With the departmentals and the regionals behind me i’m changing the focus of my training to prepare for the GTL. That means more kilometres with hard days back to back. Actually, it’s the training I like best. So, Friday was four hours, yesterday was two and a half, and today was the Cognac le Foret rando, but with a twist. I’m doing the 44km route, while Carla does the 33km route and it’s a race to see who’s back first.
Conditions – We had glorious sunshine yesterday, but heavy overnight rain has made things a little wet. Heavy, and little being understatements. This is gonna be a mucky one. I don’t care.
At the start – It’s an early one, I’m thinking that the number of riders is down, as we roll away from the ‘Grand Depart’ at the alloted 08:30 I can see lots of tyre marks from riders who’ve already departed. Maybe they’re trying to get round before the forecast rain.
After a short climb up through the forest we’re heading down towards St Cyr. That’s a fast 5km slightly/mostly downhill all the way. It’s very very wet and slippy. I’m using the technique as taught to me by trials rider Scott Dommett – point the bike where you want to go and keep pedaling! Blissfully simple, and it works, and the faster you go the better it works.
A quick loop around the lake, and now we’re heading back up towards the forest. It’s a ridge trail, wide and easy, it reminds me a little of the South Downs Way. There’s a couple of riders up ahead, they’re working hard, but I’m slowly catching them. As I get closer one of them pushes on. There’s a short tarmac section and I sprint to catch him. It’s Pierre from the Ambazac Sprinter Club. He’s a strong veteran rider, he races in the same category as me. We exchange greetings and ride along together for a while.
Somewhere near La Bourgonnie we take a track off to our left. I’m on the front. Into a couple of bends with deep puddles, sliding then using the edge of the trail to catch myself. My brakes are poor, it’s bumpy, I wrap all my finger around the bars and readopt the Scott Dommett technique. It’s a great desent, i’m loving it, I can hear Pierre splashing through the puddles behind me. Or at least I thought I could. When I look, he’s not there.
I’ve gone past the point where the 33km and 44km route split. I’m on my own now riding hard. I can see no one in front or behind, yet there’s still one set of tyre marks ahead of me.
The circuit takes us all the way down past St Priest sur Aixe. It’s gonna be a long haul back up. I’m not sure what the state of play is with my brakes, whether the pads are worn, or whether it’s just the wet conditions. Whatever it is, i’m saving my brakes for emergencies. Oh, and my gears have gone into random selection mode so I’m tyring to change gear as little as possible. I don’t wan’t to risk breaking my chain. But apart from that i’m whooshing along feeling like some kind of super hero enjoying myself.
As I approach the second Ravitalment I spy the depart jumpin’ schmuck i’ve been chasing for the last hour and a half. He sees me approaching and takes off fast. I stop for a drink, then give chase. We’re in the forest near Logis. There’s some excellent riding here, real roller coaster singletrack stuff. Along the top of the forest the 33km and 44km circuits come back together for a final 5km dash to the finish.
There’s quite a bit of trail traffic now. I’m looking ahead trying to work out where and/or which is the rider I’m chasing. Some of the riders doing the shorter route are pushing on a bit. As we switch back and forth across the open ground it’s easy to see a few minutes ahead, and a few minutes behind. There he is, I can see him, he’s working hard. I can see riders tyring to get his wheel as he passes them.
I know where we are now, not far to go. Onto a rocky, muddy, desent, I’m half a dozen riders back. Scott Dommett mode again. “Pas de Freinage”, I’m on his wheel, he doesn’t seem to like the sloppy conditions, I’m past and gone.
The last climb up to the village is a tough one, and it’s been chewed up by farm traffic, but with 2hours and 4minutes on the clock I’m back. I wash my bike with one of the many hosepipes provided and return to the van. Carla is already there, bike washed and lubed, changed, clean, been back around twenty minutes…… What kept me?