With Carla looking for a couple of hours, me looking for more, a sunny day with a gentle south-west breeze, and a whole afternoon in which to do it we set off towards the Charente. Carla had the short Chassenon route in mind, I planned to ride with Carla so far then continue on towards Presignac.
Out through L’Age then on the main road towards Rochechouart. By the time we reached the turn at Maison Neuve I’m too hot and have to take my neckwarmer off. Off-road now we roll down past the ROMC quad track, and follow the rocky descent to the valley road by the bottom of the Rochechouart chateau.
The trail that follows the river up the valley is a beauty, gentle, rolling, easy, and on this day it’s so green, with carpets of wild flowers. I’m daydreaming along, mind in neutral. Out onto the tarmac again, just for a few hundred metres, then left onto the next trail that climbs slowly towards Chassenon. Carla turns for home (after checking that I have moby, pump, etc 🙂 ), while I continue towards Pressignac.
I cross the river on a footbridge and start the long climb up through the forest. I’m on one of my favourite trails now, but riding the opposite direction to usual. I’m so busy thinking about nothing that I miss my turn and pop out at the other end of the village. It doesn’t really matter, and for no good reason whatsoever I turn right and descend on the road towards Chabanais.
There’s a stylish roadie coming towards me. It’s Julian, the junior racer, ex ROCC, now a member of the St Junien club. He changed clubs because he wants to race FFC and the Rochechouart club don’t affiliate. He’s not the first young rider to leave the club for this reason. Anyway, we stop and have a quick chat about who’s racing where and how it’s going. He tells me he’s going well, placed second last weekend, and he’s racing near Bordeaux on Sunday. I wish him luck.
At the bottom of the desent I take a left towards La SoutiÃ©re. A short climb onto a ridge, a farm van coming the other way, the driver gives me a wave. Another half a km then I’m off left onto the dirt. I’m following the waymarked FFC trail that originates in Chassenon, not that I’m planning on following it, it’s just at this point I am.
At the junction of farm tracks, where I usually go straight on, I turn right. It’s a track that I’ve been down before, so I have a rough idea where it comes out. I can see evidence of motorcycle trail riders. There two sets of tyre marks, one is from a bike running trials tyres, and one is a set from enduro tyres. I wonder if they rode together. Nah, that’d be daft.
On a long straight climb now, I lift the pace. On the crest I can see a couple of vehicles. Maybe a farmer, I decide to keep the pace quite high incase they have a loose dog. As I ride past I hear “Oi, what you doin’ here!”. Blimey, it’s PK Cheetham and his wife. Theyre looking at a house with an estate agent. Peter tells me that he spotted it while out trail riding on his Beta. The one with trials tyres on. He’d been riding with his son John, who was on an Enduro bike! Coincidentally astounding!
After a chat I ride on. I’m pretty much on the edge of my trail knowledge here, but I know if I take a couple of lefts to put the wind on my back I’ll be heading home. I pass through the village of St Quentin-sur-Charent, it’s a nice place, very tidy and well kept. Just through the village I take a chemin that’s heading in roughly the direction I want to go. There’s an old lady walking along carrying a basket. She’s wearing a shawl, and she’s dressed like someone from an age gone by. If it wasn’t for the fact that her basket was plastic she could have been from anytime in the last 80 years or so. I shout a cheery bonjour to let her know I’m there. She tells me off for making her jump. She’s laughing.
Picking up signs for the Lacs d Charente I’m back on familiar trails now heading home. My progress is slowed by a farmer driving a herd of cows. His dog comes back to round me up and bark at me. The cows turn into a field, and I’m on my way. I glance at my watch – whoops, been out nearly four hours, better push on.
To get home a little quicker I take the main road from St Gervais back towards Rochechouart. In time-trial style tuck I work hard. I can hear a moped coming from behind, as it approaches I lift my pace in the hope that I may be able to jump on it’s wheel, something I’ve done many times on my road bike, but it’s too fast. It’s one of the 50cc supermoto ones and the young gun riding it holds it wide open.
I take a final detour so that I can enjoy the descent down to Rochechouart off-road. It’s fast, rocky, with some slippy mud here and there to test nerve and skill. Having dropped into Rochechouart near the plan d’eau I now have to climb back up again. I take the main road toward Biennac. A long fast climb of around 3km. Over the top, with sun and wind on my back I race home feeling like a hero. Almost four and a half hours on the clock. It’s a hard life ain’t it? 😉