Championnat Départemental VTT 2009 – St Junien

Vet B podium - Haute Vienne VTT Championships 2009
Made it on to the podium yesterday in the Départemental VTT champs. 2nd place again, just like last year, but different winner. Someone suggested I was becoming Poupou! My team-mate Eric from the R.O.C.C was third.

I’m not gonna give a blow by blow account ‘cos I have something else on my mind. The podium was all settled for the Veteran Bs before we’d even left the arena anyway! Take a look at this picture, its shows a group of 5 going clear some 30 seconds into the race. Pierre Chenaud (Vet A winner), Christian Boutain (Vet A 2nd), Eric Monjofrre (Vet B 3rd), Jean-Claude Sansonnet (Vet B winner), and me. They never saw us again.

tout suite 5 go clear

Talking of never seen again. Jean-Claude attacked at the top of the circuit on the first lap, and he was never seen again, and that’s what’s bothering me.

See, in the two years I’ve been in France I’ve beat JC a couple of times fair and square. But since then he seems to have raised his game, and I can’t get anywhere near him. He beat me by 5 minutes yesterday! 5 minutes I tell ya! Plus, I’m going well enough to sit with the leading Vet As for three laps (they did four).

I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I reckon it’s because I’m too young. I’m only 53, Sanso is 62! I need a few more years to reach his level, a few more years experience under my wheels. What else could it be? Here’s a picture of me tracking the master…


Jean-Claude, si vous lisez ce, félicitations pour votre victoire d’hier, vous êtes un vrai champion. Which is to say – Jean-Claude, if you are reading this, congratulations on your victory yesterday, you are a true Champion.

Thanks to the hosts AS St Junien for all their hard work putting on a totally superb days racing – c’est Hyper Beau.

La Rochechouartaise…

First race of the season for me. The Rochechouartaise, a road race, hosted by my French club, the R.O.C.C.

I worked hard

After all the training i’ve been doing ready for the VTT Departmental Champs next weekend I went into it it looking for a good work out, something to finish off on before cutting back. I certainly got it.

There were 12 St Junien riders, and they did a great job of controlling the race. Found myself on the front closing gaps in the early stages just to give someone else a chance. I wasn’t gonna give up and just let them have it without a fight. Have to say that some of the blocking tactics were a little over the top. But that just did a great job of winding me up so that I tried harder. Got in a couple of breaks, and one time I thought we’d cracked it, but it was not to be.

It all started going pear-shaped when we got caught by two escapees from the 3rd cats race. They somehow got mixed up in our break and spoiled the rhythm. Then the whole 3rd cat bunch caught us!!! It ended up with all the 2nd cats sitting up for a lap to let them go through. Very sporting.

I worked hard, very hard

We recommenced racing with just a lap to go. Two St Junien riders get away, the rest block, and I mean block. Thinking that the two are safe, with about 3kms to go another SJ starts towing it along to deter attacks. He’s going pretty quick, and does such a good job he almost dumps us on the back wheels of his two team mates. He realises and sits up, chaos ensues.

Into the finish straight. We’re thinking that the SJ boys have blown it. Riders start sprinting. I’m on the wheel of Jean-Marc an SJ, he’s going for it, can’t believe my luck. 50metres to the line he sits up and drifts to the left, allowing his team mate to take the win. There’s no way through.

Frustrating as it might be, you gotta hand it to them, the St Junien boys did a good job, and although I didn’t get placed, I got a great workout. Merci a tous.

A fast moving bunch…

Fast moving bunch
There’s a fast moving bunch of around thirty cyclists bowling along effortlessly on deserted country lanes of rural France. It’s a beautiful warm spring day. They chat about nothing in particular, everything in general. There are carpets of spring flower along the verges, and early blossom on the trees. This is the Wednesday afternoon ride out first half.

Same scene some three hours later. Now the bunch are moving much quicker. The legs are doing the talking now. The strong men have moved to the front and are taking it in turns to tow the bunch along. On the long drags the pace picks up even higher. Those who cannot hang on any longer are dropped. Inside the last five kilometers to home, just eight riders left.

A fantastic afternoon training with the FFC club riders from North Limoges. I really enjoy these workouts, they’re tough. Whooshing along in a hardworking bunch of cyclists mixing pain with adrenaline…… and after? a jam and banana sandwich with fizzy water. Awesome.

12éme Bonnac X-Tréme – VTT Rando

It’s 40kms, yay! It’s a mass start. yay! The circuit has a profile like sharks teeth!, whoooooo!!!

I much prefer the mass start to the dribble away anytime you like between x and y hours. It’s more fun. I’m right up near the front so that I’ll get shoved along by all the riders behind me. We’re away bang on 9am.

Lionel from the US Nantiat is making the pace. I get his wheel. We’re going quick, and my legs still feel a bit tired from yesterdays efforts, but I’m OK. On to the first climb, there’s a couple of sharp bends. Lionel has towed us away, quite a gap, just Stephane the big Ambazac Sprinter Club rider making his way to join us.

The next 10kms or so are superb. Excellent trails, we seem to be going quicker and quicker. Lionel and Stephane are chatting away, even on the climbs. I’m suffering a bit. How can they climb so fast while holding a conversation? Anyway, they’re so busy chatting, and I’m so busy hanging on that we miss a turn, and a couple of kilometers later we’ve come to a dead end!

Back on track, Pierre Barateau (Ambazac Sprinter Club) is up ahead. We catch him, and the four of us ride together. We’re high up in the hills above Compregniac now. I recognise some of these trails from the Thouron rando a few weeks back. We make a right turn into a forest descent. It’s a good one, flowing, twisty rollercoaster stuff.

Chaos ensues. Lionel catches a root, gets crossed up, but manages to hang on by the skin of his teeth, Pierre’s front skewer comes undone, and Stephane takes off like a bullet shot from a high powered rifle. Lionel gives chase, I chase Lionel, and Pierre, having tightened his skewer chases me.

Now we’re going like the clappers, totally ‘a bloc’, and so it continues for the next 30mins. I manage to catch Lionel by virtue of the fact that I remember a couple of desents from previous randos. But it’s as if Stephane has disappeared.

Two hours on the clock, we must be almost home. We’re in the traffic of riders tackling the shorter circuits now. We’re actually riding part of the circuit used for the 24hrs de Bonnac, it’s in good condition considering we’re just coming out of winter.

We hammer the last couple of kms. There at the bike wash is Stephane. He reckons that he just carried on riding at normal pace and it must have been us that slowed down!!!

Here’s a gratuitous pic of me on the trails……
SB on the trails

Reconnaissance de circuit VTT Departmental 2009

The VTT Departmental Championships are being held in St Junien this year, just 10mins away. Plus, just like any other year, the host club gives riders a couple of chances to make a reconnaissance of the circuit 3 and 1 week ahead of the race. This is great because it you can tailor your last minute training to suit.

The first lap is ridden en masse

Last Saturday was the first of two dates for St Junien, and as it was dry, I went along, yeah, so did just about everyone!

First lap is ridden en masse, with St Junien riders explaining anything that needs explaining. After that you’re free to do as many laps as you like.

Right, the start is fast, very fast. There’s a 200metre straight away before doubling back along the top of a steep escarpment. Next a fast descent down to the riverside, we’ll be like lemmings on the day.

Heading downstream over fast rocky ground, then sharp right past some old mills, then hook left, right, and onto the first climb. It’s not steep, but at race pace it’s gonna be tough, and lasts about 3 minutes. There’s a brief respite before climbing again. A short descent, then 90 left onto a very steep ramp 100metres to the top. Traction is key here, lose it and you’ll waste a lot of energy. Over the top, through a dip and onto the second ramp, not quite as steep, but slightly longer.

Still climbing, but only just, we cross the bridge over the Limoges-Angoulême road. A sharp right, another short climb, and we’re at the top of the circuit. The next few kms are mostly downhill, and very fast. Arriving back at the river, we turn right then wind our way along the valley side on sweet singletrack.

At the top of thye circuit. All downhill from here!

Almost home now, just two steep ramps to complete the 9km lap. These are tough. You wouldn’t want to be in a ‘head to head’ here. That would hurt!

So, sighting lap done, I do the next 2 laps with Jerome and the flying Baborier brothers. These boys are fast, I’m sure we’re going faster than race pace. Yeah, we must be, ‘cos the third lap the pace is a bit more sensible.

To sum the course up. Very fast, not overly technical, though you’ll need to be skillful to ride it superfast. It’s dry at the moment, and due to the rocky ground it could take a fair bit of rain and still be quick. A course for the strong and the brave. 🙂

Wednesday afternoon training with the FFC

So, it’s Wednesday afternoon, and I’m on my way to meet Eric and Max at St Brice, then we’re gonna ride the 25km up to Couzeix to either ‘kick ass’, or ‘get ass kicked’ on the Limoges clubs training bash. Yep, every Wednesday afternoon riders from clubs on the North side of Limoges get together to ‘get it on’. Mostly riders who race FFC. These guys are serious!

I’m not feeling too confident today, and on the way there I’m happy to let young Max do most of the work while I save myself. My confidence sinks even lower when we arrive at the meeting place. There must be at least 60 riders, easily enough to make a race. There’s a few old duffers like me, but some of them look like pro’s, young guys with highlights in their perfect hair, on the latest bikes, full team kit. They look fast standing still.

We set off at 2pm sharp. I automatically shift into survival mode, and get right down near the front, it’ll be easier and safer there. The pace is easy, I’m OK. I see a few riders I know, manoeuvre alongside, shake hands, exchange greetings, enquire about form. Nobody admits to having any. 😉

Right on the front I spot Stephane from the Nieul. Seen him in action loads of times, a stylish courageous rider who’ll never give in. Saw him win the Departmentals last year. Attacked almost from the gun in the poring rain. Rode the whole race off the front. Almost collapsed when he crossed the line. He’s tough, and serious. Recently back from a training camp in Spain. He’s also an expert crashmeister like me. Can’t understand why he doesn’t wear a helmet.

I don’t know where we’re going to day, but we start off through Veyrac, then Oradour sur Glane. Maybe we’re going over the Monts de Blond. I hope so, and I hope not in equal amounts. I hope so because it’s beautiful, and I hope not because there’s some climbs that will blow the group apart.

We don’t turn for the Monts, instead we go straight on for Montrollet. The pace has been very sensible up to now, but after we cross the St Junien – Bellac road someone flicks a switch, and now we’re flying. I’m so glad I stayed near the front. We’re really motoring along, there’s a group of six driving.

Things calm down a little, and we settle into brisk rather than balls out. Through Bussiere-Boffy, Nouic, then back towards Mortemart. Now, we’re on our way home, direction Blond, but whichever way we go there’s gonna be some climbing. There’s some new faces at the front, and they’re starting to push the pace.

There’s a long drag on the road to Vaulry, we’re on it, it’s tough, riders are going backwards. Over the top, a quick glance around, the once tight bunch has been stretched out. There’s some regrouping on the descent. On to the next climb, this one is a bit steeper, as it starts to bite I get as close to the front as I can. The pressure goes on, perceived effort rating where I’m sat is 9/10. It’s tough. Last 100metres to the top, there’s a bit of a surge, ouch…….. and there’s no let up! Double ouch!

A quick glance around, there’s only about 15 riders here, and so it continues, and each drag, climb, or slight rise in the road the screw is turned a little tighter. I’ve gone from knowing roughly where we are to not having a clue. I’m too busy surviving. Another climb, the pressure goes on, not far to the top, almost there, we turn a corner, and the road goes up again. Cracks are starting to appear, I’m fourth in line on the wheel of Stephane. The leading rider kicks and takes number two with him, a small gap appears. 50metres to the top Stephane lifts the pace to join them, I’m 10 metres off his wheel. Behind me, there’s nobody. I really, really, don’t want to be dropped here. Over the crest and onto the downhill I get the bike moving. The three in front freewheel on the descent, I keep pedaling, and I just get onto the back as we hit the next ramp. Luckily for me this one is short.

I know where we are now. We’re on the road from Thouron towards Limoges. I’ve ridden this road a few times. I should be OK, there’s just one more climb to make. We’re hammering along, I’m hanging in there, still on the wheel of Stephane. Assuming he’s on normal gearing he’s shoving 52*12. This is the hardest I’ve ridden for a long time. On to the last climb, it’s not as steep as I remember it, which is good, but we hardly even change gear or tempo, which is bad. C’mon legs don’t desert me now. The leading rider jumps out of the saddle, and as if synchronized we all do. One last effort, it’s agony!

They sit up. That’s it. Job done. I made it. Yeah, I know it’s not a race, and I know that even if it had of been I wouldn’t have made the podium, but I’m ecstatic mate. All those riders who set out, and just four left, and I’m one of them. Yeah, I know I didn’t do any work, and just hung on, but don’t spoil it for me!!! As we roll back towards Limoges in the late afternoon sun I’m feeling pleased. All I gotta do now is ride home.

Almost home, I’m running on empty, and I’ve got more than 5 hours in the saddle. It crosses my mind to text Carla to come and rescue me. Nah, that’d be soft. 🙂

Sud Ouest Bosozoku Triples Club Bordeaux Bash

The what? The, “Sud Ouest Bosozoku Triples Club Bordeaux Bash”…..Let me explain.

I put my old Kawasaki KH400 in my van and went down to Bordeax to visit my friend Richard. He has an old motorbike too. We went for a blast around the streets of Bordeaux. Simple eh?

So, Sud Ouest (South West), because Bordeaux is in the South West of France. Bosozoku are the Japanese motorcycle gangs. Now while neither Richard or me are Japanese, we’re both riding Japanese bikes, and Richard’s wife is Japanese, so that’s near enough! Triples, because we’re both riding triple cyclinder two-stroke motorbikes. Speciffically my KH400, and Richard’s KH250. If you’ve ever ridden one you’ll know what they’re like, and if you’ve never ridden one the put it down on your “must do” list.

We’re out in the street warming our bikes up. The noise has attracted one of Richard’s neighbours. We take off down the street wreckless fast so as to treat our spectators to the noise, sight, smoke, and smell that triples are known for. Richard’s neighbour is very impressed.
Just about to take off
Richard has been wondering if he will be faster on his ‘tuned’ 250, than I will be on my standard 400. Factor in that I’m some 10kgs heavier. We’re both keen to find out. Dragging away from lights we’re fairly evenly matched. The 250 is just as fast off the mark, but the 400 pulls it back in 2nd going to 3rd.

We hit a clear stretch of road. We’re crouched down on the bars going for top end speed. Richard makes 140kph, he’s holding it wide open. The 400 still has a little left. Richard spots the Gendarmes, we test our brakes hard!!!

It’s been a long time since I rode in city traffic. Richard rides with effortless confidence that comes from experience. I try to keep up without taking risks. As we filter through the heavier traffic lots of the car drivers move over to let us through. This is common in France. The normal response it to say thank you by taking your right foot off the footrest and straightening your leg.

Roundabout, sprint, roundabout, sprint, we’re not hanging about. A short stretch of motorway, and we’re almost home. The first, and probably the last, “Sud Ouest Bosozoku Triples Club Bordeaux Bash”. Sadly there probably won’t be another because Richard is heading off to Japan to teach English for a year. Yep, and leaving his Japanese wife in France to look after their two teenage girls! Crazy guy!
A real Bozzo!!