Love is – A Valentines Day Ride

Ma and my Valentine!

We had some nice nosh lined up, and some Champagne, to celebrate Valentines Day. So we thought we’d go for a good blast on the bikes to build up an appetite and earn it.

Conditions here are very cold, and a lot of the trails are frozen. We stayed quite close to home, on tracks that are pretty tough. The idea being that we’re working hard, keeping warm, but not moving too fast.
We were about 40 minutes from home when my freewheel packed up. I just couldn’t get it to bite. I tried banging it, and dragging my brake on a long descent to try and get some heat into thinking it might have been frozen, but nothing.

Had to run the steep climbs, freewheel the descents, and the rest of the way my lover towed me. Yes, Love is – towing your partner on a freezing cold day when his freewheel won’t work!!!

Happy Valentines day my lover! xxx

Ist ride out of 2010…

First of all….. Happy New Year!!! I hope you all have a great season.
Premiere sortie 2010
Right, so first outing of 2010 was with the ROCC boys on the road. I checked on their website to see where they were going, and decided that I’d go on my mountainbike. Why? Because i’d stay warmer working that bit harder to keep up, and I could cut the circuit short at St Martin de Jussac. I persuaded my visiting friend Marcus to do the same.

We met up with the guys at the usual meeting place near the Chateau in Rochechouart. Evryone was in jovial mood, greetings exchanged, and so on, then off we went…… yeah, but not on the published route, oh no, somewhere bleedin’ else. Certain riders voiced there concerns about not following the published circuit. The answer was that the published circuit was too hard!!!

As the ride progressed, certain riders began to push the pace. It became very brisk. Certain riders began hammering very hard. This is not good early season training in my book. We pulled out, with certain riders being noted for a damn good kicking later in the season! 😉

We rode home steady. We’d done two hours forty five, plenty. We cracked open a can of beer, and talked about who should be top of the hit list amongst the ‘certain’ riders. 😉


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! 😉

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

King of the World

Out with my buddy Eric on the mountain bikes. Eric only lives across the valley, and although we ride on the road together quite often we rarely ride VTT together. But, as it was so cold we decided that VTT would be a warmer better workout than Road.

Sunny but frozen sums it up. Eric dived down the first off road descent like a total nutter. As an ex moto-crosser he’s great at that sort of stuff, and with the descent being just 200metres from his door he knows it well. Along the valley road in the shade, absolutely frozen. Onto the old pavé towards St Auvent, we got no chance, though we made 75% of it.

Onto some trails i’ve never been on now. Great, some new local stuff to learn. Back out into the sun, and climbing towards Cognac la Forét we’re warmed by the sun on our backs. The views from the top are just great. We can see the Monts de Blond, and behind them the Ambazacs. Gonna be covered in snow next week, apparently.

Whooping down the long descent into Cognac village I try the ‘jumping into holes’ technique that downhillers use to accelerate their bikes. When you get it right it feels right.

We’re heading home now with just under two hours done. Eric decides it’s not enough and takes us on a loop of the Forest of Rochechouart. There’s gangs of chasse (hunters) with guns! There friendly guys, but I make an effort to make more bike noise. Don’t want to be mistaken for a wild boar or deer.

Over the last few kilometres we pick the pace up. We’re working hard now, and not hanging about. The trails fly by. By the time we get back to Eric’s i’m cooked. I thank Eric for a great ride and head off home.

A quick shower, and next, the best bit! A cup of tea with a huge dash of Bowmore whisky. There’s a good fire going in the stove, as the sun sinks slowly towards the horizon. It’s gonna be a great sunset, i’ve a great ride in my legs, and I feel like King of the World. Simple pleasures eh?
King of the World drinks his tea!

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.

Winter Training : it’s cold, but it’s gorra be done!

With the new racing season just around the corner, it’s time to get down to some serious pre-season training.
Whatever your cycling discipline (excepting track sprinters) your season will benefit from some winter miles. Staying safe and warm is paramount.
The following tips, and ideas will help you make those early season sessions pay off.

Here’s how to go about it… Continue reading