This is the one we started with 3 years ago. This is my favourite rando, a 42km tour of the western end of the Monts de Blond. It’s an early start, an’ it’s bloomin’ chilly, though we’ll warm up soon enough. I spot a few of the ‘usual suspects’ signing on. Remember, it’s not a race, you just ride at your own speed. 😉
There’s no ‘Grand Depart’ this year. Instead you can leave anytime you like after 08:45. This means that by 08:45 just about everyone is gone. I set off at a brisk pace, picking my way through the traffic. By the time I reach Arnac i’m too hot so make a quick stop to remove Buff and scarf. I’m feeling pretty good, and you know what it’s like, when you’re feeling good the pain feels good, the faster you go the better the pain. I’m blasting along, pretty much full on.
Along the tops now, heading in the direction of Montrol Senard. There’s a rider catching me from behind. I’m goin’ damn quick, he’s goin’ even quicker! He catches me, it’s Jean-Phillipe, we’ve ridden together loads, usually with me groveling on his wheel. We exchange greetings, then, as per normal, i’m chasing his wheel. I manage to stay with him all the way into Montrol Senard village, though it’s a struggle. I’m not descending as well as I was, a little cautious.
We head out of the village and swing right onto the steep chemin towards Montmezerie. Jean-Phillipe slowy edges away. It’s steep and rocky, but I make it all the way to the top with just one dab. The next section if very fast, with plenty of rocks and roots to keep you focused. The dappled sunlight through the trees add to the sense of speed. I spot a rider up ahead, i’m gaining slowly. It’s Nico from the Nantiat club. I almost catch him but the trail turns downhill, and Nico drops like a stone.
I’m at the ravito (food stop) now. There’s one rider who I haven’t seen, though I know he’s here somewhere, Christian….. he must be ahead somewhere. Away from the ravito with Jean-Phillipe and Nico. We head down across the slabs on one of the best descents in the Monts. A sharp left, drop over the road, and down again. Fast, rocky, twisty, bermy, scary, this one has it all. I can’t stay with the boys, by the time I get to the lake at Les Petite Hors they’re out of site.
I push on, hard. Nico in sight again, and I’m gaining on him. The long granny ring climb back up to Boscartus. I catch him just before the summit. There’s a couple of kilometers of tarmac, i’m on the front. I know where were going, and what’s coming next. I don’t want to spoil Nico’s fun so I wave him through at the top of the last big descent. Again, I hang on to the fast descending Nico as long as I can, but in the steeper stony stuff I can’t stay with him. When we spill out onto the road at the bottom Nico has some 200metres on me.
We’re off the Monts now, and i know it’s a rolling run in to the finish. I’m chewin’ on the handlebars, riding like a man possesed. I catch Nico, he stays with me for a while. I lose him in some traffic. On very familiar ground now, the singletrack through to Le Pic. Hammering. There’s a stream, with a bridge, normally I take the bridge, but someone is on it, I don’t want to be held up, I blast through the water – not like me at all. Can’t be more than 3km to go now. A rider up ahead, I recognise his style though not his bike. It’s Christian!!!
So…… today was brilliant, I enjoyed every pedal turn. I feel like i have some form coming, but still some work to do to get ‘race fit’. I’m not climbing as well as I was – need to lose the 2kgs i’ve put on, and I’m not descending well – still a bit cautious after my fall in the Mandragore. I’ll keep taking the nasty medicine that is hard training. I’ve got two weeks, then it’s two big races in a row. Time enough, but only just.