Preparation is Everything…

3 steps to perfect preparation!

Step 1 – Saturday afternoon road ride with the ROCC. It’s a tough 95 km loop down around Montbron. Normally there’s around 30 riders to share the work, but with a lot away on a touring trip, a few on holiday, plus the very hot weather, the fast group is just 6 of us. All the way to St Mathieu a young lad from the St Junien club sets a tough pace, then he turns off! He’s racing next day and is just doing a brisk hour. We continue at a more sensible pace until we hit the climbs after Montbron when the competitive streak kicks in. We race up the climbs, then regroup at the top. On the way home, down the last 20 kms or so, the pace lifts. By the time we get to St Gervais there’s just three of us, and it’s tough. The one lad who’s been inflicting pain seems to be weakening. It’s pay back time. I move to the front and start turning the screw. The sun is on our backs now, so I can see the shadow of the following rider. I ride hard, very hard, even down the last descent into Rochechouart, no brakes, topping out.

Step 2 – Sunday – Rando du Menhir, a 56 km VTT rando organized by Briance Roselle Aventure. Just to make things a little tougher I’m late for the start. The tail end of 250 riders is just leaving when I jump on. My legs are a little jaded, so I spin rather than shove for the first few kilometers. These randos aren’t races, though there’s always a bunch who like to ride fast, me included.

I work my way through the back markers. As my legs loosen I’m going quicker and quicker. After one hour chasing hard I reach the first ravito (food stop) just as some of my racing buddies are leaving. I’d like to catch them if I can. I grab some food, fill my bottle, and give chase. I’m gaining, but painfully slowly, and while I’m working hard, they look like they’re cruising. It takes me a further 30 minutes to finally latch onto a group containing Nantiat riders Jean-Phi and Lionel. I stay at the back, eat some food, and try to recover. The pace is steady fast.

It’s all going well until a rider from the Ambazac Sprinter Club starts jumping about on the climbs. I was OK with the steady fast, but the steady fast with accelerations on the climbs finishes me. I’m yo-yoing off the back, and then I’m gone. I continue to work hard on my own, and I can always see the group not far ahead, but I don’t catch them until they stop at the final ravito.

Yep, and at the final ravito the organizers have put on a bit of a spread, on top of the usual stuff there’s hot sausages, ham, and wine. I know if I stop I’ll struggle to go again, and although Lionel is telling me how good the sausages are, I refill my bottle, grab a handful of sweets, and roll on. With 2:45 on the clock I’m thinking I can’t be far from home. Rattling down a descent something flies into my mouth, and stings me. I spit it out, but I’m going to fast to see what it is. Whatever it is it ain’t very pleasant. Just adds to the preparation eh?

Step 3 – Monday – Chasing the Tour de France. The TDF is racing out of Limoges on Tuesday. Monday is a rest day. My buddy Eric suggests that we ride into Limoges on Monday to see if we can spot any of the pro teams out loosening their legs. Cruising around Limoges looking for the TDF sounds great to me, there’ll probably be loads of riders out doing the same thing. I put my best kit on, and away we go. Only thing is, Eric’s idea is a little different to mine, and instead of the gentle cruise I had in mind we end up tearing around Limoges like nutters in search of something that we never find. Not one team car, not one rider, nothing. Some kids cheer as we ride by, maybe they’re mistaking us for pro’s (bloody wishful thinking that eh?). Whatever, it lights Eric up, and as the lights up ahead turn to red he sprints through them, I check both ways before following. Eric does the same through the next two sets of lights. Sprinting down the middle of the road like a madman. Eventually, at the fourth set of lights we have to stop cos’ were going left. A police car pulls alongside Eric and the Gendarme reminds him that red lights are for cyclists too.

I cannot face riding back through Limoges and home via Veyrac. I suggest to Eric that we follow the valley road along the banks of the Vienne to Aixe, cross the river there, then follow the opposite bank to St Martin de Jussac before climbing out of the valley for home. Eric agrees. The heat along the valley is intense. I’m absolutely cooked. I won’t be riding tomorrow cos’ I’m gonna go watch ‘Le Tour’. Getting low on water too. At times like this it’d be so easy to crash down through the gears and continue at a snails pace, but that just prolongs the agony. I cut the remainder of the ride into sections in my mind to make it more manageable. Valley to Aixe, Aixe to St Victurnien, St Vic to St Martin, St Martin to home.

Through Aixe I keep my eye open for a tap. I’m dry. Nothing. We cross the river, and continue along the other bank. It’s hillier on this side. I stand on the climbs to give my backside a break. I’m gonna stop at St Martin de Jussac for water. I tell Eric.

All that preparation, three days of tough riding, worth every second for….at St Martin de Jussac there’s a natural spring, and it’s drinkable. We stop. I rinse my bottle, then drink. Undoubtedly the best water I have ever tasted.

A fast moving bunch…

Fast moving bunch
There’s a fast moving bunch of around thirty cyclists bowling along effortlessly on deserted country lanes of rural France. It’s a beautiful warm spring day. They chat about nothing in particular, everything in general. There are carpets of spring flower along the verges, and early blossom on the trees. This is the Wednesday afternoon ride out first half.

Same scene some three hours later. Now the bunch are moving much quicker. The legs are doing the talking now. The strong men have moved to the front and are taking it in turns to tow the bunch along. On the long drags the pace picks up even higher. Those who cannot hang on any longer are dropped. Inside the last five kilometers to home, just eight riders left.

A fantastic afternoon training with the FFC club riders from North Limoges. I really enjoy these workouts, they’re tough. Whooshing along in a hardworking bunch of cyclists mixing pain with adrenaline…… and after? a jam and banana sandwich with fizzy water. Awesome.

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. 🙂

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! 🙂

Fish’n’Chips and strong lager

As soon as I woke up I knew it was gonna be a good day. I just felt so good, so energized. Started off by throwing 3cubic meters of wood into the back of my van, driving 40kms then throwing it out again. Wood delivery complete, I drove home for lunch.

It’s Saturday, the sun is shining, the roads are dry, it’s roadie training with the Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo (ROCC). We meet outside the chateau at 13:30, there’s a good turn out of around thirty riders. Normal routine is to take the first few kms steady. I find I’m struggling to hold myself back. I just wanna get on with it.

On the long climb into Pressignac I’m still in the big ring, it feels effortless. Maybe it’s because I’ve been slogging around on Big Bird all week. I dunno, but my road bike feels so light and fast, like a toy.

At last the pace picks up a little. Young SuperMax is turning the screw. Now it’s tougher, but I’m still OK. We’re on a long drag, and as we climb I can hear riders crashing down through the gears as they explode. When we get to the top I look around to see who’s there. Nobody, all gone, I’m surprised.

A similar pattern continues. I can’t believe how well I’m going, and how good I feel. If I could sing, I’d burst into song!!! Another long drag, another test, SuperMax turning the screw again, really turning the screw. I’m glued to his back wheel as he continues to pile on the pressure. Now I’m down to taking 10 pedal turns at a time. Stick it out for 10 pedal turns and if I’m still in contact, stick it out for 10 more. About 100metres to go to the top. I almost run in Max’s back wheel I’m that close. I dunno if he’s overcooked it or not, but I jump past. Maybe he was being kind. He congratulates me on riding well.

A couple of hours later, we’re almost home, I feel as good as when we set out. On my own now for the last few kms. I sprint the last climb like my life depended on it. Now I shift down for an easy spin warm down. As I ride along I’m trying to understand where today came from, why I felt so good, what I could put it down to. Fish’n’Chips and strong lager. Yep, that’s what I had last night, slept like a baby woke up feeling like 10 men.

Fish’n’Chips and strong lager, it’s what I always used to have the night before a big race. See I used to travel all over the country to race. Rather than go to a dodgy restaurant I figured that Fish’n’Chips was the safer option. It’s sterile, ‘cos it’s cooked in boiling oil, and if it’s not too greasy and you don’t eat the batter on the fish, it’s fairly nutritious. Back at the B’n’B a can of strong lager was always enough to put me into a deep ‘sleep like a baby’ sleep, and I’d wake up feeling fresh and ready to go. So, I reckon that’s what happened. My body remembered those heady racey days and went into race mode. 🙂

Try it, it might work for you!

Saturday ROCC rideout – Painfest

A good turnout of around 40 riders for the Saturday rideout with the ROCC. A planned circuit of just over 50kms will do just fine, as it’s very cold today. It’s the first club ride of the new year, so the greetings take a little longer but we’re away just 5 minutes late.

The pace is easy, a little to easy, I switch to a very low gear to spin and make some heat. I’m glad when SuperMax picks up the same along the main road through Biennac. Along the 3km straight various riders roll through, all the usual suspects are there.

We swing right along the valley road towards St Auvent. When we reach the bottom of the hairpined climb up to the village Pierre Chenaud (‘in form’ regional veteran cyclo-cross champion) kicks hard. SuperMax goes after him, Eric goes after SuperMax, I go after Eric…….all hell breaks loose!!!

Now i’m too damn hot, i can’t breathe, can’t stay with them. Paul Smith, Lucien, Stephane, all come past me. I manage to get back on when they ease over the top. When we turn left Pierre goes straight on!!! Thanks very much Pierre.

Training 3rd Jan 2009

We’re trending towards Cognac la Forét, every time the road goes up so does the pace. I’m finding it hard. I don’t remember it being this hard last year. Maybe i’m still a bit tired from yesterday. The last climb up to the high point is agony, and with around half a km to go SuperMax attacks. Eric goes after him, there’s not much response from anyone else.

From the high point above Cognac to St Martin de Jussac where we’re headed is about 10kms, and it’s mostly downhill all the way. It’s fairly sensible down to Cognac, then it’s balls out to St Martin. We’re motoring along the roller coaster road, any slight rise sees another rider burst through to the front.

As we drop down to the Vienne river I’m on the front, there’s a couple of sharp bends coming up, and with the angle of the road and the low sun it’s hard to see if there’s any danger. SuperMax comes flying by….fearless young, mad rider that he is… he throws his bike into the bends and his gone. Nobody has the balls to try and match him.

Along the riverside towards St Junien, easy on the flat hard up the hills. Onwards towards Chaillac then Saillat, the same. We should turn for home now but we don’t….Chassenon first then Rochechouart. At last we ease up. Riders peel off until i’m on my own with just 5kms to go for home. I’m tired, and it’s going much colder now. Just one last climb to do, I’m back, cooked, done in, with 80kms on the clock.

Almost home - 3rd Jan 2009

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.

Voulez-vous rouler avec le ROCC?

ROCC girl - Voulez-vous rouler avec le ROCC?Would you like to ride with the ROCC? Well this Saturday you’ll have the chance. It’s the ‘Rochechouart Olympic Club Cyclo’ half day velo sortie. There’ll be different length circuits to choose from ranging for 35km up to 100km, with ravitalments (food stops) enroute. All are welcome, the pace is friendly, you’ll be riding through some beautiful countryside, with some fabulous company, so why not come and join us?

Meet at the ‘Maison de Temps Libre’ in Rochechouart on Saturday 28th June at 13:30, for a 14:00 start. Helmets compulsory.

See you there? C’est ROCC’n’Rouler! oui? 🙂