The picture below is a comp from a set taken by a photographer at “Les Gantiers” VTT Rando. The photographer was stood about 2 kilometers from the finish. So about 38 kilometers in. Now, which rider do you think is using a mudguard?
Guess who has a mudguard!
The trails have been a bit wet and mucky lately so I have fitted my THE Industries front mudguard. It’s a great bit of kit. It’s light, it’s easy to fit, it doesn’t mark your bike, and it does exactly what you need it to do, which is keep the muck out of your eyes. I reckon it’s the best front mudguard for XC racing out there. On the back I go for a Mr Crud Race Guard. Again, dead east to fit, and keeps your rear end dry and clean. It’s not very pleasant riding in wet shorts, and a constant spray of cold water onto your back can’t do much for the strong muscles in your lower back.
THE Industries front mudguard - the best there is.
Of course there are those who say that mudguards have no place on a mountainbike. They’ll be the ones struggling to wash mud out of their eyes while I’m enjoying a nice post rando cuppa!

Make a nice Christmas gift, some mudguards! 😉

Some people…

Some people train hard, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after yeah, it’s tough. Some people race hard, go down, get straight back up, and have the scars to prove it. Come summer, winter rain or shine, you’ll find them working hard on the bike.

Carla on the front cover of the UFOLEP Magazine

On the other hand, some people don’t really train at all, and only ride when it suits them, when there’s not something else they’d rather be doing. Some people just flash a smile and get their face on the front cover of a sporting federation’s national magazine!

There’s two sorts of people in the world this month. Those with their picture on the front of a national magazine who ride for CC Beauvallet, and those who don’t. Where’s the justice eh? 🙂

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.

12̩me Bonnac X-Tr̩me РVTT Rando

It’s 40kms, yay! It’s a mass start. yay! The circuit has a profile like sharks teeth!, whoooooo!!!

I much prefer the mass start to the dribble away anytime you like between x and y hours. It’s more fun. I’m right up near the front so that I’ll get shoved along by all the riders behind me. We’re away bang on 9am.

Lionel from the US Nantiat is making the pace. I get his wheel. We’re going quick, and my legs still feel a bit tired from yesterdays efforts, but I’m OK. On to the first climb, there’s a couple of sharp bends. Lionel has towed us away, quite a gap, just Stephane the big Ambazac Sprinter Club rider making his way to join us.

The next 10kms or so are superb. Excellent trails, we seem to be going quicker and quicker. Lionel and Stephane are chatting away, even on the climbs. I’m suffering a bit. How can they climb so fast while holding a conversation? Anyway, they’re so busy chatting, and I’m so busy hanging on that we miss a turn, and a couple of kilometers later we’ve come to a dead end!

Back on track, Pierre Barateau (Ambazac Sprinter Club) is up ahead. We catch him, and the four of us ride together. We’re high up in the hills above Compregniac now. I recognise some of these trails from the Thouron rando a few weeks back. We make a right turn into a forest descent. It’s a good one, flowing, twisty rollercoaster stuff.

Chaos ensues. Lionel catches a root, gets crossed up, but manages to hang on by the skin of his teeth, Pierre’s front skewer comes undone, and Stephane takes off like a bullet shot from a high powered rifle. Lionel gives chase, I chase Lionel, and Pierre, having tightened his skewer chases me.

Now we’re going like the clappers, totally ‘a bloc’, and so it continues for the next 30mins. I manage to catch Lionel by virtue of the fact that I remember a couple of desents from previous randos. But it’s as if Stephane has disappeared.

Two hours on the clock, we must be almost home. We’re in the traffic of riders tackling the shorter circuits now. We’re actually riding part of the circuit used for the 24hrs de Bonnac, it’s in good condition considering we’re just coming out of winter.

We hammer the last couple of kms. There at the bike wash is Stephane. He reckons that he just carried on riding at normal pace and it must have been us that slowed down!!!

Here’s a gratuitous pic of me on the trails……
SB on the trails

A lot of ‘F’ words today…

The VTT Rando at La Bretagne just north of St Junien.
The frozen lake near Arnac
Absolutely f*****g freezing! With the temperature at around -10, plus the wind chill factor…

Firing down the first descent, and out across the frozen French farmland, young David from the Bessines club comes flying by, I give chase. We’re the first two riders away.

My frozen fingers won’t work, on a short road section I’m furiously flailing my arms in an attempt to get some blood flow going. It’s a clear blue sky, but it’s only just gone 08:30 and the sun has a way to climb before it finds us.

The ground is rock hard super fast. The farm tracks give way to singletrack as we go from fields to forest. We’re OK so far, and have been sharing the workload. On the straightaways we’re rocketing along. I’ve warmed up a little now. It’s fun.

As we get into more technical stuff David is just fearless. I stay with him as best I can. We’re slipping and banging off stuff. I’m just thinking how well I’m going, me, an old bloke with a dodgy shoulder keeping pace with a young gun, when I start thinking “feck this for a lark!!!”,it ain’t no race, but we’re riding furiously like men possesed. I don’t wanna find myself injured before the season starts. I back off a little. Still going quick though.

David has a good gap on me now. I gain a little on the easy stuff, he moves away on the technical stuff…… and then, he’s gone. I’m looking at what must be two minutes up the trail, and there’s no sign of him.

Along the singletrack by the lake near Arnac, I can hear a rider behind me. I’m thinking maybe it’s one of the Flying Barbourier Brothers, they’re bound to be chasing hard. It’s David!!! He’s so focused on going fast he’s missed the ‘fleche’. He comes by, racing over the frost covered rocks and frozen ‘run off’ like he’s on tarmac.

Into the last few kms. We follow the same trails that we came out on. There’s just one huge flat field to cross. I can see David up ahead and I make a final effort to try and catch him. Thing is, he can see me coming, and makes a final effort himself.

We’ve done 40kms in 1hour 45mins. It’s been fantastic, and I fank the young fellow David for a fine ride. 😉

…..and then, and then, mulled wine at the finish. Oh yes! 🙂

La 6éme Rando des Trois Clochers

Remember when I did this last year? What a difference. Let me explain. Where last year was wetter than wet and raining but not cold, this year was dryer than dry, sunny, and freezing.

We set of for the venue in the dark at just gone 07:30. We need to take it easy as they don’t salt the roads so much in this corner of France. Climbing up towards Razes the sun is rising into a cloudless blue sky. Once again we find ourself in a small convoy of vehicles climbing through the narrow roads to St Léger la Montagne.

We park up and, blimey look who’s here, it’s Paul Gibson, haven’t seen him in ages. Suprises continue. There’s a good turnout, but for as many as there are there, there’s as many missing. Jean-Phi is there, but he’s doing the 12kms pedestre (walk). He says it’s too cold for biking!

Yeah OK it’s cold. Marcel shows me his battery powered heated gloves. I could do with some of those. The first few kms is agony until my hands warm through. The ground is dry, fast and rock hard. The edges of frozen ruts offer a ‘straight on only’ option.

The countryside up here is stunningly beautiful. I must make a return trip in the spring and tale some photos.

Two hours passes, my legs are a little jaded, I’m grovelling up a long climb, feels like i’ve been here before. See that little track of to the right? That looks just like the track they sent us on in the Departmental Championships last March. Yep, exactly right. As I burst out into the sun again I know where we are, and I can see where we are going. We’re headed back down the race circuit where I punctured last year. Only today I don’t. I rattle over the roots and rocks, just skimming the tops……

A moment of random spontaneity and I catch my bar end and hand on a stone wall. Hardly notice it (though it’s aching as I type this). Racing down the last descent with a couple of other riders, and we’re home.

Merci à tous les club de St Léger la Montagne pour une journée fantastique, et un circuit “hyper beau”. 🙂

Specialized Stumpjumper HT Comp versus S-Works Stumpjumper Carbon HT

Stumpjumper HT Comp 2009 and S-Works Carbon HT, choose your weapon.
The Stumpjumper HT Comp is the least expensive is Spesh’s Stumpy range. I reckon it’s fantastic value for money, and good enough to race on. In fact, up until I got my S-Works carbon this year, that’s exactly what I did. Since 2005 I’ve used a standard Stumpjumper Comp as my main race bike. Had some good results too. If you can’t win on the Comp, you can’t win.

The 2009 Stumpjumper HT Comp is even better. It’s now made of the same M5 alloy that was reserved for the S-Works alloy bikes. With it’s 28 spoke front wheel, flat bars, and 90mm travel forks, this ain’t no trail bike. It’s for racing………and i’ve got one…..and I rode it for the first time this week at the Armistice day VTT rando at Isle.

Wanna know how it rides? Well, I dunno! Why? Because after the first few minutes when I had to ‘brain shift’ into SRAM mode I was so busy enjoying the ride I forgot that I was riding it. I was so busy hacking up and down the sides of the Vienne Valley on super steep climbs followed by fabulous singletrack descents strewn with damp leaves covering rocks and roots, that the bike just disappeared.

Whether the bike became transparent, or part of me, or whatever doesn’t really matter. It’s the fact that it rode so well, and I felt so at home on it. It was only when I queued up at the Lavage Velos (bike wash), that I noticed it. Ridden standard, as it came, out of the box. Oh, and ridden hard too. I was third rider home out of 300.

Compared to my XTR equipped S-Works Carbon hardtail, it’s a little heavier (though much lighter on the wallet!!!). But in terms of performance, and being a XC race tool…..If you can win, you can win on the Comp. It’s that good. 🙂

Thanks to the crew at Pearce Cycles who supplied mine.

Les M̩galithes Р15̩me ̩dition РVTT 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.