100kms, one way only, along the best trails in the area from Confolens to Nieul, including mulitiple crossings of the Monts de Blond. Not a race, it’s much harder than that! I was 4th rider home last year in 5 hours 15mins, I’d like to come home with the leading riders again this year. With a hot day forecast, and the ground hard and dry it’s gonna be fast and tough.
At 8.45, we roll out behind the lead car for a quick tour of Confolens. All the usual suspects are near the front. Across the old bridge, over the Vienne, hundreds strong in the early morning sun, alongside the river before crossing back via the new bridge to climb the ramparts to the old chateau. Through the chateau grounds now and there are supporters dressed as medieval knights to cheer us on our way. Quite a spectacle, though my attention is fixed on what’s ahead and maintaining my position near the front.
The lead car peels off and it’s “game on!” ‘Marco Solo’, that’s Jean-Marc the St Leger la Montagne rider who won the solo class at the “24 heures de Bonnac” takes off like a man posessed. Guess who’s on his wheel …
Onto a disused railway line out of town and Marco is going like a train. Marco’s choice of weapon is a Specialized Epic, and he puts it to good use powering over the rough sections like he’s on tarmac. I’m getting battered on my hardtail but I’m thinking it will pay dividends later on.
With hardly 5 minutes gone, Marco has ridden us clear. That’s Marco, me, then Lionel Lebraud (US Nantiat). Staying with Marco on the climbs is ok, but on the technical rocky stuff alongside the river, he floats away. A small gap opens, it crosses my mind that he might be trying to establish a good lead early on as a buffer for the tough climbs in the second half.
We’re about 20 seconds down, chasing hard. We hook up out of the valley onto a steady climb. It’s like Marco vanished, but in actual fact we’ve missed the turn! Doh! With at least a minute thrown away, we’re back on track. Lionel is annoyed at our mistake and is setting a blistering pace. I’m hanging on. We pass a few riders and catch a group containing Jean-Philippe Menneteau (US Nantiat) and young Davy Barborier (Briance Roselle Aventure).
At the first ravitalement, I ride straight through without stopping along with Lionel, Jean-Phi and Davy. Cor blimey guv – just like the old days! The pace is brisk with the off-road sections taken much faster than the tarmac ones. I’m feeling good and contribute to the pace.
Nearly two hours done and we’re starting to get into hillier terrain. Davy is having some trouble with his cassette and is yo-yo-ing off the back. I’m still ok, though it’s hard work. Dropping down toward Montrol Senard now, a fast woodland track with dappled sunlight. Jean-Phi is leading Lionel in second, then me. There’s a hole with a big rock in it and I’m straight over the bars. I land in a heap and in that split second I know I’m finished! I felt it go, a quick check confirms my collarbone is broken…
to be continued 🙁