Weekend Clients Victoire : Cédric's feedback
From the lac du Guéry to the Servières one, by the col de Ceyssat, Cédric could happily discover Auvergne
Sometimes, scrolling through Facebook can actually be pretty useful. A post that shows up, a click on a link, we fill out a form without really realising what we are going for and then we move on. I was far from thinking that these actions done with not much conviction would lead me to what would be a wonderful week-end.
To allow the owners -or future owners – of Victoire bicyles to meet, share and ride their bespoke bikes on their homeland, Cycles Victoire decided to organise a 3 days week-end. A call for applications was also launched to permit the lucky one to ride the randonneur bike that won the Concours de Machines 2016, so no need to say that I didn’t hesitate much before filling out the form and tried to transmit my enthusiasm and motivation.
A few days later, an e-mail informs me that I’ve been chosen except that I won’t ride the randonneur bike, but the Concours de Machines 2017’s prototype instead. Far from being disappointed, the appointment is taken, and I go to Beaumont for my first time in Auvergne, France. When I finally arrive, I’m shy because I don’t know anyone but it doesn’t take long before I realise that it is a casual and relaxed atmosphere. Bikes are the main discussion topic, we compare our bikes, we congratulate each other for our bike’s aesthetics, everyone explains why they choose a specific tubing or equipment. In a word, passion is clearly there.
We then walk through Victoire’s showroom to go to the workshop. I stayed quite a long time just looking at the welding torch flame linking the tubes of what would become a frame together, really admirative of a very meticulous work that makes me dream. I talk a bit with the team, until they finally show me the bike I’ll be riding. What a surprise! We are far from the (modern) classicism of the randonneur bike for the Concours de Machines 2016 but more on a character bike, closer to the new practices such as the gravel. Exactly what I needed!
This bike is a prototype used to try out diverse randonneur and road bike settings, and gives an idea of what will be the next Victoire at the Concours de Machines 2017. As I am very attached to details, I scan the bike with care looking for any imperfection but I can’t find any. And when we know that this bike has been built by the intern to finalise his apprenticeship, we can only salute both the work of the intern and the one of the trainer.
To go in more depth, this bike has everything we need to go far away and ride on any type of surface. This frame is made with tubing from Tange for the front triangle and Columbus Zona for the rear one. The chainstays length can be adjusted thanks to the Paragon Rockers dropouts, which allow the use of different wheels and tires sizes and whether or not to have fenders. For this week-end trial, the dropouts were set at the shortest to fit Hope XC 650B wheels with Compass Switchback Hill 48mm wide tires. The fork is built in house and have a conical pivot and unicrown fork blades with eyelets. Concerning the drive train, the justified trend for the 1x11 is present, formed with a SRAM Apex group with a 42 chainring, 10-42 cassette and hydraulic disc brakes. In short, I like everything!
Cédric couldn't help it and took his 48mm tires off the road
Enough with the talking, it’s time to go. We start at 4pm heading for the Lake Servières lodge, accompanied with the TF1 (TV channel) motorbikes as they are filming a television report on French handcraft activities. The landscapes are so breathtaking that they make you wanna move here. We really don’t have the same thing where I’m from, in the north of France, same with the steep incline: 46.5 km and 1122 D+, so even though I rode for 3200 km since the beginning of the year, I don’t show off. However, the rhythm is relatively cool and we admire the view while chatting with the neighbours. The first few laps with my bike go extremely well, despite the fact that my size (1m83) makes me feel a bit limited on this 54cm frame. The weather is perfect, the sun reveals the sparkles of the metallic brown finish of the frame, and the fact that there is no wind is really appreciated, especially because the journey is basically just a gigantic uphill one.
The arrival at the lodge runs smoothly, everyone chooses their bed and we go eat. A good quality rustic food cooked exclusively with local products. The place is pleasant, the view is wonderful and the owner is nice. We have a beer, there is some wine, not that big of a change compared to my usual cycling gatherings. Distribution of Rapha bags filled with the map for the next day journey, a Victoire Tee-Shirt and some goodies. We then quickly go to bed because we know the next day will be long. Apologies to my roommates if I snored: it’s the altitude!
Departure at 8:30am to cross the Chaîne des Puys by the west, alongside the Sioule river. To see all these Victoire bikes shine under the first sunrays makes this - expected to be idyllic - day a bit classier. My bike is waiting for me, I reinflate my huge rear tire and let’s go! The sound of the Compass prevents me from being discreet, especially since the hub Hope Pro 4 freewheel is far from being the most silent either. The rhythm is pleasant still, and I’m secretly hoping that it will remain the same the whole time, 180km and 2518m D+. The tourist that I am is amazed by the magnificent landscape, and it’s impossible not to stop to capture them. The group breaks down in smaller groups formed of 4 or 5 persons. Everyone rides at the speed they wish, we wait and cheer each other, we complain about our thighs getting weaker and weaker, we chat more and still about our bikes, everything is perfect! We are all aware of what a good moment we are living.
My bike still rides perfectly. I haven’t feared to break down once, not even a puncture. Although it is a bit small for me, I don’t feel any pain. The Brooks C13 saddle perfectly welcomed my bottom, and the bike is as responsive as it is comfortable. Aware that the 650x48 wheels require more efforts than my colleagues’ 700x32 ones, I don’t feel left behind. I’m even a bit frustrated that I didn’t go through the fields as the bike’s geometry and character seemed perfect for it. The more I ride with it, the more I want it!
As the kilometres go by, we start to feel the tiredness. After the 100km, we also start to feel hungry. It’s fine as the bakeries are frequent along the road. The last few kilometres get really hard, the steep and the sun have done their job until the end, and pleasure is still here. The “Clermont-Ferrand” signs are comforting as they indicate we are not too far away from the finishing point. We go back to Victoire, everyone picks their stuffs up, goes to their hotel and then we go to the restaurant to debrief the day.
We are all satisfied. We eat a burger with fries, we drink some Picon and some wine, laughing with our faces blushed by the sun and the fatigue. We empty the plates as quickly as we fill our stomachs. But time flies. It’s time to go to bed as we are riding again tomorrow.
It feels funny to see my bike in my hotel room. I’ve only known it for two days but I feel like we went through a lot together already. I say goodnight and tomorrow we are going to the Puy de Dôme for a 55km ride and 1000m D+.
We are leaving at 9am, everyone is smiling, the sun is still here and some of us (including me) are even more red than the previous day. The departure is smooth, the first few bumps are nice, everyone is happy. My bib shorts remind me that I didn’t pay much for them as the contact with the saddle isn’t as pleasant as it was the day before. But the view also reminds me that I didn’t get this far to complain and so the pain is soon forgotten. We chat, we compare (again) our bikes, I show off because mine (Which isn’t really mine) has the biggest tires. I try to escape on a small path that will turn out to lead nowhere. The day is expected to be radiant. The rhythm is slower than before, the track would be pretty accessible if it wasn’t for the Col de Ceyssat climb. We finish with a 10km downhill, to reach Clermont-Ferrand and therefore be done with a full of emotions week-end.
We say goodbye, we all agree that we were happy to ride together, we don’t wanna leave, we wanna come back and I don’t wanna give my bike back! More than just a prototype trial, and experienced one of my best cycling weekend. The Victoire Team organises trips matching exactly what they produce: perfection. It was a great pleasure to meet all these passionates. And even though all of them rode for Victoire, no one was here for victory. A good fellowship that illustrate how cycling isn’t just a sport, but beyond that, a mean to travel, meet and share a common passion.