Limousin Regional VTT Championships – Ambazac

The Regional VTT Championships brings riders from the Haute Vienne, Creuse, and Correze departments together. It’s a step up from the up from the Haute Vienne Departmental Champs where I came second, and it’s the final race to determine invitations for the National Championships in May.

Limousin Regional VTT Championships - Ambazac 2008 I’ve been round the circuit a couple of weeks ago with my friends Davy and Charly. It’s very fast, rolling, and today it’s mostly dry. There’s a deep stream crossing, a muddy stream crossing, and a few wet bits, but it’s gonna be quick.

In the frame there’s Jean-Claude Sansonnet, wily old racer with 9 national podium placings, Jean-Claude Laskowski, ex national road-race champion, and champion contre-la-montre, and me. I’ve been told that on this ‘roulant’ circuit Laskowski is the man to fear.

Now. veteran A’s (40-50yrs) and veteran B’s (50yrs and over) race together, with the youngsters doing four laps while the rest of us do three. So it should be just a case of latching onto the youngsters and getting towed around. I’m on the grid behind Olivier Dessisard, he’s veteran A, and outright winner of the St Junien VTT race last season, so i’m in a good spot.

We’re away! Up through the chicanes to cross the line for the first time. There’s a slight bottleneck, we’re getting squeezed, I’m in about 9th going onto the short tarmac section, I’m OK. On to the first climb, getting held up by a couple of big riders from the Correze, I use the line that i’ve previously scouted to the left, I’m past them, and sitting on the back of the lead group. Both the Jean-Claudes are there.

Diving down across the loose rocky section to the first stream crossing and into the 200 metre porridge section, we all make it through without dismounting. A short climb, we’re still all together with a vet A in yellow forcing the pace. Down the roller-coaster singletrack we’re going incredibly fast, no margin for error here.

Braking hard we swing left along the valley. I’m on Sansonnet’s wheel here. He swithches me through a deep puddle, naughty! Through the deep river crossing and onto a short washed out climb, lots of erosion ruts and rocks, we sprint it and we’re gone. JC Sansonnet is allowing a gap to open. I jump past him as hard as I can, I don’t want to tow him along.

JC Laskowski is looking good, sat third in line of the leading group. I’m trying to get across the gap, but it ain’t happening. I cannot believe how fast I’m going, and how hard I’m pressing on the pedals and making no progress. Meanwhile JC Sansonnet has clawed his way back onto my wheel!

Now it’s JC Sansonnet who jumps me! This ain’t going to plan! As we cross the open field to go through to start the second lap I can see JC Laskowski sitting comfortably on the wheels of the leading vet A’s (that was my plan!), I can see JC Sansonnet working hard to try and get across, and I can see another veteran A closing on me from behind.

The vet A catches me, he’s making good progress, I try to lift my pace and get his wheel. I’m on, and just about holding him. He knows I’m a vet B, and doesn’t seem too bothered. Out through the muddy stream crossing and into the woods. We’re motoring, and we’re starting to get into tail enders from the race in fron’t. Then we catch Olivier Dessisard! I glance across, he looks in trouble (turns out he’d crashed and ended up pulling out). We push on.

Crossing the field to start the last lap things aren’t looking promising. JC Sansonnet is climbing out through the start as I’m dropping in. But, anything can happen, so I stick to the task, and give my all for the last lap.

Through the muddy section for the last time, I catch an edge, shoot myself to the side of the track, and my taxi gets a gap! I complete the lap alone, finishing third, some three minutes off the pace.
Regional VTT Championships podium
Analysis – What went wrong? Nothing, just lacking in a little top-end speed, and haven’t really regained the form I had before that chest infection a few weeks ago. The pace today was blisteringly fast, and the race was done and dusted in less than an hour and a quarter. I know what I need to do.

Meanwhile – In the ladies race Carla put in a fantastic ride to take second! Her improvement in form over the last few weeks has been astounding.

Best of all – Job done! As podium placed riders Carla and I have now recieved our official invites to represent the Limousin region at the National VTT Championships in May! A fantastic opportunity or what? 🙂

Thanks to – The race hosts Ambazac Sprinter Club the fabulous circuit, and superb organisation. Thanks also to Philippe at Photolaps for the superb pictures.

A flying visit from Supawal

Yes, a flying visit from Supawal – the bringer of new bikes and good weather!

Supawal, he’s my brother, he came out for a flying visit on Friday to bring my new bike. Amazingly it was cheaper for someone to fly with it than it was to pay a courier to bring it. I was gonna travel home to get it, but Wal insisted on bringing it out.

Of course Wal had an ulterior motive. To bag some quality mountain bike time on the trails out here ready for his first attempt at the GTL. So, he brought some nice weather with him, and we headed for the hills. Wal rode his Cove Handjob, Carla rode her Spesh Hardtail, and I rode Big Bird. What a combo.
Carla the Supawal down emerald alley
Our plan was to do a couple of hours, then break for lunch, then do another couple of hours. This would give Carla the opportunity of pulling out for the second half. She’s in training for a two hour race, so doesn’t need slow and long. We parked above Boscartus, and headed towards Le Chimes.

The weather has been wet wet wet through March, and there were some muddy sections, and maybe the going could have been a little firmer, but with half a day of dry weather things were improving to the point where they were dry.

Thrashing along the tracks that contour the North side of the hills I could tell that Wal was enjoying it because each time I gave him a route option he chose the longer, and each time he got on the front he’d go haring off like a nutter. Meanwhile Carla, sporting a meagre 75mm of travel on the front flew up the climbs but found herself visually impared on the rocky descents.

With two hours done we raced down from the high point at Puy Grenier, crossed the Cieux – Blond road and dived into the switchbacks down towards the lakes. We rode ragged (well I did!), but made it to the bottom in one piece. Just the long haul back to the van to do. I planned it like this knowing that Wal’s empty belly would drive him on to the sarnies at the van.

I had this idea that I’d push on, and take some pictures further up the climb. Wal must have seen it as a challenge, and Carla was determined not to get dropped. I struggled to get my camera out, and when I did it magically hooked it’s leash around my bars. Too late, SuperWal had gone through with Carla in hot pursuit. Back at the van with two and a half hours done.
Wal and Carla battle it out on the climb
Following our snack, Carla decided to sit the next section out. I was sort of hoping she would, and asked her to meet us at Arnac. This meant that Wal and I could have another couple of hours with more downhill than uphill! Meanwhile Carla had a snooze in the van!!! 🙂

Wal was up for it, and rode hard at first, but with an early flight, and getting on for four hours of riding under his belt he was starting to fade. Then you have to factor in the Birthday celebration that we’d planned for him (he was 50 on 1st April!!!). He’d still got a long way to go. We finished of with our customary sprint to the van. He won, of course. Tired and weary we packed the bikes away and went home.

That evening Carla cooked a bumper meal, we toasted Wal’s birthday, and by 9pm he was a goner, couldn’t keep his eyes open. Next day he had to be up early to fly back. We had just enough time for a recovery ride around the village and he was jetting home.

Next time I spoke to him it was Monday night. He told me that by 8pm, which was really 7pm on Sunday evening. ‘cos the clocks went forward, he was already in bed, Eleanor had read him a story, and he didn’t wake up until 7am the next day!

Thanks for bringing my bike out bro’, see you in four weeks for the GTL 🙂

Weapon of Choice 2008

At last, after months of planning, weeks of waiting, days of anticipation, I finally got my new bike……
My 2008 Specialized Carbon HT race bike
S-Works Carbon HT Frame
SID world cups.
Spesh seat and seatpost.
XTR wherever possible.
Thompson stem.
Easton carbon bars.
Hutchinson Python tubeless tyres.

Built for me by my good friends at Pearce Cycles. This is my race bike for 2008…

I spec’d it myself, and could have chosen anything. I chose what I think is the best for me, and the races that I do. The forks are my old SID World Cups. I’ve had new bushes and seals fitted. I have some white 2008 SIDs on order. I think the Stumpjumper SID combination is a perfect one. No other frame fork combo that i’ve tried comes close. It’s feels like a race bike should, and is rocket fast.

Thanks to Dai at Pearce’s for building it for me, and thanks to Supawal my bro’ for flying out with it. Amazingly, it was cheaper for my bro’ to fly out with it for a weeked than it was for a courier to bring it…… Well maybe not if you factor in the cost of the booze we drank. 🙂