Nothing nicer

Posted in Live Racing with tags , , , on 25/02/2014 by Sheree

The cycling season has been underway for a couple of weeks and we’ve profited from our proximity to that racing. Friday I watched the Trofeo Laigueglia, now moved to a Friday to avoid it clashing with Tour du Haut Var, and over the week-end we watched the latter. The race seems to have settled into a format where stage one finishes on a circuit around La Croix Valmer and stage two explores the glorious hinterland behind Draguigan with a three-circuit loop around some of the walled towns, affording plenty of viewing opportunities for the largely French public.

The sun shone all three days which made the racing, and the viewing, a whole nicer prospect. But the cherry atop the icing on the cake was that one of our friends won one of the stages, finished third on general classification and was awarded “most combative”. If you follow cycle racing, you’ll soon appreciate that not everyone wins races. It’s a team sport but only one member of the team can win, unless, of course, it’s a team time-trial.

Everyone wants a few words with the stage winner Amael Moinard (image: Nice Matin)

Everyone wants a few words with the stage winner Amael Moinard (image: Nice Matin)

At this early point in the season, teams are keen to get that all-important first win under their belt and, having succeeded, it tends to open the floodgates. More wins follow. It’s also one of the few occasions where a team leader, getting into his stride for his objectives later in the season – a grand tour or classics victory – will allow one of his key helpers to try to take victory. Or, maybe, one of the young, up and coming riders from one of the ProContinental or Continental teams will hope to catch the eye of a team manager at a ProTour team.

It’s not unusual to bump into friends and acquaintances at such races and a bit of banter helps to fill in the time until there’s television coverage on the big screen and/or the peloton hoves into view. On Sunday we were handily placed on the barriers about 10 metres before the finish line. As the peloton came past, on its first circuit of the finish town, it was hotly pursuing the Norwegian national champion Thor Hushovd (BMC) while a number of his team mates were well-placed in that pursuing pack. He was soon swept up and the peloton remained largely intact until the final run in when race leader Carlos Betancur (Ag2r) and Amael Moinard (BMC) leapt free. The two worked to maintain their small advantage with the former taking the overall and the latter the stage win.

It so happened that my beloved had Amael’s eldest son (5 years old) on his shoulders, so he had the perfect view of his father taking the stage win. He understood exactly what had just happened, he was so thrilled and much enjoyed being swept up in the post-race excitement and interviews. Both Amael’s sons accompanied him on stage for the prize-giving but, at only 21 months, it’s doubtful that the younger one appreciated what he was witnessing. The eldest boy took possession of the trophy and I’ve no doubt it has taken up residence in his bedroom. There was however a certain sense of deja vu as the last time Amael had won back in 2010, on the final stage of Paris-Nice, his elder son had accompanied him onto the podium but he was then too young to enjoy the experience.

For us, it capped off a marvellous week-end of racing. There’s really nothing better than seeing a friend win a stage. Made all the more memorable, as we shared the moment with his wife and children.

Worrying trend

Posted in Training with tags on 14/02/2014 by Sheree

Last year finding brochures with shoes and garments for the older woman in my letterbox troubled me. This year’s much worse. Indeed, it could hardly have gotten off to a worse start. I receive spam most days with offers of cut price funerals, exhortations to pre-pay for mine and, which I think is even worse,  a tempting funeral comparison website! A sort of permanent www.Hotelscompare.com. I’ve had so many of these emails that I’m beginning to wonder what it is they know that I don’t?

grimreaper

Okay, so the grim reaper can strike at any time. He’s no respecter of age but it’s got me wondering whether these sites have been surreptitiously following me on my recent rides? I only venture this explanation because I’ve recently had a couple of very close scrapes. Mostly perpetrated by motorists who blithely ignore the mantra of “Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre” and head straight to “Manoeuvre”  bypassing the other two steps. To add insult to injury, one of my neighbours in the Domaine perpetrated one of these close encounters. And, yes, I have added their vehicle registration number to my Black List.

The weather has been partly to blame. It has washed lots of sand, stones and rubble into the cycle paths meaning that I occasionally have to venture onto that part of the road which many motorists think only they are entitled to use. Of course, they show me no such compunction when making use of the cycling lanes to overtake or park.

I haven’t ridden outside as much as I would have liked thanks to the rainstorms that seem to have swept most of Europe. Indeed, six weeks into the New Year and I have completed as many kilometres on the home trainer I have on the road. An almost unheard of situation. My normally cheery disposition takes a bit of a dip without my daily dose of sunshine and cycling. It goes without saying, I am a fair-weather cyclist.

I find that if I have something to mull over you can’t beat a couple of hours on the bike. Inspiration  – and not a vehicle – will likely strike and I return to the office fired up and even more ready for action. It starts when I first awake.

Perfect day for a ride

Perfect day for a ride

I look out the floor to ceiling windows to find out what the weather’s going to hold for me that day. If it looks miserable, I’m far more inclined to roll-over and go back to sleep. If the start looks promising, I leap out of bed, with a spring in my step, and work in the office until I adjudge it warm enough to venture forth.

Double booking

Posted in Hazards, Live Racing with tags on 19/01/2014 by Sheree

My beloved has double-booked himself again! This happens more times than you might imagine despite him keeping a detailed diary. I can only conclude that he gaily accepts all and any invitations without first checking his agenda. This time he’s told a client he’ll go to an exhibition in Singapore which clashes with our departure for the Tour of the Basque country. After last year’s horrific weather he did say he wouldn’t be coming this year. However, when I made the hotel bookings last November he affirmed his attendance. We’re now looking into options as to how he can join me in the Basque country.

Weather at last year's Vuelta al Pais Vasco

Weather at last year’s Vuelta al Pais Vasco

His oversight does however have an upside. Freed from the restrictions of having to fit in with his ever-changing timetable, I can now drive down to the Basque country at my leisure, leaving when I want and stopping en-route where I want. A whole new world of possibilities has just opened up and it’ll also give the recently acquired Tom IV a good run out.

Meanwhile, I’ve been looking at possibilities for my beloved. The best option seems to be a routing via London Heathrow, followed by a day or two working in London, before hopping onto an evening flight to Bilbao where I can collect him. This means I should have anywhere between 3-5 days flying solo. Time to make plans.

Typically my beloved will arrive back from a business trip several hours before we leave on holiday. This way he just pitches up and everything’s been done for him. Not for nothing is he known as “The man who just turns up”! If he’s flying long-haul, I’m always concerned whether or not the flight will be on time. And, if not, whether it’ll dismantle our my plans. This did happen on several occasions when we were living in London, despite our proximity to the Heathrow Express service at Paddington. This has occurred much less often in recent years largely because we live so close to Nice airport and most of our holidays are now undertaken by car.

Nonetheless, I have taken the precaution of checking that my beloved has all the key dates for 2014 writ large in his diary: the last week of the Giro d’Italia, the first week of the Tour de France, the Clasica San Sebastian, the World Championships in Ponferrada. That’s right, pretty much all our holidays revolve around one cycling event or the other. I wouldn’t have it any other way, nor would he. It’s taken us to some marvellous spots, we’ve met tons of interesting people and made some lasting friendships. Vive le cyclisme!

Back in the groove

Posted in Live Racing, Training with tags , , on 13/01/2014 by Sheree

Meteo NiceThere’s storm clouds just back from the coast and, if we’re to believe the weather forecast, we’re in for a few more wet days. I’m not complaining as last week was incredibly mild and I rode every day. There’s nothing better than an hour or two riding in the fresh air to restore one’s equilibrium though I might just have to settle for the home-trainer the rest of this week.

I rode today with my beloved, who’s due to fly away tomorrow morning, and he said that finally I’d gotten back up to speed. He had complained about my laggardly progress all over the Christmas holidays but not so today. Mind you my progress was almost halted in its tracks when a large piece of machinery popped off a lorry and fell (fortunately) just in front of me at a roundabout in Antibes. By chance, the local police were close by and remarked upon my near miss. I retorted that it was the lorry driver who’d had the close shave, not me. Imagine how much his negligence might have cost him? A new BMC racing bike at the very least and, at worst, a sizeable compensatory lawsuit from my beloved. The policeman nodded sagely, he could see my point.

My training for 2014 has gotten off to a good start. Initially with the Rapha #Festive500, where I just managed to sneak over the limit. More importantly, since New Year, I have managed to  maintain both momentum and enthusiasm. Of course, it’s helped that daytime temperatures have not dropped below 10ºC rather it’s been a few degrees warmer. I find when temperatures fall I’ll still ride but two and half hours is my limit before I start to feel chilled to the bone.

In the winter months, all cyclists are largely confined to cycling up and down the coastal roads.  This means that one’s constantly crossing the paths of other cyclists. Of course, most are heading back home by the time I venture forth. Locally resident professional riders aside, most cyclists set off at 8:30, the time designated by the clubs for winter rides thereby ensuring that they’re back ready in plenty of time for lunch at 12:30. Everything and everyone stops for lunch at 12:30 in France. I prefer to avoid the early morning traffic and the early morning chill, rarely leaving the Domaine much before 10:30. Equally, I’m happy to have lunch whenever I get back, even if it’s after 12:30. Sacre bleu!

I’m looking forward to the start of the professional cycling season which kicks off next week with the Tour of San Luis in Argentina and the Tour Down Under in Adelaide. It seems such a long time since Il Lombardia. I have dipped in and out of the cyclo-cross season, a discipline that’s quite rightly growing in popularity. It’s just under an hour of lung-busting racing in generally muddy conditions where you need to get out of the start gate quickly to put time into the chasing pack. Like all bike racing, you can be undone by spills and technical fails but it’s a great spectacle and particularly popular in Belgium where I hear  it goes down nicely with a pint or two of beer.

Back to business

Posted in Uncategorized on 07/01/2014 by Sheree

Happy New Year!

I don’t know about you, but we’ve had a quiet and relatively relaxing break – just what we needed. My beloved jetted off yesterday with a spring in his step and his batteries recharged. I meanwhile breathed a deep sigh of relief. It’s been lovely having him home for almost three weeks. There’s no one I’d rather spend time with, but three weeks!

Nice, bad weather

Unfortunately, we endured one of the wettest festive periods on record. Or, at least since we’ve lived here. This rather dented our ambitions to ride every day. Still we managed to keep ourselves occupied. My beloved even did a spot of DIY. Of course, it’s not finished, nor did he put everything back where it belongs. Our plans to visit a few friends also fizzled out in the dank conditions.

In truth, we didn’t feel too sociable. Largely because of my Dad’s ailing ill-health. He’s often remarked in recent years that old age feels like you’re in the waiting room. I used to riposte “Be thankful you’re not in the departure lounge!” An illness which he’s been harbouring for sometime erupted in early November occasioning three almost successive stays in hospital. Finally, he was sent home just before Christmas and sadly he’s now in the departure lounge. We just don’t know when his plane will take off. It’s safe to say, he’s seen his last Christmas.

My sister has once more come to the rescue, mobilised a posse of carers and nurses, and moved in for the duration. I paid them one of my famous flying visits just before Christmas, whipped up a few delights to tempt my Dad’s failing appetite and departed. Both of my sisters kept him company, and his spirits high, over the festive period. I’m sure he enjoyed being spoilt. I get daily bulletins on his progress but, in truth, there is no real progress, nor any way back. But my Dad’s had a great life and will shortly be joining my Mum. I can’t be too sad, even though it won’t the end his daughters wished for him.

Despite the appalling weather conditions, which were of course much less severe than those endured by many around the globe, I still managed to ride over 500km between Christmas and New Year. Since then the weather’s taken another nose dive and I’ve even had to press-gang the mountain bike into service and go for a run (okay, jog) along the sea front. There’s something rather primal about running while the waves are lashing the shoreline. Typically we exercise each day to keep at bay the yule-tide calorie creep. But, with the quiet life, has come far fewer calories and a real sense of well-being. Maybe that’s all we need to face 2014.

Season’s Greetings

Posted in Uncategorized on 20/12/2013 by Sheree

Noel Card 2013

Enjoy the festive season and have a happy, healthy and successful 2014

And finally…………………………….

Posted in Club Events, Favourites, Training with tags , on 02/12/2013 by Sheree
Azur sky and sea but check out the snow caps in the distance

Azur sky and sea but check out the snow caps in the distance

Yesterday was one of those glorious winter days where the sky, along with the sea, was azure blue and cyclists enjoying the midday rays of sunshine thickly thronged the coast roads. After being housebound with a bad head cold for far too many days, I am back on my bike and discovering my loss of form. But no matter, I am back on my bike.

We’ve reached that time of the year when everyone is pretty much restricted by the cold to cycling along the coastal roads with the occasional shallow incursion inland. It’s what I call full-fingered glove weather. Not that I’ve resorted to the full-fingered variety, not necessary with my permanently warm as toast hands.

Sunday is of course club ride flag day and the club mates were out in force after a very wet and windy Saturday. I can’t remember the last time I rode with the club although my beloved, providing he’s not feeling too tired, will still turn out on a Sunday. But, after an exhausting few days in Paris, he was looking forward to a lie-in.  Our paths crossed with the club as they were heading back to base and we were heading out. It was a woefully small band of riders but membership is well down on those heady days a couple of years back when we were just shy of 200.

It’s more difficult to identify the various clubs during the winter months as only the larger ones, ours included, offer a full range of kit obliging those members of clubs who only have shorts and short-sleeved shirts to ride in non-club kit in the winter months. I was wearing my club winter jacket as it’s great at keeping out the wind and cold temperatures. Sadly it’s less efficient at moisture management. Unfortunately, the material tends to balloon in windy conditions making everyone, me included, look like Michelin (wo)man.

I let my beloved off the leash as it’s boring for him to have to stop and wait for me. Instead we arranged to meet for a coffee at one of our favourite pit-stops where the coffee’s great, the facilities are handy and it’s terrace is bathed in sunshine. As I cycled along, breathing in the glorious fresh air I realised just how much I’d missed my daily constitutional and vowed to make the most of the coming weeks. During the winter months I try to get out as often as possible and mix in some gym work and running on days when the weather keeps me off two wheels.

I feel the need to rebuild my base mileage particularly after several months of only being able to go for a long ride on Sundays thanks to the building works in the apartment block, thankfully now finished. The cycling programme is out and being fully embraced, particularly for the next few days. I’ll be taking an enforced rest at the end of the week thanks to a forthcoming business trip but then, I’ll be fully back in the swing. I can’t wait!

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