On the podium in the 28th Fréderic Mistral VTT Raid

La 28ème Frédéric Mistral. Réservé aux initiés parcours difficile type cross-country (longue distance) dans les monts de Blond……..Une belle matinée de course sur mon vélo dans les Monts de Blond. 1er dans la catégorie des plus de 60 ans. Un grand merci à toute l’équipe de Guidonbellachon pour cette fabuleuse compétition.

Surely one the best MTB races of the season! One lap, mass start, raced as seen. I love this race. It has everything. It’s tough, technical, some of the descents are tougher than some of the climbs, there’s some super fast stuff, and the scenery is beautiful!!!

I was lucky to be able to race. Just over two weeks ago I did something to my back. I could hardly walk let alone ride my bike. It looked liked all the hours of training I’d done would be wasted. However, I started some Physio sessions with Helen at Perfect Motion, and the results were amazing. Not only was I able to race, but my back felt better than ever. Better than usual!

It was tough! It was great! Conditions were perfect. I caught my arch rival Jean-Claude Sansonnet after 20 mins of racing. I got past him on some technical terrain and worked hard to open up a gap. I got out of sight. Around an hour later JC comes past like I’m standing still! He’s really working hard. I manage to hang on. He eases slightly, I go past, and give it my all. Opened up a gap again, and gave it all I’d got. I made it home with a couple of minutes lead.

A great day out on the bike! Find out more about this race on the Guidonbellachon website.

Championnat Regional VTT

Yep, I’m still at it! I won the Regional VTT Championship at Cublac in the Correze 60+ Veteran category. It was a fabulous circuit, and I was really up for it. Gotta tell you though…..the strongest man didn’t win on the day, but the most determined did!

I rode hard off the line and found myself in the lead! Not part of the plan, but happy to be first into the single-track. I knew there were riders on my wheel, but there was no way they could sit close enough to draft. On to the first climb, and I had opened up a gap, but by the top of the climb I had been caught by one chaser. We pushed on. He was stronger than me on the climbs, but I could get back to him on the flat and through the technical sections.

We rode the rest of the lap together, on the last climb up to the line he’d opened up a gap of about 10 seconds. I soon closed the gap, my plan was to just stay with him for the next lap. The climbs were agony, as I tried to maintain contact. Just over halfway round and we’re onto a tough rooty climb. I’ve lost about three bike lengths. He slips on a root, he’s off and pushing his bike. The climb eases, and I’m expecting him to remount, he pulls his bike to one side and looks at me as if to say ‘go through’. Down the next tricky descent I opened up a gap. As we dropped out onto the fire road I’d got a nice gap. It was game on!

I rode like a man committed! If I could hold him off on the big climb up to start the last lap I was in with a chance. Going out to start the last lap I had about 20 seconds lead. Through the technical sections I made it count, on the climbs I rode as hard as I could. I worked hard to get out of sight. I dared to look back, he was still there, but I seemed to be getting away. Onto the last climb, he’s nowhere to be seen. I take the win! I get to wear the Regional Champions jersey for the year!

I had not raced this hard in a long time! 

Cyclocross this weekend…..

The ROC Cyclo club is organising it’s annual cyclocross race this weekend at Rochechouart….but it’s a new venue! For the first time ever the race will be held at the Plan d’Eau below the chateaux. I’m looking forwards to taking part, though not as a racer, as a helper/circuit builder/marshall/dog’s body. Should be great fun….

ROCC Cyclocross

On the podium in the 25th Fréderic Mistral VTT Raid

25th Frederic Mistral VTT Race

Yeah!!! I made it onto the podium in second place! Don’t get too excited though, I was second in the over 60s category. However, I did ride well, and I thoroughly enjoyed the race. The 25th edition of the Frederic Mistral. One big 42km circuit around the magical mystical and very beautiful Monts de Blond.

How’d it go? I rode a measured, safe, calculated ride. I had a plan and I stuck to it. The plan was to take it steady for the first hour to hour and a half then turn it up. I started steady and found myself in the company of two other 60+ riders. One of them dropped his chain and had to stop, so I knew he was behind. The other was right in front of me. He was riding well, so I stayed where I was and shadowed him. I played it a bit cute, I didn’t want him to know I was there. I didn’t want to take it on too soon. With an hour and a half gone I was looking for an opportunity to sneak by. There was a sharp bend, and moment of confusion two or three other riders, I slipped by on the inside and upped the pace. I didn’t see him again. I pushed on hard thinking I was leading 60+ vet, but unbeknown to me there was another who finished some 7 minutes ahead of me. No matter, I had a fab day out, and loved every second of it.

Haute Vienne VTT Championships…

It was the departmental MTB championships for the Haute Vienne at the weekend. I put my guitar away and rode my bike instead. The circuit at Panazol just outside Limoges was one of the best I have ever ridden. Superb roller-coaster-whoopedoope stuff for the whole 9kms. I wasn’t gridded for the start, I rode a 26 when most were on 29ers, I’m not really super fit – getting the excuses in here! But, I managed to just get on the podium!!!


Jean Claude Sansonnet won easily – a true champion. Super strong Michel Guene was a comfortable 2nd. I was gifted 3rd place by Marcel Buisson who punctured at the end of the second lap.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day. My first race in the 60+ vets category. It’s a start! 🙂

Championnat Départemental VTT – St Leger La Montagne

Podium Vet B
Last time I raced the Haute Vienne MTB departmental championships at St Leger La Montagne in 2008 I punctured on the last lap with 3kms to go. I was in the lead at the time and threw the win away by not being careful. This time it was different.

Here’s how it went – I haven’t raced recently, so I wasn’t gridded. That’s OK, I was just looking for a good ride. I got away OK, the pace was tough, I was middle of the field. On to the first climb, the rider in front of me snaps his chain. Meanwhile Pierre Chenaud (ASSJ) comes backwards with a puncture. This is a tough circuit for bike and body. Just riding round the practice lap had been hard enough, racing it was brutal.

I make a special effort to be kind to my bike, and ride smooth. Not running the chain across the cassette, staying loose over rocks and roots. At the end of the first lap I’m sitting in 2nd place, I have a couple of riders close behind me, and 1st place is nowhere to be seen.

I really want to get rid of the two behind me, so I work a little harder to snap the elastic. I get a gap. I start to catch a glimpse of the leading rider Pierre Barateau (Ambazac Sprinter Club). I’m gaining on him. I catch him on a short steep climb. He’s off his bike. I ask him if he has a problem. “Cramp!”, he tells me. Like I said, it’s a brutal circuit.

So, now I’m in the lead, with a lap to go, and no one close behind. All I have to do is keep it sensible. I ride hard, but with care. My chain is dry and complaining on some of the steeper climbs. I change to a lower gear and spin. The last climb, it’s very steep. Taking no chances I get off and run.

A quick look back. No one in sight. I take it easy down the last desent, and I’m home, winner of the Haute Vienne Departmental Championships for 2013 (over 50 vets)!

I’m pleased! This wasn’t expected. But let’s just put this into perspective. The recent creation of a new category for over 60 vets meant that some riders have changed category. The 40+, 50+, and 60+ vets all set off together, the same start. The 40+ had to do 4 laps, the 50+ and the 60+ had to do 3 laps. Now, combine the 50+, and the 60+ vets! There was just one rider who was faster than me. A whopping 8 minutes faster over the three laps!!! 1:39:27 vs 1:47:43 The true champion, the 66 year old Jean-Claude Sansonnet (Cyclo Racing Club Limousin). Chapeau Jean-Claude!

Departemental VTT Champs 2013, Haute Vienne

Not forgetting – Many thank’s to everyone at Saint-Léger-la-Montagne VTT Rando Club for putting on a great race. A superbly tough course! 🙂


National VTT Championships at Rodez

Imagine a 4 hour car journey through some of the most beautiful countryside in France in glorious sunshine, stopping for a picnic along the way.

Imagine arriving at the race site the evening before the race and kitting up for a couple of practice laps. Know that the weather has been good for months, and the ground is bone dry.

Imagine one of the best mountaibike race circuits you have ever seen. Now imagine one better! It’s was fantastic. A great start area that favours no side leading to some moorland with sweeping off-camber corners, bombholes, super fast straightaways, the lot…..also add in that the taping/marking out are superb allowing the rider to be creative with line. Follow that with 3 kms of superb roller-coaster singletrack that draws you on faster and faster. I was looking forward to racing this circuit so much. I went to bed imagining racing, and racing well.

Imagine being woken in the early hours of the morning to the sound of thunder and torrential rain! The rain continued throughout the night. By breakfast time it was still raining. I made my way from the excellent B&B back to the race site. I changed my tyres in the back of the van. The drop in temperature from the day before was incredible I was cold…..and still it rained.

With about half an hour to go the rain stopped. With twenty minutes to go we were gridded for the start. I was on the third row. Bang on time we were away. I got a good start, held my place up the first climb, passed quite a few riders over the moorland. It was wet. Diving down towards the single track was a little slippy, and then…three kilometres of singletrack on foot. The overnight rain had made it unrideable. A total nightmare. It was a procession, impossible to pass, difficult to even stand in places. Each lap it got worse. By the final lap the mud was like glue. If you tried to carry your bike you could hardly stand, and if you pushed your bike the wheels clogged up and wouldn’t turn.

I finished well down in the twenty somethings. I was not happy. My bike was in a real state. Drivechain and disc pads trashed. To add insult to injury the sun came out!!! Imagine how I felt.

Come Forth…..

Come forth…. So I did, twice…. 4th in the Departmental VTT Champs, and 4th in the Regional VTT Champs. 4th is bad innit?

4th in the Departmentals at St Gence in the poring rain just eight seconds behind 3rd and 30 seconds behind 2nd. Wasn’t with the gridded riders so had to come from a long way back. It was all going so well, I was with the two other podium riders, then a lapped crashed right in front of me. I lost ground, was making it up, but ran out of time. In the meantime my old mate Jean Claude Sansonnet was minutes clear to take the win.

4th in the Regionals on a fantastic bone dry circuit in the Monts de Blond. Again, I wasn’t gridded. We were racing with the over 40s. They had red numbers, us over 50s had black numbers. On the second of three laps someone told me I was in third place. I could see a black number not far behind me. I rode very hard to try and open the gap on him. Bear in mind, I can see his number, but he can’t see mine. It worked, and by the top of the circuit I was out of sight. Out for the final lap. About a third of the way around I see Jean Claude coming back down the circuit, he’s abandoned the race. More of this later. So now I’m thinking I’m in second place. There’s lots of supporters around, and nobody is telling me any different. At the top of the circuit I’m still clear. All I have to do is ride the descent without puncturing. Carla tells me I’ve done a great ride, and I’m 4th!!! again. Which is pretty bad, but actually I wasn’t that much off the pace (4 mins).

In the meantime, my old mate Jean Claude is on his way to hospital. He has 6 broken ribs, and the medics are worried about his breathing! Flippin’ ‘eck JC!!!! I wish you Bon Courage and a speedy recovery.

Cat’s Arse Trophy – 19th Fréderic Mistral VTT Raid

It’s my favourite race. Made the podium for the last three years. But not this year.

Training had gone well. I had a new bike. I was well up for it. I’d pre-ridden the circuit twice in the previous weeks. But it was just not to be.

I warmed up well, got a good start and established myself near the sharp end. The leading vet B was just a few places in front of me. I was in no rush. He punctured after about 5 kms leaving me in front. I just continued to ride purposefully. My old mate Jean Claude caught me at around 15 kms. He passed me and opened a gap on a long climb. No panic, I worked hard to keep him in sight, and pulled him back a little on the flat.

On the long climb up from Arnac I can see JC, he’s about a minute ahead. There’s 15 kms of tough trails left to go. I’m planning on making the most of it on my Specialized Epic. Like I said, I’ve pre-ridden the circuit, I know what’s coming and I’m up for it.

But then, I start noticing that something is not right. The back end of the bike feels soft. Yeah well that’s because the rear shock has lost pressure! I pull over and try to get some air into it with my pump. It works a little, and I remount. Within a few minutes it’s soft again, and I’m bottoming out.

I have no option but to pull out. If I don’t the last 15 kms will trash my bike. I’m gutted. At the next road crossing I leave the race and head home. Just to cap it all, I get a punture!

Back at the race village I watch the riders coming in, and imagine what might have been. You know, that bike has been great all summer. Only ridden for best. Not a single problem until today. It turns out to be just the shock sleeve that’s come loose. Fixed in a jiffy by a mechanic who knows what he’s looking at.

Meanwhile my friend James had a great ride. Him being a good rider, visiting me just to do this race, and very keen to beat me…. oh and he’s the machanic too. See what I’m saying? 😉

St Leger Magnazeix road race…

Let me set the scene – I’ve been having a little trouble with the gears on my road bike recently. Adjusted them twice, then they’re OK for a while, then not. I wondered if the cable could be slipping through the rear mech, so on the morning of the race I nipped it up a touch with an allen key, readjusted the gears, and was ready to go.
Attacking the bunch out of sheer frustration at St Leger Magnazeix
St Leger Magnazeix is quite a distance north of me. Up above Bellac. The terrain is flatter, more rolling, but still tough. A warm up lap confirmed that this was gonna be a fast one. As we waited on the start line black thunder clouds threatened, and a few spots of rain fell.

3 – 2 – 1, and we’re away. There’s an attack right from the gun. I dunno, maybe these “crazy guys” think that they can complete the race before they get a good soaking. There’s no let up for the whole of the first lap. My legs are stinging. On the second lap it settles down a bit, though there’s still lots of jumping about and nervous energy being spent. Round the back of the circuit there’s a slight rise. Someone attacks, there’s a surge, I change down and climb out of the saddle, and then……..

……and then my gear cable breaks! The chain crunches down the block and I’m stuck in my biggest gear! I quickly check to make sure it’s not hanging off the bike. I reach down to see if it’s still in place under my down tube.

I’m just a little miffed. Actually, I very annoyed. I’ve never broken a cable before in all the years I’ve been cycling. We’re on a slight downhill now, the speed is high, I’m OK in my 50*11. Out of frustration I put in a hard attack. If I can’t win, I’m gonna let them know I was there!!! I get a gap, a good one. I was going to pull out at the end of the lap, but I don’t I carry on. I’m away, one daft idiot singlespeeding roadie! A quick check back, I have a good gap, and two riders are coming across to me.

Unfortunately for me, as we go out on lap three and start to hit the more rolling part of the circuit my legs fill up with lactic acid, as my cadence drops to Phil Bayton style monster mashing. The two arrive, it would have been perfect, but I can’t stay with them. They look at me like I’m some kind of idiot. I am.

Suddenly it occurs to me that I have two gears… big ring and little. I drop onto the little and spin. The bunch arrive, I tuck in.

The rain never came to anything, a bit like my race really. I stayed in for the full 8 laps with two gears. One too big, and one too small. It was good training, I think.