While the cat’s away…………………

I’ve been away for less than a week but a lot has happened in that time. On the football front, my team, the team that beat Chelsea and Liverpool, drew with Wolves at the week end – unbelievable, but true. More shocking and equally unbelievable, the team that beat Liverpool in the Champions League, Olympique Lyonnais, lost 4-1 away at OGC Nice.

Alberto “Big Brown Eyes” Contador won a 3rd consecutive Velo d’Or – who else were they going to give it to? Many will assume it was for his Tour win but I suspect it was really for standing up to Lance – a real crowd pleaser with the French.  

Tom “Bad Boy” Boonen says his counseling is going well. Glad to hear it Tom particularly as you’re now off the bike, on vacation and again at a bit of a loose end.

A number of Pro-Tour teams, including Astana, didn’t have all their paperwork ready by 20 October. Have you seen the dossier that needs to be completed for the UCI? I have and therefore quite understand. I don’t imagine that the riders on the affected teams (Sky, Euskatel, Caisse d’Epargne, Astana and Saxo Bank) will be looking for new homes anytime soon and I’m sure their paperwork will shortly be in apple pie order.

Sebastien Loeb wrapped up a 6th consecutive World Rally Championship while Valentino Rossi won his 7th Moto GP World Championship.

More shocking news: I came home to find the flat relatively clean and tidy. My husband had been using the vacuum. He’d obviously been a bit bored while I was gone. Maybe, that’s the solution to keep Tom out of trouble – housework!

Austin Diary III

I think it’s fair to say Austin, and taking part in Livestrong, exceeded my expectations, but I was now looking forward to getting back home.

My plane from Austin was delayed two hours due to a mechanical, I arrived in Dallas 10 minutes after my connecting flight had left. My luggage had been booked through to its final destination, so I was advised by the American Airlines staff to hot-foot it over to the Lufhansa desk and get them to change my flights so I could get home by AA via London. When I arrived at the Lufthansa desk it was empty. I noticed a security door behind the desk, I knocked (actually pounded would probably be more accurate) and found some one who could help.

I was soon booked on AA to London and BA back to Nice. However, no one could locate my luggage and I was advised by AA that I couldn’t get on the plane without my luggage as it couldn’t travel independently, internationally. I decided that this probably wasn’t a good time to point out that this often happened to my husband’s baggage. Just before boarding, the dispatcher said he was 90% certain my luggage was on board and they allowed me to get on the flight.

I followed my usual routine; a glass of champagne, ear plugs, eye shades and slept until London. Because I had flown into Heathrow on an airline other than BA, I had to go through security again and almost missed my flight. In fact, I only made it because it was departing from one of the closest gates.

In Nice, I waited by the luggage carousel with some sense of inevitability and was unsurprised by the non-appearance of my luggage which I duly reported. The desk clerk confirmed it was most likely still in Dallas and would turn up today. He was right, as I type this I am awaiting its delivery from the airport, hopefully undamaged. But if not, I am well insured.

Postscript: My delayed baggage has arrived safe and sound.

Austin Diary II

The alarm went off and I sprang out of bed. I felt dreadful, as if I’d been asleep for only 5 minutes. I went into the bathroom and, as I was brushing my teeth, caught sight of my watch – 22:05! Yes, I had only been asleep for about 5 minutes. I had set the watch on my mobile phone, totally forgetting that it was still on CET time. I went back to bed.

The alarm went off and I sprang out of bed. I checked, it was 04:00am. Everything had been laid out the night before, checked and double-checked, to ensure that it was all  present and correct. I washed, dressed and ate breakfast before making my way out of the hotel for my taxi-ride to Drippin’ Springs. Ricky, my cab driver, didn’t seem too sure on the exact location but fortunately we had a fellow participant leaving the hotel at the same time, who had driven the route yesterday. We gratefully followed him to the drop-off point.

It was pitch black, not too cold and just after 06:00am as I rode the mile or so from the car parking to the start. There were some krieg lights and volunteers helpfully waving torches but I couldn’t see much: easily the scariest bit of the whole event.  I eschewed any hot drinks, preferring to slowly and regularly sip water before availing myself of the portable facilities – nice touch. I was one of the early birds and made an executive decision that I was going to start at the front of the 90 milers.

Austin Start Line
Fatty and the Fatties

This turned out to be a wise decision as the highest fund raising teams were beckoned forward to the start line where we were feted and entertained by the Livestrong folks. A few words from Lance and then we were off. Lance and his celebrity chums were given a 6 minute head start. Word must have reached him about my training regime.

Lance at start
Lance readying himself to flee

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had heard various tales about the state of the roads, we were after all in “Texas Hill Country” and would be fording streams and cow guards. However, while the tarmac was a little rougher than I’m used to and cow guards, like most obstacles, are no trouble if you tackle them head on, the route was fine, not too much sand and gravel. The route was undulating and unfamiliar, there were a couple of steepish climbs of over 10%, but they lasted no more than 500 metres. More importantly, the descents were straight and fast. I sheltered from the wind by riding with four young guys from Texas who, like me, stopped only when necessary to fill up their bidons. There were power stops every 10 miles with drinks, eats, mechanical and medical assistance and more of those portable facilities. In addition, there were riders on the course checking if you needed, water, mechanical or medical help.

Riders overtaking shouted “on your left”. There was no undertaking and no dangerous riding. I did see a couple of crashes but nothing too serious. Although the guy that crashed the cow guard will probably be facing an expensive dental bill.  There were rolling road closures and every turn and junction was manned, so there was no need to stop. The route was well sign posted, particularly all the hazards. We had plenty of support on the road from those living in the area who were sitting by the roadside, refreshments to hand. There were around 3,800 riders and I would estimate they were split 1/3rd women, 2/3rds men with an average age of 35. I made better time than I anticipated and was greeted at the finishing line by the Fat Cyclist himself.

I should also thank  all of the 900 volunteers who worked so hard to ensure the participants had a wonderful, safe ride.

My abiding memory of the event wasn’t Lance, or even the Fat Cyclist, it was all those cancer sufferers and cancer survivors who took part and were quite rightly honoured, however far they cycled.

Austin Diary I

Texas, USAThe journey to Austin went pretty much as expected. After an early morning start, and two connecting flights, both the bike and I arrived in good condition to be collected by the hotel’s shuttle bus. My first impressions of Austin, albeit in the pouring rain, were favourable – pretty countryside. 

The following morning, the good weather returned and I met my friend for a ride into Austin, where she was working as a volunteer in the Austin Convention Center, handling  the Livestrong Event Registrations. I left her stuffing goody bags while I went to explore.

Of course, my first stop was “Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop”: a mecca for any cycling fan. The shop was easily 20 times the size of my LBS, extremely light and airy, while the staff were equally friendly and knowledgable. They happily re-inflated my tyres which had to be deflated while in transit and promised to check out my bike if I had any problems putting it back together. Thereafter, I had the obligatory mooch around the shop checking out all the stock. Amazingly there was nothing screaming “Buy Me” although I did buy a few t-shirts for friends.

Austin is billed as the “Live Music Capital of the World” borne out by the number of venues showcasing live music. In fact, downtown Austin is pretty much wall-to-wall restaurants. It also has some delightful period buildings Austin State Capitolnestling in among the obligatory sky scrapers. Thursday afternoon, we hit the shopping malls. Well, someone’s got to take advantage of the weak dollar.

Friday morning, I reassembled the bike. It was all going swimmingly well until I got to the left pedal which stubbornly refused to be re-attached. I tried everything, in every position; a veritable karma sutra, all to no avail. Finally, after anointing the screw joint with my miracle, super charged, wrinkle erasing cream, it obliged. It was now all systems go. I took the bike for a ride around the area to confirm all was well. It was, but I didn’t enjoy riding on US roads. The tarmac seems to end quite abruptly leaving the cyclist with little option to ride on a very uneven road surface. Passing traffic is limited to gas guzzling 4x4s pulling trailers or gas guzzling RUV and SUVs. If any one of these hit you, it’s unlikely you’d live to tell the tale. Friday afternoon, I registered for Sunday’s ride.

Saturday I rode around the town lake, evading joggers and dog walkers alike: so much better than dodging 4x4s. Lunchtime, Team Fatty had a rendez vous at a local Austin institution where I, and everyone else, got to meet the Fat Cyclist in person. Actually, he’s not fat, certainly not by US standards. I also met up with my husband’s cousin.

Austin Oct 2009
Reunited

The ride was scheduled to start at 08:00am on Sunday, in a rural location about 20 miles from the hotel where I was staying. But my comprehensive instructions advised I get there at 06:00am. So I booked my taxi for 05:30am and had an early night.