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! ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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‚Äôs lots of action as riders come and go. I‚Äôm climbing well enough, and I‚Äôm 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 http://www.guidonbellachon.org/

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. ūüėČ

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.

Les “blaireaux” ont tout explos√©

Here’s a copy of the report on the 24 heures de Bonnac-la-C√īte from the local ‘Le Populaire‘ newspaper……

L’√©quipe p√©rigourdine “les blaireaux” a tout explos√© sur son passage. Les six hommes ont pulv√©ris√© le record des 24 heures de Bonnac-la-C√īte avec 561 km en deux tours d’horloge !

Ni d√©luge, ni canicule, la 2e √©dition des 24 heures VTT de Bonnac-la-C√īte a connu ce week-end des conditions pratiquement id√©ales. C’est sans doute pourquoi, le record de l’√©preuve d√©tenu depuis l’an dernier par l’√©quipe 1 de l’US Nantiat est pass√© de vie √† tr√©pas. Et pas qu’un peu.

Au 512 km parcourus l’an pass√© par les Nantiauds, les six v√©t√©tistes p√©rigourdins engag√©s sous l’appellation “les blaireaux” ont rajout√© pratiquement 50 km de plus!
Jean-Mary Brugeaud de Razès a réalisé un festival en couvrant pas moins de 347 km, devançant Philippe Sellier de plus de 55 km !

Ces 24 heures se sont parfaitement d√©roul√©es et l’organisation de Bonnac VTT y est pour beaucoup.

Le Mans style start

Here’s the Results……
1 613 Les blaireaux équip 6 11:05:34 561,2 92
2 606 US NANTIAT 1 équip 6 11:01:15 542,9 89
3 607 CULTURE VELO équip 6 11:05:42 542,9 89
4 412 Les corréziens équip 4 singlespeed 11:08:03 524,6 86
5 605 Club VTT Chateauneuf-Chamberet équip 6 jeune 11:20:30 524,6 86
6 604 Les Z’ACCROS √©quip 6 11:05:57 512,4 84
7 615 Les tontons flingueurs équip 6 11:06:43 512,4 84
8 808 Les Outsiders équip 8 11:11:25 512,4 84
9 801 Team 51 équip 8 jeune 10:58:36 494,1 81
10 417 Manouch’Bullets √©quip 4 singlespeed 11:16:13 488 80
11 622 UC Flavignac N¬į1 √©quip 6 11:00:52 481,9 79
12 611 VTT Montragrier équip 6 11:03:37 481,9 79
13 625 LesMiauletou équip 6 11:09:55 475,8 78
14 623 Nieul’s band √©quip 6 11:09:57 469,7 77
15 410 Speeder bike équip 4 11:14:45 463,6 76
16 416 Les tringlots à vélo équip 4 11:20:58 457,5 75
17 802 vingtneuf.org équip 8 singlespeed 11:01:38 451,4 74
18 415 Team Celtic équip 4 11:01:12 445,3 73
19 612 Les Agresiens équip 6 11:05:45 445,3 73
20 803 Cyclo Club BEAUVALLET équip 8 mixte 10:46:29 439,2 72
21 618 Les ronds qui colle équip 6 11:18:00 439,2 72
22 807 La Belle Equipe équip 8 11:03:22 433,1 71
23 627 Lycée st Exupéry équip 6 10:54:13 427 70
24 616 Les débutants équip 6 11:01:18 427 70
25 404 VTT Evasion pourpre 3 équip 4 11:03:56 427 70
26 628 Natu’raid √©quip 6 11:05:19 427 70
27 608 LES BRANLE BOUILLIS équip 6 11:10:54 427 70
28 617 Les musclors bike équip 6 11:11:08 427 70
29 602 AL l’√©toile Cyclo St Astier – les rubip√®des √©quip 6 10:59:56 420,9 69
30 804 Team Wi-Wi équip 8 11:03:00 420,9 69
31 629 Bonnac équip 6 11:03:30 420,9 69
32 630 90 + équip 6 11:06:03 420,9 69
33 614 X RAID 87 équip 6 11:08:07 420,9 69
34 407 Team VCS la Souterraine équip 4 10:57:55 414,8 68
35 619 Les winners équip 6 11:01:41 414,8 68
36 624 Les Moblo équip 6 entreprise 11:09:28 414,8 68
37 806 Les pantouflards équip 8 11:10:49 414,8 68
38 609 TEAM GAUQUIE équip 6 11:17:12 414,8 68
39 408 Les Kings de Bosmie équip 4 11:05:24 408,7 67
40 809 Les musclores de Bosmie équip 8 11:01:19 402,6 66
41 402 VTT Evasion pourpre 1 équip 4 mixte 11:07:12 402,6 66
42 403 VTT Evasion pourpre 2 équip 4 11:07:16 402,6 66
43 405 AL l’√©toile Cyclo St Astier – les touristes √©quip 4 11:02:23 396,5 65
44 810 Valéo équip 8 entreprise 11:15:44 396,5 65
45 420 Passion rando Montbron équip 4 10:53:43 390,4 64
46 621 UC Flavignac N¬į2 √©quip 6 11:01:31 390,4 64
47 805 Team Marco Bike équip 8 11:02:17 390,4 64
48 406 L’ap√©ro Team √©quip 4 11:06:47 384,3 63
49 413 BLUES BAND équip 4 10:59:54 372,1 61
50 610 Les galériens équip 6 10:59:58 372,1 61
51 601 AL l’√©toile Cyclo St Astier – les cagouilles √©quip 6 11:04:27 372,1 61
52 418 Les novices équip 4 10:49:15 366 60
53 603 Les Verneuillais équip 6 11:06:09 366 60
54 620 Les chupa chup’s √©quip 6 10:51:43 359,9 59
55 105 Marco solo solo 09:51:38 347,7 57
56 411 Les goulles sèches équip 4 10:44:57 341,6 56
57 409 QUADRICOLOR équip 4 10:53:43 335,5 55
58 401 Les Pédales durs équip 4 11:01:21 335,5 55
59 104 ROM1RED- www.vingtneuf.org solo singlespeed 10:58:45 329,4 54
60 626 Les charlots équip 6 10:53:32 323,3 53
61 103 Le vieux loup solo 09:21:38 292,8 48
62 419 Fixie King équip 4 singlespeed 11:09:13 280,6 46
63 414 RAFFIER équip 4 entreprise 11:04:15 274,5 45
64 102 Le fournil de la vallée st astier solo 11:00:20 256,2 42
65 101 LE BARJOT solo 10:37:58 219,6 36
66 108 Le grand solo 10:47:25 207,4 34
67 113 soul of tribe solo 01:40:12 189,1 31
68 112 La grenouille solo 11:01:34 176,9 29
69 111 Perol tous seul solo 11:01:36 176,9 29
70 109 Poussin solo 11:05:51 146,4 24
71 106 Nanardo solo 11:04:05 128,1 21
72 107 Jojo solo 11:04:07 128,1 21
73 110 Le para solo solo 15:49:20 48,8 8

Gold in the French Mountains!!! 2008 UFOLEP VTT Champs at Mazamet

If you’ve been following the story you’ll know that Carla and I both qualified to represent the Haute Vienne at the 2008 MTB Championships in Mazamet. You’ll know that the path to selection was a tough one, and that we’ve worked hard. Also know how much we’ve been looking forward to this weekend, and how honoured we feel to be invited to race.

How’d it go? Well, we both came away with gold medals, but that’s only part of the story…

Carla with her Red White Blue bouquet and medal

We travelled down to Mazamet in the Tarn on Thursday, camped at the minicipal campsite, and were up at the race venue mid morning on Friday to pre-ride the circuit. A bright sunny day, we felt good, and the circuit was superb. A wide start lead to a tarmac climb before diving into a superfast descent, plenty of space and time to move up. Lots of swooping singletrack, fast middle ring climbs, technical descents, and the lap finished off with a blast alongside the huge lake. I did two laps steady with Carla where we stopped and looked at lines, and one lap fast to test gearing on climbs. We were very happy, we felt the circuit suited us.

Meanwhile, far away in another part of the land (this bit is fiction, but it could have an element of truth) Mudmeister Jean Claude Sansonnet was on the phone to God, “Mon Dieu – Rain SVP!”. In the early hours of the morning we were woken by the sound of heavy rain on the tent, and it wasn’t just a passing shower.

Back at the race venue on Saturday to watch the start of the young vets (40-49yrs). It was wet, and most racers had switched to mud tyres. Watching them come through on their first lap they were filthy, though they still made the half-hour-ish per lap as specified by the UFOLEP rules.

We changed tyres. Off came the fast dusty tyres from the day before to be replaced with mud tyres. On went the thick gloopy lube, cassette and chainrings coated. I warmed up in my cape, with full gloves, and waterproof trousers, I wasn’t warm.

The first climb out of the arena

The race actual – We were called to the start line by name, with riders who placed 1st in their respective departmental champs first, then seconds, and so on. I made the third line, there’s 94 of us. Minutes turned to hours waiting to go, then countdown from 5 and we’re away. I made up a few places across the field, and a few more on the first bank to the tarmac. Once on the tarmac I clanged up a couple of gears and moved up some more. As the gradient eased I knew riders were getting my wheel, but I pushed on. By the time we turned off the tarmac into the first descent I was in third place!

What had been a fast flowing course had now turned into a cyclo-cross style mud fest. Trying to keep the bike on line was comical, and some climbs had become unrideable. We pushed on. Around the back of the course things were a little better. I was still in third, and feeling OK. On the last long drag JC comes past, and I get his wheel. So now I’m in fourth, but it’s OK we’re only seconds off the leader, and progress is good.

Race Action

On the second lap someone else is riding my bike. I don’t know who it is, but it certainly isn’t me. This idiot is all over the place, making a right hash of it, going nowhere fast. Riders come past like I’m standing still. I chase, but hard….. I’m in danger of not even making the top ten.

I manage to regain control of my bike. I work hard and make up a couple of places. Now I’m in 7th, with a rider on my wheel. There’s a short tarmac section with a sharp right hander, I’m conscious that I’m towing someone. Into the sharp right hander I ride hard, keep pedaling, and drag the back brake cyclo-cross style. I hear my passenger go down. I push on.

Enroute, it hurts

I make it almost to the wheel of 6th place, but he has enough to hold me off, and 7th is where I finish. I’m a little disappointed. JC by the way made it up to second! That’s his tenth time on the podium in 10 years! Chappeau Jean Claude!!!

Putting it in perspective – The winner Roland Guillermin is home in 1:37:04, I’m just under 4 minutes off the pace at 1:40:52, JC was home in 1:38:24, and third place went to Jean Claude Laskowsky in 1:38:53. The gaps weren’t big. Nobody with a higher number plate, thereby ranked higher than me, finished in front of me. So maybe things weren’t so bad……..

By the time Carla raced things had dried out a little and the mud had turned to stiff porridge making the going even tougher. I’ll leave her to tell you how she got on. I’ll just say that she done good, and showed great courage and determination. She could hardly stand at the finish.

So what about these gold medals then? – Well, as well as individual medals there are also team medals for each category based on the first three riders home for each department. Carla and I were both second placed home, and our team placed first. As I stood on the podium at the prize ceremony that evening I felt very proud. Not only had I made it onto the top step, but I stood there as a member of a French team. To live and race in France, and be part of a winning French team… that’s a dream come true that is.

my poor bike after the race

With our races done we were able to enjoy the rest of the weekend watching and supporting. We joined in with all the other bell ringers, horn blowers, cheerers, and photographers that made the race atmoshere electric. The noise from supporters on the first climb out of the arena was incredible. Special mention to Marcel Buisson of the US Natiat club who couldn’t race so spent the whole weekend making an din cranking an old washing machine drum full of junk!

race supporters

It truly was a weekend to remember and
Je suis super heureux d’avoir particip√© √† cette manifestation et √† cette f√™te qui permet √† tous de prendre le d√©part d’un National, de discuter, d’√©changer sans prise de t√™te, quelque soit son VTT, sa r√©gion, son niveau voir m√™me son look. Encore BRAVO au club de Mazamet et aux 200 b√©n√©voles, vous pouvez √™tre fier de votre travail et vive l’UFOLEP, une autre id√©e du sport.

Aussi, BRAVO et merci beaucoup √† tous les coureurs et supporters et responsables de Haute Vienne‚Ķ. J’esp√®re vous voir a velo bient√īt ūüôā

Grande Traversée du Limousin РFinal Stage

Gu√©ret -> Ch√Ętelus-Malvaleix – 60kms

There’s good news, and bad news. First the good – Supawal has a new seatpost! He’s looking forward to riding the last stage, and has donned his best French kit to ride in. Now me – despite losing ground in the last few kms of both the earlier stages I’m still in line for 3rd on the podium in the over 40s category. Now the bad – the 1st and 2nd placed riders are so far ahead that it would take a mechanical or a miracle to catch them. Meanwhile there are quite a few ‘old fellas’ very close behind me. Which means it’s far from sewn up. Today is gonna be tough, no margin for errors or slacking if I want to hold my place.

gtl 2008 neutralised depart

Young Pricer has been telling me that he’s finding it difficult to judge pace. With his limited racing experience he’s used to doing laps, and knowing what’s coming next. I tell him that the most important thing is simply to ‘stick to the task’, work hard, concentrate, and not be disuaded. He’s got plenty of miles in his legs, it’s the last stage, all he has to do is let them out.

It’s an early start today. After a 5am breakfast, and a 7:30 round-up we’re riding behind the cars down to the 8am start in Gu√©ret. The sun is shining, and it’s gonna be a hot one. We get a final briefing, then with a minimum amount of fuss, we’re off.

Tha pace is steady at first as we climb out of Gu√©ret, then there’s a steep ramp that takes us to the first off-road section. The young guns sprint it, going like the finish was just around the corner. How do they do that? I go as hard as I can, trying to hold my place.

Next we’re on a shelf that runs the side of the hills. It’s fast sweeping roller coaster stuff. Bursting out onto the tarmac, and climbing again, there’s a rider glued to my wheel. Onto a long open track, still climbing, he comes past. It’s Pricer, and he’s going quick. Next Johnathan Cormier comes past. He taps me on the shoulder, I jump onto the small group he’s riding with.

Some steep tricky climbs now, and Johnathan has pushed on leaving three of us working together. A rider catches us from behind, now we are four. The big rider on the Cannondale is doing the lions share of the work, and he doesn’t like it. He’s a superfast descender, and every now and then he opens a gap, we claw our way back on.

Dropping out of the woods onto a fast farm track the big Cannondale rider has a good gap, and he’s going for it. We chase hard. He’s so busy trying to get away, and we’re so busy chasing him that we miss a turn. We fire straight on down to a road, there are no markings, now we know we have gone wrong. There’s nothing for it but to retrace our steps. It’s a blow, and my own words come back to haunt me, “stick to the task”. It’s too much for the big rider on the Cannondale, he falls to bits, disappears backwards, and is never seen again.

Back on course the three of us are working well together. We can see groups up ahead, and we’re gaining on them. We catch a rider from the VTT Gauriac club, he looks like a vet. One of our three is his team mate, but he rides right by him, I dunno what’s going on.

With over two and a half hours done we hit a long stony rutted climb. It’s baking hot, the sun is on our backs, all of a sudden I don’t feel so good. I’m staring at the wheel of the rider in front, sticking to the task with all the stickability I can muster. The younger of our three jumps to try and bridge the gap to the group in from. Me and the other fella can’t respond.

At the top of the climb there’s a welcome breeze, and a fabulous vista across the Creuse. From memory the stage profile shows a descent for the last 5kms, with a small climb to finish off. At last we start going downhill. It’s very fast, though not overly technical. Smooth fast trails puntuated with short boulder sections and zig-zag ruts. The odd water splash to cools me down. Some short tarmac sections, I crouch low, put my hand in the middle of the bars and pedal for all I’m worth. Every last half pedal turn counts.

A tricky section, I choose right, it’s wrong, I’m cross-rutted. My buddy sees it, shoots left, gets a gap and knows it. I’m suprised by the ferocity of the attack he puts in. Maybe he’s a vet, maybe he wants to take my third place. Powering along, Ch√Ętelus-Malvaleix comes into view, a sweeping singletrack brings us alongside the lake where we parked our cars forever ago. Up away from the lake towards the town centre, a short sprint of a climb, a right hander, a wall to climb! Spectators cheer, nearly there, I ride as hard as I can right up to the line. There’s a big cheer, as the commentator shouts “troisi√®me’!

New Bike, well and truly Christened…

Christened my new 2008 Specialized S-Works Carbon Stumpjumper HT at the Regional VTT Champs last weekend…….. want to know what I thought of it? OK, but first of all let me tell you how it came to be my weapon of choice.
S-Works Carbon Hardtail Christened
Why a hardtail? – I love the clean lines of a race hardtail, the simplicity, the minimalist functionality, the way they ride. I’ve often found that riding a full-susser just doesn’t give that ‘race bike’ feel, you might be covering the ground just as fast but it doesn’t feel fast. I like to go fast, and feel like I’m going fast, that’s the buzz.

Why a Specialized hardtail – this is my sixth, and i’ve loved each one. From my very first in 1989, grey with Umma Gumma grey tyres, to my latest. I’ve never ridden any other race hardtail that I like as much. It’s the best tool for the job.

So this new S-Works Carbon one – It’s an out and out race bike. It feels special, like a race bike should – light, agile, quick-handling, and rocket fast. I wouldn’t want to just ride it every day. That’d be like using a Ferrari to commute. It’s for racing, for going fast, and the faster you go the better it feels, and the faster you want to go. It inspires, excites, urges you on…..

…to ride the knife edge that is control. The faster you go the sharper the blade. It’s amazing that the brain can control two brakes with fingertip accuracy while positioning the body for perfect balance, while reading and predicting what’s coming next racing down a hillside over rock, roots, grass, and dirt. Not to mention sorting out where other riders are so as not to hit them. You really are just there in the moment, there is nothing else, and nothing else quite like it.

That’s how it rides. Nuff said?

Sans fleurs – I’d only done two short rides on it to bed the brakes and gears in, so I was almost racing it straight out of the box. It performed faultlessly. Not only that, but the day after the race I suffered no unusual aches, pains or strains. That suggests to me that the bike is ‘right’.

Limousin Regional VTT Championships – Ambazac

The Regional VTT Championships brings riders from the Haute Vienne, Creuse, and Correze departments together. It’s a step up from the up from the Haute Vienne Departmental Champs where I came second, and it’s the final race to determine invitations for the National Championships in May.

Limousin Regional VTT Championships - Ambazac 2008 I’ve been round the circuit a couple of weeks ago with my friends Davy and Charly. It’s very fast, rolling, and today it’s mostly dry. There’s a deep stream crossing, a muddy stream crossing, and a few wet bits, but it’s gonna be quick.

In the frame there’s Jean-Claude Sansonnet, wily old racer with 9 national podium placings, Jean-Claude Laskowski, ex national road-race champion, and champion contre-la-montre, and me. I’ve been told that on this ‘roulant’ circuit Laskowski is the man to fear.

Now. veteran A’s (40-50yrs) and veteran B’s (50yrs and over) race together, with the youngsters doing four laps while the rest of us do three. So it should be just a case of latching onto the youngsters and getting towed around. I’m on the grid behind Olivier Dessisard, he’s veteran A, and outright winner of the St Junien VTT race last season, so i’m in a good spot.

We’re away! Up through the chicanes to cross the line for the first time. There’s a slight bottleneck, we’re getting squeezed, I’m in about 9th going onto the short tarmac section, I’m OK. On to the first climb, getting held up by a couple of big riders from the Correze, I use the line that i’ve previously scouted to the left, I’m past them, and sitting on the back of the lead group. Both the Jean-Claudes are there.

Diving down across the loose rocky section to the first stream crossing and into the 200 metre porridge section, we all make it through without dismounting. A short climb, we’re still all together with a vet A in yellow forcing the pace. Down the roller-coaster singletrack we’re going incredibly fast, no margin for error here.

Braking hard we swing left along the valley. I’m on Sansonnet’s wheel here. He swithches me through a deep puddle, naughty! Through the deep river crossing and onto a short washed out climb, lots of erosion ruts and rocks, we sprint it and we’re gone. JC Sansonnet is allowing a gap to open. I jump past him as hard as I can, I don’t want to tow him along.

JC Laskowski is looking good, sat third in line of the leading group. I’m trying to get across the gap, but it ain’t happening. I cannot believe how fast I’m going, and how hard I’m pressing on the pedals and making no progress. Meanwhile JC Sansonnet has clawed his way back onto my wheel!

Now it’s JC Sansonnet who jumps me! This ain’t going to plan! As we cross the open field to go through to start the second lap I can see JC Laskowski sitting comfortably on the wheels of the leading vet A’s (that was my plan!), I can see JC Sansonnet working hard to try and get across, and I can see another veteran A closing on me from behind.

The vet A catches me, he’s making good progress, I try to lift my pace and get his wheel. I’m on, and just about holding him. He knows I’m a vet B, and doesn’t seem too bothered. Out through the muddy stream crossing and into the woods. We’re motoring, and we’re starting to get into tail enders from the race in fron’t. Then we catch Olivier Dessisard! I glance across, he looks in trouble (turns out he’d crashed and ended up pulling out). We push on.

Crossing the field to start the last lap things aren’t looking promising. JC Sansonnet is climbing out through the start as I’m dropping in. But, anything can happen, so I stick to the task, and give my all for the last lap.

Through the muddy section for the last time, I catch an edge, shoot myself to the side of the track, and my taxi gets a gap! I complete the lap alone, finishing third, some three minutes off the pace.
Regional VTT Championships podium
Analysis – What went wrong? Nothing, just lacking in a little top-end speed, and haven’t really regained the form I had before that chest infection a few weeks ago. The pace today was blisteringly fast, and the race was done and dusted in less than an hour and a quarter. I know what I need to do.

Meanwhile – In the ladies race Carla put in a fantastic ride to take second! Her improvement in form over the last few weeks has been astounding.

Best of all – Job done! As podium placed riders Carla and I have now recieved our official invites to represent the Limousin region at the National VTT Championships in May! A fantastic opportunity or what? ūüôā

Thanks to – The race hosts Ambazac Sprinter Club the fabulous circuit, and superb organisation. Thanks also to Philippe at Photolaps for the superb pictures.

La Rochechouartaise

Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo Banner
Aimez-vous course avec la ROCC?

Well, you can on 30th March when the Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo stage their first race of the season “La Rochechouartaise”. The race, held under UFOLEP rules, starts with the 1st cats going off at 15:00 hrs through to Minimes at 15:06 hrs. Distances range from 76km for the 1st cats down to 28.5km for the Minimes. If you fancy it, and have a UFOLEP licence it’ll cost you 4 euros.

There’s prizes for the first 5 in each category. I’m doin’ it. Come and give me a pasting! ūüėČ

Haute Vienne Departemental VTT Championships – St Leger la Montagne

Wifey and I got his’n’hers trophies when we raced the Haute Vienne Departmental VTT Championships on Sunday. But racing can be cruel can’t it? ūüôā
Me and the wife with our trophies.
First the wife – This was her first race in years. See, she doesn’t really enjoy racing, she just likes riding her bike, something she’s very good at, and something that’s not gone unoticed. She was ‘leg hunted‘ then ‘sweet talked’ into racing by Theo, the president of a local club who loves to see women race!

Anyway, she put in some good training, and given the horrendous conditions on the day she did a storming ride to take 2nd place. She told me straight after that she’d hated every pedal turn, it was too hard, and she never wanted to race again. Then wha’d’yer know, by the end of the prize presentations Theo has worked his magic and she’s agreed to do the Regional Champs, the National Champs, hell! she’s even signed up for a 24hr race.

Now me – I really wanted to win this one, I really did. Gridded on the front row of the vets race (vet A >40 and vetB >50 raced together), they counted us down with 5 seconds to go, we were gone on 2. I led out of the field, riding hard. Into the woods my friend Eric Monjoffre came by, I grabbed his wheel. Out onto the road section 5 off us were clear. Jean Claude Sansonnet came by, I took a short rest on his wheel before jumping to be first off road.
A great start - I√Ę‚ā¨‚ĄĘm first out of the field
Now we were into the meat of the first lap. I dismounted early for a muddy run up, I was still in the lead at the top. Back on the bikes there’s now three of us going clear. John Claude, Olivier Desissard (remember him? the scratch winner in the St Junien VTT race), and me. Out onto the open hillside, it’s tough, i’m trying to find traction, Jean Claude comes past followed by Olivier. I’m working hard.

At the top of the course I’m a couple of hundred meters off the lead. The rocky descents are covered in a film of mud but I’m motoring fast, and I’m getting it right. Along the short valley and back up into the arena. The commentator is saying something about Jean Claude. As I cross the line, there he is with his back tyre flat. I dunno how long it’ll take him to fix it, but I have to make the most of it. I try to lift my pace.

On the greasy, muddy, rooty, rocky, hateful second lap climb to the top of the course I’m aware that Marcel Buisson is not that far behind me. I can hear spectators willing him on. On long straights I can see him. I really need to get out of sight. It’s hurting.
Racing Hurts!
On the run up back into the arena I can see quite a way back down the course, I’m clear. Going through the arena and out for the last lap someone shouts me that Olivier is not far in front. Out onto the road section for the final time, spectators are telling me that I’m clear, nobody in sight. But, I wanna make sure, and as I’ll never have to climb the hateful course again I attack it. I can see Olivier the leading vet A, looks like he’s about a minute ahead.

At last, the top of the course, all the hard work done. Onto the rocky descent for the last time. Skimming over the rocks I get a kick in my rear wheel, it steps out, and I feel a gentle bisou (kiss) on my rear rim. I cross my fingers, but it doen’t help. She’s flat! I don’t know whether to push on on the flat or stop and change it. My mind is made up for me when the tyre comes off the rim.

Time suddenly goes into warp speed, my hands turn to banannas, and it seems to be taking for ever to change my tube. I have my new tube in and I’m blowing it up when Marcel passes me. “Ce n’est pas vrai”, he says. With just enough air in I jump on my bike and give chase. Down the last desent like a nutter, but as I reach the final run up I can see Marcel disappearing over the top. I’m beat. Racing can be cruel can’t it? I’m first loser home in second place.

So what happened to Jean Claude? – well, he got his puncture fixed and got back in only to puncture again, and a third time. This is bad, because it means his selection for the national championships in May now rests on his performance in the regional championships in April. Racing can be cruel can’t it? Very!

About that puncture – I’ve been running tubeless tyres for a while now, and they have been great. However, being thorough in my preparation I set a spare pair of tubed wheels up with more knobby tyres in case of muddy conditions. It was only after my warn up, and at the last minute that I switched to the tubes. Even then, it’s only the second puncture i’ve had in a race ever. Doh!

Not forgetting – Many thank’s to everyone at Saint-L√©ger-la-Montagne VTT Rando Club for puuting on a great race. ūüôā ….and thanks to the Barboriers for the photos. ūüôā

Runner versus Riders

To celebrate the first anniversary of my return to racing I travelled all the way home to the UK to race where I started in the annual runners versus riders at Ludlow. You remember, 10 miles of lung-bursting strength sapping agony. You may also remember that I came second last year after leading for most of the race I was caught inside the last mile, thwarted by my lack of descending skills. Anyway, this year I was back, fitter, faster, lighter, and determined to do well.
First three home in the runner versus riders.
Here’s how it went
I attacked right from the start, to be first across the road into Oak Wood. I had a couple of riders show me their front wheel before I pushed on and was first to the top of the ramp with a small lead. Down the ramp towards the fire road and Marc Beaumont (yes, Marc Beaumont the Santa Cruz sponsored World Cup, world class downhiller) comes flying past. I give chase up the fire road. I’m towing John Gilbert (last years winner), and Gary Brain (last years 3rd) behind me. I pass Marc before we reach the first stream crossing and as I line myself up to go through he passes me again. He’s so fast through the stream there’s hardly a splash.

Up through the singletrack towards Chemical Bank I’m on Marc’s wheel. We re-cross the stream and onto the bank. Its far too steep to ride, so with bikes on shoulders, lungs burning and legs stinging we hike our way to the top. At the summit the four of us are clear, Marc, me, John, and Gary, in that order.

Dropping down toward the pipe track Marc opens a gap. I let John through, he knows this descent well and I feel safer tailing him. Gary tails me. By the time we spill out onto the pipe track Marc has a good 30secs lead. Using John to lead me through the rutted section at the start of the pipe track I then chase after Marc. Just before the first of the huge pipe track dips I re-take the lead.

Descending into the first dip as fast as I dare Marc comes past like I’m standing still. Onto the climb out of the dip i’ve lost 10 bike lengths but I’m gaining. I just get back on terms when we’re into the second dip, and I lose another 10. Bikes on shoulders again we stagger out onto the zigzag tarmac climb to the Ridgeway. John is back with me, and we chase Marc together.

On the long Ridgeway climb I leave John, and catch Marc to take the lead again. I’m trying hard now to get enough gap so that I won’t be caught again on the descent to Monstay Farm. At the top of the Ridgeway a quick glance back, I have a good gap, I hope to keep it. Down the rutted frozen Ridgeway to Five Ways is a nightmare. I make a couple of dabs to stay upright. At Five Ways I’m still clear. I mash on hard, down through Monstay Farm as fast as I dare, straight across the road (thanks marshals), and onto the climb of High Vinnals.

High Vinnals is a climb that gets steeper as you go up. Middle ring at first, then Granny, then running. I keep having a sneaky look back. Nobody in sight. As I crest the climb I take a good look back, still clear. Down across Climbing Jack moor, rattling over the frozen ground. Going into the trees for the descent to the Middle Road, still nobody in sight behind. I’m beginning to think I might have it.

Down to the middle road, a 200 metre dash then dive right. Still no one there. Along the rutted frozen track to Sunny Dingle. With 100 metres of track left Marc comes flying past fast, really fast. By the time we cross the fire road and start to race along the valley he’s opened up a 10 second gap! I chase hard along the valley road, and at the hairpin into the stream crossing I’ve caught him.

Back up the ramp I take the lead one more time. As I go past Marc I clang up a gear and push on as hard as I possibly can. I need as much of a buffer as I can before the final downhill dash to the finish. Marc goes up a gear to and tries to respond. At the top of the ramp it is me who has the 10 second lead.

Diving down left, I go as fast as I can, taking as much room as I can. With 300 metres to go Marc squeezes past Rizla close (you couldn’t fit a Rizla in the gap). At the log dismount I’m on his wheel, right on it, but we’re at the line. I’m beaten again!

Analysis– I’m disappointed not to win. If only the circuit had been 300 metres shorter or even 300 metres longer where it flattens out. I’m full of self-recrimination. Surely I could have found another few seconds from somewhere, did I run hard enough here, did I push myself there etc.

However, I’ve only just been beaten by a world class rider at the top of his game. He thanks me for a good hard race. It can only be a handful of riders that can say that they battled with Marc Beaumont man on man. Add to that the fact that the two of us beat the time set by the fastest runners. The first time that the runners have been beat in as long as anyone can remember. Maybe that’s not so bad.

By the way, Marc is running a downhill coaching day in conjunction with Pearce Cycles on 5th January Maybe I should book myself a place on it ūüôā

Final placings and timings…
Marc Beaumont 1:04:24
Steve Bennett 1:04:26
John Gilbert 1:05:22
Gary Brain 1:07 :44
Dave Price 1:08:44
Rob Davies 1:11:57
Jon Brain 1:16:48
Marcus Robertson 1:17:25
Dave Pearce 1:19:44
Alex Florian 1:20:58
Dave Smith 1:23:05
Dave Heath 1:26:36
Matt Pearce 1:30:52
Sean Singleton 1:34:23
Michael Robinson 1:37:21
Phil Washbrook 1:40:12
Mark Povey 1:49:10