Just couldn’t face it….

Turbo trainingI’m OK if it rains when I’m already out, but if it rains beforehand I struggle. So there I am getting my kit on for the wednesday afternoon bash with the ROCC, the sky is getting darker and darker, the wind is gusting, the forecast is awful. With about 10 minutes to go it starts raining. It’s been on and off all morning, though Carla managed a good hour and a half around Cognac le Foret with sunny spells!

Light rain at first, then harder and harder. Surely only a madman or someone who’s paid an entry fee would ride in such weather. But I must train, so, it’s a turbo session. A 10 minute warm up followed by 8 * 3 mins @ >90rpm recovering to 120bpm before going again. It’s mindnumbingly dull stuff, and on the last 3 i’m fighting hard to keep cadence, but it’s done.

I feel so much hate for the turbo, I feel cheated by the weather, I’m not happy, I consider stripping to the waist and whipping myself with a wire coathanger! I have a cup of tea instead. Well what would you have done? 🙂

La Rochechouartaise

Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo Banner
Aimez-vous course avec la ROCC?

Well, you can on 30th March when the Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo stage their first race of the season “La Rochechouartaise”. The race, held under UFOLEP rules, starts with the 1st cats going off at 15:00 hrs through to Minimes at 15:06 hrs. Distances range from 76km for the 1st cats down to 28.5km for the Minimes. If you fancy it, and have a UFOLEP licence it’ll cost you 4 euros.

There’s prizes for the first 5 in each category. I’m doin’ it. Come and give me a pasting! 😉

ROCC Rideout (Rapid)

Balaclava Buff - It was very cold today A freezing cold, but sunny day, and it’s Wednesday, it can mean only one thing – training with the ROCC. With tights plus leg warmers, double gloves, and triple buffs I set of to meet the boys at the plan d eau.

About ten riders had turned out, I was a little late, and the route was being finalised. Despite my shouts of “Monts de Blond“, we set off towards Chassenon. Like a dog off a leash SuperMax (Maxime Monjoffre), sporting his Scott CR1 rolling on Corima deep section wheels shod with tubs stormed away.

By the time we passed the cemetary on the way out of town we were down to four, and by the time we sped through Chassenon we were down to three, and by the time we crossed the main road above Confolens Max took a reprimand from his dad Eric. SuperMax knotched it back a touch, and so we continued. All for one, and one for all he was worth hanging on, feeling a bit breathless, that was me! 🙂

The head wind turned to a cross wind as we went around the furthest part of our route. SuperMax had got the first 50kms out of his system and we rolled along briskly, purposefully, I was enjoying it. The roads were smooth, rolling sweeping and traffic free. I had warmed up a lot, and removed my buff balaclava.

Crossing the main St Junien to Bellac road we continued on towards Oradour sur Glane. We picked up a passenger from the St Junien club. SuperMax was unimpressed, I could tell. Our passenger stayed with us up through Oradour and on towards St Gence. Something synaptic happened to SuperMax. Maybe our passenger’s creaky pedals drove him mad or summat, whatever, he went to the front and pushed on hard.

SuperMax - Maxime MonjoffreSo now we’re flying along the main road. SuperMax is setting an incredible pace. I glance down at his block, he’s in the big ring, one up from top, so at least 52*13, and he’s rolling it over as if to kill it. Eric is second in line, and I’m hanging on the back. It’s fast and it’s tough, I’m having to break it into sections! Just to that tree, just ten more pedal turns, just to that gate, just ten more. That’s how close I am to dropping off. By the way, our passenger is long gone.

At last we reach the big island where we turn back towards St Victurnien and SuperMax eases up. “Harder than a race”, I say to Eric. He agrees.

Dropping down the long descent towards St Victurnien, we normally climb out of the valley towards Cognac le Foret, then home along the main road towards Rochechouart. I’m just about boxing it off in my mind, thinking that we’ll have a nice tail wind to finish off, I’m just about to swing left over the bridge when Eric shouts a change of plan. We’re gonna go home via Chaillac, Saillat, Chassenon, then Rochechouart.

It’s further, it’s tougher, and there won’t be a nice tailwind to blow us home, but, I go along. We have a few sprints for village signs along the way, the pace is fast friendly now, though the sky is going a little dark. As we climb up towards Rochechouart with three and a half hard hours done there’s a flurry of wet snow flakes. I’m tired. Merci beacoup pour le entrainment mes amis! 🙂

A couple of firsts!

Dossard 134
Nobody is going anywhere without a St Junien rider. There’s at least six of ’em, and they ride like pro’s. It’s my first road race of the season, my first race as a UFOLEP second cat, we’re on lap 4 of 10, I’m sitting out of the wind in the middle of the bunch, and it’s gonna rain.

Every attack is chased down by the St Junien boys except when there’s an St Junien rider in it, then they block. The sky has gone very black, and thunderstorms are forecast. Right now two riders are away, one St Junien, and one from another club. But, there’s a couple of daft engines willing to tow the whole bunch along at quite a pace, and as the rain starts the two are in sight.

It’s light rain at first, just enough to make the road a little slippy. There’s some tight bends and a gusty wind. Not ideal conditions. The two are caught, and almost immediately another St Junien rider attacks. On the long drag of a climb around the back of the course the pressure is on, and gaps are starting to appear. Two go clear, another is trying to get across. It’s throwing it down now.

Along the narrower part of the circuit the St Junien have done a great job, and the three are out of sight. There’s a lull in the action. I’m getting cold. It crosses my mind to pull out. “Any fool can ride a bike when they’re feelin’ good”, and “what will you gain by pulling out?”…..jeeeessus, it’s my own words come back to haunt me!

Two laps to go, no chance of seeing the break again, and half the bunch pulled out, there’s 9 of us riding hard. Almost like we don’t want to pull out, and we’re going fast to get it over with as quck as possible. There’s no let up, and each man happy to give a good strong pull at the front. Over the climb on the back of the circuit for the last time. I’ll be glad to see the back of this one.

Into the town, I’m sitting 7th in line. I’m not interested in sprinting for 4th place, it’s too dangerous in these conditions. Into the finish straight, a block headwind, I stand up and make some effort. I finish on the wheel of Jean-Marc from the St Junien club about 5th in our group.

Back at the van I strip off and get into warm clothes as fast as I can. I don’t think I could have been wetter if I’d swam. I’m happy with my ride, my fitness was OK, and I had no trouble with the pace. The second cats ride a little harder, and a little closer, and a little smarter, but I still fancy my chances, when the summer comes. 🙂

I’m truly flattered and honoured – 24 Heures VTT de Bonnac

Bonnac VTT 24hr logoHad a phone call the other night from Theo, president of the Beauvallet Club-Cyclo, with an invite for me to join a team for the Bonnac 24hr VTT race. The team is being put together by Jean-Phillipe and Lionel of the Nantiat club, the sole objective being to win! I was absolutely flattered. It will be an honour for me to race in a team containing at least two of the fastest senior VTT racers in the area.

Incidentally, looking through the list of teams already signed up I spotted the Culture Velo team containing my old friends Jean-Claude Sansonnet, and the Barborier brothers Charley and Davey. It’s gonna be a great race, I’m looking forward to it already. 😉

Haute Vienne Departemental VTT Championships – St Leger la Montagne

Wifey and I got his’n’hers trophies when we raced the Haute Vienne Departmental VTT Championships on Sunday. But racing can be cruel can’t it? 🙂
Me and the wife with our trophies.
First the wife – This was her first race in years. See, she doesn’t really enjoy racing, she just likes riding her bike, something she’s very good at, and something that’s not gone unoticed. She was ‘leg hunted‘ then ‘sweet talked’ into racing by Theo, the president of a local club who loves to see women race!

Anyway, she put in some good training, and given the horrendous conditions on the day she did a storming ride to take 2nd place. She told me straight after that she’d hated every pedal turn, it was too hard, and she never wanted to race again. Then wha’d’yer know, by the end of the prize presentations Theo has worked his magic and she’s agreed to do the Regional Champs, the National Champs, hell! she’s even signed up for a 24hr race.

Now me – I really wanted to win this one, I really did. Gridded on the front row of the vets race (vet A >40 and vetB >50 raced together), they counted us down with 5 seconds to go, we were gone on 2. I led out of the field, riding hard. Into the woods my friend Eric Monjoffre came by, I grabbed his wheel. Out onto the road section 5 off us were clear. Jean Claude Sansonnet came by, I took a short rest on his wheel before jumping to be first off road.
A great start - I’m first out of the field
Now we were into the meat of the first lap. I dismounted early for a muddy run up, I was still in the lead at the top. Back on the bikes there’s now three of us going clear. John Claude, Olivier Desissard (remember him? the scratch winner in the St Junien VTT race), and me. Out onto the open hillside, it’s tough, i’m trying to find traction, Jean Claude comes past followed by Olivier. I’m working hard.

At the top of the course I’m a couple of hundred meters off the lead. The rocky descents are covered in a film of mud but I’m motoring fast, and I’m getting it right. Along the short valley and back up into the arena. The commentator is saying something about Jean Claude. As I cross the line, there he is with his back tyre flat. I dunno how long it’ll take him to fix it, but I have to make the most of it. I try to lift my pace.

On the greasy, muddy, rooty, rocky, hateful second lap climb to the top of the course I’m aware that Marcel Buisson is not that far behind me. I can hear spectators willing him on. On long straights I can see him. I really need to get out of sight. It’s hurting.
Racing Hurts!
On the run up back into the arena I can see quite a way back down the course, I’m clear. Going through the arena and out for the last lap someone shouts me that Olivier is not far in front. Out onto the road section for the final time, spectators are telling me that I’m clear, nobody in sight. But, I wanna make sure, and as I’ll never have to climb the hateful course again I attack it. I can see Olivier the leading vet A, looks like he’s about a minute ahead.

At last, the top of the course, all the hard work done. Onto the rocky descent for the last time. Skimming over the rocks I get a kick in my rear wheel, it steps out, and I feel a gentle bisou (kiss) on my rear rim. I cross my fingers, but it doen’t help. She’s flat! I don’t know whether to push on on the flat or stop and change it. My mind is made up for me when the tyre comes off the rim.

Time suddenly goes into warp speed, my hands turn to banannas, and it seems to be taking for ever to change my tube. I have my new tube in and I’m blowing it up when Marcel passes me. “Ce n’est pas vrai”, he says. With just enough air in I jump on my bike and give chase. Down the last desent like a nutter, but as I reach the final run up I can see Marcel disappearing over the top. I’m beat. Racing can be cruel can’t it? I’m first loser home in second place.

So what happened to Jean Claude? – well, he got his puncture fixed and got back in only to puncture again, and a third time. This is bad, because it means his selection for the national championships in May now rests on his performance in the regional championships in April. Racing can be cruel can’t it? Very!

About that puncture – I’ve been running tubeless tyres for a while now, and they have been great. However, being thorough in my preparation I set a spare pair of tubed wheels up with more knobby tyres in case of muddy conditions. It was only after my warn up, and at the last minute that I switched to the tubes. Even then, it’s only the second puncture i’ve had in a race ever. Doh!

Not forgetting – Many thank’s to everyone at Saint-Léger-la-Montagne VTT Rando Club for puuting on a great race. 🙂 ….and thanks to the Barboriers for the photos. 🙂

Battered, broken and sad…

My battered old Polar Sports TesterMy Polar Sports Tester HRM has finally come to the end of the road. My wife bought it for me in 1993, and gave it me for my birthday when I went to the World MTB championships in Metabief.

We been through a lot together (yes, the wife and the Polar, but I’m talking about the Polar). I remember using it to win my first ever LVRC road race. I deliberatley wore my best mountainbike kit, and rode off the start line as if the finish was just around the next corner in the hope that the seasoned veteran roadies would think I was some idiot MTBer who didn’t know what he was doing. It worked, and once I was out of sight I settled down and used my Polar to guage my solo effort. In the end I won by just 20seconds. I was told, “Well done, but you won’t get away with that again!”. 🙂

Then there was the time I was racing in the MTB Nationals. I was being pressed hard by Dave McMullen, giving all I had, I glanced down at the Polar it showed 193bpm. I knew I was going well, riding close to my maximum. It was the hardest I’d ever tried in a bike race, I wanted to win so much.

It’s given great service, and it’s been hanging on ever since it’s last soaking in the London to Paris, but this time it’s a goner. I’ve had the back off, and dried it out like I have so many times before, but no sign of life. I’m a bit sad actually, it’s like an old friend. 🙁

La Meuzacoise VTT Rando – say Moooooooooozac!

La Meuzacoise VTT RandoMy first proper ride in almost two weeks, I’m still a bit snotty, and hacking up the ocassional frog, but I’m over the worst, and looking for a good workout.

We arrive with minutes to spare before the 08:30 depart. I spy Davey Baborier and his brother Charley (Departmental junior cyclo-cross champion) just about to go. I give them a shout. They tell me to hurry up, they’ll wait for me. This is good ‘cos Davey likes to ride quick………… and we’re off…..

Like dogs let off a leash Davey (19yrs), and his bro’ Charley (17yrs), ride rapid. I’m just hanging on, feeling a little breathless. We’re chasing through the backmarkers in no time, and by the time we reach the first ravitalment they’re only just setting up. A quick drink and we’re away. We’ve picked up a rider from the Ambazac Sprinter Club, I don’t know who he is, but he rides well, so now there’s four of us racing along.

Each time the pace slows a little someone goes to the front to lift it. We’re haring through a forest section on a roller coaster trail, there’s big puddles and stream crossings, sharp twists and turns, Charley is on the front. There’s a river crossing, Charley hammers in, literally! He goes over the bars and right into the freezing cold water! No, right in, fully submerged. I bet that’s refreshing 🙂 I spot the footbridge to the right and take that. It takes a couple of minutes for Charley to rescue his bike and wring his gloves out, and we’re on our way.
Charley likes deep water
Up a rocky trail, now Davey is on the front, pushing the pace, his rear wheel slips on the damp rocks. “Trop puissance”, I joke. I can hear Davey breathing hard, I go to the front and push on. I turn the wick up, I want to see how well I’m going. I open up a little gap, I push on hard, a sneaky look back, I’m 30 seconds clear. I ride very hard for about 5 kms then I ease up. There’s a nice little spot, in the sun, with a view, I stop and wait. The Ambazac rider arrives almost straight away, but there’s no sign of the brothers. Charley is next to arrive, and says that Davey has broke his chain. Yep, trop puissance!

Davey arrives, chain mended and we continue. A road sign tells us that we’re close to Meuzac, it can’t be far to the finish now. Davey lifts the pace. We’re in the outskirts of the town and the run-in is a retour of the depart. Davey sprints, I’m still hanging on, feeling a little breathless. Merci pour l’entraînement mes amis. 🙂