Regional VTT Championships – Fursac en Creuse

Raced in the “Regionals” last weekend. Took second place in the Vet B race. That’s one better than last year.

It was a super fast circuit, not very technical, though you needed to be skillful to ride it fast. JC took off like a rocket from the start and was never seen again! Yep, I got a great start up the first road climb, right onto the singletrack, I’m sitting pretty in fourth spot (Vet A and Vet B race together with Vet A doing one more lap). Jean-Claude comes past, and that’s it. He moves to the head of the race, and leads it out until he’s won! So, potentially what we have here, given that some of the Vet A riders will be in their early 40s, is a 62 yr old giving them a humiliation! He’s old enough to be their dad FFS!

I’m thinking maybe I need to go down to the crossroads at midnight and do a deal with Papa Legba…… Or, maybe JC has beaten me to it!

Félicitations Jean-Claude! 😉

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.

Les Gantiers – 17th edition – VTT Raid, St Junien

Les Gantiers 2008Remember when I rode this last year? A true blast of a race. One big loop run off at road race speeds, only off-road. Thing is, last year I was flying, and had super form. I’m not quite there this year. Though I’ve been looking forward to this one for weeks.

The start – Following the startline antics from last year the organisers have made the start a little wider. Yeah, but it still goes into the same gravel strewn 90 right after 50 metres! Chaos ensues, and again after another 50 meters the 90 left onto the road. I manage to get away in the first twenty riders. It’s fast. I’m breathing hard. On the road climb out of the river valley I manage to get up to the lead group. By the time we swing off into the first Chemin I’m looking at top twenty.

Mon Taxi Parti! – A group of about 6 riders is moving clear. I should be sat on the back of them. My taxi is leaving without me! I move up where I can. I’m working with a couple of roadies. We’re sharing the work well, and we’re making progress, slowly catching riders. There’s a long drag. One of my co-workers does a big turn on the front and blows himself up! Why? So just the two of us. We’re motoring.

Into some mucky sections. My friends chain sucks up, somethin’ gives, and his chain is broke! Too bad for him, and too bad for me. I’m on my own now. Two kms further on I spot one of the main contenders fixin’ a puncture. I’m hoping he gets it fixed fast so I can catch him when he comes flying past. He never does.

Economique – Looking ahead down some of the long straights at what must be two to three minutes into the future I can see half a dozen riders, though the nearest looks at least a minute ahead. There’s nobody close behind. I’m riding as fast as I can. 100% concentration so that not even half a pedal turn is wasted. It’s tough.
Les Gantiers 2008 - I made the vets podium
Into the last few kms. I’ve made a little progress, and I’m closer to the rider ahead than I was, but I ain’t gonna catch him. I cross the finish line in 15th position. I’m second Vet B. Beaten again by Jean Claude Sansonnet (US Nantiat). The first 7 riders are home together! With Jean Phillipe Menneteau (US Nantiat) taking the win. I’m some 5 minutes off the pace. It’s OK, I know what I have to do. 🙂

On the podium in the 17th Frederic Mistral VTT Raid

On the podium in La Frederic Mistral
One of the best races of the season. I’ve been looking forward to this one. A ‘full on’ mass start race. One big 42km loop. Raced as seen. Last year I finished 3rd scratch, and won my category. I ain’t got that sort of form this year, but I’m gonna race hard for a category podium place.

The start – they’ve changed the start this year. This time instead of an out and back around a field, it’s an uphill start on a bumpy field for 200m a sharp left, a 200m dash along the top of the field before diving down for a sharp right onto the tarmac with greasy wet tyres! 🙂

My Plan – Flat out for the first 5kms to try and get myself into the best fast moving group I can. Then ‘economique’ – try and stay there.

The Off – You just know it’s gonna be chaos on the inside of the first bend as everyone squeezes in. I line up further out to the right. My clubmate Eric lets me in on the front line just in front of him. The tape goes down. A few words from the commissaire. A countdown from 5. We’re away on two. As I climb onto the pedals Eric gives me an almighty shove! Thanks Eric 🙂

Up around the first bend with the leaders. Hold my place along the top. Left down towards the tarmac. Easy onto the road. Lock the forks out and kick. Jean-Phillipe (Nantiat) comes by, I get his wheel. We’re hammering up the short road section all desperate to get into the first narrow off-road in the best position we can. I dive past a couple of rider as we go in.

Onto the rocky climb now. Chances of riding it are slim. Slippy damp rocks and leaves. I don’t even try. I dismount and run up the right-hand side to keep my bike out of the way. It’s chaos. There’s a lot of ‘jovial banter’ as bikes and bodies clash.

We’re over the top and away. I reckon I’m in the top twenty-ish. Not great, but I’m in good company. Stephane (Ambazac), Lionel (Nantiat), and me old mate Jean Claude (Nantiat). All good riders.

For the next hour and a half we race on some of the hardest, fastest, unforgiving, fabulous trails in the Limousin. There’s lots of action as riders come and go. I’m climbing well enough, and I’m fine on the technical stuff, but on some of the fast descents……

Well, on some of the fast descents I’m losing ground. Still lacking a little confidence. But that’s OK ‘cos I’m going like the clappers on the flat, and i’m able to motor back onto the group.

Over half distance now, and just like the last race Jean Claude edges away ever so slowly. It’s tough now, and there are some steep rock strewn granny ring climbs. Lionel slips, curses, remounts, and curses some more. Up ahead I can see Christian Boutin, we’re catching him. Over the top, then a short descent. Lionel is dropped, i’m on the wheel of Christian, Stephane has a 50meter gap.

We turn onto a tarmac section. I want to chase Stephane, but I don’t want to tow Christian up, he’s a vet, and a fast descender, he’ll beat me if I don’t get rid of him. I jump past hard and go after Stephane. There’s no response from Christian. He must have blown.

Stephane of the Ambazac Sprinter ClubI work together with Stephane, we catch Marko (St Leger La Montagne) another demon descender. I ride past him as hard as I can. I’m feeling pretty good. I stay on the front, I open up a gap on the two.
Not a big enough gap though as they both catch me on the descent from the Frederic Mistral memorial. We’re almost home now, and it’s mostly downhill. Marko comes flying past making the most of his Specialized Epic. Stephane gives chase. I chase Stephane. We ain’t gonna beat Marko, but if I can stay in contact I’ll have a sprint against Stephane.

I push my lack of downhill confidence out of my mind. Wrap my fingers around the bars and ride hard. We’re really motoring. There’s a huge mud hole up ahead. Marko goes right. Stephane goes left, catches an edge and shoots himself into the bushes. I manage to miss Stephane’s rear wheel.
I ease to see if he’s OK. He’s back on his bike and chasing.

Into the finish, a couple of zig-zags, a sprint to the line. I’m 11th scratch, and second Vet B (over 50). Jean Claude Sansonnet is first Vet B in 8th scratch.There’s only one other vet in, that’s Bernard Soulier (AC Cosnac), a Vet A (over 40), he’s 3rd scratch!!!

Wrap up – I’m happy with my ride. My form is on the up, there’s more to come. I’m just two minutes down on Jean Claude, and I’m well ahead of some of the riders who’ve been beating me lately. I come away with a nice trohpy, and I’m looking forward to my next race already.
Got a nice trophy

Choise of weapon – I rode my Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper Hardtail with some new Rock Shox SID World Cups (100mm). I ran Hutchinson Piranha Tubeless tires at 2.5bar (35psi) with sealant. I carried no tube or CO2 cannister just in case! But I did carry a SRAM quick link, and a small micro tool. I used a bottle and cage with a 500ml bottle of water with gear mixed in. I carried no food. I knew from previous years results that the race was about two hours long.

Find out more about this great race here

17éme Sentiers des Etangs – Nantiat

Racing my S-Works Stumpjumper HTFirst race of the season – The Mountainbike season here in France runs from September to September. So far there’s only been one competitive event, and that was the Chrono (MTB time trial), at Panazol. So this’ll be the first chance to see who’s hot and who’s not. It’s 45kms, one big loop, ridden as seen.

Let me set the scene – I’m still on my way up form wise. Nowhere near as fit, or light, as I was when I broke my collarbone in June. I’ve been struggling this week. Sometimes when I overdo it some of the muscles around my good/bad shoulder get really stiff. From Wednesday onward I’m ramrod stiff, and despite the team masseuse doing her best, and me topping up with anti-inflammatories it just won’t let go. During the night before the race I wake up many times uncomfortable. I decide not to race as the outcome is bound to be a negative one.

On the day – We are up early and on our way. It’s a cold crisp morning. Carla is racing, I’m just doing the rando. At the race site, in the bustle of activity, I go into auto pilot…. sign on, number on bike, warm up, and as if by magic, I’m on the front row of the grid, the starter is counting us down from 5, we’re away on 3. There’s some pushing and shoving as we funnel into the first trail. I’m sitting just near the back of the lead group, we’re going fast!!!

On the first climb, I pass a few, a few pass me. It’s tough, and I don’t feel good at all. I’m starting to lose ground. Some of my Veteran B rivals come past Jean-Claude Sansonnet (Nantiat), Marcel Buisson (Nantiat), Dominique Vrignaud (EC Ambazac), Jean Luc Gromet (Beauvallet). This is going horribly wrong.

When you’re going backwards and you feel like sh*t it’s easy to back off, you need a strategy. Here’s what I do…

Stay calm, stay focused, stick to the task. I tell myself that’s what I’m doing (self talk?). Often, when I’ve been going really well I’ll have a tune going round and round in my head. Not always the same tune, but one tune that’s worked for me on many an occasion is Kylie’sCan’t get you out of my head‘!. Not the whole song, just the “La la la, la la la la la, la la la” bit. I call on Kylie voodoo to help me out, I focus on what I’m doing, and push on.

I seem to be going OK on the descents, and I’m gaining on Jean Luc. There’s a tricky section with big rocks as we drop onto a road. Jean Luc over cooks it and crashes. He’s OK, it’s a low speed tumble. I squeeze by. On the tarmac now, chasing to get the wheel of Marcel. I catch him as we go off-road. It’s Marcel who’s set the circuit. He knows every twist and turn of these trails, and it shows. Firing into blind bends at the perfect speed and line for the exit. I put my faith in Marcel and follow as tight as I can.

We catch Jean Claude! As we pass I ask him if he’s OK. He says he cannot breathe, the air is so cold. Onto big wide tracks now heading in the direction of Lac St Pardoux. Jean Marc Restoin (AS St Junien) arrives. He’s a strong roadie and on the open trails he’s going like a train. Only thing is, he’s towed Jean Claude back up!

Marcel has dropped off, we’ve caught Dominique. Jean Marc is doing the lions share of the work, and the kilometers are flying by. As we get into the narrow technical stuff JC thanks Jean Marc by diving in front of him. Down a rocky descent Jean Marc struggles, Dominique and I give chase.

On the twisty singletrack by the lake (St Pardoux), JC on the front, me glued to his wheel, Dominique glued to mine. It’s quick, but not desperate. I glance at my watch, one hour done, I reckon we’re halfway. Turning away from the lake, climbing what seems like a forever climb JC edges ever so slowly away. I try to go after him and get rid of Dominique, I can’t. Dominique tries to get rid of me, he can’t. JC stays in sight, just up ahead.

Almost two hours on the clock, and I’m really struggling, I’ve had enough, I’m looking for the finish. There’s a sharp right, and a granny ring climb, I hear Dominique miss his gears, I kick hard. I can hear the PA system announcing riders home. The finish can only be just around the corner. Dominique is back. I recognize where we are. A short twisty 500metres to go. I give it my all, and as we drop out onto the short finishing straight I sprint. No one comes past.

Wrap up – So, seeing as how I wasn’t gonna race. It didn’t actually turn out too bad. I’m second Vet B around a minute and a half down on JC (who’s been going extremely well). I’m 14th scratch out of 106 finishers, again, no too bad. I’m exhausted, it’s been a tough one.

Thanks to the Nantiat club who hosted the race, and Marcel for a superb circuit (course). Thanks to my fellow racers for a great workout, and thanks to Kylie – “La la la, la la la la la, la la la”. 🙂

BTW – Carla came 4th in the ladies race.
A copy results in Excel is here.

Chrono Catastrophe!!!

Panazol posterRode the Panazol rando yesterday. 28kms friendly with a 10km time trial (chrono) at the end. Enjoyed the rando, lovely sunny morning, a bit chilly, but a good warm up for the chrono. Stripped off arm warmers and leg warmers, and was ready.

Three short laps to make 10kms race track with riders going off at 30 second intervals. I’m off behind Christian Boutin, someone good to chase. Just over halfway around the first lap I puncture! How can it be, as I’m running tubeless with sealant? I stop and use a foam canister. It doesn’t work very well. I continue back to the start area where there is a mechanic. I shout him, and he runs over with a track pump. With my tyre pumped up hard I set off on lap two, passing some of the same riders I’d already passed.

By the end of lap two I can feel that the tyre won’t be hard enough for the last lap, I pull over at the start again. Shout the mechanic again, and bang the tyre up hard again. Out for the last lap, I give my all knowing that it’s pretty hopless.

Now, the worst part is i’ve been going on at Jean Claude Sansonnet for not using tubeless, and puncturing so often. He’s riding today, and finishes a fantastic third (scratch!)…….. on normal tyres, with tubes! Doh!

13éme Météorite – Rochechouart VTT Rando

The start of the Rochechouart VTT Rando
It’s my first proper event since breaking my collarbone and three ribs when I crashed while riding the Mandragore at the end of june. I’ve been back on the bike for about three weeks, but this will be my first ride proper. It’s a 46kms rando, and although it’s not a race, the riders at the front like to push on, hard. That’s where I wanna be!

First of all, it’s great to see all my riding/racing buddies again. They’re all suprised and pleased to see me (I think). As we line up for the off everyones spirits are high, and there’s much jovial banter. At 08:45 sharp we’re away.

The pace is brisk, and as we hit the first climb I brace myself for some pain. It doesn’t come, and I float along as if on a magic bike. Over the crest a young lad takes off. I stay with the group containing all the usual suspects. We settle into a good rythmn over the next few kms, quick, purposeful, though not flat out. By the time we reach the first ravitalment the group is down to 5. We don’t stop.

There’s a tarmac section and Pierre from the Ambazac Sprinter club is on the front. He’s setting a tough pace. Pierre from the St Junien club, who raced on the road yesterday sits up, he’s had enough. Down to four now, with the young lad still off the front.

The relentless pace claims another, Pierre is dropped. A tricky descent, a sharp left, Jean-Claude and Christian almost miss the turn. Another tricky descent with rocks and roots, i’m being a little cautious, i’m off the back, I sprint back on before anyone notices. On to the climb back up towards Presignac. JC is turning the screw, Christian (also coming back from a broken collarbone in May) is yo-yoing off. I’m breathing hard, I’m determined to stay on.

Over the top, JC eases and looks around to see what damage he’s done. We push on. The kilometers fly by. In what seems like no time we’re at the second ravitalment. We stop to take a drink and something to eat. One minute, no more, we’re on our way….

Up ahead we can see the young lad whos been off the front from the start. We catch him. The three of us ride together taking turns to set the pace. We’re not far from home now, and onto trails that I know really well. I know exactly what’s coming next, how long the climbs are, how tight the bends. I go to the front and push on. I also know that the last descent to the finish is a very tricky one. I warn the others, and we roll down safely.

46kms off-road in just under two hours. I’m pleased, it’s been a great ride, i’ve thoroughly enjoyed every pedal turn in a way that only cyclists know how. It’s just great to be back. 🙂

La Mandragore VTT Marathon 2008

La Mandragore 2008100kms, 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 🙁

24 Heures de Bonnac

24hrs_de_bonnac_logo We raced hard, we battled right to the last lap, but we were beaten into second place by “Les Blaireaux”, a bunch of desperados from the Dordogne! Chapeau guys! Hey, it was so tough, i’ve been ill ever since! But, it was a great event, and i rode with a great team (US Nantiat)………. and, and, we finished ahead of our mates in the Culture Velo team, but only just. 😉

Right from the start the team from the Dordogne took the lead. We’d planned on doing two laps each, but switched to one in an affort to peg them back. As the afternoon wore on their lead grew, and we found ourselves fighting for second place with the Culture Velo boys. It really was close.

24hrs_de_bonnac first lap action

Then luck ran out for the boys in blue. A string of punctures saw the Culture Velo team a lap down. We’d switched back to two laps each by now, as we raced through the night. By early morning the Dordogne team were well clear, only a mechanical would stop them now, though we kept hoping they’d gone too hard too soon, and would blow-up!

Into the last three hours and the Culture Velo boys rallied and began to gain on us. Stop watches were checked, riders timed, calculations made. We stuck to the task, and finished ahead of our friends by about the time it takes to mend three punctures. A very close match!

24hrs_de_bonnac_pearce_riderMost memorable laps for me were the one where I got dropped in around 10seconds behind my old mate Jean Claude Sansonnet. Thinking he was on a second lap, and I was only doing one I chased like a nutter. As I passed our team camp I got a cheer that said, “there he is, this is the lap you’ve been waiting for, GGGOOO!”. I managed to catch JC and get past him, though at the end of the lap I was ready to collapse.

Then there were the two laps I did with Fabrice from the Briance Roselle Aventure club. We rode bit and bit sharing the work, absolutley flying along. Merci Fabrice. It made me wonder if we should have offered to make a pact with the VC boys to work together to chase the Dordogne team.

I don’t know which lap was my fastest, but one of them must have been the lap I did glued to the back wheel of Charley. That boy is fast, and so smooth. I just hung on. I don’t reckon I could have done two.


I was very proud to stand on the podium alongside my French team mates. Thanks for having me lads it really was a pleasure to ride with you, and a weekend to remember.