roots and boulders to test you.

At the top of the circuit we start to go downhill courtesty of the singletracks riders association. Yep, we’re going down their downhill course! There’s ‘huge gap’ jumps and ‘step down’, thankfully we don’t have to do those, though we do have some excellent sweeping switchbacks to ride.

Out of the trees into the open, a slight rise, then it’s pretty much downhill all the way to the finish about 3km away. Fast, open, rocky, fear inducing, all the way, and then, a final 200m granny ring grovel back to the stade. 9kms for the lap. I’ve no idea how long it took as my watch is broken. I’d like to know how long a quick lap would take, so I take a look at the time on Carla’s moby and set off.

Fast lap – Quite a few riders have set off for a ‘fast lap’, so I set off in chase. It’s not long before I’m into the back of them, and it’s great practice, looking for lines and passing places. About halfway up the main climb I come up behind the mad bad Epic rider. He senses that someone is behind him and ups the pace, so do I. At the top of the circuit he eases, “Allez, vite, a bloc, j’suivre!!!”, I shout in my ‘not very good’ french. He needs little encouragement.

Onto the downhill course, and in the singletrack switchbacks I’m holding him. Out onto the open trail he sprints away, I sprint after him, I’m right on his tail. Onto the rocky descent, I’m hoping to learn some lines, but he’s far too fast for me, dropping like a stone, he’s gone. There’s a half km drag with some stony steps. I catch him, he’s breathing hard, it’s gotta be good practice, and it’s great fun, I’m hammer past as fast as I can. I want to know how if it would be possible to hold off a fast descender on the run in.

I’m going damn quick, straight-lining, keeping the power on where I can. A short rocky drop, then a sharp left, I can hear an Epic right behind me. Onto the very last rise, I’m out of the saddle sprinting, he’s right on my wheel. I’m not gonna be able to hold him off, and I’d rather try and learn from him than be wiped out, so I wave him through.

As we dive downwards, where I’d been swinging to the right he stays tight left. I do the same, and it sets us up nicely for the off camber right. Drifting, my coach allows the edge of the trail to catch him like a berm, I do the same. The next 500 metres or so are straight forward, the we’re into some trickier stuff, now I’m losing contact. By the time I get to the final granny ring grovel he’s already half-way up. I chase hard, but I reckon I’m a good 10 metres off. We thanks each other for a fun lap. It took just 30minutes.

What the plan Stan? – It’s a tough circuit that’s for sure. In the dry, it’s gonna be fast and furious, in the wet, or even snow, I don’t want to think about it. The main problem I see is that there’s enough downhill on the run in to the finish that the race could be won or lost there. Bear in mind that I’ll be riding a hardtail, coupled with the fact that I don’t descend as well as I used to, I don’t think I can play a waiting game. There’s hardly anywhere on the circuit where riders can draft each other, so there’s no danger of towing anyone along.

My plan then is a simple one. Go hard right from the start, full on, and hope to establish a lead good enough to keep. If you have any spare karma, or tips, send ’em my way! 🙂

This is what I’m up against…

You know I’m training hard to have a crack at a couple of French titles this year. Well here’s one of my main rivals. Jean-Claude Sansonnet, he rides for the Nantiat club. He’s 61 years old, and has been on the podium in the National VTT Championships no less than 9 times! 9 times I tell ya!
Jean-Claude Sansonnet with his new bike.

Don’t let his comic pose fool you, Jean-Claude may act the clown, but he takes his racing very seriously. That’s his new bike he’s got there. A Scott Spark Ltd. Around £5000 of featherlight racing machine. That’s a measure of his commitment, and determination.

Escapade aux Pays des Monts de Blond

The Magical Mystical Monts de Blond have cast a spell on me, one of my favourite places to ride, I never tire of riding there. Seems like there’s always a new trail to discover just around the corner.

For those who don’t know the area riding can be a bit hit and miss, even though there are waymarked trails, and in anycase, the waymarked trails miss out some of the best bits, and you have to be able to read the secret code…
Secret code markingsCan you decipher the code?
Carla and I parked above Boscartus under a beautiful blue sky, we were looking for a couple of hours of good riding. Our usual parking spot is now a pile of timber due to forestry operations, so we parked a little further on. Just next to our new parking spot there was a trail heading up into the trees. While Carla tried combinations of armwarmers and legwarmers I rode a short way to see where it went. I was suprised to find that it was a trail that I knew well, just that I’d never ridden it in that direction before. Little did I realise the significance of this at the time.

Back at the van Carla was ready, and we set off in the direction we had planned. Roller coastering along the side of the hills the trails were in superb condition, Carla was riding well, and we hadn’t a care in the world. The Monts were working their magic. 🙂
Croix des 7 Fayauds
Along past the ‘Croix des 7 Fayauds’, the story goes that the cross is actually hewn from a megalithe, rather than made somewhere then mounted. We reach the Hauts de Blond, just about the highest point of the ride, with fabulous views. Onwards towards the Chapel above Vaulry before looping back along Les Cimes.

It’s half-term for the schools this week, and we meet a french couple coming the other way. They ask us which would be the quickest and easiest way to walk to Blond. We think for a moment, then, using my local knowledge, in my best french, I explain to them. They understand my french first time, and I’m pleased to have been able to help them.

We ride on, the trails flow, and we’re having a super ride. With almost two hours done we are right on schedule, but it’s such a superb afternoon I ask Carla if she fancies a little extra loop, it’ll probably add half an hour. She does. We continue along past Boscartus towards Peyrelade. There’s a big climb, but it’s the last climb of the day. “Last big climb of the day”, I tell Carla. Just then, another french couple stop us to ask where the trail goes. “Arnac”, I tell them. Heck, we’re like locals! 🙂
Monts de Blond
At the top of the climb we turn right. “5 minutes or 15 minutes?”, I ask. Carla opts for the 15 minutes…………….

…… and then, the spell is broken. Some 45minutes later we are back where we started and I’m completley disorientated, and now it’s getting late in the afternoon, the sun is going down, and it’s going damn cold.

Here’s a bloke who knows the trails in the area. Here’s a bloke who uses his local knowledge to help others who are lost. Here’s a plonker, first class! With three hours plus on the clock we’re back at the van. Doh 😉

Keeping your knees warm

Someone asked me where they could get the hot emrocation that I mentioned in my post about winter training. So I thought I’d do a bit of an update….
I recommended Muscolor and Equilibrium as good makes to use, as I had tried both. However, Muscolor isn’t avaliable any more, and Equilibrium has become Qoleum. They’re the same see…
Equilibrium has become Qoleum

My tin of Equilibrium lasted years. You use it sparingly/carefully…….. and now, I back the embrocation up with, */roll of drums/* ta daaaaaa!!!! My homemade kneewarmers!
Homemade kneewarmers

Yes, laugh if you like, but for me, early season ‘toothache of the knee’ is a thing of the past. Oh, hang on, you don’t think I wear them like that do you? No, I just pinned ’em on the outside of my tights to show what they look like. Normally I just tuck them inside my tights, and the tights hold them in place. Simple! and they work brilliantly.

I made them from the hood of an old duvet jacket (you’d never guess would you), which means that they have a ‘hollofil’ insulating layer. What do you think of them?

Wednesday ROCC ride…

Spent the morning washing my bike, scrubbing my white bar tape, and eating lots in preparation. It’s fantastic weather, and there’s a four hour ride on the cards…

Rolling down through the town towards the Plan d’eau I feel funky and fine on my sprarkling bike. There’s a good dozen out today, and discussion is taking place on where to go. There’s mention of a loop in the Monts de Blond, that’s too tough for some who suggest a Charentine circuit. There’s shoulder shrugging and some boffing, and before you know it i’m in a group of four that’s doin’ the Monts de Blond loop. That’s Jean-Francois, Maxime, Eric, and me.

Maxime - jeune, fou, et très rapideWe set off towards Biennac, the two ‘young guns’ Jean-Francois and Max on the front. The pace is brisk from the start. Max is riding his new Scott CR1, he’ll be keen to show what it can do. They’re chatting, but unless I’m mistaken they’re also half-wheeling each other. I’m breathing quite hard, so is Eric. This could be a tough ride.

At Biennac we pick up ANother, he was on his way to the meet, but was late. He joins us, and Eric explains to him that we’re the fast group enroute for Blond, the cyclotouriste group has gone south. ANother says something along the lines of ‘feck my luck’ and tags along.

It’s a tough road all the way to Cognac le Foret, fairly straight, but with huge roller coaster drags of 1 to 2 kms. The young guns push on. I’m glued to the wheel in front like my life depended on it. As we begin the long descent to St Victurnien the young guns move across leaving Eric and me on the front.

We cross the Vienne and start the long climb up to La Barre. I go to the front to set a tempo that I can manage, and one that I hope will satisfy the young guns. Spinning a low gear, trying to look as comfy as I can, it does the trick. Over the top and on towards Oradour sur Glane. Jean-Francois is on the front now driving out a relentless brisk/steady pace. At Oradour we ride up past the ‘Village Martyr‘ and head out towards Cieux which is when the real climbing will start. At Cieux we turn our bikes uphill, which is ANother’s cue to peel off, “a bientot”.

Traversing along the south side of the Monts through pretty villages, and alongside numerous etangs the fairies take me away, and i’m floating along effortlessly. As the climb to Peyrelade starts to bite I’m brought back to reality. I go to the front and try the old tempo setting trick again, it works for a while, but then Max decides he’ll set a pace he’s happy with. Max rides quicker and quicker. By the time we reach the top i’ve got wobbly legs, but i’m still on his wheel, Eric is still on mine, and strangely Jean-Francois is a little off the back.

Down the northside of the hills into Montrol Sénard, a lovely little town, with a super little restaurant, La Belle Equipe, and hey! it’s open, we could stop for a cool beer, and no we don’t, that just doesn’t happen, ever!

There’s a slight headwind blowing along the dead straight road to Blond. The pace has settled a little, and i’m on the front. This road gets used a lot for road races, I can see old paint from the Tour de Limousin, and the ASSJ St junien. A hard road to race on with nowhere to hide. In Blond we turn right to climb back over the hills.

It’s a tough climb, and like a madman who keeps repeating the same behaviour expecting the outcome to be different, I go to the front. I’m working hard, and with around 1km done Eric rides along side and starts to turn the screw. We’re climbing well, out of the saddle on the steeper bits, seated ‘on the tops’ on the shallower bits. As the road twists and turns first Eric is in front, then me. There’s a gear change behind me. Sounds like someone going up the block! Eric pushes on, i’m looking for the summit.

By the time we pass the Frédéric Mistral monument i’m on the rivet. There’s the summit, we get out of the saddle and sprint. “Où sont les jeunes?”, I ask. There’s no sign of the young guns. Turns out Jean-Francois is still getting over a cold, and Max was letting the ‘old boys’ have their fun.

Big open roads

On the way home we do St Junien direct. Big fast smooth main roads with a slight cross-tail to help us along. Just got to cross the Vienne, climb out of the valley and we’re home. Jean-Francois peels off first near St Junien, he’s almost home. I cross the river with Eric and Max (father and son incidentally) and start the last climb. I’m on the front, doh! Just above St Martin de Jussac Mac comes by. “Bye”, he shouts, and takes off, “bye bye”, we say, and watch him go. He gets 200meters, then, whoa, wassappnin’, we’re out of the saddle chasing, chasing like madmen. 😉

I think it’s cool…

Limousin Region stickerThere’s a thing that some French riders do, and I think it’s cool, so i’ve done it. I’ve got a little Limousin sticker from the tourist office and stuck it on my seat post. When you do big races, it tells the other riders where you’re from. I’ve seen riders from lots of regions stickered up in the same way.

I think it’d be a useful thing to do for categories in MTB (VTT) racing. It would help you know who you’re battling against when cats get mixed up. All it needs is a little splash of colour down the back of the seatpost….. and it’s so cool 😉

Monday recovery ride…

As you well know… 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 a little different. Why? Because first I had to do some bike mechanics. The SIDs on my hardtail are due for a service, and they’re also destined for another bike (more about that in days to come), so I stripped them out. Next, I stole the 100mm Rebas off my Epic and fitted those. I’ve been wanting to try some 100mm forks on the hardtail for some time, and now seemed as good a time as any. I also swapped one 4mm spacer from below the stem to above it.

I took my best tyres off, put some old training tyres on, pumped ’em up to 40psi, changed into my cycling kit, spent 20 mins looking for keys, mobile phone, money, camera, rucksack etc, and was on my way. Another beautiful sunny day, and the first this year without gloves.

My tart of choice today was an ‘Amandine’. Just perfect with coffee. 🙂
A nice French tart

When you lend a friend your bike…

My friend Eric has been asking me about my Specialized Stumjumper hardtail race bike for some time. I’m thinking there’s two reasons. First is that i’ve been going really well on it, and second because Eric has an old Cannondale Super V that he’s thinking of updating. So anyways, I lent my friend my bike to ride the 40km rando at Pageas. I rode my Spesh Epic.

On the morning of the event, we’ve signed on, and we’re fitting Eric’s pedals…..”Se exactement la meme utilise pour le Frederick Mistral et le St Junien to St Junien“, I tell him emphasizing it’s pedigree. I know I don’t really need to ‘cos after riding his full susser my Spesh is gonna feel very fast, and he’s gonna love it.

We roll away from the start in the early morning sun. It’s a ‘Depart libre’, so there’s lots of riders already started. Carla’s riding too, and we’re chatting. After a few minutes I notice that Eric has dissappeared. “Il est parti”, Jean François (another Rochechouart club rider) tells me. I’m thinking that he’s probably having a blast along the first few kilometers to test my bike. I up the pace a bit ‘cos I want to see how he’s getting on.

Now I’m riding briskly, but even when I can see minutes up ahead there’s no sign of Eric. At the first ravitalment there’s no one, I ride on, now I’m riding quite hard. With about an hour done I catch a group of four, I know the one from the Ambazac Sprinter Club, I ask him if he’s seen Eric. He tells me that Eric passed some time ago like a bullet shot from a gun! I give chase.

Usually on the randos, if there’s deep water or mud I’ll try and go around it, but not now, I’m ‘full on’ giving it all i’ve got, and still no sign of Eric. Got to make the most of what the Epic can do, and on the rocky descents I continue to pedal like mad. Out of the saddle at the top of each climb clanging up the gears and pushing on, this is hard, and I still can’t catch him.

At the second ravitalment there he is, relaxing in the sun with a cup of juice and some cake! He tells me how much he’s been enjoying riding my bike, and how he’s been hammering along with one of the young lads from the promoting club. We set off along the tarmac together. As soon as we hit the dirt the young Taufflard takes off and Eric goes with him. I try to respond, but my legs are heavy, and I’m very tired. I work hard to stay in contact, I’m just about hanging on, and then I’m gone.

Judging by the nature of the terrain, we must be on for some downhill action towards the end of the circuit. I’m still chasing as hard as I can, and I haven’t given up all hope. A sign up ahead warns “Descente Dangereuse!”, there’s riders slowing down to take a look before they commit. I go for the ‘ride it before it frightens you’ option and before I know it I’m down. Wasn’t that bad actually 😉

Now we’re into some rocky whoopy rooty stuff, the Epic comes alive I’m motoring down the last few kms, and there’s Eric. I just can’t stop myself and I sprint after him. I’ve just got to show him my front wheel before the finish. We’re racing down towards the final road crossing, the marshal is holding up a red ‘stop’ paddle, we come to a halt side by side, we laugh. We’ve ridden hard, and we both know it.