|Cobbie's Selected Race Results
Raid du Massif Central - 6 days, 562 miles, 16,300m ascent, 46 hrs Report
Aug - Dee Mile, 2000m OW swim. 29:12; 60/301. Report
July - Raid Pyrenean Report
May - Chester Tri West Coast of Scotland Cycling trip ... 300 miles in 3 days. Report
Sep - Scilly Swim Challenge, 11 miles of swimming in 5 stages Report
June - Dee Mile, 2000m OW swim. 29:33; 25/275
March - Gin Pit Marathon; 3:59:26. 14/39
Became a dad
Oct 2011 - Feb 2012
Travelling the world
Nepal - Annapurna Circuit and Chitwan
S. E. Asia and trekking in New Zealand
Trekking the 'Circuito del Dientes de Navarino'; Chilean Tierra del Fuego
Sep - AXTri - Report
June - Chester to John O'Groats cycle ride with the Tri Club; 637 miles in 9 days
Sep - Ö TILL Ö; 14:19; Report
Nov - Pembrokeshire Coast Challenge; 78.6 miles. Day 1 - 5th in 4:39. Day 2 - Retired with ITB injury after 15 miles
Oct 4th - Sandstone Trail 'A' Race; 17 miles, 1750ft 2:19:15; 29/156
Aug 8th - Norseman 14:57; 81=/230 Report No1 & Report No2
June 28th - A Day in the Lakes HIM 5:55:18; 68/309 Report
June 17th - Dee Mile, 2000m OW swim. 29:12; 13/100 Report
May 31st - Pontcysyllte Aqueduct Cyclosportif 107 miles, 3000+m ascent; 7:20:26
March 28th Cheshire Cat Cyclosportif 105 miles; 7:04 Report
March 21st - Chester Tri Runners vs Kayaks; Llangollen Canal 32.4 miles; 5:22 Report
The year I was a fat bast@rd
Atlantic Coast Challenge 78miles; About 18 hrs Report
Norseman 17:05 Report
Etape du Dales 110 miles; 8:40ish with puncture
Nov 17th - Penmaenmawr Fell Race (11 miles, 1500ft); 1:35:23; 50/220
Bala Olympic Tri 2:14:00; 217/773 (AG 61/203) Report
Hathersage Hilly - 1:22:34; 19/169 and AG 4/43 ; Report
July 11th - Dee Mile, 2000m OW swim. 23:16; 15/76
Jan 29th - Tough Guy 1:25:02; 59/3800ish finishers AG 5th Vet ; Report
Jan 22nd - 4 Villages Half Marathon 86:52; 152/1570
Nov 18th - Penmaenmawr Fell Race (11 miles, 1500ft); 1:31:42; 24/237; Report
Oct 8th - Pentland Skyline (16.2 miles, 6,200ft); 3:30:54; 79/150; Report. Blisters
Oct 1st - Sandstone Trail “A” Race (17 miles, 1750ft) 2:15:14; 14/135 3rd V40; Report
Sept 24th – South Shropshire Sprint 1:23; 28/234
July 23rd - TLD Bike Relay 5:52:38; Report
June 7th - Dee Mile, 2000m OW swim. 28:47; 24/97
June 4th - Bala Middle 4:47:39
May 7th - Fred Whitton Challenge 112 miles, 4,150m of ascent, 8:18:52; Report
March 19th - Edale Skyline Fell Race 21.3 miles, 4,620ft; 3:48:25, 100/260
Jan 29th - Tough Guy 92:55; 52/3283 finishers AG 6/521; Report
Jan 22nd - 4 Villages Half Marathon 85:43; 152/1655
Oct 30th - Snowdonia Marathon 3:54:50; 265/961
Oct 2nd - Sandstone Trail “A” Race (16.8 miles, 1750ft) 2:17:41; 29/111
Sep 18th - Bala Olympic Tri 2:20:31; 83/433 (AG 17/100)
Sep 10th - Helvellyn Tri 4:17:38; 43/331
July 24th - The Longest Day 11:00:25; 40/150
June 5th - Bala Middle 4:39:54; 92/318 (AG 25/87)
Mar 15th - Wuthering Hike [31 miles 4400 ft] 5:35
Jan 29th - Tough Guy 93:49; 161/3,500
Jan 22nd - 4 Villages half marathon 90:39; 256/1504
Survival of the Shawangunks - 5:29:45 35/120
Wolverhampton Oly 2:19:50
The year of illness and poor motivation
Powerman UK 3:47
HIM Llanberis 5:09:40
HIM Llanberis 5:38
|All about Cobbie
Joined: 02 Aug 2005
Interests: Red wine and cakes
Sat Jun 10, 2017 3:19 pm Cobbie
Raid Massif Central; 28th May to 2nd June 2017
After completing the 100 Hour Raid Pyrenean last summer, I was keen for more. Knowing that I needed a challenge to keep motivated for fitness, Lynn was amenable so I looked at my options. I was keen to do a logical point-to-point journey akin to the Raid Pyrenean, travelling as it does from Atlantic to Mediterranean, but wanted something a bit more varied in nature. Two options stood out, these being the Raid Corsica (which circumnavigates the island) and the Raid Massif Central which traverses several regions in south-central France, from Lyons down to the edge of the Pyrenees. In the end the choice was made for me as none of the Raid Corsica dates were feasible.
I was a lot fitter for this, having ridden through the winter for the first time, typically 2 rides a week, increasing to 3 from March; I wasn’t much lighter but was a lot stronger. This trip was a step up so I needed to be; 6 days instead of 4½ on the bike and hilly all the way. In total, I cycled about 1000 miles more than pre-Raid in 2016.
Travelling out from the north of England was just as awkward as in 2016, not helped by Flybe cancelling suitable flights from first Manchester and then Birmingham. In the end I flew both ways with BA via Heathrow and decided to travel out a day early and spend a morning sightseeing in Lyon before a lunchtime transfer to the start in Roanne. It wasn’t ideal but turned out to be a good choice due to the BA baggage system failure which meant 3 cyclists arrived a day late.
Once at the hotel, with bike built, there was plenty of time to get to know a few people. Some were clearly very strong, others like me more interested in having an experience on a bike. A very pleasant evening saw us all getting along well and it was a happy group of cyclists who lined up for the team photo in the morning. It was clearly going to be a hot first couple of days so I made sure I slapped on plenty of cream.
Here is the altitude profile for the trip. This is the original profile before the route was modified so it's not quite what we did in the last couple of days but it gives a pretty good idea of what the trip is all about:
Note that photos with the Marmot logo were taken by our excellent guides, Gavin and Tim
Day 1 – Roanne to Issoire; 96 miles, 2900m ascent, 7:40 ride time
The first day had a tough first half; 2000m of climbing in the first 50 miles and 4 cols, rising to the Col du Beal at 1390m. The weather was lovely and we passed through vinyards and open countryside on our way up the first climb, the Col du Bouchet (752m). As we got higher, we moved into the trees which provided some shade as the temperature hit 30°C before lunch (and touched 40°C in the afternoon!). Things opened out at the top of the Col de la Loge and Col du Beal but in a very pastoral way; this was very much an aperitif through the foothills. I made sure I kept a lid on my power after going a bit too hard on day 1 in 2016. The gradients were very steady, 5 to 7% mostly and only once did I see anything over 8% on my Garmin all day.
Left to Right - Ready for the off, fields early on, one of the early climbs
War memorial, castle, high point of the day,
My main memories are of the lovely villages we pedalled through and I made sure I captured a selection with my phone; I was a lot more organised for photos this year, keeping the phone in my bar-top box made for much quicker snaps. The afternoon was mostly downhill, with our first proper ‘control’ in the small village of St Dier d’Auvergne. All the shops were shut but the guides managed to find an old lady at a filling station who stamped out carnets in her front room. After one last small climb, we reached our hotel in Issoire which was great. There were a few classic British red faces, arms and legs on show but everyone seemed very happy.
Two more rural views; riding with Andy & Say
Day 2 – Issoire to Salers; 105 miles, 3100m ascent, 8:30 ride time
Day 2 started with a long, steady climb to the Col de la croix St-Robert, at 1426m, our high point of the day. This was actually the only significant col, the large amount of climbing being made up of many small ups and downs. It was hot again and I pedalled with Andy and Say. We’d been joined by 3 more cyclists who’d arrived late because of the BA baggage problems so there were now 12 of us. The pattern of riders on the road was also now clear. There was a group of 4 at the front (Ian, Jem, Simon and Aidan), followed by David and Lucy who would set off later than everybody else and overtake all bar these. Diane, Ian’s wife, was very strong on the climbs and would move forward and back through the group depending on how often she stopped. The remaining 5 of us (myself, Andy, Say, a second Ian and James) and Diane would generally see each other multiple times depending on how we were feeling. With all bar one having been on a Marmot trip before, we all knew the drill with van and café stops so they were much more efficient than I remembered from 2016.
Moving into volcano territory; cows
The scenery up to the Col de la croix St-Robert was beautiful and we got our first views of snowy peaks and rocky cliffs. I was generally slightly behind Andy and Say due to the photos I was taking but we were always close and I discovered over the col that I was somewhat faster on the descents. We re-grouped at the bottom and turned into the town of Le Mont-Dore to buy food for a picnic lunch. Lumpy riding took us to a small village where a café was open; they were happy enough for us to buy drinks to have with our food and the guides laid out some fruit. It was pretty hot by now and we still had a lot of riding to do but we definitely all lingered in what was a very pleasant spot.
View on the long climb; on the Col de la Croix St-Robert
Back on the road, there was only one significant high point, the Col de la Basseyre which we made soon after lunch; the sign was in a shale bank, listing and looking somewhat forlorn. After that I just remember lumpy riding until a left turn with 15km to go put us onto a nasty climb with 200m steep ascent, followed by a more gradual 200m ascent. I think we all found this tiring so late in the day and once at the top I just spun my way back the final few miles to the rather lovely village of Salers, where we were staying.
Sculpture; Farm building, the unloved Col de la Basseyre sign; Salers town square
Day 3 – Salers to Aumond-Aubrac; 89.3 miles, 3200m ascent; 7:55 ride time
This was undoubtedly the hardest day of the trip, with 5 cols over 1000m, all before lunch! The weather had changed too, being overcast and threatening as we set off and with thunderstorms forecast.
The first col (Col de Neronne) was a 300m climb, nice and gentle, with ever improving views. Until now, the colour palette of the trip had been predominantly green, today it changed to feature more and more yellow gorse. The terrain reminded me a lot of North East Wales (although with longer climbs!); a feeling of being slightly remote from the modern world, small communities in a fairly harsh landscape.
After a short descent, we were onto the Pas de Peyrol, without doubt the toughest climb of the trip, a 400m climb over just 5km. I fiddled about at the bottom to video the climb which started easily enough but then reared up for a very steep final 2km at 13%. I put a foot down a few times to prevent myself overheating as it was pretty muggy, even this early in the day and I was definitely feeling fatigued from the cycling I’d already done. It was one of those climbs where you glimpse the road ahead, high above and note how little distance there is between where you are now and where you have to go! Initially in the trees, we soon pulled out onto barren terrain, made ethereal by mist blowing in over the col. The fast boys overtook me, mostly stomping away out of the saddle and certainly making it look easier than I was. However, it wasn’t that long a climb and soon enough I was at the summit.
2 views of the Col de Neronne; at the bottom of the Col du Pas de Payrol;
Approaching the Col; At the col
After a quick photo and carnet stamp, I headed off down into a misty valley, made interesting by a herd of cows heading up to their summer pasture. The old dude leading them was as crusty a traditional picture of French peasantry as you could hope to see. That brief interlude aside, we were soon down in the valley where a left turn led onto the next climb, the Col de Perthus, about 400m ascent. An old French cyclist stopped and told us that the climb was steep but not too long and he was right.
Setting off up the climb there were 8 of us together, though not for long as the fast boys pulled away. I started to find the going tough and dropped back a bit, regaining contact at the summit where the van was a welcome sight.
The volcano Puy Mary pokes out on the descent; cows heading up to pasture; two views of the steep climb to the Col de Perthus
The sun had come out on the climb but now the sky darkened and it started to spit on the descent, turning into a full scale rainstorm by the time we reached a lessening in gradient and a left turn onto a main road. I took my glasses off but the rain was stinging my eyes so much that I had to put them back on again. Finally resigned to the fact that this was going to last, I stopped in a lay-by and pulled of my cagoule. After 5 minutes of fighting with the zip, it stopped raining and the sun came out – I took the cag off again without having pedalled a single revolution. Several of the team had passed by this time and I might have been bringing up the rear so I got going again, keen to make it to the restaurant on top of the 5th and final col of the morning, the Col de Prat de Boc, which at just under 1400m was the second highest of the day. The climb was10km long, 500m ascent at mainly 6-8%; it was pretty steady all told and less humid after the rain. A pretty village low down was followed by open meadow as we moved back into more pastoral scenery. I remember chatting with the younger of the two Ian’s who was always splendidly turned out but there’s no doubt that I was in real need of a decent lunch. My col selfie is definitely more of a grimace than a smile but a decent burger and frites soon had me going again.
3 increasingly tired col selfies!
I remember very little about the afternoon, the few photos I took just show green fields akin to the scenery on days 1 & 2. There was a long 40km descent, followed by a very gentle 30km climb where I started to get a lot of foot pain. Andy & Say kindly waited whilst I took my shoes off to stretch; I think this was a combination of feet swelling in the heat, pushing hard on the pedals during the climbs and general fatigue - I kept the tension on the dials lower from then on which helped. We made it to the pilgrimage town of Aumond-Aubrac in good time, well before my target of 6pm at least and were rewarded by the sight of hikers in a variety of garb on their way to Santiago, some in traditional brown robes. I had time to wash some kit and it was an early night all round; I wasn’t the only one who felt whacked.
Day 4 – Aumond-Aubrac to Mayrueis; 101 miles, 3000m ascent; 8:25 ride time
One of the best few days I’ve ever had on a bike, the scenery was so stunning that I took about 90 photographs and my Garmin shows that I was not moving for almost an hour all told. I started out on my own in misty conditions past several short climbs, through small villages and a combination of forest and cow pasture, the cow bells clanging away merrily. Before too long, there was a descent into the sizeable town of Mende where we had to navigate our way through roadworks and past an impressive cathedral. Straight after, there was the very stiff climb up the Cote de la Criox-Neuve, 2km at 12-15%. I was feeling much better after a good night’s sleep but even so, I was surprised to make it up without stopping. Annoyingly, there was no col sign, just the cross that I presume gives the climb its name.
Church in the mist; gorse and woods; bottom and top of the Croix-Neuve
The descent here was very steep, with a particularly nasty sharp right hander that was very easy to miss. I tend to put my Garmin on map view for the descents so I saw it coming but apparently someone did crash on the first Marmot trip last year – not nice.
At the bottom, it was straight into the 1200m Col de la Loubiere, a nice steady climb through the trees, with another cross at the top. Tim caught me on film with a couple of good shots on this climb (thanks ) – Gav was my normal contact in the rear van but I was going strongly enough this morning to see more of Tim.
Two views of the Col de la Loubiere
The main col of the day was now upon me, the 1541m Col de Finiels, around 600m of ascent up to a high upland plateau. It was beautifully bleak towards the top and then an amazing descent down through a rocky landscape, reminiscent of Dartmoor, to Le Pont-de-Montvert for lunch. Here we landed at the slowest restaurant I can remember (outside of Argentina obviously). The madame visited our table several times without taking our order, despite us being quite pushy after a while. Eventually I did get some chicken and tagliatelle and very nice it was too before setting off into the Gorges du Tarn.
Ruins, steep section low down on the climb; at the col; on the descent
The last 70km of the ride were spectacular all the way with superb rock scenery down the gorge for about 40km before a left turn over the bridge at Saint Enimie took us onto the Col de Coperlac.
The Gorge du Tarn, turning onto the Col de Coperlac
This was one of those climbs that you can see contouring along the hillside ahead with spectacular views in all directions. The views back down into the gorge were particularly good and only improved as we got higher so we were all pretty happy when we met the van at the top. It was only 907m but a perfect late afternoon climb.
Gorges du Tarn from high up; at the col
It took me a while to get my col photo so I was alone by the time I set off, along a very straight road across a plateau bordered by poppies, a total contrast to what we’d just seen but equally lovely. I was slowly catching those in front but another small climb took me to the top of the Gorges de la Jonte and more spectacular rock architecture – I stopped and took more photos. Whizzing down the gorge to our hotel was simply amazing, a lovely way to end a fantastic day.
Poppies; two views of the Gorges de la Jonte
Day 5 – Meyrueis to Lodeve; 88 miles, 2400m ascent; 7:05 ride time
The day started in lovely bright conditions and as is often the case I was the first to be ready to go. Setting off though, my Garmin went against the route description. I carried on for a bit, past a roundabout signposted to Mt Aigoual but it didn’t reset itself so I went back. After some discussion we all agreed that the directions were not quite right so most of us set out together in the opposite direction, placating the Garmins, back the way we had come to the edge of town, past a wicker horse sculpture and onto a different start of the climb to Mt Aigoual.
One of the features of this trip was that, despite a lot of total climbing, most climbs were 400-600m rather than the longer 1000m+ climbs in the mountains. In fact, only the Col de la Croix-St-Robert on day 2 had been over 1000m ascent. This climb was about 900m so the second biggest of the trip. It was very steady, never above 7-8% and with a little plateau half way up. There were a number of subsidiary cols marked on the route but none were really worthy of note. Instead we were treated to a lovely varied climb, first contouring round the hillside with views of the Gorges de la Jonte, then through woods before breaking out onto a barren plateau for the last couple of km to a proper summit, just off the main road, with a small castle on the top. It was too misty for any great views (apparently you can see Ventoux on a clear day) but still worthy of clambering up the metal steps to the turret viewpoint.
Leaving Mayrueis; two views low on Mt Aigoual; at the summit; the castle turret
It was quite windy so after a few minutes I clambered back down and found the café for the carnet stamp before heading off. It wasn’t long before I was back in the forest, nearly missing a sharp left turn. The descent was a bit tricky so I didn’t rush and James came past although having done so, he didn’t pull away. I always find it easier to follow someone but in this case it was quite gravelly so I’m sure he was being careful too.
Descent from Mt Aigoual
It was straight into the next climb at the bottom, a 300m ascent which had hairpins at the bottom and then opened out beautifully. David and Lucy came past at the bottom and I saw some of the others below me as the road came round in a large loop near the top. Then it was a short descent into St Jean du Bruel for lunch – my first omelette/frites of the trip in a lovely café courtyard. Everyone was having a good day I think so it was a very relaxed atmosphere.
The route worked it’s way from gorge to gorge (2 pics); viaduct
After lunch we went through more gorges on very minor roads, under an impressive viaduct at one stage before climbing up through what looked to me like parts of the Yorkshire Dales; small cliffs with a narrow road snaking beneath.
The climb to reach the cirque (heading up and left); on the way to the cirque
As the road climbed I was treated to ever more impressive views before a short flat section which led to the Cirque de Navacelles. This very impressive gorge has an unusual feature, this being a dried-up, ox-bow lake (they normally form on much flatter terrain, I’ve never heard of one in a gorge before), it’s bright green surface standing out against the stark background. The descent into the Cirque was via many very tight hairpins.
The spectacular viw down into the cirque with the climb out behind; at the top of the climb looking back down
I passed Diane who was being careful as usual and who of course then breezed past me on the climb back out. This looked steep from the way down and so it proved to be; 11-12% for about 1.5km but incredibly spectacular. At the top it was mostly flat for nearly 20km but into a headwind and I really suffered. The younger Ian, resplendent in a very bright Namibia jersey came storming past but I couldn’t hang onto his wheel. My foot pain was back as well so I made the decision to slacken off the tension as much as possible and just took it easy. Soon enough I was onto the 15km descent into Lodeve and our hotel beside a river.
Day 6 – Lodeve to Mazamet; 82 miles, 2200m ascent; 6:28 ride time
One thing I’ve not yet mentioned is that the Marmot trip is longer and harder than the Raid requirements, making it more of a balanced and challenging route. This final day was the shortest and least hilly of the trip – a change from the original route tested in 2016 which was 50km longer! I think we all agreed that finishing earlier on the final day was a sensible move.
My backside had been sore since day 3 and at times I’d been finding it hard to find a comfortable riding position. After doing almost all the climbs in the Pyrenees seated last year, I’d come to the conclusion that I needed to get out of the saddle more to use different muscle groups and this strategy worked really well in the Massif Central. However, settling back into the saddle was sometimes losing me any additional momentum I’d built, day 3 being particularly bad. Having ridden into the climbing on days 4 and 5, things were a lot better but I was definitely ready to stop pedalling.
Setting off on the final morning; on the Col de la Baraque de Bral
The day dawned bright and cool again and we went straight into the 400m ascent of the Col de la Baraque de Bral. The first climb of the day had typically been lovely but this was probably the best, full of the scent of wild flowers and over too quickly really. The main climb of the day followed 20km later after one small climb and some quiet rural roads.
The Col de l’Espinouse was just about 900m of ascent, spread over 20km and for me the best climb of the trip. Periods through forest were interspersed with beautifully open climbing, with great views of craggy rocks and gorse strewn upland. The climb worked its way up into a small forest on a subsidiary peak before descending to the final few km to the top. I was just behind James lower down, a tiny bit faster but with my photo stops, not catching him until he had a longer van stop. It was a very satisfied Cobbie at the top, barring a couple of 100 to 200m climbs, it was now downhill to the finish.
4 views of the Col de l'Espinouse
The last col sign was the Col de Fontfoide, just 100m of climbing and then a descent into Le Salvetat at 85km for lunch. The café was in the middle of a road remodelling scheme so we had to walk the bikes there and then watch a completely overwhelmed waitress trying to cope with more than one customer. The poor woman looked new to it all and was obviously struggling – in the end the cook came over to take our order whilst she got her head round the fast boys paying separately when she’d added up the bill for the whole table. After a lovely omelette & salad leaves I set off, planning to ride gently and savour the last 50km. James whizzed by soon after, clearly keener than me to get to the end and soon after David and Lucy.
A profusion of gorse; village cross
I passed by a large lake, about the only one I can recall from the trip and then was onto the last col (Col de la Tranchee), where some guys out on a club ride came by. They were resting at the rather underwhelming summit as I came past, after which there was just one more short climb before a 20km descent to the finish in Mazamet. The traffic there was awful and I had someone overtake me pointlessly, on the outside, on a roundabout where I was turning left (the 3rd exit when riding on the right!). As safely as possible, I made my way gently uphill to the finish which was just on the pavement outside the hotel and celebrated with the obligatory glass of bubbly.
David and Lucy had just finished so we did some photos and savoured the moment. A quick shower and I was down just as Andy and Say were finishing before another glass and then the usual flummox to pack the bike, buy Henry a present and finally sit down for a beer. It was a lovely final evening and to our surprise, the great and good from the Mazamet Cycling club turned up to present us all with a medal and certificate. I drank far too much but did at least stop and go to bed before things got too ugly.
Overall, the trip distance is 562 miles / 905km with 16,300m of climbing in 6 days - harder than the Raid Pyrenean so it was a good thing that I was fitter and stronger. I think at last year’s fitness levels, this would have been quite a struggle. Having a great group of people to cycle and socialise with also helped a lot, it really was a very friendly bunch.
I have nothing but good things to say about Marmot, there’s a real concern about good customer service in general and the guides are great, giving support when needed and leaving you alone when not. With 3 people left behind in the UK due to the BA baggage handling problems, the owner of the company rang round to find alternative flights and help get them out to France the next day. Our guides, Gavin and Tim were excellent and great company.
A final word, this trip is a wonderful journey across one of the lesser known parts of France and whilst it lacks the grandeur of the big mountains, the variety is tremendous. It deserves more attention.
Almost back to being an athlete in 2016