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.

19 eme edtion – 12 Heures à vélo de Flavignac

A 12 hour relay road race organised by UC Flavignac.

I rode with my buddy Eric as a team of two. It is possible to race with a team of three, but we couldn’t find another rider of the right age so that we could race for the over 50s category.

Anyway, we came 2nd in category, we were 12th scratch (overall), and 3rd team of two.

12hrs Flavignac avant departIt was very very tough, as the majority of teams had three riders. Plus the afternoon temperature was 36 degrees! Quite warm and sunny. I was first out, at 06:30, and after a neutralised lap the racing started. I just could not believe how fast we were going. Average speed for the first few laps was around 37kph. During my first stint I never got off the drops, and didn’t have a chance to take a drink. It was fast.

The circuit was relatively flat, though as the hours went by it seemed to get a bit hilly. There was a tight “S” bend followed by a short rise on the back of the circuit. As you came out of it it was a short sprint every lap to stay on. Tough. Changeovers took place in the “Zone de Relais”. Protocol was that the lap before you wanted to change you raised your arm as you passed the commentary position, the commentator would then announce your number over the sound system thereby paging your team mate. This was great as it meant that you could relax a little when you weren’t racing.

12hrs Flavignac zone de relais

It was strange riding with a team mate that you didn’t speak to and hardly saw all day. It wasn’t necessary to pass a baton, or touch hands. As your team mate entered the changeover zone you could leave. The changeover zone was about 50 metres long. It worked really well, though it was best to stay alert as there were a lot of attacks here as riders with fresh legs tried to inflict damage.

We started out riding an hour a piece, but later in the day we switched to 45mins. We ended up riding in the same group as our nearest rivals. Every time they made a move we were there and vice-versa. It came down to the last lap, I had nothing left, and it fell to Eric to try to win the sprint. He stood up to go, and his legs buckled. After 12 hours of racing we got beat by a few metres.

We were more than happy with our ride, and although we didn’t win we got the better reception on the podium. The commentator asked me to say a few words in French. I thanked everyone for such a great day, and finished by saying, “Il est chaud, mais il est beau”. The crowd seemed to like this couplet, and I got a cheer and applause!
12hrs Flavignac podium avec Eric
It really was a superbly organised event, in a gorgeous spot next to the lake – “Lac Saint Fortunat”. It’s the 20th birthday of the event next year. Highly recommended. A must do.

Thanks to UC Flavignac for a great day out. Thanks to all the riders for a tough sporting race. Well ridden Eric (we shared a couple of cold beers after the race). Finally, well done to the “Chef d’equipe” Carla who looked after us both all day. Not an easy job, but she was fantastic.

Championnat Départemental VTT 2009 – St Junien

Vet B podium - Haute Vienne VTT Championships 2009
Made it on to the podium yesterday in the Départemental VTT champs. 2nd place again, just like last year, but different winner. Someone suggested I was becoming Poupou! My team-mate Eric from the R.O.C.C was third.

I’m not gonna give a blow by blow account ‘cos I have something else on my mind. The podium was all settled for the Veteran Bs before we’d even left the arena anyway! Take a look at this picture, its shows a group of 5 going clear some 30 seconds into the race. Pierre Chenaud (Vet A winner), Christian Boutain (Vet A 2nd), Eric Monjofrre (Vet B 3rd), Jean-Claude Sansonnet (Vet B winner), and me. They never saw us again.

tout suite 5 go clear

Talking of never seen again. Jean-Claude attacked at the top of the circuit on the first lap, and he was never seen again, and that’s what’s bothering me.

See, in the two years I’ve been in France I’ve beat JC a couple of times fair and square. But since then he seems to have raised his game, and I can’t get anywhere near him. He beat me by 5 minutes yesterday! 5 minutes I tell ya! Plus, I’m going well enough to sit with the leading Vet As for three laps (they did four).

I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I reckon it’s because I’m too young. I’m only 53, Sanso is 62! I need a few more years to reach his level, a few more years experience under my wheels. What else could it be? Here’s a picture of me tracking the master…


Jean-Claude, si vous lisez ce, félicitations pour votre victoire d’hier, vous êtes un vrai champion. Which is to say – Jean-Claude, if you are reading this, congratulations on your victory yesterday, you are a true Champion.

Thanks to the hosts AS St Junien for all their hard work putting on a totally superb days racing – c’est Hyper Beau.

La Rochechouartaise…

First race of the season for me. The Rochechouartaise, a road race, hosted by my French club, the R.O.C.C.

I worked hard

After all the training i’ve been doing ready for the VTT Departmental Champs next weekend I went into it it looking for a good work out, something to finish off on before cutting back. I certainly got it.

There were 12 St Junien riders, and they did a great job of controlling the race. Found myself on the front closing gaps in the early stages just to give someone else a chance. I wasn’t gonna give up and just let them have it without a fight. Have to say that some of the blocking tactics were a little over the top. But that just did a great job of winding me up so that I tried harder. Got in a couple of breaks, and one time I thought we’d cracked it, but it was not to be.

It all started going pear-shaped when we got caught by two escapees from the 3rd cats race. They somehow got mixed up in our break and spoiled the rhythm. Then the whole 3rd cat bunch caught us!!! It ended up with all the 2nd cats sitting up for a lap to let them go through. Very sporting.

I worked hard, very hard

We recommenced racing with just a lap to go. Two St Junien riders get away, the rest block, and I mean block. Thinking that the two are safe, with about 3kms to go another SJ starts towing it along to deter attacks. He’s going pretty quick, and does such a good job he almost dumps us on the back wheels of his two team mates. He realises and sits up, chaos ensues.

Into the finish straight. We’re thinking that the SJ boys have blown it. Riders start sprinting. I’m on the wheel of Jean-Marc an SJ, he’s going for it, can’t believe my luck. 50metres to the line he sits up and drifts to the left, allowing his team mate to take the win. There’s no way through.

Frustrating as it might be, you gotta hand it to them, the St Junien boys did a good job, and although I didn’t get placed, I got a great workout. Merci a tous.

Wednesday afternoon training with the FFC

So, it’s Wednesday afternoon, and I’m on my way to meet Eric and Max at St Brice, then we’re gonna ride the 25km up to Couzeix to either ‘kick ass’, or ‘get ass kicked’ on the Limoges clubs training bash. Yep, every Wednesday afternoon riders from clubs on the North side of Limoges get together to ‘get it on’. Mostly riders who race FFC. These guys are serious!

I’m not feeling too confident today, and on the way there I’m happy to let young Max do most of the work while I save myself. My confidence sinks even lower when we arrive at the meeting place. There must be at least 60 riders, easily enough to make a race. There’s a few old duffers like me, but some of them look like pro’s, young guys with highlights in their perfect hair, on the latest bikes, full team kit. They look fast standing still.

We set off at 2pm sharp. I automatically shift into survival mode, and get right down near the front, it’ll be easier and safer there. The pace is easy, I’m OK. I see a few riders I know, manoeuvre alongside, shake hands, exchange greetings, enquire about form. Nobody admits to having any. 😉

Right on the front I spot Stephane from the Nieul. Seen him in action loads of times, a stylish courageous rider who’ll never give in. Saw him win the Departmentals last year. Attacked almost from the gun in the poring rain. Rode the whole race off the front. Almost collapsed when he crossed the line. He’s tough, and serious. Recently back from a training camp in Spain. He’s also an expert crashmeister like me. Can’t understand why he doesn’t wear a helmet.

I don’t know where we’re going to day, but we start off through Veyrac, then Oradour sur Glane. Maybe we’re going over the Monts de Blond. I hope so, and I hope not in equal amounts. I hope so because it’s beautiful, and I hope not because there’s some climbs that will blow the group apart.

We don’t turn for the Monts, instead we go straight on for Montrollet. The pace has been very sensible up to now, but after we cross the St Junien – Bellac road someone flicks a switch, and now we’re flying. I’m so glad I stayed near the front. We’re really motoring along, there’s a group of six driving.

Things calm down a little, and we settle into brisk rather than balls out. Through Bussiere-Boffy, Nouic, then back towards Mortemart. Now, we’re on our way home, direction Blond, but whichever way we go there’s gonna be some climbing. There’s some new faces at the front, and they’re starting to push the pace.

There’s a long drag on the road to Vaulry, we’re on it, it’s tough, riders are going backwards. Over the top, a quick glance around, the once tight bunch has been stretched out. There’s some regrouping on the descent. On to the next climb, this one is a bit steeper, as it starts to bite I get as close to the front as I can. The pressure goes on, perceived effort rating where I’m sat is 9/10. It’s tough. Last 100metres to the top, there’s a bit of a surge, ouch…….. and there’s no let up! Double ouch!

A quick glance around, there’s only about 15 riders here, and so it continues, and each drag, climb, or slight rise in the road the screw is turned a little tighter. I’ve gone from knowing roughly where we are to not having a clue. I’m too busy surviving. Another climb, the pressure goes on, not far to the top, almost there, we turn a corner, and the road goes up again. Cracks are starting to appear, I’m fourth in line on the wheel of Stephane. The leading rider kicks and takes number two with him, a small gap appears. 50metres to the top Stephane lifts the pace to join them, I’m 10 metres off his wheel. Behind me, there’s nobody. I really, really, don’t want to be dropped here. Over the crest and onto the downhill I get the bike moving. The three in front freewheel on the descent, I keep pedaling, and I just get onto the back as we hit the next ramp. Luckily for me this one is short.

I know where we are now. We’re on the road from Thouron towards Limoges. I’ve ridden this road a few times. I should be OK, there’s just one more climb to make. We’re hammering along, I’m hanging in there, still on the wheel of Stephane. Assuming he’s on normal gearing he’s shoving 52*12. This is the hardest I’ve ridden for a long time. On to the last climb, it’s not as steep as I remember it, which is good, but we hardly even change gear or tempo, which is bad. C’mon legs don’t desert me now. The leading rider jumps out of the saddle, and as if synchronized we all do. One last effort, it’s agony!

They sit up. That’s it. Job done. I made it. Yeah, I know it’s not a race, and I know that even if it had of been I wouldn’t have made the podium, but I’m ecstatic mate. All those riders who set out, and just four left, and I’m one of them. Yeah, I know I didn’t do any work, and just hung on, but don’t spoil it for me!!! As we roll back towards Limoges in the late afternoon sun I’m feeling pleased. All I gotta do now is ride home.

Almost home, I’m running on empty, and I’ve got more than 5 hours in the saddle. It crosses my mind to text Carla to come and rescue me. Nah, that’d be soft. 🙂

La Limousine Andre Dufraisse 2008

The “La Limousine Andre Dufraisse“, remember when I did it last year? Well I did it again this year. See. but this year I knew what to expect! 🙂

La Limosine 2008

A 155 kilometre French cyclo-sportive, not for the faint-hearted or those of a nervous disposition. 1200 cyclists are sent 4km back from the official start line to a staged “Grand Depart” in the centre of Limoges, 15 minutes is set aside for the riders to cover the 4km back to the real start. This is done by taking 15mins off everyones finish time (hope you’re following this). So if you cover the 4km faster than 15mins you’ve bought yourself some extra time for the 155km. Got it? This explains why the first few kilometres are ridden at such a breakneck speed.

Thanks to Theo and Christian (Le Comité d’organisation), I’m down near the front wearing number 148. My plan is to stay as near the front as possible and hang on in there. It’s the same plan as a few hundred other riders….

We’re away bang on time at 8am, it’s chilly, but the sky is blue, and the sun is shinning. We’re moving quick, we’re tightly packed, and I’m trying to hold my place. Up through the start at Panazol with hundreds of children cheering, waving balloons and banners. Climbing out of town protected by a fleet of motorbikes. It’s amazing!

Out on to the open roads now, and the first climb of the day, the 2.3kms up to Maison Brulee. We don’t slow down. If anything we’re going quicker! I can hear riders breathing hard, some going backwards, I’m OK, I move up a few places. Right now I’m sitting in the top twenty, right where I want to be. I’m comfy, I’m happy…

The kilometres fly by effortlessly. There’s riders attacking, trying to get off the front, I’m still sitting comfy near the front, but not on it. We’re on the 8km climb up to St Goussard now with 60kms behind us. A stylish rider in black is on the front putting the pressure on, it’s tough, but I’m OK, I’m holding my place. Over the top, past the Ravito (food stop), nobody stops.

Downhill now, for kilometer after kilometer, winding down across the hillsides, a sweeping rollercoaster ride. It’s cold in the shade, my hands are cold, and we’re going so fast that even in the sunny sections I don’t feel warm. I find myself slipping back a few places here, and a few places there. I’m not feeling good. I resolve to do another half-hour and then see how I feel.

At last, we’re working again, i’ve warmed up, and we’re on the climb at Maillofargueix. Now it’s tough, someone is putting the boot in. Gaps start to appear. I’m cursing for having allowed myself to fall back, i’m working flat out trying to move forward. A big group go clear, and I ain’t in it! For a few minutes i’m stuck on my own in no mans land, chasing hard, but not gaining. I sit up.

On to Razes, then Silord the home town of Andre Dufraisse. I’m in a group of around twenty riders, we’re chasing, and we’re not that far off, but not every one is working. The lead group is going full-tilt now, and every now and then we come across a rider who’s been shelled out. At Chateauponsac we’re two minutes down, with 50k to go, and some big hills to climb over. Past the Ravito without stopping. A motorcycle outrider with a cool bag between his knees comes among up asking if anyone needs water. Great service! As we hit small ramps I’m seeing tired legs. Some of these riders are suffering.

Through Compreignac then on to the 5km climb to the Sommet de la Cote de Beausoleil. This is a tough one, it’s where I fell apart last year, and I’m dreading it. I move near the front of the group so that if I start to lose ground I might still be in contact by the time we reach the top. The climb starts to bite, and you know what? I’m feeling good! Yes, it’s hard, but I’m pushing on, right at the front of the group. There’s riders going off the back, and by the time we reach the top we’re down to about 15 riders.

With the last big climb behind us we push on. I do a quick check around the group to see how many riders are in the same category as me (G cat = 50-54yrs). There’s three of us, one looks shot, but the other one looks strong, I remember him from last year. He thinks that there’s only one G rider up in front so we’re riding for 2nd on the podium. I know he’d like to beat me.

On the run in to Limoges with 10kms to go. We’re flying along. I’m thinking about how I’m gonna play my cards. Everytime I make a move my G cat buddy is there watching me. Inside the last 5kms. There’s D cat riders fighting it out, attacks thick and fast. I stay as close to the action as I can. A gutsy courageous rider from the Nieul club (Stephane) takes it on again and again. Counter attacks come from a couple of Dutch riders. On the short climb at Le Palais sur Vienne, Stephane takes it on again, stinging, stringing us out.

Into an almost dead stop turn with 150metres to the line. I go in in about 5th. Out of the saddle, sprinting hard, trying to be wide, I get past three, into the finish, we’re done. My G cat buddy is behind me.

29th rider home, 3rd G category rider home, in 04:26:45 (turns out there were two in the first group). Average speed for the 157kms with 2287metres of climbing was 35.314 kph.

la limosine 2008 podium

The Repas was fabulous, I drank far too much red wine, and by the time my tired legs carried me onto the podium to collect my trophy I wanted to say…..”Thanks to everyone for a totally brilliant day out. To the organisers, all the helpers, everyone… the other riders for their camaraderie…to all the spectators who’d cheered us along the way… to the motorcycle riders who’d looked after us and kept us safe…. just everyone….Merci Beaucoup – J’espère rouler avec vous l’année prochaine a La Limousine Andre Dufraisse 2009″.

la limosine 2008 trophy

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.

Haute Vienne Championnat Departemental 2008 – Rochechouart

It’s right on my doorstep, hosted by my adopted club ROC Cyclo, I’m doing it! Five laps of a fast undulating 9.5km circuit. I’d like to get in an early break with a couple of others if I can. I plan to go early.

departmental road champs rochechouart 08

Just over half way around the first lap, not a single card played. There’s some fit looking riders, and a few riders who obviously know what they’re doing. An attack, a lone rider goes, nobody responds, he’s actually moving away. I jump after him. “Allez!”, I pass him and show that I’m keen to work, but he just lets me go. I’m away on my own. Not what I really had in mind. I ride hard, but not flat out. A quick glance under my arm, I have a good gap.

Back into Rochechouart to complete the first lap, I’m hugging the inside of the bends trying to stay out of sight. Up the long finish straight. Carla shouts that it’s a 20 second gap. Another quick glance, I can see the chase is on as the peleton is lined out. At the top of the circuit I’m almost caught, I ease up. I’m hoping there’ll be a counter attack, but there isn’t.

Laps 2 and 3 are uneventful. Lots of watching and waiting going on. Towards the end of lap three a big St Junien rider has a good dig. We chase. Now the counter attack. We’re breathing hard. Three of us go clear. We’re going damn fast, we have a good gap. This is more like it. Surely they won’t see us again. But actually they do. I dunno who’s doin the chasing, but we are caught. I’m miffed!

Back to watching and waiting, a few little digs, and a few more, we’re away again, same three. Surely this time we’ve cracked it. Fully commited, goin’ like the clappers, nope, we are caught again! Heading out on the last lap now. The sky over Bill’s mothers has gone black, it’s gonna rain. As the rain starts I’m sat near the back trying to work out what to do. I really don’t want to be sprinting in the wet. With about 1km to go I try one last time, as hard as I can. I get maybe 50 metres clear but I’m chased down.

I’m a bit annoyed now, so I’m gonna damn well sprint. Sitting in about 6th on a wheel that I think is a good one, 300m to go, wobblin a bit to make some space, 200m and we’re goin’ quicker. A St Junien rider opens up the sprint, I’m in fourth, I pass one, I’m up to third, halfway up second, flat out. The St Junien rider takes it by a couple of bike lengths. I’m in third just half a bike length down on second. Betcha can’t guess who the second placed rider is? Betcha can!

Thanks to everyone at the Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo for putting on a great race. With such good organisation it felt like we were racing on closed roads.