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.
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.
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? 🙂