Saturday ROCC rideout – Painfest

A good turnout of around 40 riders for the Saturday rideout with the ROCC. A planned circuit of just over 50kms will do just fine, as it’s very cold today. It’s the first club ride of the new year, so the greetings take a little longer but we’re away just 5 minutes late.

The pace is easy, a little to easy, I switch to a very low gear to spin and make some heat. I’m glad when SuperMax picks up the same along the main road through Biennac. Along the 3km straight various riders roll through, all the usual suspects are there.

We swing right along the valley road towards St Auvent. When we reach the bottom of the hairpined climb up to the village Pierre Chenaud (‘in form’ regional veteran cyclo-cross champion) kicks hard. SuperMax goes after him, Eric goes after SuperMax, I go after Eric…….all hell breaks loose!!!

Now i’m too damn hot, i can’t breathe, can’t stay with them. Paul Smith, Lucien, Stephane, all come past me. I manage to get back on when they ease over the top. When we turn left Pierre goes straight on!!! Thanks very much Pierre.

Training 3rd Jan 2009

We’re trending towards Cognac la Forét, every time the road goes up so does the pace. I’m finding it hard. I don’t remember it being this hard last year. Maybe i’m still a bit tired from yesterday. The last climb up to the high point is agony, and with around half a km to go SuperMax attacks. Eric goes after him, there’s not much response from anyone else.

From the high point above Cognac to St Martin de Jussac where we’re headed is about 10kms, and it’s mostly downhill all the way. It’s fairly sensible down to Cognac, then it’s balls out to St Martin. We’re motoring along the roller coaster road, any slight rise sees another rider burst through to the front.

As we drop down to the Vienne river I’m on the front, there’s a couple of sharp bends coming up, and with the angle of the road and the low sun it’s hard to see if there’s any danger. SuperMax comes flying by….fearless young, mad rider that he is… he throws his bike into the bends and his gone. Nobody has the balls to try and match him.

Along the riverside towards St Junien, easy on the flat hard up the hills. Onwards towards Chaillac then Saillat, the same. We should turn for home now but we don’t….Chassenon first then Rochechouart. At last we ease up. Riders peel off until i’m on my own with just 5kms to go for home. I’m tired, and it’s going much colder now. Just one last climb to do, I’m back, cooked, done in, with 80kms on the clock.

Almost home - 3rd Jan 2009

Dernier sortie de l’année 2008

Riders meet at the Chateau in Rochechouart
The last Saturday ride of the year for my local club the Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo (R.O.C.C.). It’s a bright sunny day, but very cold. There’s an easy 50kms circuit on the cards, though I wouldn’t be suprised if that doesn’t get extended. A good sized group of around 25 riders gathered at the meeting place. Handshakes and greetings all round, and just after 13:30 we’re rolling out of town in the direction of Vayres.

Along the valley road the sun is on our backs, and it feels warm, there’s the usual jovial banter. It’s nice just bowling along easy in a big group. As we start the long climb out of the valley SuperMax takes off, here we go! Those that want to chase do, those that don’t pretend they haven’t noticed. There’s four of us hammering up the climb. We catch Max just before Vayres, the pace eases, and we ride through the town together.

All regrouped again the next 10kms are steady. Through Champsac, then Oradour. Now we’re on the main road heading towards Chalus. It’s a super smooth roller coaster of a road, and SuperMax is on the front winding it up. The kilometers fly by as Max turns the screw. But it’s too much. Max takes a bollocking from his dad, and the pace eases.
SuperMax dishing it out
Through Vayres, on towards St Cyr. It’s a long climb, and it’s tough. It’s one of those long straight climbs where you seem to pedal and pedal and not get any closer to the top. I’m finding it quite tough. I’m just staring at the cassette of the wheel in front of me.

According to the published circuit we’re supposed to go left here to St Auvent. But we don’t, we ‘disrespect le code de le circuit’, and go straight on. There’s talk of Chaillac then Saillat, which is much much longer than 50kms.

Along the top road towards Chaillac, with two and a half hours done. This is a road that I know well, every twist, turn, rise, and so on. It’s also a road that I love to ride. All of a sudden i’m feeling great. I find myself on the front. With the responsibilty of keeping the group moving I work hard. I’m doin’ good, and I’m motoring. As we hit each rise I dig in a little to keep my gear rolling. I must be doin’ good because a detour is announced!

Our detour takes us within a stones throw of home. I could easily pull out and take the early shower. I decide to burn some calories. We cross the main Rochechouart to St Junien road and begin the long descent to Saillat. There’s quite a few riders gone missing by now, but we are still about 10 men strong. I take the sprint into Saillat – yeah ‘cos i’m the only one sprinting! 😉

We turn for home. Just the 3km climb back up to Rochechouart left to do. The pace is steady. Now we’re on part of the circuit that was used in the departmental championships. We chat about last years race, and about our hopes for the coming season.

Through Rochechouart riders peel off. There’s just four of us left now. Heading back out of town on the Cognac le Foret road. Almost home, just one last drag, a final opportunity for SuperMax to inflict pain. I chase after him, not because I can, but because I can’t stop myself. 🙂

Last ‘sortie sur route’ of the year. First time i’ve been on my road bike for ages. Enjoyed every minute of it.

Meilleurs Voeux et Bonne année.

Takin’ the nasty medicine…

You know what it’s like. Trying to get some form. Taking the nasty medicine that is hard training. Coming back from rides with aching legs, sore back, head done in. But you just know it’s got to be done. This is when you pay for the good days.

Like yesterday, working hard, going nowhere, can’t seem to get on top of the gear, off the pace, behind schedule, headwind all the way around, chewin’ on the handlebars. Big races coming up, want to do well. If it was easy it wouldn’t be worth doing would it? Plus, the pleasure and satisfaction will be directly proportional to the pain and dis-satifaction I have right now. Push on! 🙂

Turning a corner…

Been back on my bike a couple of weeks now. Legs are fine, but back shoulders and brain are struggling. Been going out regularly, but it just feels like a chore, no enjoyment. Did three hours with the ROCC boys on wednesday afternoon, first two were OK, but after that it was agony, I was glad when it was over. Then Carla has been taking me out and giving me a pasting. Last time we went I was just hanging on to her wheel down the main road from Cognac, just staring at her block. It was a lovely sunny day, but I just wasn’t there. But, I keep taking the nasty training medicine sure that things will get better…….

Then, last night, went for a couple of hours up to the forest above Cognac, it was like I was riding a magic bike. Hardly pressing on the pedals but flying along. Taking it a bit easy over the roughest stuff, but having a blast. Carla couldn’t believe the transformation. Nor could I really. Maybe turning a corner.

Entraînement fractionné avec the wife!

Carla on one of her training ridesEver since our friend Theo smoothtalked the wife into pulling on one of his race jerseys she’s been goin’ quicker and quicker, and taking her biking much more seriously. Heck I even found one of my best race tyres on her bike! It’s OK, I don’t mind really. 😉

Anyway, today we had some interval training planned. The plan was a simple one – a hard effort up the lane to the top of the woods, then a descent off-road allowing partial recovery before the next effort, while testing skills on a rooty damp trail. We did a couple of warm-up laps where we looked at line choice and gearing. This warmed us up. I wanted to do 7 efforts, Carla was gonna do 6. We did one more warm-up circuit a bit quicker to prepare and we were away.

I’m thinkin’ that I’ll hammer on around the 5 minute circuit and probably catch Carla after about 4 laps. She know’s i’m going to try and do this. It’ll make us both try a bit harder. OK, so four laps come and go, there’s no sign of her. As each lap passes I’m goin’ quicker and harder. On the recovery descent I’m now pedaling hard, oh yeah, and I’m cutting the corners and riding on the wrong side of the lane. By lap six I’m pretty much riding flat out the whole way around. No sign!

So maybe she’s done her 6 pulled out and gone home. Or maybe she’s feeling so damn good ‘cos I aint caught her that she’s lost count. Hammering up the lane for the 7th time I see her. Probably about 30 seconds ahead. She’s probably finished now and warming down, I’ll catch her easily. Nope, it takes the whole lap. I only catch her as we reach the bottom of the wood.

I ask her what she thinks she’s playing at! 😉 She tells me that as I hadn’t caught her, like I said I was going to, she decided that she’d do one more lap, and not let me!

Wednesday Afternoon FFC Rideout

FFC stands for La Fédération Française de Cyclisme, its the organisation that aspiring young riders join, but as I found out today it can stand for a lot more than that. 🙂

Fine Forecast on the Cards – With good weather forecast I telephoned my friend Eric to see if the usual Wednesday afternoon session was on. Eric’s son Maxime answered the phone. He told me that Eric has to work, but he’s going over to train with the Limoges FFC clubs, and why don’t I go along.

I meet Max in the square at St Junien as arranged. He tells me it’s 30km to the meeting place so we’ll need to ride fairly briskly to make the 2pm start. Oh yeah, and there’s a slight headwind, and there’s a lot of uphill. We work hard (especially Max), and we’re the first to arrive, with 10mins to spare.

FFC riders before the ride
A Few Flash Cyclists – As riders start to turn up I can’t help but notice that some of them are riding exotic machinery. There’s more than a few pairs of deep-section carbon wheels, most are on carbon bikes, and for the most part they are extremely well turned out. Cerevelo, Time, Vitus, Look, they’re all here. There’s even a Colnago CT2 in world champion colours. I’ve only ever seen one of those before in real life under Paul the Painter. Some of these riders look like they’ve dropped straight out of the pro’ peleton. There’s a lot of young riders, and from clubs all over the Limoges area. By the time we roll away at 2pm sharp there must be a crew of at least 50.

Fast Friendly Chat – The pace is brisk, but easy. As we bowl effortlessly along there’s much jovial banter. At road junctions cars stop to let us through. Most riders give a wave as a thank you. There’s a young rider in yellow, and after every junction he sits up, gets his mobile out and calls someone explaining where we’ve gone. I dunno why. The kilometers roll by, we seem to be heading north, the pace slowly but surely picking up.

St Jouvent -> Thouron -> Roussac -> on towards Chateauponsac……..

Fierce Fast Climbing – There’s been a few sprints for village signs, and a few charges, but good natured stuff. There’s been some long drags, and it certainly ain’t flat around here. There’s even a few gone off the back! We’re riding along a valley, I can see Chateauponsac looming high above us. As we start the long climb up to the town the pace picks up dramatically. There’s riders going backwards as fast as there’s riders going forwards. I’m thinking we’re just sprinting for the town sign, but it comes and goes and there’s no let up.

Backwards and forwards across the switchbacks I can see Max right up at the front pushing the pace. He’s going well. At last, in the very top of the town the pace eases and we regroup.

On the road with the FFC
Far From Civilisation – We’re high up in the Creuse now, one of the least populated areas of France. Through the Gartempe valley, we’re now on a dead straight road heading east, it goes on and on and on. There’s a cross-wind blowing, some bunch engines are taking perverse pleasure in driving it along, and I’m stuck in the gutter wondering if it will ever end. At this point i’m starting to have doubts in my ability to hang on. However, thoughts of having to ride home on my own drive me on.

I’m as tight on the wheels in front of me as I can possibly be. From time to time there’s a surge as someone leaves a gap ‘cos they can’t stand it any longer, and we all jump around. It’s no good waiting until the rider in fron’t surges, you have to look three or four riders ahead. It’s no good asking yourself to do it you just have to do it……. and why do those nasty engines ride in the gutter? Don’t they know it’s killing us! 😉

At last, there’s a junction up ahead, we turn right. With a cross-tailwind we’re motoring down towards Bessines running parralel to the A20. It’s downhill, it’s fast, I now have a rough idea of where we are. There’s a lot of climbing to do to get back to Limoges.

Fragmented Fatigued Clutching at wheels – We’re now headed south, following what I think is the old main road to Limoges. Every now and then I catch a glimpse of the A20 running off to the side. Long climbs of 3 to 5km, not steep, but draining, especially when you’re hanging on. Some riders are looking a little tired now and gaps appear. I’m just about with it, clutching at wheels. I spot a sign – Limoges 35km.

Fabulous Fractionné Chaps – On the long climbs there’s a couple of riders doing entraînement fractionné (intervals). They take it in turns to hammer off the front for a couple of hundred metres like nutters then they sit up. As soon as the one sits up the other goes. It’s impressive stuff, these boys are damn fit.

Finally Found Cheers – Over the highest point at Razes, a rider joins us from the right. There’s a lot of shouting and cheering and jeering. Remember the lad on the mobile, he’d been telling his mate who was late for the start where we’d gone. Eventually he’d found us!

Looking out at the vista I can see Limoges in the distance. We’ve still a way to go, and there’s one tough climb left to do. We’re spread out in twos and threes. I decide to push on so that I’ll be nearer the front. As I pass riders they jump on, a couple of them start to help out, we’re motoring along nicely. I’m recognising the run in from the ‘La Limousine‘ sportive I did last year.

You FFC! – Swear words mate. Onto the last climb, and one of the engines decides he’s gonna come through and show everyone how strong he is. Mashing a massive gear he opens a gap of 20metres. But it all goes horribly wrong and he comes back to us as fast as he went away.

Fast along the main road
Flowing Fast Chase – The last 10kms are slighly downhill. There’s a few rises, but generally we’re trending down. The road is silky smooth and the pace is high. Into the outskirts of Limoges now, I’m on 50*12 spinning fast. I’m guessing we’re going for the City road sign. A rider looking like the stylish young Ken Jones kicks. There’s a chase. Then another kick, and chase. A roundabout now, three get across while the rest of us are held up by a car. We chase. The sign for Limoges comes into view. We sprint! Wow, that was fast. From the original huge group I reckon there’s only about 15 left.

The pace eases, though not much, big ring steady now, but easy enough. As we roll into the city riders peel off for home. Eventually there’s just Max and me making our way back 30kms to St Junien, only now it’s mostly downhill with a slight tailwind. We ride purposefully, but easy.

Max points out that we’re now on the circuit of the St Junien – St Junien road race with it tough finish into home. Yeah, but we’re gonna ride it easy ain’t we Max. Nope, we gotta ride it hard, it’s good for your strength…. and so Max sprints it, I chase with what’s left of my legs. Max turns off, and I head up towards the car park where I left my van. All of a sudden riding alone I can hardly turn the pedals.

Five hours done, totally Fatigued, Can’t wait until next time! It’s been a great ride, much better than training on your own, and the kind of thing that drags form out of you screaming. Thanks guys, and thanks Max. Not only did he do the lions share of the work on the way out, he also came to check on me a couple of times during the ride to make sure I was OK….and when I had nothing to drink he gave me one of his bottles.

Later that evening FFC stood for Fridge Fresh Can of beer. 🙂

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?

Just couldn’t face it….

Turbo trainingI’m OK if it rains when I’m already out, but if it rains beforehand I struggle. So there I am getting my kit on for the wednesday afternoon bash with the ROCC, the sky is getting darker and darker, the wind is gusting, the forecast is awful. With about 10 minutes to go it starts raining. It’s been on and off all morning, though Carla managed a good hour and a half around Cognac le Foret with sunny spells!

Light rain at first, then harder and harder. Surely only a madman or someone who’s paid an entry fee would ride in such weather. But I must train, so, it’s a turbo session. A 10 minute warm up followed by 8 * 3 mins @ >90rpm recovering to 120bpm before going again. It’s mindnumbingly dull stuff, and on the last 3 i’m fighting hard to keep cadence, but it’s done.

I feel so much hate for the turbo, I feel cheated by the weather, I’m not happy, I consider stripping to the waist and whipping myself with a wire coathanger! I have a cup of tea instead. Well what would you have done? 🙂

ROCC Rideout (Rapid)

Balaclava Buff - It was very cold today A freezing cold, but sunny day, and it’s Wednesday, it can mean only one thing – training with the ROCC. With tights plus leg warmers, double gloves, and triple buffs I set of to meet the boys at the plan d eau.

About ten riders had turned out, I was a little late, and the route was being finalised. Despite my shouts of “Monts de Blond“, we set off towards Chassenon. Like a dog off a leash SuperMax (Maxime Monjoffre), sporting his Scott CR1 rolling on Corima deep section wheels shod with tubs stormed away.

By the time we passed the cemetary on the way out of town we were down to four, and by the time we sped through Chassenon we were down to three, and by the time we crossed the main road above Confolens Max took a reprimand from his dad Eric. SuperMax knotched it back a touch, and so we continued. All for one, and one for all he was worth hanging on, feeling a bit breathless, that was me! 🙂

The head wind turned to a cross wind as we went around the furthest part of our route. SuperMax had got the first 50kms out of his system and we rolled along briskly, purposefully, I was enjoying it. The roads were smooth, rolling sweeping and traffic free. I had warmed up a lot, and removed my buff balaclava.

Crossing the main St Junien to Bellac road we continued on towards Oradour sur Glane. We picked up a passenger from the St Junien club. SuperMax was unimpressed, I could tell. Our passenger stayed with us up through Oradour and on towards St Gence. Something synaptic happened to SuperMax. Maybe our passenger’s creaky pedals drove him mad or summat, whatever, he went to the front and pushed on hard.

SuperMax - Maxime MonjoffreSo now we’re flying along the main road. SuperMax is setting an incredible pace. I glance down at his block, he’s in the big ring, one up from top, so at least 52*13, and he’s rolling it over as if to kill it. Eric is second in line, and I’m hanging on the back. It’s fast and it’s tough, I’m having to break it into sections! Just to that tree, just ten more pedal turns, just to that gate, just ten more. That’s how close I am to dropping off. By the way, our passenger is long gone.

At last we reach the big island where we turn back towards St Victurnien and SuperMax eases up. “Harder than a race”, I say to Eric. He agrees.

Dropping down the long descent towards St Victurnien, we normally climb out of the valley towards Cognac le Foret, then home along the main road towards Rochechouart. I’m just about boxing it off in my mind, thinking that we’ll have a nice tail wind to finish off, I’m just about to swing left over the bridge when Eric shouts a change of plan. We’re gonna go home via Chaillac, Saillat, Chassenon, then Rochechouart.

It’s further, it’s tougher, and there won’t be a nice tailwind to blow us home, but, I go along. We have a few sprints for village signs along the way, the pace is fast friendly now, though the sky is going a little dark. As we climb up towards Rochechouart with three and a half hard hours done there’s a flurry of wet snow flakes. I’m tired. Merci beacoup pour le entrainment mes amis! 🙂

Wednesday ROCC ride…

Spent the morning washing my bike, scrubbing my white bar tape, and eating lots in preparation. It’s fantastic weather, and there’s a four hour ride on the cards…

Rolling down through the town towards the Plan d’eau I feel funky and fine on my sprarkling bike. There’s a good dozen out today, and discussion is taking place on where to go. There’s mention of a loop in the Monts de Blond, that’s too tough for some who suggest a Charentine circuit. There’s shoulder shrugging and some boffing, and before you know it i’m in a group of four that’s doin’ the Monts de Blond loop. That’s Jean-Francois, Maxime, Eric, and me.

Maxime - jeune, fou, et très rapideWe set off towards Biennac, the two ‘young guns’ Jean-Francois and Max on the front. The pace is brisk from the start. Max is riding his new Scott CR1, he’ll be keen to show what it can do. They’re chatting, but unless I’m mistaken they’re also half-wheeling each other. I’m breathing quite hard, so is Eric. This could be a tough ride.

At Biennac we pick up ANother, he was on his way to the meet, but was late. He joins us, and Eric explains to him that we’re the fast group enroute for Blond, the cyclotouriste group has gone south. ANother says something along the lines of ‘feck my luck’ and tags along.

It’s a tough road all the way to Cognac le Foret, fairly straight, but with huge roller coaster drags of 1 to 2 kms. The young guns push on. I’m glued to the wheel in front like my life depended on it. As we begin the long descent to St Victurnien the young guns move across leaving Eric and me on the front.

We cross the Vienne and start the long climb up to La Barre. I go to the front to set a tempo that I can manage, and one that I hope will satisfy the young guns. Spinning a low gear, trying to look as comfy as I can, it does the trick. Over the top and on towards Oradour sur Glane. Jean-Francois is on the front now driving out a relentless brisk/steady pace. At Oradour we ride up past the ‘Village Martyr‘ and head out towards Cieux which is when the real climbing will start. At Cieux we turn our bikes uphill, which is ANother’s cue to peel off, “a bientot”.

Traversing along the south side of the Monts through pretty villages, and alongside numerous etangs the fairies take me away, and i’m floating along effortlessly. As the climb to Peyrelade starts to bite I’m brought back to reality. I go to the front and try the old tempo setting trick again, it works for a while, but then Max decides he’ll set a pace he’s happy with. Max rides quicker and quicker. By the time we reach the top i’ve got wobbly legs, but i’m still on his wheel, Eric is still on mine, and strangely Jean-Francois is a little off the back.

Down the northside of the hills into Montrol Sénard, a lovely little town, with a super little restaurant, La Belle Equipe, and hey! it’s open, we could stop for a cool beer, and no we don’t, that just doesn’t happen, ever!

There’s a slight headwind blowing along the dead straight road to Blond. The pace has settled a little, and i’m on the front. This road gets used a lot for road races, I can see old paint from the Tour de Limousin, and the ASSJ St junien. A hard road to race on with nowhere to hide. In Blond we turn right to climb back over the hills.

It’s a tough climb, and like a madman who keeps repeating the same behaviour expecting the outcome to be different, I go to the front. I’m working hard, and with around 1km done Eric rides along side and starts to turn the screw. We’re climbing well, out of the saddle on the steeper bits, seated ‘on the tops’ on the shallower bits. As the road twists and turns first Eric is in front, then me. There’s a gear change behind me. Sounds like someone going up the block! Eric pushes on, i’m looking for the summit.

By the time we pass the Frédéric Mistral monument i’m on the rivet. There’s the summit, we get out of the saddle and sprint. “Où sont les jeunes?”, I ask. There’s no sign of the young guns. Turns out Jean-Francois is still getting over a cold, and Max was letting the ‘old boys’ have their fun.

Big open roads

On the way home we do St Junien direct. Big fast smooth main roads with a slight cross-tail to help us along. Just got to cross the Vienne, climb out of the valley and we’re home. Jean-Francois peels off first near St Junien, he’s almost home. I cross the river with Eric and Max (father and son incidentally) and start the last climb. I’m on the front, doh! Just above St Martin de Jussac Mac comes by. “Bye”, he shouts, and takes off, “bye bye”, we say, and watch him go. He gets 200meters, then, whoa, wassappnin’, we’re out of the saddle chasing, chasing like madmen. 😉