Happy Birthday Carla

Carla, my wife, lover, friend, life-partner, significant other, training partner, co-driver, manager, consultant, massuese, fabulous cook celebrates her birthday today.

We’ve just got back from a Birthday ride. It’s a beautiful day here in France. Carla set a cracking pace all the way around our 35km loop.

We’ve got a bottle of champers, and some super nosh for later.

Happy Birthday Carla xxx
SB 🙂

A new axe to grind!

It had been raining for days. I’d played my guitar until my fingers were raw. Cabin fever was upon me!

I’ve been thinking about buying a new acoustic guitar for years! My old Jap built Epiphone FT135, that I bought in the late 70s is great for bashing out chords, but she’s hard work when it comes to finger picking. Actually, I’ve tried to buy a new acoustic before, tried 100s, can’t find one I like.

Après avoir accompagné des jazzmen célèbres (Bill Coleman, Stéphane Grappelli, Don Bayas, Albert Nicholas…), écumé les salles et usé ses cordes de gala en gala, Georges Suchod décide de raccrocher sa guitare pour créer le premier vrai magasin de musique limougeaud. savoir plus…

Anyway, with dreams of a new acoustic I set of in search of Suchod Musique in Limoges. Never been there before, but surely they’d have something. Little did I know what was in store…

As soon as I walked through the door I just knew it was gonna take some time. Just hundreds of gorgeous guitars, like an aladin’s cave. Electrics and acoustics, Yamahas, Takamines, Taylors Godins…..”Oh look Carla, that Fender Tele, lovely”… Strats, Teles, Arch top Jazz guitars from Ibanez and Gretch, birds eye maple, cool. Beautiful flame top Les Pauls……. and then, there she was, waiting for me…a Gibson Explorer!!!

I asked if I could try it. I’d dressed to try guitars, no zips, studs, or watch, only soft clothing, I pointed this out to the sales assistant. He goes off to get Monsieur Suchod, I dunno why. So, this old fella hands me this gorgeous guitar, and ushers me to a stool next to an amp. By the way, it’s a nice Fender tube amp, not some nasty transistor thing. As the amp warms up, the old fella is telling me what a great guitar it is, and how they’re so versatile and much more than just a rock machine. Yea, I know that.

My 68 Cherry Explorer - a peach of a guitar

It’s a great guitar that’s well set up. I’ve owned Explorers before, this is a good one. Monsieur Suchod is still extolling it’s virtues. I ask him if he plays, “a little”, he tells me. I get up and offer him the guitar, he declines, but I insist. He plays a few stiff notes. What happens next is amazing…

As we chat, Monsieur Suchod starts to play some fabulous jazz stuff. Super lines, and some chord inversions I’ve never seen before. I try to clock them for future reference but they’re gone in a flash. He stops for a second, asks if we mind him smoking, lights a cigarette and continues to play. He’s away now, playing with the casual style and confidence that only comes from years of playing. I wish I’d had my camera with me at that moment because the sight of this old jazzer, ciggy hanging from the corner of his mouth while he rattled out a few tunes on an Explorer was quite surreal. Yes, they really are a versatile guitar, and Monsieur Suchod sure can make it sing.

Turns out that the 79 year old Georges Suchod has been playing guitar all his life. He’s played with all the big names of the jazz world. There’s a picture of him backing Bill Coleman on his office wall. He opened his first music shop in 1968 the year that Carla was born! Oh yes Georges knows his way around a guitar alright.

A young Georges Suchod (on the left) backing Bill Coleman

I bought the Explorer. How could I not buy it. She was there waiting for me, the only one in the shop, a proper cherry one, and a peach of a guitar. It was meant to be, and sold to me by Georges Suchod. You can’t change destiny. I’ve been in hundreds of guitar shops and bought nothing. Tried hundreds of guitars and walked away. But this one, she’s mine, it was meant to be.

Georges Suchod and me.

If you are ever in Limoges, I reckon a visit to Suchod Musique is a must. Even if you’re not a player, go in and meet Georges, ask him to play. He’s a great bloke, a superb player, and you’d be in for a real treat. If you are a player, they’ve got everything you could possibly need. I recommend them highly.

You’ll find Suchod Musique at 6 rue du General Cerez, Limoges.

Gibson Explorer headstock

Fish’n’Chips and strong lager

As soon as I woke up I knew it was gonna be a good day. I just felt so good, so energized. Started off by throwing 3cubic meters of wood into the back of my van, driving 40kms then throwing it out again. Wood delivery complete, I drove home for lunch.

It’s Saturday, the sun is shining, the roads are dry, it’s roadie training with the Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo (ROCC). We meet outside the chateau at 13:30, there’s a good turn out of around thirty riders. Normal routine is to take the first few kms steady. I find I’m struggling to hold myself back. I just wanna get on with it.

On the long climb into Pressignac I’m still in the big ring, it feels effortless. Maybe it’s because I’ve been slogging around on Big Bird all week. I dunno, but my road bike feels so light and fast, like a toy.

At last the pace picks up a little. Young SuperMax is turning the screw. Now it’s tougher, but I’m still OK. We’re on a long drag, and as we climb I can hear riders crashing down through the gears as they explode. When we get to the top I look around to see who’s there. Nobody, all gone, I’m surprised.

A similar pattern continues. I can’t believe how well I’m going, and how good I feel. If I could sing, I’d burst into song!!! Another long drag, another test, SuperMax turning the screw again, really turning the screw. I’m glued to his back wheel as he continues to pile on the pressure. Now I’m down to taking 10 pedal turns at a time. Stick it out for 10 pedal turns and if I’m still in contact, stick it out for 10 more. About 100metres to go to the top. I almost run in Max’s back wheel I’m that close. I dunno if he’s overcooked it or not, but I jump past. Maybe he was being kind. He congratulates me on riding well.

A couple of hours later, we’re almost home, I feel as good as when we set out. On my own now for the last few kms. I sprint the last climb like my life depended on it. Now I shift down for an easy spin warm down. As I ride along I’m trying to understand where today came from, why I felt so good, what I could put it down to. Fish’n’Chips and strong lager. Yep, that’s what I had last night, slept like a baby woke up feeling like 10 men.

Fish’n’Chips and strong lager, it’s what I always used to have the night before a big race. See I used to travel all over the country to race. Rather than go to a dodgy restaurant I figured that Fish’n’Chips was the safer option. It’s sterile, ‘cos it’s cooked in boiling oil, and if it’s not too greasy and you don’t eat the batter on the fish, it’s fairly nutritious. Back at the B’n’B a can of strong lager was always enough to put me into a deep ‘sleep like a baby’ sleep, and I’d wake up feeling fresh and ready to go. So, I reckon that’s what happened. My body remembered those heady racey days and went into race mode. 🙂

Try it, it might work for you!

A lot of ‘F’ words today…

The VTT Rando at La Bretagne just north of St Junien.
The frozen lake near Arnac
Absolutely f*****g freezing! With the temperature at around -10, plus the wind chill factor…

Firing down the first descent, and out across the frozen French farmland, young David from the Bessines club comes flying by, I give chase. We’re the first two riders away.

My frozen fingers won’t work, on a short road section I’m furiously flailing my arms in an attempt to get some blood flow going. It’s a clear blue sky, but it’s only just gone 08:30 and the sun has a way to climb before it finds us.

The ground is rock hard super fast. The farm tracks give way to singletrack as we go from fields to forest. We’re OK so far, and have been sharing the workload. On the straightaways we’re rocketing along. I’ve warmed up a little now. It’s fun.

As we get into more technical stuff David is just fearless. I stay with him as best I can. We’re slipping and banging off stuff. I’m just thinking how well I’m going, me, an old bloke with a dodgy shoulder keeping pace with a young gun, when I start thinking “feck this for a lark!!!”,it ain’t no race, but we’re riding furiously like men possesed. I don’t wanna find myself injured before the season starts. I back off a little. Still going quick though.

David has a good gap on me now. I gain a little on the easy stuff, he moves away on the technical stuff…… and then, he’s gone. I’m looking at what must be two minutes up the trail, and there’s no sign of him.

Along the singletrack by the lake near Arnac, I can hear a rider behind me. I’m thinking maybe it’s one of the Flying Barbourier Brothers, they’re bound to be chasing hard. It’s David!!! He’s so focused on going fast he’s missed the ‘fleche’. He comes by, racing over the frost covered rocks and frozen ‘run off’ like he’s on tarmac.

Into the last few kms. We follow the same trails that we came out on. There’s just one huge flat field to cross. I can see David up ahead and I make a final effort to try and catch him. Thing is, he can see me coming, and makes a final effort himself.

We’ve done 40kms in 1hour 45mins. It’s been fantastic, and I fank the young fellow David for a fine ride. 😉

…..and then, and then, mulled wine at the finish. Oh yes! 🙂

La 6éme Rando des Trois Clochers

Remember when I did this last year? What a difference. Let me explain. Where last year was wetter than wet and raining but not cold, this year was dryer than dry, sunny, and freezing.

We set of for the venue in the dark at just gone 07:30. We need to take it easy as they don’t salt the roads so much in this corner of France. Climbing up towards Razes the sun is rising into a cloudless blue sky. Once again we find ourself in a small convoy of vehicles climbing through the narrow roads to St Léger la Montagne.

We park up and, blimey look who’s here, it’s Paul Gibson, haven’t seen him in ages. Suprises continue. There’s a good turnout, but for as many as there are there, there’s as many missing. Jean-Phi is there, but he’s doing the 12kms pedestre (walk). He says it’s too cold for biking!

Yeah OK it’s cold. Marcel shows me his battery powered heated gloves. I could do with some of those. The first few kms is agony until my hands warm through. The ground is dry, fast and rock hard. The edges of frozen ruts offer a ‘straight on only’ option.

The countryside up here is stunningly beautiful. I must make a return trip in the spring and tale some photos.

Two hours passes, my legs are a little jaded, I’m grovelling up a long climb, feels like i’ve been here before. See that little track of to the right? That looks just like the track they sent us on in the Departmental Championships last March. Yep, exactly right. As I burst out into the sun again I know where we are, and I can see where we are going. We’re headed back down the race circuit where I punctured last year. Only today I don’t. I rattle over the roots and rocks, just skimming the tops……

A moment of random spontaneity and I catch my bar end and hand on a stone wall. Hardly notice it (though it’s aching as I type this). Racing down the last descent with a couple of other riders, and we’re home.

Merci à tous les club de St Léger la Montagne pour une journée fantastique, et un circuit “hyper beau”. 🙂

Saturday ROCC rideout – Painfest

A good turnout of around 40 riders for the Saturday rideout with the ROCC. A planned circuit of just over 50kms will do just fine, as it’s very cold today. It’s the first club ride of the new year, so the greetings take a little longer but we’re away just 5 minutes late.

The pace is easy, a little to easy, I switch to a very low gear to spin and make some heat. I’m glad when SuperMax picks up the same along the main road through Biennac. Along the 3km straight various riders roll through, all the usual suspects are there.

We swing right along the valley road towards St Auvent. When we reach the bottom of the hairpined climb up to the village Pierre Chenaud (‘in form’ regional veteran cyclo-cross champion) kicks hard. SuperMax goes after him, Eric goes after SuperMax, I go after Eric…….all hell breaks loose!!!

Now i’m too damn hot, i can’t breathe, can’t stay with them. Paul Smith, Lucien, Stephane, all come past me. I manage to get back on when they ease over the top. When we turn left Pierre goes straight on!!! Thanks very much Pierre.

Training 3rd Jan 2009

We’re trending towards Cognac la Forét, every time the road goes up so does the pace. I’m finding it hard. I don’t remember it being this hard last year. Maybe i’m still a bit tired from yesterday. The last climb up to the high point is agony, and with around half a km to go SuperMax attacks. Eric goes after him, there’s not much response from anyone else.

From the high point above Cognac to St Martin de Jussac where we’re headed is about 10kms, and it’s mostly downhill all the way. It’s fairly sensible down to Cognac, then it’s balls out to St Martin. We’re motoring along the roller coaster road, any slight rise sees another rider burst through to the front.

As we drop down to the Vienne river I’m on the front, there’s a couple of sharp bends coming up, and with the angle of the road and the low sun it’s hard to see if there’s any danger. SuperMax comes flying by….fearless young, mad rider that he is… he throws his bike into the bends and his gone. Nobody has the balls to try and match him.

Along the riverside towards St Junien, easy on the flat hard up the hills. Onwards towards Chaillac then Saillat, the same. We should turn for home now but we don’t….Chassenon first then Rochechouart. At last we ease up. Riders peel off until i’m on my own with just 5kms to go for home. I’m tired, and it’s going much colder now. Just one last climb to do, I’m back, cooked, done in, with 80kms on the clock.

Almost home - 3rd Jan 2009

King of the World

Out with my buddy Eric on the mountain bikes. Eric only lives across the valley, and although we ride on the road together quite often we rarely ride VTT together. But, as it was so cold we decided that VTT would be a warmer better workout than Road.

Sunny but frozen sums it up. Eric dived down the first off road descent like a total nutter. As an ex moto-crosser he’s great at that sort of stuff, and with the descent being just 200metres from his door he knows it well. Along the valley road in the shade, absolutely frozen. Onto the old pavé towards St Auvent, we got no chance, though we made 75% of it.

Onto some trails i’ve never been on now. Great, some new local stuff to learn. Back out into the sun, and climbing towards Cognac la Forét we’re warmed by the sun on our backs. The views from the top are just great. We can see the Monts de Blond, and behind them the Ambazacs. Gonna be covered in snow next week, apparently.

Whooping down the long descent into Cognac village I try the ‘jumping into holes’ technique that downhillers use to accelerate their bikes. When you get it right it feels right.

We’re heading home now with just under two hours done. Eric decides it’s not enough and takes us on a loop of the Forest of Rochechouart. There’s gangs of chasse (hunters) with guns! There friendly guys, but I make an effort to make more bike noise. Don’t want to be mistaken for a wild boar or deer.

Over the last few kilometres we pick the pace up. We’re working hard now, and not hanging about. The trails fly by. By the time we get back to Eric’s i’m cooked. I thank Eric for a great ride and head off home.

A quick shower, and next, the best bit! A cup of tea with a huge dash of Bowmore whisky. There’s a good fire going in the stove, as the sun sinks slowly towards the horizon. It’s gonna be a great sunset, i’ve a great ride in my legs, and I feel like King of the World. Simple pleasures eh?
King of the World drinks his tea!