Always puts a smile on my face…

I dunno why, it just does…….well more of a smirk really!
Carla in full racing tuck! ;)
See, when we do the Cognac la Forét circuit we always have a rolling race down the last tarmac descent to home. It started off as a test of rolling resistance of tyres, it’s turned into a ‘just for fun’ thing that we always do. It’s about a kilometer and there’s a slight rise just before the finish. My usual technique is to let Carla get in front then pass her on the slight rise. However, shes wise to that now, and she’s bagged a few wins lately. Gonna have to change my tactic.

Anyway, for some reason, and I don’t know why, when Carla passes me, crouched in full racing tuck, it puts a smile on my face.

Cognac la Foret sur les Chemins

One of my favourite training rides is a loop up around Cognac la Foret. I use it for an easy spin, a balls-out loop, and it sections off nicely for interval traing. Straight out of the door riden briskly it’s roughly 2 hours in total. It goes summat like this……….

Through the chemin at the bottom of our road and onto the tarmac. Through L’Age then along the valley road towards St Auvent. Cross the foot bridge then climb the old Pavé, tough! Through the pretty village of St Auvent, and onto St Cyr. After St Cyr there’s an open track that leads right the way through to almost the top of the forest. A couple of tricky granny ring climbs, and you’re there, halfway round at the highest point of the ride. Dive down some swoopy stuff, some nice flowing forest trails before a fast blast across open farmland drops you onto the tarmac 2kms from home. I normally play time trialists here, seeing if I can stay on top of my gear on the drags. There’s a final singletrack descent into the village, and that’s it.

Why not give it a try yourself?…………………..

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

Big Bird under Darkening Skies

It’s a windy wild, but mild morning with the threat of rain later in the day. I’m in training, as you know, and it’s gorra be done. I decide to take Big Bird up to Cognac le Foret for a couple of hours hard graft.

I set Big Bird up XC stylee. Which means, I raise the seat and put a bottle in the cage, and I’m on my way. Down through L’Age, up past the farm shop where we get our fresh eggs and milk, and on towards St Auvent. As I pass through the farmyard the friendly old dog with the scabby eye greets with with a bark and a wag of his tail. There’s no one else around.

This way to the Ancien PavéeAfter crossing the main road there’s a nice little singletrack descent that I like to rattle down. It’s fairly easy, but usually a little different each time depending on where the weather has moved the leaves and rocks to. I spill out onto the valley road and continue toward St Auvent. About a kilometre from the village there’s an old bridge that leads onto some ancient pavée that climbs into the town. It’s granny ring steep, and quite tricky when damp. By the time I reach the top I’m breathing hard.

Through the village and left towards St Cyr. Not a soul about, not even the Donk of a dog near the bar. Donk is a huge single brain celled dog who has a little buddy who acts as lookout. Normally little buddy sounds the alarm which activates Donk’s brain cell, and thirty seconds later Donk deafens you with his bark. I’m so busy looking for them that I catch an edge and shoot myself towards the storm drain. Doh!

The final climb to the top of the forestThrough St Cyr, and from here to the top of the forest above Cognac le Forest is about 3km trending uphill all the way. It’s not steep, but with today’s headwind it’s hard work. The final climb through the clear felled section is blustery. It’s one of those days where it feels good to be out. Once at the top, I take a quick look at the panorama and point Big Bird downhill.

There’s some really nice descents from here. Today I do one that goes down past the aviation mast then climb back before racing down through the forest to the Plan d Eau at Cognac. The lake has been drained for the winter, and what is a busy beach for holiday makers in the summer is deserted.

It’s spitting rain now, and I turn for home. The rain gets heavier and heavier, but with the wind on my back Big Bird is flying, and it’s mostly downhill all the way home. Mashing along the singletrack at the edge of the forest, down past the equestrian center, hooning along at what feels like warp speed. Crossing the main road, and diving back into the singletrack, a big sweeping left hander, railing around the single rut getting whipped by overhanging branches, pain and pleasure at the same time.

Down the last couple of kilometres on the road I’m topped out, spinning a la moulinex. Just over two hours on the clock. Time for a nice cuppa while I zap my legs. Meanwhile, it’s gone black over Bill’s mother’s, and the rain falls heavy. 🙂
Rain on the patio

A long Limousin weekend – The return of Supawal

When my brother Supawal and I get together it’s always the same – excessive! We drink too much, eat too much, play music too loud, and ride our bikes until we can hardly stand. Why? well it could be because neither of us will admit to being tired/full/pi55ed, or it could be because it’s tradition, but actually it’s because we just do.

Supawal builds his HummerThursday afternoon – we picked Supawal up from Limoges airport. Within a couple of hours he’d eaten, put his bike together, and we headed off towards Congnac le Foret in the autumn sun. Mostly tarmac on the way out, then trails to the top of the forest. From the high point to St Cyr is about 5km, slightly downhill all the way. On through to St Auvent where we went down the rocky descent that leads to the pont ancien (old bridge). A bit tricky in places as the dappled sunlight on the autumn leaves hid the rocks. Carla decided that she’d done enough and set off for home. I pursuaded Supawal that we should do a quick loop in the forest of Rochechouart. We’d done two and a half hours by the time we swooped back through L’Age and onto the final climb. Naturally, we rode it hard.

Supawal rails it!Friday – With a big ride in the Monts de Blond planned we were up early. Van packed, breakfasted, and gone. Just the two of us today. The route I had in mind would take us down the north side of the hills, along a shelf, and up to the old chapel above Vaulry. However, as we drove up to park near Boscartus we found ourselves driving out of the early morning sun and into the mist. It was cold! A quick change of plan, and we were rattling down the rocky desents back towards the sun.

Supawal was riding his Hummer with Rock Shox Revalations set at about 120, he was hoooooning effortlessly down the descents. I was riding my Epic, doing my best to keep up in a ragged sketchy sort of style!

We’d been out for a couple of hours before we climbed back up to the van to eat some lunch. By now the mist had lifted, and it was glorious, not too hot, just perfect riding weather. I was gonna save some of my lunch to eat after our ride, but in the blink of an eye I’d scoffed the lot!
Back on the bikes, down the north side, and along the shelf. It’s fairly straight forward in a rocky rollercoaster sort of way, but it’s hard. By the time we reached the old chapel I could tell that Supawal was tiring.

We raced down the hillside towards Rousset. I’m on the front, I know the trail a little. Supawal is banging on my back wheel. I know there’s a tight left with a huge rut and rocks hidden under the leaves. I’m fighting hard to not fall into it. Supawal can’t see it, and just hammers on. I make it around the corner, but only just. Supawal manages to miss my back wheel, but only just! We laugh.

Traversing now, up and down along the south side. Supawal is spent, but with four and a half hours done we’re back at the van. We’ve had a great day out.

Supawal gets his legs zapped with the CompexLater that evening I put the Compex on Supawal’s legs in the hope that a miracle will happen.

Saturday – a gentle ride around the chemins south of Rochechouart. It’s one of my favourite rides, it goes straight from home, and takes a couple of hours. There’s no big hills, it’s easy riding, and is best taken at a fairly brisk pace. Supawal seems to be going fairly well at first, Carla is out with us, and we’re both sitting on his wheel. Carla has had enough by Rochechouart and loops back home. With Carla gone Supawal’s strength deserts his and we’re crawling along. I believe that Supawal believes that chewy bars can fix any amount of fatigue. He eats all that he’s carrying, then starts on dodgy crab apples! We’re home in three.
Champers anyone?

Sunday – It’s 8am and we’re a little hungover and signing on at the 12th Randnnee des Deux Eglises at Champiniers et Reilhac. It’s 48kms for us. The terrain is a little gentler in this area, and I’m expecting an easier ride. Supawal is just looking to get round. Carla is the only woman doing the 48km option. There’s no ‘grande depart’ as such, but we’re on our way just after 9am, it’s chilly, but looks like it’s going to be another glorious day.

Not long after the start Carla gets cross rutted, hooks a bramble, and crashes. It’s a soft landing and she’s back on the bike straight away. She doesn’t crash very often. The last one I can remember was on the Malverns in 1993!

A couple of French riders come through. “See you at the finish”, says Carla in a sort of ‘Off you go and leave us in peace’ sort of way. I do as I’m told. Given free rein, with the bit between my teeth, I gallop off (prrrrppp), and in no time at all I get myself into a battle with some other like minded idiots. It’s great, and we hammer along as if our lives depended on it. Stopping only at the second Ravitalment long enough to fill my bottle and take some kit off, I hammer on. The circuit is a lot harder than I expected, but it’s got some excellent whoopee stuff. The last few kilometers are pure agony/bliss and I’m back in two and a half hours. Carla is next home, Supawal arrives some time later riding a bike with a very short chain and carrying a pocketful of chain links.

Stream crossing in the Monts de BlondMonday – We’re pretty much biked out now, but it’s Supawal’s last day, and the sun is shining. Monts de Blond again!!!?? Yes, of course 😉 A loop of the lakes near Arnac, a visit to the Rupestre Oratoire (cave paintings, chapel), a rock of the rock (huge megalith that can be rocked). We stop at the restaurant in Blond where we’ve never been served yet ‘cos it’s always busy, we ride on to ‘La Belle Equipe’ bar in Montrol Senard where we have excellent coffee, and the lovely waitress gives us a free cake (pour vous forte) for our strength.

All to soon it’s time for the last blast of the day from Peyrelade down across the rocks and on toward Arnac. Supawal takes the lead, and despite being totally biked out manages to launch himself into the air at every available opportunity down the final descent. That evening we recount the highlight of the weekend whist drinking too much. Because we can 🙂

Supawal by the lake