A Cat’s Arse Trophy at the VTT National Champs

pain no pleasureFollowing my comfortable 2nd placings in the VTT Departmentals and the Regionals I was really looking forward to the VTT Nationals. I had great form, and was up for some pain. I was 7th last year, and reckoned I could do better. However, it just wasn’t to be. With two weeks to go I started with a sore throat, which developed into a nasty cough. At it’s worst I was hacking up huge frogs, had a rash on my back and face, and felt shite. I stopped riding my bike completely.

A little under two weeks later I’m feeling much better, and trying to decide whether I can actually do the Nationals. I know I’m not fully recovered, and I’m still hacking stuff up, but after a few test efforts on the road bike, and with three days left, I decide to go. Meanwhile Carla is still recovering from her crash. She still has a very sore hand. I tell her we’ll strap it up, she’ll be fine – it’s OK I said it with fingers crossed. She knows that.

7 hours in the car in heavy rain, and we’re wondering if we made the right decision. As we arrive at the race venue in Doullens the rain stops, and the sky clears. It looks very muddy, kind of like how we were expecting the Somme to be. We try and ride a practice lap, but after 500 meters we give up. It’s that bad!

Next day, race day, we’re there early, tyres changed and ready to go. We watch the Vet A (40 – 50 yrs) race. The bikes are coming around clean! The mud has turned to something like plasticine. As the race finishes I tag onto the back for a practice lap. It’s a little soft in places, but it’s a fabulous circuit, getting dryer and faster by the minute in the warm sun and drying wind.

I’m placed in the third line on the grid. Not too bad, there’s plenty of places to move up before the first bottleneck. I get a good start, my legs feel great, I’m passing riders easily. By the time we hit the first singletrack I must have moved up 20 places. I’m thinking if I can keep going like this I’ll do well.

Down the first descent, powering away into the woods I’m feeling strong, but as the effort intensifies I’m struggling, I’m just breathless. I hang on for the first lap. I’m starting to hack some stuff off my chest, it feels raw, my legs have turned to jelly. It’s looking like I ain’t gonna do well after all. I switch to survival mode, and just try to hold my position. If I back off a little maybe I’ll recover.

Things go from bad to worse. There’s riders passing me left and right. My Haute Vienne team mates start to pass me. First three riders for each department count towards the team score. By the start of the last lap I’m 5th! I could pull out, but decide to take my beating. I cross the line 53rd out of 86 finishers. A Cat’s Arse Trophy! (catastrophe).

Carla, focused and strongLater that day Carla shows me how it’s done. She does a brilliant ride to take 8th place in her race, and a silver medal in the team prize. She really looked good when she was racing, very strong and very focused.

That night we celebrated with a restaurant meal. Next day we watched some of the other categories racing. In the end the Haute Vienne took second place overall.

Thanks to – Everyone at Doullens for putting on a great event. It really was one of the best mountain bike circuits I’ve ever raced on. All the spectators and supporters for creating such super racing ambiance. Francis, Brigitte, and Jean-Claude for all their hard work getting the team there. All my Haute Vienne team mates for their support, understanding, and good-natured leg pulling.

It was a truly great weekend even with a duff ride. It was just great to be a part of it. The Somme really is a beautiful area of France. If you’re ever passing that way I recommend it to you.

Another one bites the dust!

JW in action!

Me old mate James from Pearce Cycles was due to come out and ride the 24heures VTT at Bonnac. It’s only 5 weeks away. But I got an email, he told me…

“I fell off on Sunday and proper battered myself! I’ve broken 2 ribs, fractured my wrist, torn my ac joint on right shoulder, banged my head hard and removed a large amount of skin from my back and side! I can’t remember anything from about 3mins before, till roughly 20mins later and i was only knocked out for a couple of secs apparently!”

Turns out that he was riding his bike down the last part of the Downhill course at Bringewood, over-jumped the table top and nose dived onto the fire road! Ouch! That’s one almighty big jump. Now, the thing is, that normally, James don’t jump that far. He told me that. So what sort of speed he was doing on the take off is hard to imagine. He’s examined his bike, and found that the front brake has failed, and the rear shock is blown. But whether the front brake failed as a result of the crash, or whether it was part of the reason for the massive jump we’ll never know.

“Someone said I overjumped the tabletop and landed straight onto the fireroad, but I couldn’t jump that far on my DH bike, so something must have gone wrong. It’s annoying not knowing, it doesn’t make sense!”

One minute you’re there happily riding your bike, next minute you ain’t.Bonne récupération James!
Take care out there the rest of yous! 🙂

Mrs Stratobiker down!

Mrs Stratobiker crashed her bike yesterday. She doesn’t crash very often, but when she does….. we were haring down a farm track, it’s a bright sunny day, I’m on the front, Mrs S is close behind. Flying around a corner, there’s some big tractor ruts, we’re trapped in the right hand one, oh no, there’s water and mud! I compress the bike, unweight it, flick of the wrists and I’m up and out onto the dry centre section. I expect you can guess what’s coming next. Mrs S does the same but catches her back wheel on the edge and goes down……. in the rut…..slides along it she does… it’s not funny! She’s covered in it, it’s all in her helmet her hair, she can’t see ‘cos her glasses are covered. She can’t decide whether to laugh or cry, and she’s very sore.

I had to go on the front all the way home. Made her strip off outside, sent her in the shower, gave her a large glass of whiskey. Looked after her proper. She’s a bit sore today, but she’s OK. Gave her the lecture. You know the one about being selfish, and who’s gonna look after me if she’s injured. 😉

No pictures, ‘cos it’s just not right to show a cyclist when they’re down.

Cognac la Foret sur les Chemins

One of my favourite training rides is a loop up around Cognac la Foret. I use it for an easy spin, a balls-out loop, and it sections off nicely for interval traing. Straight out of the door riden briskly it’s roughly 2 hours in total. It goes summat like this……….

Through the chemin at the bottom of our road and onto the tarmac. Through L’Age then along the valley road towards St Auvent. Cross the foot bridge then climb the old Pavé, tough! Through the pretty village of St Auvent, and onto St Cyr. After St Cyr there’s an open track that leads right the way through to almost the top of the forest. A couple of tricky granny ring climbs, and you’re there, halfway round at the highest point of the ride. Dive down some swoopy stuff, some nice flowing forest trails before a fast blast across open farmland drops you onto the tarmac 2kms from home. I normally play time trialists here, seeing if I can stay on top of my gear on the drags. There’s a final singletrack descent into the village, and that’s it.

Why not give it a try yourself?…………………..