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.


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.

Where do they come from?

Out with the boys on the Wednesday training bash.
Floaty days? Seems like you just get them sometimes. There’s no rhyme or reason, they’re not planned, and you can’t schedule ’em. Yeah, and the more you desire them, the more elusive they are.

Anyway, had a bit of a cold lately. Woke up feeling rough, aching all over with a pulse of 96 lying in bed. Did my normal recovery routine. No bike, and plenty of good food and rest. After three days I’m starting to feel better, at 5 days I try an easy hour on the bike, at 7 days I’m out with the boys for the Wednesday afternoon bash.

See, the weather is nice, I’m desperate to get out, I’m only gonna roll along at the back, and I’ll peel off if it gets too much. As I ride down to the meet by the Plan d’Eau below Rochechouart I’m feeling good, though a little breathless.

Our planned route will take us down to Chalus then over to Dournazac, on to Nontron, then back up the main road through St Mathieu and Vayres before my favorite ‘run in’ back to Rochechouart. There’s a good crew out. Plenty of engines. The makings of a good session.

I’m floating along. It’s like someone else is pedaling. I’m just a passenger enjoying the scenery. On the climbs I’m breathing hard, but not as hard as some of the riders next to me. On the long drag out of Dournazac the pressure goes on. No problem, I just increase my cadence. Climbing up into Nontron Supermax is putting the boot in, but I’m still with him.

Along the main road heading homewards, there’s a slight headwind, and some work shyness creeping in. I’m sharing the work with two others. It seems easy. As we motor down the last few kilometers the pace is high. With about 1km to go, and just for fun, I jump hard. I just can’t stop myself, I feel that good.

Back into Rochechouart now. Riders peel off for home. All of a sudden I’m feeling tired, very tired. As the last two riders turn off, and I’m riding the 3kms home on my own, all form and strength deserts me. I clang down through the gears. On the last climb to home I feel like getting off and walking. My legs are starting to cramp. Just over 4hrs on the clock. A great day on the bike. Floating. I’ll have more of the same please! 🙂

Dernier sortie de l’année 2008

Riders meet at the Chateau in Rochechouart
The last Saturday ride of the year for my local club the Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo (R.O.C.C.). It’s a bright sunny day, but very cold. There’s an easy 50kms circuit on the cards, though I wouldn’t be suprised if that doesn’t get extended. A good sized group of around 25 riders gathered at the meeting place. Handshakes and greetings all round, and just after 13:30 we’re rolling out of town in the direction of Vayres.

Along the valley road the sun is on our backs, and it feels warm, there’s the usual jovial banter. It’s nice just bowling along easy in a big group. As we start the long climb out of the valley SuperMax takes off, here we go! Those that want to chase do, those that don’t pretend they haven’t noticed. There’s four of us hammering up the climb. We catch Max just before Vayres, the pace eases, and we ride through the town together.

All regrouped again the next 10kms are steady. Through Champsac, then Oradour. Now we’re on the main road heading towards Chalus. It’s a super smooth roller coaster of a road, and SuperMax is on the front winding it up. The kilometers fly by as Max turns the screw. But it’s too much. Max takes a bollocking from his dad, and the pace eases.
SuperMax dishing it out
Through Vayres, on towards St Cyr. It’s a long climb, and it’s tough. It’s one of those long straight climbs where you seem to pedal and pedal and not get any closer to the top. I’m finding it quite tough. I’m just staring at the cassette of the wheel in front of me.

According to the published circuit we’re supposed to go left here to St Auvent. But we don’t, we ‘disrespect le code de le circuit’, and go straight on. There’s talk of Chaillac then Saillat, which is much much longer than 50kms.

Along the top road towards Chaillac, with two and a half hours done. This is a road that I know well, every twist, turn, rise, and so on. It’s also a road that I love to ride. All of a sudden i’m feeling great. I find myself on the front. With the responsibilty of keeping the group moving I work hard. I’m doin’ good, and I’m motoring. As we hit each rise I dig in a little to keep my gear rolling. I must be doin’ good because a detour is announced!

Our detour takes us within a stones throw of home. I could easily pull out and take the early shower. I decide to burn some calories. We cross the main Rochechouart to St Junien road and begin the long descent to Saillat. There’s quite a few riders gone missing by now, but we are still about 10 men strong. I take the sprint into Saillat – yeah ‘cos i’m the only one sprinting! 😉

We turn for home. Just the 3km climb back up to Rochechouart left to do. The pace is steady. Now we’re on part of the circuit that was used in the departmental championships. We chat about last years race, and about our hopes for the coming season.

Through Rochechouart riders peel off. There’s just four of us left now. Heading back out of town on the Cognac le Foret road. Almost home, just one last drag, a final opportunity for SuperMax to inflict pain. I chase after him, not because I can, but because I can’t stop myself. 🙂

Last ‘sortie sur route’ of the year. First time i’ve been on my road bike for ages. Enjoyed every minute of it.

Meilleurs Voeux et Bonne année.

La Rochechouartaise

Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo Banner
Aimez-vous course avec la ROCC?

Well, you can on 30th March when the Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo stage their first race of the season “La Rochechouartaise”. The race, held under UFOLEP rules, starts with the 1st cats going off at 15:00 hrs through to Minimes at 15:06 hrs. Distances range from 76km for the 1st cats down to 28.5km for the Minimes. If you fancy it, and have a UFOLEP licence it’ll cost you 4 euros.

There’s prizes for the first 5 in each category. I’m doin’ it. Come and give me a pasting! 😉

ROCC Rideout (Rapid)

Balaclava Buff - It was very cold today A freezing cold, but sunny day, and it’s Wednesday, it can mean only one thing – training with the ROCC. With tights plus leg warmers, double gloves, and triple buffs I set of to meet the boys at the plan d eau.

About ten riders had turned out, I was a little late, and the route was being finalised. Despite my shouts of “Monts de Blond“, we set off towards Chassenon. Like a dog off a leash SuperMax (Maxime Monjoffre), sporting his Scott CR1 rolling on Corima deep section wheels shod with tubs stormed away.

By the time we passed the cemetary on the way out of town we were down to four, and by the time we sped through Chassenon we were down to three, and by the time we crossed the main road above Confolens Max took a reprimand from his dad Eric. SuperMax knotched it back a touch, and so we continued. All for one, and one for all he was worth hanging on, feeling a bit breathless, that was me! 🙂

The head wind turned to a cross wind as we went around the furthest part of our route. SuperMax had got the first 50kms out of his system and we rolled along briskly, purposefully, I was enjoying it. The roads were smooth, rolling sweeping and traffic free. I had warmed up a lot, and removed my buff balaclava.

Crossing the main St Junien to Bellac road we continued on towards Oradour sur Glane. We picked up a passenger from the St Junien club. SuperMax was unimpressed, I could tell. Our passenger stayed with us up through Oradour and on towards St Gence. Something synaptic happened to SuperMax. Maybe our passenger’s creaky pedals drove him mad or summat, whatever, he went to the front and pushed on hard.

SuperMax - Maxime MonjoffreSo now we’re flying along the main road. SuperMax is setting an incredible pace. I glance down at his block, he’s in the big ring, one up from top, so at least 52*13, and he’s rolling it over as if to kill it. Eric is second in line, and I’m hanging on the back. It’s fast and it’s tough, I’m having to break it into sections! Just to that tree, just ten more pedal turns, just to that gate, just ten more. That’s how close I am to dropping off. By the way, our passenger is long gone.

At last we reach the big island where we turn back towards St Victurnien and SuperMax eases up. “Harder than a race”, I say to Eric. He agrees.

Dropping down the long descent towards St Victurnien, we normally climb out of the valley towards Cognac le Foret, then home along the main road towards Rochechouart. I’m just about boxing it off in my mind, thinking that we’ll have a nice tail wind to finish off, I’m just about to swing left over the bridge when Eric shouts a change of plan. We’re gonna go home via Chaillac, Saillat, Chassenon, then Rochechouart.

It’s further, it’s tougher, and there won’t be a nice tailwind to blow us home, but, I go along. We have a few sprints for village signs along the way, the pace is fast friendly now, though the sky is going a little dark. As we climb up towards Rochechouart with three and a half hard hours done there’s a flurry of wet snow flakes. I’m tired. Merci beacoup pour le entrainment mes amis! 🙂

Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo

In order to qualify for entry to the races I want to do in France this year I have to be a member of a French club, and hold a French licence. So, I joined the “Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo”, also known as the “R.O.C.C”, or in English, Rochechouart Olympic Cycling Club. They’re a friendly bunch, I know lots of them, and they’re willing to have me. They’re kit looks good too!
Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo or ROCC
Now, can anyone think of a reason I shouldn’t join them? 😉

Wednesday ROCC ride…

Spent the morning washing my bike, scrubbing my white bar tape, and eating lots in preparation. It’s fantastic weather, and there’s a four hour ride on the cards…

Rolling down through the town towards the Plan d’eau I feel funky and fine on my sprarkling bike. There’s a good dozen out today, and discussion is taking place on where to go. There’s mention of a loop in the Monts de Blond, that’s too tough for some who suggest a Charentine circuit. There’s shoulder shrugging and some boffing, and before you know it i’m in a group of four that’s doin’ the Monts de Blond loop. That’s Jean-Francois, Maxime, Eric, and me.

Maxime - jeune, fou, et très rapideWe set off towards Biennac, the two ‘young guns’ Jean-Francois and Max on the front. The pace is brisk from the start. Max is riding his new Scott CR1, he’ll be keen to show what it can do. They’re chatting, but unless I’m mistaken they’re also half-wheeling each other. I’m breathing quite hard, so is Eric. This could be a tough ride.

At Biennac we pick up ANother, he was on his way to the meet, but was late. He joins us, and Eric explains to him that we’re the fast group enroute for Blond, the cyclotouriste group has gone south. ANother says something along the lines of ‘feck my luck’ and tags along.

It’s a tough road all the way to Cognac le Foret, fairly straight, but with huge roller coaster drags of 1 to 2 kms. The young guns push on. I’m glued to the wheel in front like my life depended on it. As we begin the long descent to St Victurnien the young guns move across leaving Eric and me on the front.

We cross the Vienne and start the long climb up to La Barre. I go to the front to set a tempo that I can manage, and one that I hope will satisfy the young guns. Spinning a low gear, trying to look as comfy as I can, it does the trick. Over the top and on towards Oradour sur Glane. Jean-Francois is on the front now driving out a relentless brisk/steady pace. At Oradour we ride up past the ‘Village Martyr‘ and head out towards Cieux which is when the real climbing will start. At Cieux we turn our bikes uphill, which is ANother’s cue to peel off, “a bientot”.

Traversing along the south side of the Monts through pretty villages, and alongside numerous etangs the fairies take me away, and i’m floating along effortlessly. As the climb to Peyrelade starts to bite I’m brought back to reality. I go to the front and try the old tempo setting trick again, it works for a while, but then Max decides he’ll set a pace he’s happy with. Max rides quicker and quicker. By the time we reach the top i’ve got wobbly legs, but i’m still on his wheel, Eric is still on mine, and strangely Jean-Francois is a little off the back.

Down the northside of the hills into Montrol Sénard, a lovely little town, with a super little restaurant, La Belle Equipe, and hey! it’s open, we could stop for a cool beer, and no we don’t, that just doesn’t happen, ever!

There’s a slight headwind blowing along the dead straight road to Blond. The pace has settled a little, and i’m on the front. This road gets used a lot for road races, I can see old paint from the Tour de Limousin, and the ASSJ St junien. A hard road to race on with nowhere to hide. In Blond we turn right to climb back over the hills.

It’s a tough climb, and like a madman who keeps repeating the same behaviour expecting the outcome to be different, I go to the front. I’m working hard, and with around 1km done Eric rides along side and starts to turn the screw. We’re climbing well, out of the saddle on the steeper bits, seated ‘on the tops’ on the shallower bits. As the road twists and turns first Eric is in front, then me. There’s a gear change behind me. Sounds like someone going up the block! Eric pushes on, i’m looking for the summit.

By the time we pass the Frédéric Mistral monument i’m on the rivet. There’s the summit, we get out of the saddle and sprint. “Où sont les jeunes?”, I ask. There’s no sign of the young guns. Turns out Jean-Francois is still getting over a cold, and Max was letting the ‘old boys’ have their fun.

Big open roads

On the way home we do St Junien direct. Big fast smooth main roads with a slight cross-tail to help us along. Just got to cross the Vienne, climb out of the valley and we’re home. Jean-Francois peels off first near St Junien, he’s almost home. I cross the river with Eric and Max (father and son incidentally) and start the last climb. I’m on the front, doh! Just above St Martin de Jussac Mac comes by. “Bye”, he shouts, and takes off, “bye bye”, we say, and watch him go. He gets 200meters, then, whoa, wassappnin’, we’re out of the saddle chasing, chasing like madmen. 😉

ROCC Rideout

It’s sunny, but cold, a great turnout, officially there’s 70kms on the cards, but that’s always a rough guide. On the main road towards Vayres I do a quick headcount, we’re about 40 strong. On the long climb into Vayres the group splits, the fast group go clear, there’s a medium group, and a cyclo-touriste group. I’m in the fast group today. On the long climbs towards St Mathieu the Chalus rider with the chrome handlebar tape sets a tough tempo, though over the tops the tempo eases so everyone gets back on.
The ROCC meet at the chateau in Rochechouart every saturday.

On the main road towards Marval our sprint training is dished out by Maxime. Basically, he shouts “Allez” and takes off, those who want to give chase, we hammer along for a few kilometers before easing. It’s good training. I need to do this stuff with big races only 5 weeks away. Not everyone is happy though, as there’s a few slackers who object to not being towed along gently. 🙂

We might be on main roads, but there’s hardly any traffic. Plus any traffic that there is treats us nice. I reckon it’s because most of the drivers have someone in their family whose a cyclist. Such is the popularity of cycling in the Limousin region.
From Cussac down past the Chateau

From Cussac we race down past the chateau somehow empasizing the Frenchness of our ride. We should be heading home now, but this is where the ride variation starts. We’re going to tag on a loop of the Lac’s de Charente, dropping down through Pressignac, on to Chassenon, and home via Saillat. Down to just a hardcore of around 10 now, and the pace is much more serious.

We follow the finishing kilometers that were used as a stage finish in last your’s Tour de Feminine, a fast sweeping road that crosses the lake on a causeway. We sprint for the line on the road, we hardly slow down. From Pressignac to Chassenon it’s downhill all the way apart from a 1km ramp leading into the town. From Chassenon to Saillat it’s mostly down hill. In Saillat we pass the huge paper mill, I must post a picture of it soon.
The Causeway across the Lac in the Charente

Climbing again now, on the steep climb out of town. Eric tells me that this climb is the one used in the FFC cadets road race, they’ll climb it 6 times, it’s tough. We’re now into the second part of the ride variation, and we’re down to four. Actually this part is like the taxi home as riders peel off when we get near where they live. Time for one last burn-up along the super smooth road from Saillat to St Junien.

We ride easy now, along the banks of the Vienne before crossing the river at St Brice. On the climb towards Le Berthe there just three of us left. At the main road I thanks Eric and Max for the ‘entrainment’ and wish them ‘bon apetite’. I ride the last kilometer home on my own. Not sure how far we’ve done today, but it took four and a half hours, I’m tired and starving hungry. 🙂