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.

On the podium in the 18th Fréderic Mistral VTT Raid

On the podium in laFrederic Mistral 2009 - I won the Vet B category

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.

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!!!

Preparation for this race started months back with extra training rides in the area. A couple of weeks ago a group of us spent a happy afternoon on the trails pre-riding what we thought was the probable circuit.
A bunch of vets pre-riding the circuit for La Freceric Mistral!

Imagine my surprise then when we’re on the start line, and Antoine of the Guidon Bellachon announces that we’re racing a completely new circuit today!

The start – Counted down from 5 we’re away on 2 ish! A dash down the start field and back before turning onto the tarmac. I’m fully expecting to turn left, we turn right!!! 50 metres then left, for the first climb. Rocky, steep, but rideable, chaos, someone slips, and we’re all off and running. I’m well back in around 30th place.

Over the top and away. I’m managing to move up a couple of places here and there, it’s very tough, and very fast. With about 3 kms done we hit a section of pavé. Jean Claude Sansonnet comes by on my right. I need to keep him in sight.

Through the tiny hamlet of Le Charlet, and onto a wall of a climb. JC is piling the pressure on. By the top of the climb he only has a few seconds on me. On fast rocky trails now, I’m chasing hard, and there’s JC with his back tyre flat! It won’t take him long to fix it, I push on.

We hook up right, a short climb, and we’re on the top of the Monts de Blond. The trail leads along a ridge here, there’s big rocky steps, two riders ahead of me are on foot. I shout to them that I’m coming past. I’m desperate.

Complètement fou! – As we drop off the ridge, I’ve opened a gap on the riders behind me, and I cannot see the riders ahead. Something doesn’t seem right. There’s lots of tyre marks on the trail, but no arrows, or tape. I ease a touch. Right at that moment a bunch of around 20 riders comes towards me. We’ve all gone the wrong way!!! I’ve only lost a few seconds, but some of these riders must have lost a lot more. I make a U turn.

Now we’re back on track, but running into the back of riders who hadn’t gone wrong. The next few kilometres are a bit fraught to say the least. I have no way of knowing what my position is now, but I feel reasonably confident that I’m leading Vet B. There’s no choice but to keep pushing on.

Some of the trails we’re riding are brutal. Some of them I’ve seen before, and some of them are new to me. I keep thinking I know where we going, and then there’s a turning that I wasn’t expecting. I’m in a group of four riders, were going quick, I’m starting to suffer. My own words come back to haunt me…

Any fool can ride a bike when they’re feeling fine fresh and funky. But when you feel like sh*t, and someone’s turning the screw, that when it counts!

With 1 hr 45 mins on my watch I’m guessing that we have about 30 mins to go. We’re on a rocky descent, I can hear a rider behind me. He comes past. I recognise him. He’s the full-sus rider that was first home in the Mandragore earlier in the year. He looks old enough to be a vet, maybe even old enough to be a Vet B, like me. Just when I thought all I had to do was hang on for the finish, now I’m gonna have to raise my game.

I’m sat just off the back of the group trying to come up with a plan. We’re heading down the road towards the Frederic Mistral monument. It’s a run up. I suss that we must pass it, then descend down the far side to get home. I dismount early for the run up and stay to the right. By the top I have a few seconds gap. I didn’t really want to be first down the descent, but I jump back on and go for it. It fast, it’s loose, it’s steep, with some big drop offs, and some tight rutty corners. I make it to the bottom in one piece, still at the front.

A tricky stream crossing, I jump off and run it. I can hear shouting and swearing behind me, I don’t look back. Now a road crossing, then a steep ramp up a trail to the right. I lock my forks out and sprint it. It’s agony. A quick glance over my shoulder. The chasers are on the ramp.

I’m committed now. No fingers covering the brakes, I hold the bars tight and go for it. My S-Works hardtail comes to life, and I rattle over the rocks like a man possessed. We’re almost home, they’re taking us down the way we came out! Down the last rocky descent going for it. Sprinting across the finish field to the dead stop turn 50 metres from the line. There’s no one there. I’ve got it. I hope!!!

Wrap up – I’m 15th scratch, but first Vet B. Turns out that the late arrival was a Vet B. I managed to put one minute into him in that last dash. Not much, but enough.

JC fixed his puncture, but punctured again and had to abandon.

Many many thanks to all at Guidon Bellechon for another superb Fréderic Mistral.

Copy of the results here.

Les Mégalithes – 16éme édition – VTT Rando

Les Megalithes - JaverdatLes Mégalithes, it’s the one where we started, the first Rando we ever did when we moved to France. Today was the fourth time I’ve ridden it, and it’s still one of my favourites.

42 kms around the western end of the Monts de Blond taking in some trails that I just love. There’s no “grand depart”, you’re free to start any time between 08:45 and 09:00. You ride at your own speed. It’s not a race. But on such a beautiful morning, on fast dry trails, riding my race bike, I can’t stop myself.

What is it about ‘Les Mégalithes’? Every time I’ve ridden it I’ve felt just great. For the first few kilometers I ride brisk, but steady. There’s some greeting and handshaking to be done. Then the pace picks up. On the first long climb, I’m breathing hard, and my legs are stinging. Feels great! On the first big descent, foot out, throwing some random shapes, I’m all over the place. Awesome.

In what seems like no time at all I’m hammering down the wide tracks back into Javerdat, in my biggest gear and mashing like a good ‘un. I rode it as hard as I’d race it, while still showing some courtesy to other riders. 42 kms blitzed out in 1:50. I’m euphoric! Just had my fix!

Many many thanks to A. C. Oradour-sur-Glane, and A. S. Saint-Junien Cyclo for a superb rando. As usual Les Mégalithes = Nickel!.

A big “Hello!!!!”, to Stephane of the Ambazac Sprinter Club, and Marco of the Saint Leger la Montagne. Haven’t seen you guys in a while. It was great to ride with you again.

La Mandragore VTT Marathon 2009

Mandragore Limousin - VTT Marathon
La Mandragore VTT Marathon – that’s 100 kms across the Haute Vienne from Confolens to Nieul on some of the best trails in the area including a thrash around the Monts de Blond. I was 4th rider home in 2007, but never made it home in 2008 ‘cos I crashed out. I’m hoping to go well this year, but I’ve not shown any real form this year so far. The forecast is for a hot day, and the trails have been dry for weeks.

The Mandragore is like a ride of two halves with a bit added on. The first half is on open countryside. The trails are wide and rolling. It’s possible to ride ‘roadie’ style in big groups sharing the work. The second half is tough, and technical, along the trails of the Monts de Blond. Once you leave the Monts you have the final dash cross-country to Nieul.

Racing down through the town of Confolens
My plan – go hard for the first 30 minutes to establish myself in the best group I can, then hang on. A simple plan eh?

It’s not a race – though it has the look and feel of one. We’re counted away at the start, and ride the first kilometre behind a lead car in a neutralised sort of way. Then the car pulls over, and it’s game on. I’ve made sure I’m near the front.

A steep tarmac ramp takes us out of town. I’m on it in third position, I get off it in about twentieth, breathing hard. There’s riders moving forwards, and a few coming backwards, as we sort ourselves out. I’m with the lead group, there’s about twenty of us. Each time we dive off road there’s a shake down, and the group shrinks. Each time we hit the tarmac there’s a few frantic moments as riders fight for wheels. I’m trying to stay cool, trying to ride super-economically.

The first 20 kms fly by, at the first ravito (feed station), nobody stops. Were down to about 10 riders now. Another off-road shakedown, there’s a split, and four riders go clear. I ain’t one of them! I chase hard, nobody helps. It’s tough. They have a gap of about 30 seconds.

On familiar trails near Montrol Senard

We’re into some familiar territory now, it’s a trail that I know well, and I make the most of it. By the time we drop out into Montrol Senard, and the second ravito, I’m almost back on. I grab a handful of food, re-fill my bottle, and I’m away. The ravito is busy, as we’re sharing this one with the roadies, in the confusion i’m not sure who’s where. I ride steady, and try to eat.

On the long technical climb out of Montrol Senard things become a little clearer. I’m with the lead group, there’s seven of us :- David Thely (US Bessines Cyclo), Davy Baborier (Briance Rosselle Aventure), Lionel Lebraud (US Nantiat), Jean Luc Grommet (CC Beauvallet), a St Léger La Montagne rider, and another strong looking rider I’ve never seen before. I reckon I’m the weakest. However, all those hours spent riding in the Monts de Blond are paying off. I know where we are, and I know what’s coming next. I’m able to stay in contact, just.

On a long climb on the South side of the hills, it’s very hot. I pass Jean Luc, then David, and in just a few seconds they are gone. We don’t see them again. By the top of the climb I’m off the back. Down the descent from Boscartus, I know I’m not far behind as I’m riding through the dust kicked up by the riders ahead. A sharp left, a short section by a lake, a hook up right, I can see the group ahead through the trees, they’ve been caught out by the tricky transition, I flick to my granny gear, and I’m back on.

We’re climbing all the way back up again to pass by the old Chapel. The St Léger La Montagne rider gets an attack of cramp, and has to dismount. A quick glance at my watch. I reckon we still have at least an hour and a half to do. He’s cooked. This is tough. I stay in contact as long as I can, but by the top I’m on my own. A tarmac section, I eat, drink, and try to maintain some pace.

A few minutes later I find Davy stopped by the side of the trail. He has bad cramp, he’s in agony. He tells me to carry on. Incidentally, it was Davy who found me last year when I crashed.

So now there’s just two riders ahead, Lionel, and the guy I’ve never seen before. I’m thinking that I won’t see them again before the finish. Then, at the ravito at Vaulry, there they are, they’ve stopped for food. We’re nearly done in the Monts de Blond now, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to stay with them to Nieul.

They ride quick, I’m tired, but I’m just about hanging on. I reckon we have about 10 kms left to go. At Peyrilhac there’s a short steep bank. I get out of the saddle and my legs buckle. I’m gone.

Over the last few agonising kilometres I lose close on five minutes. I cross the line third rider home, in just under 5 hours. I’m very happy with that….. and anyway, it’s not a race!

Thanks to all at Cyclo-Club Nieul for a fantastic event. Thanks to all the guys I rode with for their camaraderie. Thanks to my wonderful wife Carla for dropping me off at the start, and meeting me at the finish with a cold beer. What a woman! I know she worries about me a little when I don’t arrive on schedule, but today was OK. I reckon she was just as pleased with my ride as I was.

Monts de Blond encore!

Magical Mystical Monts de Blond
You knows I loves it up there dontcha? and I goes up there on me road bike and me mountainbike? Well last week I went up there no less than four times (2*VTT, 2*Road). I dunno what it is about the place, I just love it there. The magical mystical Monts de Blond have cast a spell over me such that yesterday I set off for a ride and just ended up there, by magic!

It was a lovely sunny afternoon. I set of with nowhere in mind really. Haven’t been up by Brigueuil for ages. It’s nice there. So when Carla asked me where I was headed that’s where I told her.

Muse de Corot, also known as the Carlabout!

Dropped down through St Junien, up past the cheeky “Muse de Corot”, then on towards Brigueuil. The road climbs steadily kilometer after kilometer. I’m in no rush, and as I amble along, my mind drifts. This was one of the first roads I ever rode in the area. I remember riding it with some lads from AS St-Junien. I don’t remember who they were, I was on holiday then, but I probably know them quite well now. I pass the road crossing point from the Departmentals a couple of weeks back, then the St Junien – St Junien VTT race. Into Brigueuil village, I remember we looked at a house here, once……..

I take the turn for St Christophe for no reason whatsoever. The Spring flowers along the side of the road are fabulous. The countryside looks so green and lush. I’m still gaining height. At St Christophe I take the Nouic road. Been there once before. As I drift along aimlessly on the deserted roads it occurs to me that drifting along aimlessly isn’t such a bad thing.

Still climbing towards the ridge up ahead. At the ridge there’s a road that looks as though it runs along it. I turn right. A few kilometers further on there’s a view point with views all the way back past St Junien to the South, and Bellac to the North. A road sign tells me I’m headed towards Salomon. I know where I am now. I cross the GR Mandragore trail. Yes, the very same one where I crashed last year in the VTT Rando Marathon en route to the Monts de Blond!

Just past Salomon I hit the main Bellac – St Junien road. I turn left for Mortemart. The super smooth road dives down through the trees on the North side of the hills. I’m topped out spinning. Into the old town of Mortemart, then right off the main road towards Blond. I’m now on the dead straight roller-coaster that runs along the back of the Monts de Blond. There’s old paint on the road from the 2007 “Tour du Limousin” pro’ bike race. I remember spending a happy afternoon watching that with Carla.

At Blond I turn right for Cieux. It’s a long climb back up over the Monts, not steep, just long. As I climb I pass other landmarks that remind me of races or rides that I’ve done. I’ve been in France full-time for two years now. That’s a lot of riding.

Along the top there are pear trees in full blossom. The bright pink against the blue sky and verdant green of the hills is beautiful. The road turns downhill now. Some fast sweeping bends with a vista over the sparkling lakes near Cieux. I glance at my watch. The spell is broken. I have two and a half hours on the clock, I told Carla I’d be three. Time to up the pace for home.

Cieux to Javerdat is a tough road. It’s a ‘rural’ surface with some tough ramps. I keep it in the big ring and power up them. My legs sting. Through Javerdat where the road is blocked by the bread van and a couple of dogs waiting for their owner who’s buying bread. I slow down a moment. The next section is fast. It’d be great if a moped would come along now so that I could try and get it’s wheel, but nothing.

Into St Junien, the traffic quite heavy as I race down through the town. I can see a cyclist ahead. He’s moving quite quick. He gets held up at the lights. It’s James from the ROCC. We exchange greetings. He tells me “J’ai été dans les Monts de Blond aujourd’hui. Il est très beau là-bas”. I agree 😉

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! 🙂

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 🙂

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’s lots of action as riders come and go. I’m climbing well enough, and I’m 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/

Les Mégalithes – 15éme édition – VTT Rando

This is the one we started with 3 years ago. This is my favourite rando, a 42km tour of the western end of the Monts de Blond. It’s an early start, an’ it’s bloomin’ chilly, though we’ll warm up soon enough. I spot a few of the ‘usual suspects’ signing on. Remember, it’s not a race, you just ride at your own speed. 😉

There’s no ‘Grand Depart’ this year. Instead you can leave anytime you like after 08:45. This means that by 08:45 just about everyone is gone. I set off at a brisk pace, picking my way through the traffic. By the time I reach Arnac i’m too hot so make a quick stop to remove Buff and scarf. I’m feeling pretty good, and you know what it’s like, when you’re feeling good the pain feels good, the faster you go the better the pain. I’m blasting along, pretty much full on.

Along the tops now, heading in the direction of Montrol Senard. There’s a rider catching me from behind. I’m goin’ damn quick, he’s goin’ even quicker! He catches me, it’s Jean-Phillipe, we’ve ridden together loads, usually with me groveling on his wheel. We exchange greetings, then, as per normal, i’m chasing his wheel. I manage to stay with him all the way into Montrol Senard village, though it’s a struggle. I’m not descending as well as I was, a little cautious.

We head out of the village and swing right onto the steep chemin towards Montmezerie. Jean-Phillipe slowy edges away. It’s steep and rocky, but I make it all the way to the top with just one dab. The next section if very fast, with plenty of rocks and roots to keep you focused. The dappled sunlight through the trees add to the sense of speed. I spot a rider up ahead, i’m gaining slowly. It’s Nico from the Nantiat club. I almost catch him but the trail turns downhill, and Nico drops like a stone.

I’m at the ravito (food stop) now. There’s one rider who I haven’t seen, though I know he’s here somewhere, Christian….. he must be ahead somewhere. Away from the ravito with Jean-Phillipe and Nico. We head down across the slabs on one of the best descents in the Monts. A sharp left, drop over the road, and down again. Fast, rocky, twisty, bermy, scary, this one has it all. I can’t stay with the boys, by the time I get to the lake at Les Petite Hors they’re out of site.

I push on, hard. Nico in sight again, and I’m gaining on him. The long granny ring climb back up to Boscartus. I catch him just before the summit. There’s a couple of kilometers of tarmac, i’m on the front. I know where were going, and what’s coming next. I don’t want to spoil Nico’s fun so I wave him through at the top of the last big descent. Again, I hang on to the fast descending Nico as long as I can, but in the steeper stony stuff I can’t stay with him. When we spill out onto the road at the bottom Nico has some 200metres on me.

We’re off the Monts now, and i know it’s a rolling run in to the finish. I’m chewin’ on the handlebars, riding like a man possesed. I catch Nico, he stays with me for a while. I lose him in some traffic. On very familiar ground now, the singletrack through to Le Pic. Hammering. There’s a stream, with a bridge, normally I take the bridge, but someone is on it, I don’t want to be held up, I blast through the water – not like me at all. Can’t be more than 3km to go now. A rider up ahead, I recognise his style though not his bike. It’s Christian!!!

So…… today was brilliant, I enjoyed every pedal turn. I feel like i have some form coming, but still some work to do to get ‘race fit’. I’m not climbing as well as I was – need to lose the 2kgs i’ve put on, and I’m not descending well – still a bit cautious after my fall in the Mandragore. I’ll keep taking the nasty medicine that is hard training. I’ve got two weeks, then it’s two big races in a row. Time enough, but only just.

A flying visit from Supawal

Yes, a flying visit from Supawal – the bringer of new bikes and good weather!

Supawal, he’s my brother, he came out for a flying visit on Friday to bring my new bike. Amazingly it was cheaper for someone to fly with it than it was to pay a courier to bring it. I was gonna travel home to get it, but Wal insisted on bringing it out.

Of course Wal had an ulterior motive. To bag some quality mountain bike time on the trails out here ready for his first attempt at the GTL. So, he brought some nice weather with him, and we headed for the hills. Wal rode his Cove Handjob, Carla rode her Spesh Hardtail, and I rode Big Bird. What a combo.
Carla the Supawal down emerald alley
Our plan was to do a couple of hours, then break for lunch, then do another couple of hours. This would give Carla the opportunity of pulling out for the second half. She’s in training for a two hour race, so doesn’t need slow and long. We parked above Boscartus, and headed towards Le Chimes.

The weather has been wet wet wet through March, and there were some muddy sections, and maybe the going could have been a little firmer, but with half a day of dry weather things were improving to the point where they were dry.

Thrashing along the tracks that contour the North side of the hills I could tell that Wal was enjoying it because each time I gave him a route option he chose the longer, and each time he got on the front he’d go haring off like a nutter. Meanwhile Carla, sporting a meagre 75mm of travel on the front flew up the climbs but found herself visually impared on the rocky descents.

With two hours done we raced down from the high point at Puy Grenier, crossed the Cieux – Blond road and dived into the switchbacks down towards the lakes. We rode ragged (well I did!), but made it to the bottom in one piece. Just the long haul back to the van to do. I planned it like this knowing that Wal’s empty belly would drive him on to the sarnies at the van.

I had this idea that I’d push on, and take some pictures further up the climb. Wal must have seen it as a challenge, and Carla was determined not to get dropped. I struggled to get my camera out, and when I did it magically hooked it’s leash around my bars. Too late, SuperWal had gone through with Carla in hot pursuit. Back at the van with two and a half hours done.
Wal and Carla battle it out on the climb
Following our snack, Carla decided to sit the next section out. I was sort of hoping she would, and asked her to meet us at Arnac. This meant that Wal and I could have another couple of hours with more downhill than uphill! Meanwhile Carla had a snooze in the van!!! 🙂

Wal was up for it, and rode hard at first, but with an early flight, and getting on for four hours of riding under his belt he was starting to fade. Then you have to factor in the Birthday celebration that we’d planned for him (he was 50 on 1st April!!!). He’d still got a long way to go. We finished of with our customary sprint to the van. He won, of course. Tired and weary we packed the bikes away and went home.

That evening Carla cooked a bumper meal, we toasted Wal’s birthday, and by 9pm he was a goner, couldn’t keep his eyes open. Next day he had to be up early to fly back. We had just enough time for a recovery ride around the village and he was jetting home.

Next time I spoke to him it was Monday night. He told me that by 8pm, which was really 7pm on Sunday evening. ‘cos the clocks went forward, he was already in bed, Eleanor had read him a story, and he didn’t wake up until 7am the next day!

Thanks for bringing my bike out bro’, see you in four weeks for the GTL 🙂

Escapade aux Pays des Monts de Blond

The Magical Mystical Monts de Blond have cast a spell on me, one of my favourite places to ride, I never tire of riding there. Seems like there’s always a new trail to discover just around the corner.

For those who don’t know the area riding can be a bit hit and miss, even though there are waymarked trails, and in anycase, the waymarked trails miss out some of the best bits, and you have to be able to read the secret code…
Secret code markingsCan you decipher the code?
Carla and I parked above Boscartus under a beautiful blue sky, we were looking for a couple of hours of good riding. Our usual parking spot is now a pile of timber due to forestry operations, so we parked a little further on. Just next to our new parking spot there was a trail heading up into the trees. While Carla tried combinations of armwarmers and legwarmers I rode a short way to see where it went. I was suprised to find that it was a trail that I knew well, just that I’d never ridden it in that direction before. Little did I realise the significance of this at the time.

Back at the van Carla was ready, and we set off in the direction we had planned. Roller coastering along the side of the hills the trails were in superb condition, Carla was riding well, and we hadn’t a care in the world. The Monts were working their magic. 🙂
Croix des 7 Fayauds
Along past the ‘Croix des 7 Fayauds’, the story goes that the cross is actually hewn from a megalithe, rather than made somewhere then mounted. We reach the Hauts de Blond, just about the highest point of the ride, with fabulous views. Onwards towards the Chapel above Vaulry before looping back along Les Cimes.

It’s half-term for the schools this week, and we meet a french couple coming the other way. They ask us which would be the quickest and easiest way to walk to Blond. We think for a moment, then, using my local knowledge, in my best french, I explain to them. They understand my french first time, and I’m pleased to have been able to help them.

We ride on, the trails flow, and we’re having a super ride. With almost two hours done we are right on schedule, but it’s such a superb afternoon I ask Carla if she fancies a little extra loop, it’ll probably add half an hour. She does. We continue along past Boscartus towards Peyrelade. There’s a big climb, but it’s the last climb of the day. “Last big climb of the day”, I tell Carla. Just then, another french couple stop us to ask where the trail goes. “Arnac”, I tell them. Heck, we’re like locals! 🙂
Monts de Blond
At the top of the climb we turn right. “5 minutes or 15 minutes?”, I ask. Carla opts for the 15 minutes…………….

…… and then, the spell is broken. Some 45minutes later we are back where we started and I’m completley disorientated, and now it’s getting late in the afternoon, the sun is going down, and it’s going damn cold.

Here’s a bloke who knows the trails in the area. Here’s a bloke who uses his local knowledge to help others who are lost. Here’s a plonker, first class! With three hours plus on the clock we’re back at the van. Doh 😉

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