La 10éme Briance Roselle VTT Rando

“Hyper sec, hyper roulant!”, that’s what Fabrice told me when I signed on. I lined up on the front next to Charley Baborier (Junior departmental cyclo-cross champion, junior departmental and regional VTT champion). Right on the stroke of 5 minutes early, according to my watch, we were on our way.

These randos aren’t races, but you know what it’s like when someone lines a bunch of cyclists up with a marked circuit in front of them and says “GO!”………. Four of us move clear. 🙂 There’s a rider in red with Velo Culture shorts who seems dead keen, he sets the early pace. Things are fairly straight forward out of town, and the pace is high. Charley is cruising, looks very comfortable, I’m hanging on as usual.

We’re down to three now, just come onto a big climb, Charley goes to the front and lifts the pace. The rider in red cracks, I scramble to get Charley’s wheel as we reach the crest, and that’s the end of it really. I spend the next hour and a half getting a masterclass and a half from the young master in the art of finessing bike and terrain. At about half distance I thought he was begining to tire a little, but he simply pulled to one side, put some more air in his soft tyre, and continued like a bullet shot from a gun.

Charley, the young master with his student

Thanks Charley – for teaching me how to ride some of that stuff, and for waiting for me at the top of the climbs. You have super form, and with the nationals only three weeks away you must be a podium placer.

Thanks Briance Roselle Aventure – for a superb event. I loved some of those shelf-like descents down along the river valley. Chasing Charley so fast I hardly noticed the muddy bits! 😉

Thanks Fabrice – for sorting out that ‘T shirt’ for my friend James. He was ‘well chuffed’ with it. For those of you who don’t know – James dad rears Limousin cattle on a farm in the UK.

Fast, Aggressive, going for it….

Fast, aggressive, going for it…. that’s the wife! Here she is hammering away from the start at the Busiere Pontivine Raid last weekend. She’s the one on the front with the yellow bike. Meanwhile i’m back in about 8th on the far side, while the eventual winner sits around 15th. Incredible!

Carla leads the field away at Bussiere Pontivine

Ever since she did the departmental champs, where she came second, she’s been training hard, and it’s certainly paying off. Keep it up Carla! 🙂

BTW – I found the picture on the Briance Roselle website. I’m sure they won’t mind me borrowing it.

Specialized S-Works BG MTB Shoes 2008 – Lightest and best ever?

S-works shoes 2008 in black
Got some new shoes courtesy of Pearce Cycles and Specialized. They look fabulous, I’m loving the ‘Boa rotary and Powerzone lacing systems’, very easy to use and adjust. They feel very light, so I weighed them. They’re 379g (size 45), that’s some 50g lighter than my old ones. Mind you, my old ones, which have been and still are brilliant, might be holding a little moisture from Sunday’s damp outing.

Fitting the cleats – It can be difficult getting the cleats set up on new shoes, but I’m lucky in as much as I’m staying with the same manufacturer, so all I have to do is copy the setup from my old ones. Also i’m lucky in that I just set the cleats in the middle of the slot, in the middle of the shoe, and don’t suffer any problems. I’m so average innit? However, I do feel more comfy with my left foot turned out slightly more than my right foot. I dunno why.

To help me line my cleats up I use a 12mm spanner. It fits just nice on the back of a Shimano cleat making alignment and micro-adjustments easier. I can see where the end of the spanner is on the old shoe, and set the new one up the same. Simple. I use a little Copaslip anti-sieze grease on the threads of the bolts.

New Shoes tip – Whenever I get new biking shoes I always phase them in. So I’ll wear them on a couple of recovery rides first, then shorter training sessions and so on. I’ll do this over a period of about a month. Legs with a lot of miles in them don’t like change, even small ones.

Scrimpers tip – Shimano cleats are the same for left and right, but once fitted they don’t wear the same. When the cleats start to wear and feel a little sloppy in the pedals I take them off and swap them over, left for right. It’s easy to do because they fit in exactly the same place, and you get more wear for your pair!

Bussiere-Poitevine VTT Raid

The start last year.
This is where it all started one year ago. My return to the racing life. We’d just moved to France, I just happened to find out about this event, and just about got in using my old BCF licence. Seems like a long time ago now. A lot has happend since then. Looking along the start line at the riders then I knew no one. Looking along the start line now I know most of them. Some of them have become good friends, and it gives me great pleasure to race with them. Anyway, enough reminiscing lets get on with it.

The circuit – from what I can remember the circuit is the same as last year except this time we’re racing it clockwise. It’s one big lap of 38kms raced as seen, no pre-ride, and that’s just how I like it. The weather has been very wet lately, and heavy overnight rain on top of saturated ground isn’t going to help. I’ve put some fast tyres on and banged them up to 50psi. I’m thinking that they’ll be much faster on the tarmac and hard ground, and where the ground is soft they’ll be no slower.

The start – a huge wide start line that funnels into a twin track after about 100metres. We just ain’t all gonna fit. I’m over on the right hand side, it’s a bit gravelly. Carla is racing too. We’re all starting together. They’re counting us down from three, we’re away just after two!

There’s plenty of elbow contact, but I manage to get away near the front. Just before the first bend I pass Carla. Wow! go girl!!! I make it into the lead group containing most of the main men. On to a tarmac section, the pace is fast. We’re going off to the left into a narrow chemin, no one brakes. Into the mud, it’s absolute chaos, riders coming to an almost standstill while others run into the back of them. Charley Baborier, the current junior regional champion comes flying by on my left. I scramble through the space left by his wake. Back out onto the tarmac again, I’m still hanging onto the lead group of about 7 riders.

Dropped – the next chemin is just as chaotic and i’m just off the back by about 10metres. Jean Claude Sansonnet (my arch ‘Vet B’ rival) is just ahead of me. He manages to hang on. Slowly, painfully slowly, the group moves away. I can see Jean Claude is having to work hard to stay on. But, he’s doin it, I ain’t. We’re in a loop around a forest now, the ground is soft, it’s hard work.

As we leave the forest plantation I catch sight of a small group chasing. Back onto some firmer farm tracks now, I mash the biggest gear I can, I’m moving damn quick, those hard tyres are working. I’m moving away from the chasers, and there’s a lone rider up ahead who’s dropped off the pace. It’s Jean Claude!

It’s goin good – It takes perhaps 2km, but I catch Jean Claude. I don’t ride right up to him. I’m trying to work out the best thing to do. I know there’s going to be some more really muddy wet sections up ahead, and JC floats on water. I clang up a gear and jump as hard as I can. Straight past. I know he’s going to try and get my wheel but not if I can help it……….I get a gap, and I’m growing it!

It’s goin bad – Off into the soft stuff again. Waterlogged grass, and deep puddles. I hope it’s short, but it’s not, Jean Claude comes back, comes by, and rides away. How’s he doing that? I can see from his expression as he passes that he’s working hard, but he rides away.

I’m coming to a standstill in places, running where I think it will be faster, resolved to stick to the task, work as hard as I can and hope for enough firm ground later on to give me another chance. Down a steep descent into a stream crossing. The organisers have put a danger sign up….. danger of what? drowning? Kilometer after kilometer of hateful stuff. I’m getting frustrated at not being able to get on with it. Eventually back onto some harder ground going fast.

There’s a long straight, no sign of JC up ahead. I glance at my watch. I want to time how long it takes me to ride this straight so I’ll have an idea of how far down I am. Into a farmyard, a sharp right, I’m sliding in a slurry of sloppy cow shit and farmyard filth, chickens run for cover, it’s a bonkers scene!

Dropping into the Gartempe Valley, along a shelf by the side of the river, it’s beautiful, with carpets of bluebells. As we wind up and down the side of the valley I catch sight of a rider behind me. It’s Marcel Buisson, JC’s team mate, he’s not that far behind! I try to lift my pace.

Toujours les mêmes – Some rocky rooty sections along the riverside now. Up a short bank, and there’s JC, he’s punctured. He has his front wheel out, tube out, and it looks like he won’t be long. I have to make the most of it, I’m back in the frame! I’m worried that JC and Marcel will work together. I must try and get out of sight.

Up and down the side of the valley, it’s agony, granny ring steep in places, but so slippy it’s unrideable. On one long straight climb I use my watch to try and measure my lead. I reckon it’s around a minute. Over the top and away. 1 hr 20mins done, can’t be much left now.

Through the bends I’m hugging the side that’ll keep me out of sight the best. I’m flat out now, I cannot go faster. Down a steep descent, through a right hander then a climb almost back on myself. I hear the screech of disk brakes of someone chasing.

Tired but Happy - After the Bussiere Pontivine VTT RaidI can hear the commentator on the PA now. Must be close. Another little twist, another little chemin, steep unrideable, a couple of riders doing the shorter rando hold me up momentarily, and then….. into the home straight 200metres to go.

I finished 5th scratch, some 8 minutes behind the winner Jean-Philippe Menneteau who completed the course in 1:48:08. I was first Vet B, though Christian Boutin was first Vet A some four minutes ahead. Marcel finished 6th just over a minute and a half back. Jean Claude took his time with that puncture and rolled in 10minutes later. Carla finished third in the womens race.

Later that afternoon after we’d washed our bikes and eaten, we fell asleep on the sofa exhausted. As I doze I ponder whether JC would have beat me if he hadn’t punctured! 😉
The vets podium at the Bussiere Pontivne VTT Raid

Update (23rd April) – Found a great picture of Carla getting a flying start on the Briance Roselle website.

Entraînement fractionné avec the wife!

Carla on one of her training ridesEver since our friend Theo smoothtalked the wife into pulling on one of his race jerseys she’s been goin’ quicker and quicker, and taking her biking much more seriously. Heck I even found one of my best race tyres on her bike! It’s OK, I don’t mind really. 😉

Anyway, today we had some interval training planned. The plan was a simple one – a hard effort up the lane to the top of the woods, then a descent off-road allowing partial recovery before the next effort, while testing skills on a rooty damp trail. We did a couple of warm-up laps where we looked at line choice and gearing. This warmed us up. I wanted to do 7 efforts, Carla was gonna do 6. We did one more warm-up circuit a bit quicker to prepare and we were away.

I’m thinkin’ that I’ll hammer on around the 5 minute circuit and probably catch Carla after about 4 laps. She know’s i’m going to try and do this. It’ll make us both try a bit harder. OK, so four laps come and go, there’s no sign of her. As each lap passes I’m goin’ quicker and harder. On the recovery descent I’m now pedaling hard, oh yeah, and I’m cutting the corners and riding on the wrong side of the lane. By lap six I’m pretty much riding flat out the whole way around. No sign!

So maybe she’s done her 6 pulled out and gone home. Or maybe she’s feeling so damn good ‘cos I aint caught her that she’s lost count. Hammering up the lane for the 7th time I see her. Probably about 30 seconds ahead. She’s probably finished now and warming down, I’ll catch her easily. Nope, it takes the whole lap. I only catch her as we reach the bottom of the wood.

I ask her what she thinks she’s playing at! 😉 She tells me that as I hadn’t caught her, like I said I was going to, she decided that she’d do one more lap, and not let me!

Wednesday Afternoon FFC Rideout

FFC stands for La Fédération Française de Cyclisme, its the organisation that aspiring young riders join, but as I found out today it can stand for a lot more than that. 🙂

Fine Forecast on the Cards – With good weather forecast I telephoned my friend Eric to see if the usual Wednesday afternoon session was on. Eric’s son Maxime answered the phone. He told me that Eric has to work, but he’s going over to train with the Limoges FFC clubs, and why don’t I go along.

I meet Max in the square at St Junien as arranged. He tells me it’s 30km to the meeting place so we’ll need to ride fairly briskly to make the 2pm start. Oh yeah, and there’s a slight headwind, and there’s a lot of uphill. We work hard (especially Max), and we’re the first to arrive, with 10mins to spare.

FFC riders before the ride
A Few Flash Cyclists – As riders start to turn up I can’t help but notice that some of them are riding exotic machinery. There’s more than a few pairs of deep-section carbon wheels, most are on carbon bikes, and for the most part they are extremely well turned out. Cerevelo, Time, Vitus, Look, they’re all here. There’s even a Colnago CT2 in world champion colours. I’ve only ever seen one of those before in real life under Paul the Painter. Some of these riders look like they’ve dropped straight out of the pro’ peleton. There’s a lot of young riders, and from clubs all over the Limoges area. By the time we roll away at 2pm sharp there must be a crew of at least 50.

Fast Friendly Chat – The pace is brisk, but easy. As we bowl effortlessly along there’s much jovial banter. At road junctions cars stop to let us through. Most riders give a wave as a thank you. There’s a young rider in yellow, and after every junction he sits up, gets his mobile out and calls someone explaining where we’ve gone. I dunno why. The kilometers roll by, we seem to be heading north, the pace slowly but surely picking up.

St Jouvent -> Thouron -> Roussac -> on towards Chateauponsac……..

Fierce Fast Climbing – There’s been a few sprints for village signs, and a few charges, but good natured stuff. There’s been some long drags, and it certainly ain’t flat around here. There’s even a few gone off the back! We’re riding along a valley, I can see Chateauponsac looming high above us. As we start the long climb up to the town the pace picks up dramatically. There’s riders going backwards as fast as there’s riders going forwards. I’m thinking we’re just sprinting for the town sign, but it comes and goes and there’s no let up.

Backwards and forwards across the switchbacks I can see Max right up at the front pushing the pace. He’s going well. At last, in the very top of the town the pace eases and we regroup.

On the road with the FFC
Far From Civilisation – We’re high up in the Creuse now, one of the least populated areas of France. Through the Gartempe valley, we’re now on a dead straight road heading east, it goes on and on and on. There’s a cross-wind blowing, some bunch engines are taking perverse pleasure in driving it along, and I’m stuck in the gutter wondering if it will ever end. At this point i’m starting to have doubts in my ability to hang on. However, thoughts of having to ride home on my own drive me on.

I’m as tight on the wheels in front of me as I can possibly be. From time to time there’s a surge as someone leaves a gap ‘cos they can’t stand it any longer, and we all jump around. It’s no good waiting until the rider in fron’t surges, you have to look three or four riders ahead. It’s no good asking yourself to do it you just have to do it……. and why do those nasty engines ride in the gutter? Don’t they know it’s killing us! 😉

At last, there’s a junction up ahead, we turn right. With a cross-tailwind we’re motoring down towards Bessines running parralel to the A20. It’s downhill, it’s fast, I now have a rough idea of where we are. There’s a lot of climbing to do to get back to Limoges.

Fragmented Fatigued Clutching at wheels – We’re now headed south, following what I think is the old main road to Limoges. Every now and then I catch a glimpse of the A20 running off to the side. Long climbs of 3 to 5km, not steep, but draining, especially when you’re hanging on. Some riders are looking a little tired now and gaps appear. I’m just about with it, clutching at wheels. I spot a sign – Limoges 35km.

Fabulous Fractionné Chaps – On the long climbs there’s a couple of riders doing entraînement fractionné (intervals). They take it in turns to hammer off the front for a couple of hundred metres like nutters then they sit up. As soon as the one sits up the other goes. It’s impressive stuff, these boys are damn fit.

Finally Found Cheers – Over the highest point at Razes, a rider joins us from the right. There’s a lot of shouting and cheering and jeering. Remember the lad on the mobile, he’d been telling his mate who was late for the start where we’d gone. Eventually he’d found us!

Looking out at the vista I can see Limoges in the distance. We’ve still a way to go, and there’s one tough climb left to do. We’re spread out in twos and threes. I decide to push on so that I’ll be nearer the front. As I pass riders they jump on, a couple of them start to help out, we’re motoring along nicely. I’m recognising the run in from the ‘La Limousine‘ sportive I did last year.

You FFC! – Swear words mate. Onto the last climb, and one of the engines decides he’s gonna come through and show everyone how strong he is. Mashing a massive gear he opens a gap of 20metres. But it all goes horribly wrong and he comes back to us as fast as he went away.

Fast along the main road
Flowing Fast Chase – The last 10kms are slighly downhill. There’s a few rises, but generally we’re trending down. The road is silky smooth and the pace is high. Into the outskirts of Limoges now, I’m on 50*12 spinning fast. I’m guessing we’re going for the City road sign. A rider looking like the stylish young Ken Jones kicks. There’s a chase. Then another kick, and chase. A roundabout now, three get across while the rest of us are held up by a car. We chase. The sign for Limoges comes into view. We sprint! Wow, that was fast. From the original huge group I reckon there’s only about 15 left.

The pace eases, though not much, big ring steady now, but easy enough. As we roll into the city riders peel off for home. Eventually there’s just Max and me making our way back 30kms to St Junien, only now it’s mostly downhill with a slight tailwind. We ride purposefully, but easy.

Max points out that we’re now on the circuit of the St Junien – St Junien road race with it tough finish into home. Yeah, but we’re gonna ride it easy ain’t we Max. Nope, we gotta ride it hard, it’s good for your strength…. and so Max sprints it, I chase with what’s left of my legs. Max turns off, and I head up towards the car park where I left my van. All of a sudden riding alone I can hardly turn the pedals.

Five hours done, totally Fatigued, Can’t wait until next time! It’s been a great ride, much better than training on your own, and the kind of thing that drags form out of you screaming. Thanks guys, and thanks Max. Not only did he do the lions share of the work on the way out, he also came to check on me a couple of times during the ride to make sure I was OK….and when I had nothing to drink he gave me one of his bottles.

Later that evening FFC stood for Fridge Fresh Can of beer. 🙂

Monday maintenance and recovery ride

Disc pads
No wonder the brakes weren’t very good! Yes, and not even out of my bike!

With Carla racing lately there’s two of us out on the Monday recovery ride. It’s a sunny but chilly day as we spin down to Rochechouart for a tart treat from the boulanger. We’re talking about how the ride went yesterday, and so on. Carla’s bike is making a lot of noise. We stop, I take a look. I’m thinking there’s a lot of piston showing on her back brake. The rear wheel has skipped over a touch. I put it straight and tell her to take it easy on the descents.

My favourite boulanger is closed, gone on conges (vacation) for a week. I have to make do with a Chasson Pomme from the one around the corner! We cycle home with a slight tailwind, it’s warm in the sun.

Coffee and tart later I strip Carla’s back brake. You couldn’t get much more wear out of a set of pads than that! I have to steal a pair out of my new bike short term. A small sacrifice for the woman I love. 🙂

Cognac le Forét rando

With the departmentals and the regionals behind me i’m changing the focus of my training to prepare for the GTL. That means more kilometres with hard days back to back. Actually, it’s the training I like best. So, Friday was four hours, yesterday was two and a half, and today was the Cognac le Foret rando, but with a twist. I’m doing the 44km route, while Carla does the 33km route and it’s a race to see who’s back first.
The start of the Cognac le Forét rando
Conditions – We had glorious sunshine yesterday, but heavy overnight rain has made things a little wet. Heavy, and little being understatements. This is gonna be a mucky one. I don’t care.

At the start – It’s an early one, I’m thinking that the number of riders is down, as we roll away from the ‘Grand Depart’ at the alloted 08:30 I can see lots of tyre marks from riders who’ve already departed. Maybe they’re trying to get round before the forecast rain.

After a short climb up through the forest we’re heading down towards St Cyr. That’s a fast 5km slightly/mostly downhill all the way. It’s very very wet and slippy. I’m using the technique as taught to me by trials rider Scott Dommett – point the bike where you want to go and keep pedaling! Blissfully simple, and it works, and the faster you go the better it works.

A quick loop around the lake, and now we’re heading back up towards the forest. It’s a ridge trail, wide and easy, it reminds me a little of the South Downs Way. There’s a couple of riders up ahead, they’re working hard, but I’m slowly catching them. As I get closer one of them pushes on. There’s a short tarmac section and I sprint to catch him. It’s Pierre from the Ambazac Sprinter Club. He’s a strong veteran rider, he races in the same category as me. We exchange greetings and ride along together for a while.

Somewhere near La Bourgonnie we take a track off to our left. I’m on the front. Into a couple of bends with deep puddles, sliding then using the edge of the trail to catch myself. My brakes are poor, it’s bumpy, I wrap all my finger around the bars and readopt the Scott Dommett technique. It’s a great desent, i’m loving it, I can hear Pierre splashing through the puddles behind me. Or at least I thought I could. When I look, he’s not there.

I’ve gone past the point where the 33km and 44km route split. I’m on my own now riding hard. I can see no one in front or behind, yet there’s still one set of tyre marks ahead of me.

The circuit takes us all the way down past St Priest sur Aixe. It’s gonna be a long haul back up. I’m not sure what the state of play is with my brakes, whether the pads are worn, or whether it’s just the wet conditions. Whatever it is, i’m saving my brakes for emergencies. Oh, and my gears have gone into random selection mode so I’m tyring to change gear as little as possible. I don’t wan’t to risk breaking my chain. But apart from that i’m whooshing along feeling like some kind of super hero enjoying myself.

As I approach the second Ravitalment I spy the depart jumpin’ schmuck i’ve been chasing for the last hour and a half. He sees me approaching and takes off fast. I stop for a drink, then give chase. We’re in the forest near Logis. There’s some excellent riding here, real roller coaster singletrack stuff. Along the top of the forest the 33km and 44km circuits come back together for a final 5km dash to the finish.

There’s quite a bit of trail traffic now. I’m looking ahead trying to work out where and/or which is the rider I’m chasing. Some of the riders doing the shorter route are pushing on a bit. As we switch back and forth across the open ground it’s easy to see a few minutes ahead, and a few minutes behind. There he is, I can see him, he’s working hard. I can see riders tyring to get his wheel as he passes them.

I know where we are now, not far to go. Onto a rocky, muddy, desent, I’m half a dozen riders back. Scott Dommett mode again. “Pas de Freinage”, I’m on his wheel, he doesn’t seem to like the sloppy conditions, I’m past and gone.

The last climb up to the village is a tough one, and it’s been chewed up by farm traffic, but with 2hours and 4minutes on the clock I’m back. I wash my bike with one of the many hosepipes provided and return to the van. Carla is already there, bike washed and lubed, changed, clean, been back around twenty minutes…… What kept me?

A Right Rural Roll-Out in the Charente – Ramblin’ on

With Carla looking for a couple of hours, me looking for more, a sunny day with a gentle south-west breeze, and a whole afternoon in which to do it we set off towards the Charente. Carla had the short Chassenon route in mind, I planned to ride with Carla so far then continue on towards Presignac.

Desending down towards Rochechouart Out through L’Age then on the main road towards Rochechouart. By the time we reached the turn at Maison Neuve I’m too hot and have to take my neckwarmer off. Off-road now we roll down past the ROMC quad track, and follow the rocky descent to the valley road by the bottom of the Rochechouart chateau.

The trail that follows the river up the valley is a beauty, gentle, rolling, easy, and on this day it’s so green, with carpets of wild flowers. I’m daydreaming along, mind in neutral. Out onto the tarmac again, just for a few hundred metres, then left onto the next trail that climbs slowly towards Chassenon. Carla turns for home (after checking that I have moby, pump, etc 🙂 ), while I continue towards Pressignac.

Easy ridingI cross the river on a footbridge and start the long climb up through the forest. I’m on one of my favourite trails now, but riding the opposite direction to usual. I’m so busy thinking about nothing that I miss my turn and pop out at the other end of the village. It doesn’t really matter, and for no good reason whatsoever I turn right and descend on the road towards Chabanais.

There’s a stylish roadie coming towards me. It’s Julian, the junior racer, ex ROCC, now a member of the St Junien club. He changed clubs because he wants to race FFC and the Rochechouart club don’t affiliate. He’s not the first young rider to leave the club for this reason. Anyway, we stop and have a quick chat about who’s racing where and how it’s going. He tells me he’s going well, placed second last weekend, and he’s racing near Bordeaux on Sunday. I wish him luck.

At the bottom of the desent I take a left towards La Soutiére. A short climb onto a ridge, a farm van coming the other way, the driver gives me a wave. Another half a km then I’m off left onto the dirt. I’m following the waymarked FFC trail that originates in Chassenon, not that I’m planning on following it, it’s just at this point I am.

At the junction of farm tracks, where I usually go straight on, I turn right. It’s a track that I’ve been down before, so I have a rough idea where it comes out. I can see evidence of motorcycle trail riders. There two sets of tyre marks, one is from a bike running trials tyres, and one is a set from enduro tyres. I wonder if they rode together. Nah, that’d be daft.

On a long straight climb now, I lift the pace. On the crest I can see a couple of vehicles. Maybe a farmer, I decide to keep the pace quite high incase they have a loose dog. As I ride past I hear “Oi, what you doin’ here!”. Blimey, it’s PK Cheetham and his wife. Theyre looking at a house with an estate agent. Peter tells me that he spotted it while out trail riding on his Beta. The one with trials tyres on. He’d been riding with his son John, who was on an Enduro bike! Coincidentally astounding!

Old ladyAfter a chat I ride on. I’m pretty much on the edge of my trail knowledge here, but I know if I take a couple of lefts to put the wind on my back I’ll be heading home. I pass through the village of St Quentin-sur-Charent, it’s a nice place, very tidy and well kept. Just through the village I take a chemin that’s heading in roughly the direction I want to go. There’s an old lady walking along carrying a basket. She’s wearing a shawl, and she’s dressed like someone from an age gone by. If it wasn’t for the fact that her basket was plastic she could have been from anytime in the last 80 years or so. I shout a cheery bonjour to let her know I’m there. She tells me off for making her jump. She’s laughing.

Cows block the wayPicking up signs for the Lacs d Charente I’m back on familiar trails now heading home. My progress is slowed by a farmer driving a herd of cows. His dog comes back to round me up and bark at me. The cows turn into a field, and I’m on my way. I glance at my watch – whoops, been out nearly four hours, better push on.

To get home a little quicker I take the main road from St Gervais back towards Rochechouart. In time-trial style tuck I work hard. I can hear a moped coming from behind, as it approaches I lift my pace in the hope that I may be able to jump on it’s wheel, something I’ve done many times on my road bike, but it’s too fast. It’s one of the 50cc supermoto ones and the young gun riding it holds it wide open.

I take a final detour so that I can enjoy the descent down to Rochechouart off-road. It’s fast, rocky, with some slippy mud here and there to test nerve and skill. Having dropped into Rochechouart near the plan d’eau I now have to climb back up again. I take the main road toward Biennac. A long fast climb of around 3km. Over the top, with sun and wind on my back I race home feeling like a hero. Almost four and a half hours on the clock. It’s a hard life ain’t it? 😉

New Bike, well and truly Christened…

Christened my new 2008 Specialized S-Works Carbon Stumpjumper HT at the Regional VTT Champs last weekend…….. want to know what I thought of it? OK, but first of all let me tell you how it came to be my weapon of choice.
S-Works Carbon Hardtail Christened
Why a hardtail? – I love the clean lines of a race hardtail, the simplicity, the minimalist functionality, the way they ride. I’ve often found that riding a full-susser just doesn’t give that ‘race bike’ feel, you might be covering the ground just as fast but it doesn’t feel fast. I like to go fast, and feel like I’m going fast, that’s the buzz.

Why a Specialized hardtail – this is my sixth, and i’ve loved each one. From my very first in 1989, grey with Umma Gumma grey tyres, to my latest. I’ve never ridden any other race hardtail that I like as much. It’s the best tool for the job.

So this new S-Works Carbon one – It’s an out and out race bike. It feels special, like a race bike should – light, agile, quick-handling, and rocket fast. I wouldn’t want to just ride it every day. That’d be like using a Ferrari to commute. It’s for racing, for going fast, and the faster you go the better it feels, and the faster you want to go. It inspires, excites, urges you on…..

…to ride the knife edge that is control. The faster you go the sharper the blade. It’s amazing that the brain can control two brakes with fingertip accuracy while positioning the body for perfect balance, while reading and predicting what’s coming next racing down a hillside over rock, roots, grass, and dirt. Not to mention sorting out where other riders are so as not to hit them. You really are just there in the moment, there is nothing else, and nothing else quite like it.

That’s how it rides. Nuff said?

Sans fleurs – I’d only done two short rides on it to bed the brakes and gears in, so I was almost racing it straight out of the box. It performed faultlessly. Not only that, but the day after the race I suffered no unusual aches, pains or strains. That suggests to me that the bike is ‘right’.