Championnat Regional VTT

Yep, it’s the Limousin region mountainbike championships, and I’m invited to ride! I don’t have great form, though I am improving. I don’t have many race miles in my legs this season. But, I’m gonna go and do my best.

The race is at Beynac in the Correze at the Etang de Miel (Lake of Honey!). It’s a beautiful spot, and the weather is fabulous. The circuit is 7kms, fast, flowing, dry. I like it very much. I’m guessing between 20 to 25 minutes a lap, and we (vet Bs) are doing 4.
Regional VTT Champs. I'm gridded on the front line!
I’m gridded on the front line! I wasn’t expecting that. We’re going off together with the Vet As. I’m sure there’s some faster guys behind me. I’ve clocked all the Vet Bs on the front line, so I know who I’m tracking.
I get a great start, and as we leave the arena I’m on the wheel of the leading Vet B.

It’s very fast. Along the fast forest track in the dust over the rocks there’s riders everywhere scrambling to get the best wheel they can before we hit the tarmac section that will take us to the first real climb.

First place seems to be easing away, but no panic, I’m sat in a group containing 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. We’re moving quick. As we continue through lap one we change positions, but nobody makes a move. Onto lap two, a rider from the Correze kicks. I go after him. Now it’s hard, very hard. My throat is burning, I haven’t tried this hard in a while. By the end of lap two we are clear. I’m looking at a podium finish.
Regional VTT Champs - It was great to race in warm sunny weather!
Then, it all goes wrong! I seem to be going backwards. Dominique from the US Nantiat comes past, I can’t hold him. As we go out for the last lap I’m gone, and within the last 2kms I drop to 5th. I’m almost 5 minutes off the pace. Ouch! What a kicking! Thanks guys! 🙂

But, it was still a great day out, and still great to see a lot of racing buddies who I haven’t seen for a while.


St Junien – St Junien, on the bike, on the floor, on the podium…

On the bike – last weekend I rode one of the biggest and best road races of the Haute Vienne racing calendar. The St Junien – St Junien is one big loop of 86 kms starting just outside St Junien. A record 144 riders started this year. All categories race together, at the same time.

So, as you can imagine, with 144 riders, plus race vehicles including no less than 21 motorcycle marshals, the first few kilometres are gonna be tense. I’m sitting in the top thirty, though I can hardly see the front, and as for moving up, no chance. By the time we get to the main road that runs up towards Javerdat a small group has jumped away and the chase is on. We’re going quick, and there’s no let up.

St Junien neutralised depart Sept 2009 - click picture for more

The first climb of the day is taken in the big ring! No let up! I dunno who’s driving it, but they’re driving it hard, and it’s made harder by the concertina effect, and having to jump hard out of every corner and over every crest just to hang on. On the long climb from Cieux to Blond riders start to struggle, and I manage to move up. I can actually see the front of the peloton now.

From Blond to Vaulry then along the roller-coaster road towards Chamboret. We can see the group ahead. The pressure is on. I’m riding in the first 10-15 riders now. It’s much better here. Every now and then a rider tries to jump across the gap on their own. They don’t make it.

On the floor – The climb out of Nieul isn’t steep, but it’s long, and the pressure is on. Almost at the top, the rider in front of me touches a wheel and goes down. There’s nowhere for me to go apart from over the handlebars. I’m up in a flash, I check my bike, just one brake lever twisted. I straighten it, jump on and I’m away. I spectator gives me a good shove.

The bunch aren’t that far ahead. I chase to get back on. A motorcycle marshal who’s seen what happened signals for me to get his wheel so that he can tow me. The next 5 kms are agony. I’m topped out in 50*12 on the back of the motorbike and it takes 5 kms to rejoin the bunch! I thank the marshal and disappear into the heart of the peloton to recover.

From La Barre to St Victurnien is mostly down hill. I know these roads quite well, so I’m able to relax a little on the descents. Along the valley road now. There’s about 10 kms to go. One short ramp, then a steep climb back into St Junien and the finish. There’s still a group clear. Remember though, all categories are racing together, with prizes down to 5th for each category. I resolve to keep going. On the short ramp there’s a surge, but I’m OK.

The final climb coming up. It’s a horror. Dead straight, steep, and gets steeper as it rises. Again there’s a surge as riders take it on early. Two thirds of the way up and it’s chaos with riders coming backwards as fast as they went forwards. We’re over the top. I’m trying to stay near the front. The last right hander, I jump as hard as I can. 200 metres to the line, I manage to pass a few, and almost on the line I pass my friend and rival vet Pierre Chenaud!!!

Carla is waiting for me at the finish and packs me off to get cleaned up by a medic. I have a cut on my cheek, and some grazing on my elbow and hip. It looks quite bad, but it’s very superficial. It’s just that the wind has blown the blood across my face making me look tough and macho! 😉

On the podium – I placed 3rd in my category, and I was 3rd over 50 veteran, so got on the podium twice. I haven’t done many road races this year. This was a good one to end the season.

The 86 kms was covered in 2hrs 15mins. That’s pretty quick. Well done to all the riders. Many many thanks to all at the ASSJ CYCLO for a great race. Special thanks to the motorcycle marshal who towed me back on.

St Junien Podium 2nd Cats Sept 2009

Outcome – Closer inspection of my bike showed a slight scuff on my saddle and a tear in my bar tape. My helmet was broken and will have to be replaced. By Tuesday I had stiffened up a bit. By Wednesday I was back out with the boys on the FFC training bash.

There are some superb pictures taken by Jérôme Danlos that capture the day well. Take a look for yourself.

Regional VTT Championships – Fursac en Creuse

Raced in the “Regionals” last weekend. Took second place in the Vet B race. That’s one better than last year.

It was a super fast circuit, not very technical, though you needed to be skillful to ride it fast. JC took off like a rocket from the start and was never seen again! Yep, I got a great start up the first road climb, right onto the singletrack, I’m sitting pretty in fourth spot (Vet A and Vet B race together with Vet A doing one more lap). Jean-Claude comes past, and that’s it. He moves to the head of the race, and leads it out until he’s won! So, potentially what we have here, given that some of the Vet A riders will be in their early 40s, is a 62 yr old giving them a humiliation! He’s old enough to be their dad FFS!

I’m thinking maybe I need to go down to the crossroads at midnight and do a deal with Papa Legba…… Or, maybe JC has beaten me to it!

Félicitations Jean-Claude! 😉

La Mandragore VTT Marathon 2008

La Mandragore 2008100kms, one way only, along the best trails in the area from Confolens to Nieul, including mulitiple crossings of the Monts de Blond. Not a race, it’s much harder than that! I was 4th rider home last year in 5 hours 15mins, I’d like to come home with the leading riders again this year. With a hot day forecast, and the ground hard and dry it’s gonna be fast and tough.

At 8.45, we roll out behind the lead car for a quick tour of Confolens. All the usual suspects are near the front. Across the old bridge, over the Vienne, hundreds strong in the early morning sun, alongside the river before crossing back via the new bridge to climb the ramparts to the old chateau. Through the chateau grounds now and there are supporters dressed as medieval knights to cheer us on our way. Quite a spectacle, though my attention is fixed on what’s ahead and maintaining my position near the front.

The lead car peels off and it’s “game on!” ‘Marco Solo’, that’s Jean-Marc the St Leger la Montagne rider who won the solo class at the “24 heures de Bonnac” takes off like a man posessed. Guess who’s on his wheel …

Onto a disused railway line out of town and Marco is going like a train. Marco’s choice of weapon is a Specialized Epic, and he puts it to good use powering over the rough sections like he’s on tarmac. I’m getting battered on my hardtail but I’m thinking it will pay dividends later on.

With hardly 5 minutes gone, Marco has ridden us clear. That’s Marco, me, then Lionel Lebraud (US Nantiat). Staying with Marco on the climbs is ok, but on the technical rocky stuff alongside the river, he floats away. A small gap opens, it crosses my mind that he might be trying to establish a good lead early on as a buffer for the tough climbs in the second half.

We’re about 20 seconds down, chasing hard. We hook up out of the valley onto a steady climb. It’s like Marco vanished, but in actual fact we’ve missed the turn! Doh! With at least a minute thrown away, we’re back on track. Lionel is annoyed at our mistake and is setting a blistering pace. I’m hanging on. We pass a few riders and catch a group containing Jean-Philippe Menneteau (US Nantiat) and young Davy Barborier (Briance Roselle Aventure).

At the first ravitalement, I ride straight through without stopping along with Lionel, Jean-Phi and Davy. Cor blimey guv – just like the old days! The pace is brisk with the off-road sections taken much faster than the tarmac ones. I’m feeling good and contribute to the pace.

Nearly two hours done and we’re starting to get into hillier terrain. Davy is having some trouble with his cassette and is yo-yo-ing off the back. I’m still ok, though it’s hard work. Dropping down toward Montrol Senard now, a fast woodland track with dappled sunlight. Jean-Phi is leading Lionel in second, then me. There’s a hole with a big rock in it and I’m straight over the bars. I land in a heap and in that split second I know I’m finished! I felt it go, a quick check confirms my collarbone is broken…

to be continued 🙁

Saint-Martin-de-Jussac Road Race

It’s only a few kilometers from home. I know the circuit like the back of my hand (aaarrrgghhh! what’s that 🙂 ). Almost half a lap uphill then half a lap downhill. The climbs aren’t steep, but they are long. It’s a tough circuit, and it’s seven laps.

First and second category riders are going off together. I dunno whether that’s a good idea or not. Firsts are wearing black numbers, seconds including me have red numbers. Oh, and firsts are doing one more lap. The promoting club is the ASSJ (St Junien), and they have all their riders out today. I’d say there’s more ASSJ than any other club.

Saint-Martin-de-Jussac Road Race

The start is a fairly civilised affair. One of the ASSJs goes to the front and sets a sensible pace all the way up to the top of the circuit. There’s one or two attacks along the top, then we’re into the descent all the way back down. It’s narrow, there’s lots of gravel, and a couple of greasy corners. Back in the bottom of the valley there’s a short flat run, then a short climb through the finish to start the second lap. We’re still all together.

Second time up the climb it’s a little more serious as some of the first cats flex their muscles, but it’s manageable. Along the top road there’s a flurry of attacks. A group of riders are caught, I’m coming up fast, there’s a gap, I shoot through and attack myself. I’m away! Maybe the first cats aren’t interested, and the second cats are waiting for the firsts to respond? I dunno, I get comfy and work hard, not flat out, but hard. A rider comes across to join me, it’s Jean-Marc from the ASSJ, he’s a second cat too, i’ve ridden with him before, he’s a hard worker, we push on together.

On the climb going out for the third lap, we’re still away, but only just. Carla shouts, “10 seconds!”. As the climb bites we work hard, and at the top were still away, but joined by another rider, a first cat. We’re working hard now, just managing to stay clear. A quick glance, I can see another rider coming across, a big powerhouse, he takes a few seconds breather on the back then comes through driving hard. Down the descent I’m topped out, bouncing in the saddle, 50*12.

Back up again. We’re staying away, but not far enough. On the top of the circuit we’re joined by four more riders. The whole peleton is almost on us, and then we gel, everyone goes through, and we’re gone. They won’t see us again.

Now here’s the best part. There’s only three second cats here, so that’s the podium sorted. We have three Rochechouart riders, Eric (1st cat), David (2nd cat), and me. It’s in our/my interests to work hard so this group stays away.

With two laps to go the infighting starts. As we climb, one of the first cats attacks, another goes after him. I’m feeling OK, as if I could go after them, but I might get eaten alive, I stay where I am. I go to the front and work hard. Some of the riders seem to be tiring. By the top of the course we’re down to five. We still have three second cats, and two first cats, we’re still working hard, and we’re still well clear. It’s looking like we’re gonna stay away.

Saint-Martin-de-Jussac Road Race - last lap climb

I need a plan. If it comes to a sprint I reckon Jean-Marc is gonna take it. David seems to be goin OK but he’s stretching his back a lot, and doesn’t look comfy. Last time up the climb now. I’m feeling pretty good. I give plenty. As we ride along the top of the course Eric comes alongside, and gives me the thumbs up. I’m hoping he’s right.

On the desent now for the last time. It’s getting a bit cagey, I’m sitting second in line behind Eric, I know exactly what I’m gonna do. At the greasy corners it’s hard to get any power down until you’re back out onto the straight, there’s a slight rise here. Into the corner I carry as much speed as I dare, then jump hard, really hard. The road here is narrow, Jean-Marc and David are held up behind the two first cats. I hear Jean-Marc shout. Now, neither Eric or the other first cat are gonna chase me, and David my clubmate ain’t gonna chase me, and if Jean-Marc chases he’ll be throwing any chance of the win away as David will be right on his wheel. It’s a win-win situation for the Rochechouart. I’m hoping it’s a win for me.

Down the descent like a nutter, spinning for all I’m worth. There’s a sharp left at full tilt (whoa! steady dude), then a sharp gravelly right (don’t stuff it up now!) onto the finish road. A quick glance under my arm, it’s Jean-Marc who leading the chase. I’m gonna win it, but just in case the tar melts, my tyres go flat, or the finish line moves away faster than I can move towards it as time becomes elastic, I get out of the saddle and sprint. Got it! David takes second, Jean-Marc third.

Thanks to my team mates Eric and David for their help. Thanks to Jean-Marc for working so hard, and thanks to all the ASSJ riders who worked to make sure that Jean-Marc stayed away, and to the ASSJ for putting on a great race. It really couldn’t have gone any better………. and then it did…at the prize ceremony I was given a spectacular Pelargonium (it’s a plant – Carla loves it), and, and, there was whiskey and chocolate biscuits. Carla drove home 🙂

Meanwhile – well done to my friend Davy who won the third cat race, and well done to all the Rochechouart riders. With prizes going down to 5th for each category almost every Rochechouart rider who raced was a winner.

Grande Traversée du Limousin 2008 – Results, analysis, thanks, and things…

Results and analysis…
I finished 3rd in the ‘Master 2’ category. That’s riders over 40yrs old (vets). I was 18th overall, and nobody younger than me finished in front of me. For an old bloke with a dodgy shoulder that’s a result I’m happy with.

vets podium - that is me on the right

The first and second placed vets finished around 30 minutes ahead of me! Even more amazing, the first placed vet, Gilles Audger, rode a rigid bike with V brakes!!! Fourth and fifth placed vets were only just behind me. With Frédéric Auracombe just over a minute back. After 200kms of racing that was close. Looking at the times for the top riders overall…..those young guns are incredibly fast. See for yourself, the full results are on the Creuse Oxygene website here.

Thanks to – Alain Menut and the team at Creuse Oxygene for a fabulous event. Described as ‘200kms de pur plaisir’, it really is that good. In all the years i’ve raced this is one of the best organised, hardest, bestest, beautiful races i’ve ever taken part in. No contrived loops, no manicured trails, no punches pulled. Extensive racing, one way, on natural, fabulous terrain.

Thanks to – Raymond for bringing the Sunday Riders over from the UK to race. I’m thrilled that you all enjoyed it so much, and your comments about the event, and about the beauty of this area of France made me proud, not only to be a Brit, but to be a Brit living and racing here. Oh, and well done for pursuading KB to take part.

Thanks toKeith Bontrager for taking part. It really meant something special for Creuse Oxygene. It was great to meet you, thanks for all the equipment tips, and the recipe for tyre sealant. I hope to meet you again later in the year.

Waiting to start in the GTL 2008

Well done Pricer and Supawal! Racing will never be the same again will it? I reckon Pricer will be unbeatable next season…watchout! Supawal is falling in love with French racing, wouldn’t suprise me if he wasn’t planning his next adventure right now.

For an authentic French GTL report with some excellent pictures, visit zag-rider’s website (Bonjour Charles). While the Creuse Oxygene’s pictures for the three days are here.

For the anoraks – I rode a Specialized Stumpjumper Hardtail on a pair of Bontrager wheels running Hutchinson tubeless tyres. I’d fitted a new cassette and chain, and new disc pads. By the end of the three days the chain was shot, and the rear pads were almost gone!

Finally – This was my second GTL and this time round I enjoyed it more for the simple reason that I speak a little French now. I could enjoy the camaraderie and banter amongst the riders. Last year I felt embarrased having to say ‘je suis desole, j’en comprend pas!’. This year I could join in.

La Grande Traversee du Limousin is a fabulous race, and part of what I love about it is it’s Frenchness. Racing with French racers in a French race in France is experience not to be missed. To me, the fact that the entry forms, the communications, the website, the briefings, are all conducted in French enhance the experience. It’s not that hard to get yourself on the start line. Once you’re there the rest is easy!