With no races on, but a couple of races coming up I rode the 35km rando at Isle. The plan was to ride hard for training, but also maybe get a few pictures, and not take it too seriously. As the riders set off (see picture), I spy Jean-Claude Sansonnet from the Nantiat club hammering away at the front. Now Jean-Claude will be my main rival in the Vet 2 category at the Departmental and regional Championship races next spring. Although I’ve finished ahead of him a couple of times it’s always been dry. This was my chance to take a closer look at him, and see what he’s like in the wet. I shoved my camera in my back pocket and gave chase.
The parkland start was a bit frantic, and Jean-Claude was going really hard, but I managed to scramble onto his back wheel after about 10 minutes. We fired into a tricky singletrack section. Wet leaves, roots and rocks everywhere. Just what I was hoping for. Jean-Claude had the style of an ex-motorcrosser, and seemed unphased by whatever the trail threw at him. He got cross-rutted at one point, but sorted it out with a minimum of fuss. I was right on his wheel watching every move.
Back out onto the tarmac Jean-Claude looks over his shoulder to see who’s there, “Ah Monsieur Bennett”, he says. We spoken many times before, he knows me, he’s probably sussed me as well! Anyway, we exchange greetings and ride on together.
We are joined by a young lad in green on a Cannondale Headshock bike. We turn onto a climb, and the young lad attacks. I go after him, but he’s riding away. I’m far too hot (overdressed), I can’t do it! As soon as I crest the climb and can ride no-handed I whip my lid off, remove my skull cap and chest warmer, and undo the front of my jersey a little. A quick drink of water, and I give chase. The young lad is still in sight.
On the tarmac sections I’m holding my bars in the middle and riding time-trial style mashing the biggest gear my legs will turn. In the off-road sections I’m riding very very hard. Slowly, I’m getting back to the youngster. We’re into the woods again. I can see where the young lad goes. He knows I’m after him. Using every last cyclo-cross skill I ever learned I’m racing over the wet muddy rooty terrain like a man possesed. The youngster makes a couple of slips. Now I’m right on him. He’s offline into a deep muddy puddle and comes to a stop, I shoot by on the right.
Having retaken the lead I push on hard. There’s a couple of short rooty climbs, and with sheer determination, and a little luck I make them both. I hear the yougster unclip. I’m paying so much attention to what’s behind me that I dont see the wooden bridge in front of me until it’s to late. There’s wet rocks onto it, then the wet wooden bridge. It’s too late to slow down, I line myself up and pedal. I’m across it and gone.
I continue to ride ‘au bloc’, I just love racing along the chemins and trails. I pass the ravitalment points without stopping. With an hour and a half on my watch I’m looking for the finish. Can’t be far now as I’m into some traffic from riders doing the shorter routes. Along a valley side, then up , then back along the valley side. I can see back along the trail for what must be a good few minutes. No chasers in sight. Maybe they stopped at the food stop, I dunno. I ease up, and I’m home in 1hr 40mins. There’s hot coffee, sandwiches, and cake at the finish. Just what’s needed after a hard training session.
As I pack my bike into the car and wait for Carla to arrive (she did the 35km as well), it starts to rain. I reckon we’ve had the best part of the day.