Bourganeuf â€“ GuÃ©ret 60kms
Right, day twoâ€¦ after a reasonable night sleep Iâ€™m awake on a half-deflated air bed, dying for a pee. Itâ€™s 6:30, and there are riders up already fiddling and fussing. Now breakfast isnâ€™t until 08:00, and the race donâ€™t start until 10:00, so what they are doinâ€™ is beyond me. I go for a pee, then get back into bed to watch. Conserving energy seems like the sensible thing to do. OK, some of them are preparing camelbak type things with powders etc. Dudes, thereâ€™s revitalment stations every 20km! Why would you need 1.5ltrs of water strapped to your back?
Breakfast is continental style, croissants, coffee, cereal, juice, biscuits, fruit, bread. Followed byâ€¦..a big dump of course! 😉 As I put my fresh cycling kit on and pack my bag it occurs to me that I donâ€™t feel too bad. Bag loaded onto the camion, Iâ€™m ready. Carlaâ€™s voice in my head, â€œyou should be spinning those legs by nowâ€?. So I ride around outside in an easy gear to loosen my legs. â€œHave you done any stretching?â€?, I go through a short stretching routine, then begin to warm up more purposefully.
I notice some of the â€œfast boysâ€? checking out the first kilometer or so. I join them. A flat start 500m dash, then a left-hander onto a short steep tarmac ramp (probably a minutes worth), then a right across the top of a field, and into singletrack. I reckon Itâ€™s gonna be a painful mad dash, might even throw breakfast back up….
Back down to the start, and the organizers are gridding the riders. A quick be careful and have a good race in French and were away. Mad dash is right. Just holding my place hurts, but I give my all up the ramp. Into the first section of singletrack and the dust is choking! What a great way to start the day. I move up a few places, I loose a few places, but gradually I start to get into the days race. On tarmac sections itâ€™s a case of trying to jump up the groups, the pace is high.
Peteâ€™s on rucksack duties today, so itâ€™s Ben, Phil, and me. Just like yesterday, Ben is away fast, and Iâ€™m bringing up the rear, though I can see Phil about thirty seconds in front of me. I catch Phil, and we spend the next three hours taking turns in front. Ben waits for us on some of the tarmac sections to give us a tow. Iâ€™m finding today hard, and itâ€™s hot. Up in the forests some of the trails are incredibly tough. The last half hour takes forever, but finally through a gap in the trees I can see GuÃ©ret way below us.
The course down to the town is superb singletrack. Sweeping bermed bends leading to fast rockstrewn tracks with endless possibilities for creative and catastrophic riding. We burst out onto a smooth tarmac road, Iâ€™m thinking weâ€™ve cracked it, but no, thereâ€™s a sting in the tail. A granny ring climb over the last fold in the terrain. I catch a rider whoâ€™s walking, that last climb? Just too much.
Phil and I cross the line together. Ben is already in. We get interviewed!!! Seems we are the first Equipe Anglaise (English team) that has ever entered. Not only that, but Ben is the leading junior. They want to know how we came to be here, what we think of it, are we enjoying it!!??! Pete arrives about an hour later.
Now, itâ€™s only lunchtime, and Iâ€™m wondering what we are gonna do all afternoon. Well, first we get lunch from the revitalment at the finish line. Pasta, cake, coffee, fruit, wine! Next we find the overnight accommodation and collect our bags. Tonightâ€™s sports hall is quite posh. No shoes or bikes allowed inside, but we can use the gym mats to sleep on. Luxury!!!
After washing our bikes and bodies we relax. Some riders have walked into town, while others sit around chatting. I notice that the riders who are leading the race donâ€™t do anything except lie down! Some of them are getting massage from team mates, while some of them are using electric gizmos that they attach to their legs. They just lie there twitching!
The evening meal? Yep, steak again. Well we are in the Limousin, which is famous for itâ€™s beef, and itâ€™s cooked just how they like it, almost raw. Pete eats two, washed down with wine!!! Itâ€™s a short walk from dinner to the sports hall, and itâ€™s raining.