If only

I headed down to the rendezvous point for today’s club ride under a heavily overcast sky. It wasn’t particularly cold, but it was damp. There was a good turn out of members, most of whom I had to kiss on the cheeks. Once we had set off, I took the opportunity during the first few kms of the ride to update M le President on events of the past week.  The road turned up to Gattieres and, as is my wont, I slid from the front to the back of the peloton in nano-seconds. However, it was some time before they disappeared totally from view and, as our paths crossed later that morning, I realised I wasn’t too far behind the medium slow group.

Today’s programme featured a 31/2hr ride at my speed. Actually I felt much better than I had yesterday and enjoyed the ride up to Tourrettes via Vence. Where, having worked up a bit of a sweat, I was now feeling chilled so decided to descend via Vence and La Gaude to collect the Sunday papers and warm myself up with a quick cup of coffee before hurrying home for my simultaneous sporting action.

For Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, the weather in Belgium was truly atrocious, not that it seemed to deter the die-hard fans. A large number of riders, having lost all hope of a decent finish, either hopped into the broom wagon or one of their team cars. In fact, there were only 26 finishers!

The light was so poor that it was difficult to distinguish the riders who were strewn all over the parcours largely thanks to the high winds. For safety reasons, the course was reduced in length (by 10km) and the winner crossed the line half-way through the first half of the League Cup final. It was Bobbie Traksel (Vacansoleil) who amply demonstrated Jens Voigt’s mantra that if you don’t try you’ll never win: he was one of the original breakaways. Rick Flens (Rabobank) was 2nd and Ian Stannard (Sky) who was 3rd had bridged up to Traksel from one of the splintered groups. Although a number of riders had tried to catch the trio, most notably Hushovd (Cervelo) and Roulston (HTC-Columbia), no one had gotten within 40 seconds of them.

Over on the other screen, Villa had gone ahead with a penalty (James Milner) after Vidic had brought down Gabby Agbonlahor. The pundits, to a man, agreed that the referee should have shown Vidic a red card (last defender) but he didn’t even get a yellow. Who knows how the game might have panned out with the Red Devils down to 10 men. Michael Owen scored in the 13th minute and shortly thereafter pulled his hamstring. This meant Rooney was going to have to come off the bench and play.

While my beloved boys in claret and blue played well in the first-half they were overrun by Manchester United, the cup holders, in the second half. That man Rooney popped his head onto a wonderful pass from Valencia and it was game over with less than 15 minutes to play. While Villa threw everything at their opponents, they held firm to retain their title.  

Last night, predictably, OGCN lost 2-0 away at Olympique Lyonnais and remain one place above the drop zone.

Finally a bride

Another gorgeous day and I could hardly wait to get out on the bike for today’s 3hr training ride, with interval sprints. I decided to go through Sophia-Antipolis to Valbonne and then onto Pre du Lac, returning by way of Pont du Loup, Vallon Rouge and La Colle sur Loup. The countryside was looking really verdant interspersed with big yellow clouds of Mimosa. I adore this time of year, when the trees are starting to bud and the bulbs are in flower.

As you well know, my greatest fear is that I will be despatched to meet my Maker by a lippy/mobile/cigarette (perm any two from three) waving, middle-aged woman in an aging, small, French car. Today while descending a hill a small, red, clapped out Renault overtook me and then slammed on the brakes, coming to a complete standstill,  before turning right across my bows: no signal, nothing.  Fortunately, I was concentrating, rather than contemplating the scenery, and was able to take last-minute evasive action. The driver had his side window open so I was able to let him know, in no uncertain words, exactly what I thought of this manoeuvre. I think it’s fair to say, he wasn’t a cyclist.

I arrived home in one piece and time to refuel before the start of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad which I happily watched for over two hours in Flemish on the internet. Luckily, I can understand a fair amount of the language. I love watching races in Belgium where enthusiastic fans line every kilometer of the course. In fact, just about anything with a pulse in Belgium is a knowledgable fan of cycling. 

Obviously, I was hoping that Tom Boonen might add this race to his already impressive palmares. But Tom was undone by a puncture at an inopportune moment. Instead, it was Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky), who soloed away from another of the favourites (Philippe Gilbert) with 19km to go and stayed away, winning his first Belgian Classic and becoming the first Spaniard to win this race. Given that he’s graced the podium on a number of occasions, you have to say this was a popular and well-deserved win.

Sky almost grabbed 2nd place as well but Edvald Boassen Hagen launched his sprint too early and was overtaken by Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions). Expect Omega-Pharma Lotto and Quickstep to try and exact revenge tomorrow.

Light rain is forecast for tomorrow so I may find myself on the home trainer cycling along while simultaneously watching Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and the League Cup Final. Fortunately, us girls know how to multi-task.

Shock, horror

The weather’s been really sunny these past couple of days. I wanted to ride outside yesterday but the programme prescribed some one-legged interval training on the home trainer. This is easily my least favourite bit of the programme but this week’s exercise seemed easier so perhaps my pedal action is improving. However, I did pop down to my LBS to let them know how much I’m enjoying my new toy, the Garmin  500.

This morning was still a bit damp from some overnight rain but it quickly dried up in the warm sunshine. The temperature reached 20 C degrees today; truly wonderful, despite the gale force wind. I had a great ride, waived to Amael Moinard, who like me was training on his lonesome,  before returning home to get ready for my trip to Nice, to New Vision. 

Yes, I’ve decided to take the plunge and have my eyes lasered. I’ve been thinking about it for some time but what’s brought it to a head is the need to replace all my pairs of glasses. The cost of the two options are not dissimilar, so it’s now or never. Today was part I of the process to determine whether or not I’m a suitable candidate, eyeswise. It would appear that I am and now have an appointment with the opthalmic Surgeon who’ll undertake  part II of the assessment and then the  procedure itself. Nice has quite a reputation in opthalmic circles and there are a number of companies offering this service. I opted for New Vision because they support OGCN.

I arrived back home with enough time for a quick snack before heading back to the club for the monthly meeting of our racers to hand out their racing licences. Yesterday, I lent my club house keys to one of my team mates who’s kindly giving some IT instruction to those who are IT illiterate. The DS had assured me that it wasn’t a problem for this evening’s meeting as the Treasurer had agreed to come down and open the club house for us. Knowing that I was going to be there too, and assuming that I had my keys, the Treasurer went on an emergency call out with her husband. The net result was a 45 minute wait in the cold (and dark) for all of us. Interestingly, no one suggested going into the cafe opposite to have a drink and wait for the keys to arrive.  

Before heading off to bed, I decided to check the start time of the television coverage of this week end’s races and discovered, to my horror, that RTBF Sat has discontinued broadcasting. This was the channel on which I used to watch all the Belgian classics, largely because of its superior and lengthier coverage. Now what am I going to do? Coverage in France is only on Sport+. It’s no good, I can see that I’m going to have to subscribe to Canal+. Meanwhile, I’ll be checking the net for links. I’ll probably end up watching it either on a Norwegian or Japanese channel!

Guess who?

Yesterday, after dropping my beloved off at the airport, I rode, as prescribed, for 3hrs around Cap d’Antibes. As I was descending Garoupe for the first time, who should be coming in the other direction? It was unmistakedly Tom Boonen, sans helmet and sunglasses, at the head of a bunch of riders. You might have expected him to be checking out the parcours for this week end’s races. But no, his team mates did that for him. Tom’s obviously benefitting from training in the less inclement (than Belgium) weather down here. I do recall reading in the Belgian press that he’d said he wanted to buy a property somewhere between Nice and St Tropez so that he could train here in the winter months. Tom, if you and Lore need some assistance  with househunting, I’ll be more than happy to help out.

As our paths crossed, briefly, two things occurred to me. First, we were likely to be travelling at not dissimilar speeds, albeit in opposite directions. Secondly, we were both in our big brackets. Sadly, that’s where the similarities ended.

Tom’s been quoted as saying that he’s 5kg lighter than he was at this time last year. However, he looked reassuringly solid in his Belgian Champion’s jersey and obviously still weighing more than me. I couldn’t tell you who else was in the bunch  with him as Tom obliterated them from my view.

You may be wondering why I didn’t simply cross the road and tag onto the group. Again, two things: I was half-way down the hill, so it’s unlikely I would be able to catch them up. Secondly, and far more importantly, the instructions for today’s training ride are that I should either ride alone or with those of a similar speed to me. Tom’s just going to have to wait a little longer for the pleasure of my company on the road.

Postscript: According to L’Equipe, Tom’s moved back to Monaco.

It always pays dividends

During Monday, my beloved sent me a number of text messages. The first to confirm that he had arrived at the British Consulate and was at the head of the queue. The second to tell me that his replacement passport was being processed and would be ready for collection at 16:00, so he’d be home that evening. Of course, it’s unlikely that any of  this would have happened so swiftly without the groundwork I undertook last week and over the week end. I hope my beloved appreciates it, but sadly I fear not. I have smoothed his path for so long that he has no idea of what life would be like without me. Am I replaceable? Hell yes, everyone is. But we all know he’ll never find anyone that does as much for him as I do. Let’s hope he never has to find that out.

It was raining steadily on Monday morning, so I stuck to the programme and undertook  a one hour ride on the flat, albeit on the home trainer, in a fasted state, before undertaking my exercises, with some stretching to finish. Tuesday’s interval training went well and then, joy of joys, my Garmin had arrived so I popped down to my LBS to have it fitted. Once, I’ve dropped my beloved at the airport this morning, I’m going to be spending some time this afternoon understanding exactly how it functions.

It’s a 3hr ride today so I’m hoping it’ll stay fine for long enough. The outlook seems to be improving and it looks as if it’s not going to be as wet this week as originally forecast, though the week end does not look promising. But then that’s days away.

I note that Mark Cavendish has returned to racing at Ruta Ciclista del Sol. However, the man of the moment appears to be Oscar Freire (Rabobank) who’s notched up two stage wins. Cav’s probably still suffering the after-effects of antibiotics taken to clear up his dental problems. Mark, it could have been oh so different if only someone at HTC-Columbia HQ had forwarded my email to you.

Meanwhile, there’s plenty of sporting action, apart from the winter Olympics, on the horizon. Starting with this evening’s FA Cup replay (AVFC v Crystal Palace). Then, this week end, there’s Omloop Het Nieuwsbald and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, the later unfortunately clashes with the League Cup Final (Man U V AVFC) hence I’ll simultaneously be watching two tv screens – multitasking. This also clashes with my husband’s arrival back from Chicago. Maybe, I’ll ask him to get a taxi!

One down, plenty more to go

I’ve really enjoyed my first week’s training. It’s given me something to aim for every time I ride. I can’t say whether it’s been too hard or too easy, it’s really too soon to say.  The Polar however is a rather inadequate measure of effort and I can’t wait for the Garmin to arrive: hopefully, this week.

I’ve had to content myself with watching the Tour du Haut Var on the small screen, and not in person. Yesterday, we had a number of things to sort out in connection with my husband’s replacement passport. So, instead, we rode with some of the people with whom I’ll be riding L2P  at the end of June. They rode in “SHORTS”. I know, I don’t get into shorts until mid-May. I’m still in my winter tights and  have yet to transition into leg warmers and then into my 3/4 quarter bib-shorts.

Today’s pointage was at Le Rouret. Having started a little ahead of the club, I was overhauled by the super-fast boys at the entrance to Roquefort les Pins. There were smoking at an average speed of 28km while I was positively plodding along at 12km. I was overtaken by most, but not all, of my clubmates before the pointage where I hooked up with one of my cycling buddies. I rode with her up the next rise to Pre du Lac and then left her to wait for her clubmates. Yes, most clubs have regular regroupments where they wait for their clubmates.

I descended via Bar sur Loup to Pont du Loup and decided to practice my sprinting on the rise up to Tourrettes sur Loup. Helpfully, there were a number of riders up the road giving me a target.  I continued on the downhill stretch home and shot past a number of groups of riders. Men do not like being overtaken by a woman but they seem to mind most if it happens on the downhill. Sorry guys, but superior body weight, a fast bike and a love of speed are going to carry the day.

Back to the Tour du Hat Var, which was won today by Christophe Le Mevel who attacked on the insanely steep climb up to Montauroux. FDJ are having a cracking start to the season.  I get a real kick from seeing the pro-peloton race on roads I’ve ridden on. It seems to increase my pleasure in the viewing knowing we’ve both suffered there.

I’ve also been keeping an eye on the Volta ao Algave where Bert (Astana) has been claiming that he’s 2kg over his ideal weight and not in such good shape as at the same time as last year – sandbagging?  He won the mountain stage and  was 2nd to Luis Leon Sanchez  (Caisse d’Epargne) in today’s TT, having had the bike he originally planned to ride banned by the UCI. He, nonetheless, scooped the overall: early season mind games.

There were wins this week end for both my football teams. Luckily for the manager of OGCN, a penalty early in the 2nd half saved his bacon. While the boys in claret and blue downed another team, who also wear claret and blue, though obviously not in the same match, 5-2 at home.

Excitement in the UK as Britain won a gold medal in the ladies skeleton. This is where you hurtle, head first, on a metal tray, down an ice chute at insane speeds. One of the few sports I’ve yet to try!

So much for global warming

A quick glance at the long-range weather forecast reveals a dismal outlook for the next two weeks: rain, rain and more rain. This will be particularly frustrating for those doing London-Paris who have signed up for either the one or two-week stage based at Stephen Roche’s hotel, just up the road in Villeneuve Loubet. It’s being organised by ex-pro and Eurosport commentator Emma Davies whom I’ll be meeting later this afternoon.

I had volunteered to lend Emma a helping hand but I generally don’t ride in the rain. There’s no need. But if it does rain solidly for two whole weeks, even I will be tempted to brave the elements. I have almost 15 hours of training scheduled in next week’s programme. I really can’t see me doing all that on the home trainer.

While this morning’s downpour has now desisted and there was even a few rays of sunshine around lunchtime, the sky has once more clouded over. Tomorrow the forecast is favourable and I may well go over to St Tropez to see the start of the Tour du Haut Var. No, I won’t ride all the way there. I’ll probably take the train to St Raphael, but may well ride all the way back.

I caught a glimpse of the Volta ao Algave yesterday where the peloton endured 6 hours in the driving rain. Good training maybe for the Belgian Classics but more will be wishing they were enjoying the temperate climes of  Oman, the Tour of which finishes with today’s decisive time-trial.  Tom Boonen (Quick Step) seems well placed at only 2 seconds back from current race leader, Daniele Bennati (Liquigas).

Edvald Boassen Hagen (Sky) had a wee (no pun intended) bit of a dilemma the other day while wearing the race leader’s jersey which seems to have divided both fans and the peloton. Namely, should other teams have attacked the race leader while he was taking a comfort break? Normally not, but this was within 50km of the finish and hence he was fair game. My advice: Edvald you should have gone earlier.

Postscript: EBH won the ITT in Oman finishing 2nd on GC behind Fabulous Fabian, who was 2nd on the stage. Tommeke dropped to 11th overall. He’s going to have to do much better if he wants to enter Belgium on 4 July in yellow.

Please, he’s all yours!

My beloved rang me this morning from Germany. He only ever rings me for two reasons: either he’s at a loose end or he wants me to do something. I always know when it’s the former. He’s got nothing to do so assumes I must be in the same boat. This is rarely the case. He’ll start the conversation by asking what I’ve been doing. My response is always the same. ” Don’t do a Nigel on me!” Nigel is my brother-in-law and he rings  my sister at least 5 times a day to check up on her. My sister has the patience of a saint. If my beloved did the same, I’d change my telephone numbers and not tell him.

So, at 10:00am in the morning, it was far more likely that he wanted me to do something for him. I was right. He had lost his passport and by telling me he was effectively passing over the problem. Yes, my beloved is never unduly inconvenienced by the loss of money, credit cards, documents, personal belongings or even me. No, he knows that I will sort it for him. 

He rang just as I was leaving for my 2:30hr ride. I was not delighted to hear from him particularly given the problem. Richard and his passport have become separated on a number of occasions but his passage in international waters has always been soothed by me. In other words, it’s not been a problem for him. I know the drill and within minutes I had advised him what to do in order to ensure his return to France tomorrow. I was tempted to omit this stage but recognised that it would only cause me more problems further down the line.

I then set about  resolving how he could get a replacement passport on Monday so that he could fly to the US on Wednesday. Of yes, when my beloved does something he always goes for maximum impact and disruption. The very helpful embassy staff in Marseille advised me that while in theory it was possible to enter the US on a temporary passport, it was probably not advisable. Given that my beloved is tall, blond-haired and blue-eyed this may well have worked, but I wasn’t taking any chances. 

I have arranged to catapult him to the front of the queue at the embassy in Paris on Monday morning. He cannot fly to Paris as neither Easyjet nor Air France could confirm that he’d be allowed to fly from Nice with only his German driving licence to confirm his identity. So, that means he’ll be going up on the train on Sunday afternoon. In addition, I’ve printed off the necessary forms, dug out his birth certificate and arranged for our Doctor to certify that his photos are indeed a true likeness of him. Now, I’m just savouring the remaining few hours of bliss before his return.

Let’s start at the very beginning………..

It’s week 1 of my 6-month long cycling training programme. It started well on Monday, but then nothing spurs you on quite like a man with a clipboard and stop watch standing over you. He also took me through the results of my VO2 max test demonstrating how much improvement I will gain from some weight loss. It’s okay, I get the picture. I’m off wheat and sugar, reduced my dairy intake and upped my intake of protein – this usually works a treat.

I managed to fit in yesterday’s ride before it started raining. My path crossed with that of Amael Moinard who waved enthusiastically from the other side of the road. He was in the company of a Vacansoleil rider I’ve seen a few times over the past month or so. The brothers Feillu live up the road in Frejus, but it wasn’t either of them. A quick look at the team’s website reveals that they’ve another Frenchman riding for them, a neo-pro called Stephane Rossetto. So I’m assuming that’s who it is. 

I’ve only got the first two weeks of the programme so that we can assess whether it’s too easy or too hard, and amend accordingly. The programme includes a twice weekly regime of exercises and stretching. There are no rest days and each week there are 3 days of interval training: two on the home trainer, one on the bike. In addition, I have to undertake two of my rides in a fasted state: all the better to burn that excess fat!

Unfortunately, today’s 2:30hr ride has had to be switched with tomorrow’s interval training thanks to the weather. This is one-legged training to improve my pedalling technique. Clearly, I need it as I can’t seem to pedal smoothly through the top of the stroke, the so-called “dead-zone”. Would  elliptical cranks help?  After completing the 20 minute warm up my Polar decided to pack up, leaving me to estimate the timing of the intervals, the cadence and the wattage. I don’t think I did it too badly.

I can just about do an hour or so on the home trainer after that I get exceeding bored. However, if the weather doesn’t improve I’ll have to do my 2:30hr ride on the home trainer tomorrow. On the bright side, I’ll be able to watch the round up of the previous day’s action at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver so it won’t be too bad.

Round up of sporting action

It’s been a busy week end for me what with trying to keep track of football, cycling, rugby and the Winter Olympics from Vancouver.  Midweek, my beloved boys in claret and blue drew at home against Manchester United whom they will play in the League Cup final at the end of the month. Unfortunately, United were reduced to 10 men fairly early on in the game making them even more difficult to break down. Still AVFC have picked up 4 points out of a possible 6 in the Premiership which augurs well for the League Cup Final. Sadly, however, they drew against a very spirited Crystal Palace yesterday in the FA Cup meaning a mid-week replay before their date at Wembley – not ideal preparation. OGCN sadly lost away at Valenciennes in the dying minutes of the match and are now staking their claim on 17th place in the French League. I fear for the manager. I’m just waiting for that death knell “support from the Board” and it’ll all be over.

Having got into gold, Wouter Mol stayed there to win the GC in the Tour of Qatar. Last year’s winner, Tom Boonen, had to be content with two stage wins. The boys now move on to Oman where Jimmy Casper of Saur-Sojasun (another team looking to impress ASO) wrapped up the opening evening criterium, beating Edvald Boassen Hagen into second place. Meanwhile, the Tour of the Med, having had stage 4 neutralised thanks to the weather, finished yesterday on Mont Faron with a stage win for Aqua & Sapone and an overall win for Alejandro Valverde. Astana were 3rd and 5th with respectively Max Iglinsky and Alexandre Vinokourov.

The French are justifiably cockahoop after beating Ireland in Paris. They’re also currently leading the medal table in Vancouver having picked up two golds: one with Jason Lamy-Chappuis (current World Cup Leader) in the nordic combined and the other with Vincent Jay in the 10km biathlon sprint. The former was anticipated, but not the latter.

What you might ask of my own sporting endeavours. Well I have at last received my training plan. Indeed, today is Day 1 of the plan and it’ll be interesting to see how I progress over the next 6 months. The trainer guarantees at least a 5% improvement but, quite frankly, I’m hoping for a lot, lot more.