Spring has arrived and with it much balmier temperatures. I seem to have spent months muffled up like Michelin man but now I’m back into my ¾ bib tights with just a long sleeved shirt and gilet.
The last few week ends, thanks to the Tours of the Med and Haut Var, and Paris-Nice, I have been able to combine training with watching live cycling. Generally, I like to ride to watch the riders sign-on and depart, then catch them en-route, preferably on an incline that I have just laboured up. On Saturday, the penultimate stage of Paris-Nice passed twice through Fayence. So, having cycled around the undulating countryside, we wound our way up to the centre of town, to enjoy lunch and the final kms of the race.
On its first pass, the peloton was pretty much together but it split up over the subsequent Col de Bourigaille. I did note that with 40kms to go Alberto Contador was without team mates but didn’t realise that he was also without fuel. He should have said something; I had a couple of gels and an energy bar in my pocket. He would have been welcome to them.
We drifted up towards the finish to listen to race radio and heard the attacks unfold. All too soon Lou Lou Sanchez was racing towards the finish at a speed I could only hope to emulate cycling hard in the opposite direction (ie downhill). While Contador, who had quite clearly bonked, ascended the gentle climb at more my pace, with riders passing him in disbelief.
I can still recall seeing Contador take off on the Col du Tanneron in Paris-Nice 2007, on the penultimate stage of a race he went on to win the following day. He had come to my notice at the previous Paris-Nice when, at the start of the final stage, he offered me his Liberty Seguros cap and I directed him towards the small boy on my right who was only too delighted to receive this “trophy”. I wonder if he’s still got it, the former cap of a now multiple Grand Tour winner.