13éme Météorite – Rochechouart VTT Rando

The start of the Rochechouart VTT Rando
It’s my first proper event since breaking my collarbone and three ribs when I crashed while riding the Mandragore at the end of june. I’ve been back on the bike for about three weeks, but this will be my first ride proper. It’s a 46kms rando, and although it’s not a race, the riders at the front like to push on, hard. That’s where I wanna be!

First of all, it’s great to see all my riding/racing buddies again. They’re all suprised and pleased to see me (I think). As we line up for the off everyones spirits are high, and there’s much jovial banter. At 08:45 sharp we’re away.

The pace is brisk, and as we hit the first climb I brace myself for some pain. It doesn’t come, and I float along as if on a magic bike. Over the crest a young lad takes off. I stay with the group containing all the usual suspects. We settle into a good rythmn over the next few kms, quick, purposeful, though not flat out. By the time we reach the first ravitalment the group is down to 5. We don’t stop.

There’s a tarmac section and Pierre from the Ambazac Sprinter club is on the front. He’s setting a tough pace. Pierre from the St Junien club, who raced on the road yesterday sits up, he’s had enough. Down to four now, with the young lad still off the front.

The relentless pace claims another, Pierre is dropped. A tricky descent, a sharp left, Jean-Claude and Christian almost miss the turn. Another tricky descent with rocks and roots, i’m being a little cautious, i’m off the back, I sprint back on before anyone notices. On to the climb back up towards Presignac. JC is turning the screw, Christian (also coming back from a broken collarbone in May) is yo-yoing off. I’m breathing hard, I’m determined to stay on.

Over the top, JC eases and looks around to see what damage he’s done. We push on. The kilometers fly by. In what seems like no time we’re at the second ravitalment. We stop to take a drink and something to eat. One minute, no more, we’re on our way….

Up ahead we can see the young lad whos been off the front from the start. We catch him. The three of us ride together taking turns to set the pace. We’re not far from home now, and onto trails that I know really well. I know exactly what’s coming next, how long the climbs are, how tight the bends. I go to the front and push on. I also know that the last descent to the finish is a very tricky one. I warn the others, and we roll down safely.

46kms off-road in just under two hours. I’m pleased, it’s been a great ride, i’ve thoroughly enjoyed every pedal turn in a way that only cyclists know how. It’s just great to be back. 🙂

Voulez-vous rouler avec le ROCC?

ROCC girl - Voulez-vous rouler avec le ROCC?Would you like to ride with the ROCC? Well this Saturday you’ll have the chance. It’s the ‘Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo’ half day velo sortie. There’ll be different length circuits to choose from ranging for 35km up to 100km, with ravitalments (food stops) enroute. All are welcome, the pace is friendly, you’ll be riding through some beautiful countryside, with some fabulous company, so why not come and join us?

Meet at the ‘Maison de Temps Libre’ in Rochechouart on Saturday 28th June at 13:30, for a 14:00 start. Helmets compulsory.

See you there? C’est ROCC’n’Rouler! oui? 🙂

La 10éme Briance Roselle VTT Rando

“Hyper sec, hyper roulant!”, that’s what Fabrice told me when I signed on. I lined up on the front next to Charley Baborier (Junior departmental cyclo-cross champion, junior departmental and regional VTT champion). Right on the stroke of 5 minutes early, according to my watch, we were on our way.

These randos aren’t races, but you know what it’s like when someone lines a bunch of cyclists up with a marked circuit in front of them and says “GO!”………. Four of us move clear. 🙂 There’s a rider in red with Velo Culture shorts who seems dead keen, he sets the early pace. Things are fairly straight forward out of town, and the pace is high. Charley is cruising, looks very comfortable, I’m hanging on as usual.

We’re down to three now, just come onto a big climb, Charley goes to the front and lifts the pace. The rider in red cracks, I scramble to get Charley’s wheel as we reach the crest, and that’s the end of it really. I spend the next hour and a half getting a masterclass and a half from the young master in the art of finessing bike and terrain. At about half distance I thought he was begining to tire a little, but he simply pulled to one side, put some more air in his soft tyre, and continued like a bullet shot from a gun.

Charley, the young master with his student

Thanks Charley – for teaching me how to ride some of that stuff, and for waiting for me at the top of the climbs. You have super form, and with the nationals only three weeks away you must be a podium placer.

Thanks Briance Roselle Aventure – for a superb event. I loved some of those shelf-like descents down along the river valley. Chasing Charley so fast I hardly noticed the muddy bits! 😉

Thanks Fabrice – for sorting out that ‘T shirt’ for my friend James. He was ‘well chuffed’ with it. For those of you who don’t know – James dad rears Limousin cattle on a farm in the UK.

Cognac le Forét rando

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.
The start of the Cognac le Forét rando
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?

La Meuzacoise VTT Rando – say Moooooooooozac!

La Meuzacoise VTT RandoMy first proper ride in almost two weeks, I’m still a bit snotty, and hacking up the ocassional frog, but I’m over the worst, and looking for a good workout.

We arrive with minutes to spare before the 08:30 depart. I spy Davey Baborier and his brother Charley (Departmental junior cyclo-cross champion) just about to go. I give them a shout. They tell me to hurry up, they’ll wait for me. This is good ‘cos Davey likes to ride quick………… and we’re off…..

Like dogs let off a leash Davey (19yrs), and his bro’ Charley (17yrs), ride rapid. I’m just hanging on, feeling a little breathless. We’re chasing through the backmarkers in no time, and by the time we reach the first ravitalment they’re only just setting up. A quick drink and we’re away. We’ve picked up a rider from the Ambazac Sprinter Club, I don’t know who he is, but he rides well, so now there’s four of us racing along.

Each time the pace slows a little someone goes to the front to lift it. We’re haring through a forest section on a roller coaster trail, there’s big puddles and stream crossings, sharp twists and turns, Charley is on the front. There’s a river crossing, Charley hammers in, literally! He goes over the bars and right into the freezing cold water! No, right in, fully submerged. I bet that’s refreshing 🙂 I spot the footbridge to the right and take that. It takes a couple of minutes for Charley to rescue his bike and wring his gloves out, and we’re on our way.
Charley likes deep water
Up a rocky trail, now Davey is on the front, pushing the pace, his rear wheel slips on the damp rocks. “Trop puissance”, I joke. I can hear Davey breathing hard, I go to the front and push on. I turn the wick up, I want to see how well I’m going. I open up a little gap, I push on hard, a sneaky look back, I’m 30 seconds clear. I ride very hard for about 5 kms then I ease up. There’s a nice little spot, in the sun, with a view, I stop and wait. The Ambazac rider arrives almost straight away, but there’s no sign of the brothers. Charley is next to arrive, and says that Davey has broke his chain. Yep, trop puissance!

Davey arrives, chain mended and we continue. A road sign tells us that we’re close to Meuzac, it can’t be far to the finish now. Davey lifts the pace. We’re in the outskirts of the town and the run-in is a retour of the depart. Davey sprints, I’m still hanging on, feeling a little breathless. Merci pour l’entraînement mes amis. 🙂

When you lend a friend your bike…

My friend Eric has been asking me about my Specialized Stumjumper hardtail race bike for some time. I’m thinking there’s two reasons. First is that i’ve been going really well on it, and second because Eric has an old Cannondale Super V that he’s thinking of updating. So anyways, I lent my friend my bike to ride the 40km rando at Pageas. I rode my Spesh Epic.

On the morning of the event, we’ve signed on, and we’re fitting Eric’s pedals…..”Se exactement la meme utilise pour le Frederick Mistral et le St Junien to St Junien“, I tell him emphasizing it’s pedigree. I know I don’t really need to ‘cos after riding his full susser my Spesh is gonna feel very fast, and he’s gonna love it.

We roll away from the start in the early morning sun. It’s a ‘Depart libre’, so there’s lots of riders already started. Carla’s riding too, and we’re chatting. After a few minutes I notice that Eric has dissappeared. “Il est parti”, Jean François (another Rochechouart club rider) tells me. I’m thinking that he’s probably having a blast along the first few kilometers to test my bike. I up the pace a bit ‘cos I want to see how he’s getting on.

Now I’m riding briskly, but even when I can see minutes up ahead there’s no sign of Eric. At the first ravitalment there’s no one, I ride on, now I’m riding quite hard. With about an hour done I catch a group of four, I know the one from the Ambazac Sprinter Club, I ask him if he’s seen Eric. He tells me that Eric passed some time ago like a bullet shot from a gun! I give chase.

Usually on the randos, if there’s deep water or mud I’ll try and go around it, but not now, I’m ‘full on’ giving it all i’ve got, and still no sign of Eric. Got to make the most of what the Epic can do, and on the rocky descents I continue to pedal like mad. Out of the saddle at the top of each climb clanging up the gears and pushing on, this is hard, and I still can’t catch him.

At the second ravitalment there he is, relaxing in the sun with a cup of juice and some cake! He tells me how much he’s been enjoying riding my bike, and how he’s been hammering along with one of the young lads from the promoting club. We set off along the tarmac together. As soon as we hit the dirt the young Taufflard takes off and Eric goes with him. I try to respond, but my legs are heavy, and I’m very tired. I work hard to stay in contact, I’m just about hanging on, and then I’m gone.

Judging by the nature of the terrain, we must be on for some downhill action towards the end of the circuit. I’m still chasing as hard as I can, and I haven’t given up all hope. A sign up ahead warns “Descente Dangereuse!”, there’s riders slowing down to take a look before they commit. I go for the ‘ride it before it frightens you’ option and before I know it I’m down. Wasn’t that bad actually 😉

Now we’re into some rocky whoopy rooty stuff, the Epic comes alive I’m motoring down the last few kms, and there’s Eric. I just can’t stop myself and I sprint after him. I’ve just got to show him my front wheel before the finish. We’re racing down towards the final road crossing, the marshal is holding up a red ‘stop’ paddle, we come to a halt side by side, we laugh. We’ve ridden hard, and we both know it.

VTT Randonnee des Petites Forets – Saint Priest Sous Aixe

At last, the rain had stopped, and a sunny day is forecast. It still gonna be a bit mucky, but judging by the number of riders that show up to ride the 15th edition of the ‘Randonnée des Petites Forets’, nobody cares.

We had a light breakfast before we set off, then another breafast at sign-on. The ‘Grand Depart’ was any time you like between 08:45 and 09:00 which meant that by 08:40 most had departed. Strange how the randos always seem to start early, but the races always seem to start late. So, we’re in a ‘beaucoup de traffic’ situation. Carla and I are both riding the 36km circuit today. I’m suffering from ‘dog off the leash’ syndrome, so we wish each other a safe ride, and I take off.
At the second ravitalment
The sun is up, and things are warming up nicely. The trails range from rocky super fast blast along to six inches deep super gloop think I might get off and run. There’s many a comedy moment along the way, and thanks heavens some of those electric fences that we’re veering towards aren’t turned on.

I’m looking for some of the riders I know. At the first ravito (food stop) I quicky scan to see who’s there, and ride on. A few minutes later I catch up with Eric, my friend and training buddy from the Rochechouart club. He’s riding brisk steady, and we ride together to the second ravito. We take a 5 minute break, and I use the time to wash my chain off and re-lube it from the little bottle of lube that I always carry on wet rides.

I’m keen to get going again, especially as i’ve just seen Jean-Claude Sansonnet go through. The trail sections now are superb, and I just can’t stop myself, I love goin’ fast on my bike, and I’m hammering like a nutter. Jean-Claude must be goin’ quick too because kilometre after kilometre go by and there’s no sign of him.

Jean-Claude Sansonnet avec punctureDown a rocky desent where the recent rain has washed the rocks clean, then the dirty VTTs have smeared it in a thin film of mud. Using the random line method, on the verge of control, almost over the verge of the trail, sliding around the corner, there is Jean-Claude. He’s punctured! I stop to commiserate 😉 he pulls out the old snake bitten tube and starts to fit the new one. Now, he might have been on the podium nine times in the departmental championships, but today…….. his tube wont fit! He has a presta sized hole in his rim, but he’s got a schrader tube! Doh!

Riders come and go, but nobody, it seems, has a spare tube that they can loan him. I’m not carrying a tube as I’m running tubeless (yeah I know the risk). Eric arrives and offers Jean-Claude a cannister containing latex to use on his old tube, but the snake bite looks to large. In the end we wish Jean-Claude a ‘bon marche’, and leave him! 😉

Carla, a little tired after the hard circuitI ride the last few kms with Eric. We’re home in just over two hours, it’s been a good workout over a tough circuit. We roll down to the bike wash in the village. A rack of about 8 hoses have been set up off the fire hydrant. It’s sunny and warn enough now for some good natured accidental soakings as riders wash their bikes. Back at the van I’m thinking about Carla, she’s gonna be very tired after that loop, just as i’m thinking about her she arrives. She’s telling me about her ride, a few swear words are creeping in, I can tell she’s enjoyed it, but now she’s shagged! 🙂

Back to (the) Front – Normal Service Resumed

My last couple of MTB outings in public have been horrible. I tore my rear mech off last weekend, and I’m still trying to get over the awful race at Flavignac. I’ve been feeling as though all form has deserted me, like as if the fabulous form I had at the end of last year was some kind of magic thing that could never happen again. As though I’d sucumbed to eternal mediocrity destined to slog for evermore going nowhere fast. 🙁

However, this weekend at the 11th Les Copains d’Abord 40km rando things were back to normal. I was back feeling the ‘good pain’ that comes from hammering through the chemins like a nutter trying to go faster and faster just because it feels so damn good.

I teamed up with Davey, one of the young lads from the lead group last weekend. I dunno what they feed him on, but he looks bigger and stronger everytime I see him. Anyway, despite howls of derision about it not being a race we hared off. Actually Davey hared off, and I chased after him hanging on to his wheel. The trails were very wet in places but we had great fun. Once you’re wet and mucky it doesn’t seem to matter any more. Blasting through the mud and puddles hopping that they won’t be tractor axle deep.

Young Davey had me chewing on the handlebars a couple of times when he turned on the power. I repayed him by going to the front and hammering through a couple of the singletrack sections that I know really well. We laughed through gritty teeth! 🙂

First 40km riders home in just under two hours I thanked Davey for the ‘bon entrainment’ (good training). Also, I asked Davey to remember me to his parents and to tell them that he and I had arrived ‘ensemble’.

La 5ieme Rando des Trois Clochers

It’s been raining for days, I’m starting to exhibit signs of ‘cabin fever’, I decide that I’m gonna do the La 5ieme Rando des Trois Clochers at St Leger la Montagne whatever. Plus the fact that St Leger is where the Depertmental Champs will be in March, and I want to see what the terrain is like. Carla decides that she’s gonna do it too.

I prep’ the bikes the night before. Crud guards, mud tyres, and slime tubes in my bike, don’t want puncture problems in the wet. We get an early night, and fall asleep listening the the sound of the rain lashing the shutters.

By 7:30am we’re on our way. It’s still dark, and it’s still raining. By 8am we’re climbing up out of the Vienne valley towards Razes. It had begun to get lighter, now it was getting darker! Heavy fog and mist make the going slow. Off the main A20 towards St Leger it’s brightening a little, and we’re in a convoy of cars carrying bikes. At St Leger there are marshals waiting to direct us to the car parking. Some of them use torches.

It’s wet, but it’s not cold. We get our kit on, and dead on 9am we get a few words from the club president and we’re on our way. I’m guessing there’s about 200 of us. A tarmac climb out of the village, and off into the hills.

Considering the amount of rain we’ve had the trails are in suprisingly good condition. There’s a few deep/very deep puddles, but it’s fun. I’m in the lead group, there’s about six of us, that’s me, and five young lads who all seem to know each other. They’re skipping about, and having a laugh splashing each other. I’m breathing bloody hard hanging on. One of the lads is a real lightweight and takes great pleasure in hammering up every rise just for the sheer joy of racing his mates. I’m breathing bloody hard hanging on, just.

Past the first ravitaillment station, we don’t stop. Down a fast rocky trail, we’re almost at the farthest point of the course, and……… see that picture? First time that’s happened to me in over twenty years of mountainbiking. A stick goes through my back wheel and takes my rear mech off.
XTR rear mech torn off!

I move my bike to the side of the track and just stare at it, stare at it so long I had time to take the picture. I’m trying to work out my best plan of action. Riders stop to see if I’m OK, I wave them on “oui, se bon!”. While I’m working out what to do I hear cars below me. They don’t sound far away. I decide I’ll roll down to the road, find out the shortest way back to St Leger, and make my way home along the tarmac. See, although I’m carrying a ‘quick link’ I’m not carrying a chain splitter. I can’t ‘monovitesse’ it. Doh!

At the road there’s a couple watching the riders go through. They kindly give me a lift back to the start in their van. On the way back they proudly tell me that their two sons Davy (19yrs), and Charley (16yrs) are riding today, in the lead group!

Back at the start I wash my bike and wait for Carla. She’s not long, and she’s had a geat ride.
I wash her bike while she gets changed. Did I tell you she’s being head-hunted by a local club who’s president wants her to be one of his girls? I will……

L’Isloise VTT Rando

Isle Rando Depart.
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.