Kivilev post-mortem

One of ours!

What can I say? The weather was fantastic, the event was well supported and everyone enjoyed themselves. The local rag gave us a two page spread in the Sunday paper – unprecedented. Amael Moinard and Geoffroy Lequatre (wearing his G4 Dimension kit) both kindly rode the 105km course and gave one of our promising young riders a day to remember, for ever.  I should add that he was only the unofficial winner as, aged 15, he was too young to take part in the event.  The shorter course proved twice as popular as the longer one, with the winner completing it in 3h 00′ 22 “. That’s a wee bit quicker than I’d have managed to do it.

Those competing in the 175km cyclosportif also had some illustrious company: Alexandre Vinokourov, Andriy Grivko and Max Iglinsky. The winner, Gregoire Tarride, time-trialled his way to victory in 4h 58′ 47″, 11 minutes ahead of his nearest rival.  Remember that name, you’re going to be hearing it again. He’ll be riding as a neo-pro for VC La Pomme Marseillaise from next month. Another of our promising youngsters finished 3rd, Jeremy Couanon. That too is a name to remember.

While the amateur riders were happy to tuck into the delicious post race feast, including my cakes, the pros were more restrained, making a bee-line instead for the orange quarters. Though, I did see Grivko eating a piece of my pain d’epice.

We had lots of positive feedback from the participants, many of whom were taking part for the first time. They were particularly complimentary about the course security which for us is always the primordial issue. My Swiss friends, who had not ridden the course before, took it at a more leisurely pace than the winner, stopping to re-fuel at the feed zones en-route and generally enjoying the surrounding countryside.

The Swiss boys

The Kazakh Ambassador to France also graced us with his presence, much to the delight of the local dignitaries. Although I hadn’t met this gentleman before, we have been in regular correspondence since last year, so it was nice to put a face to a name. I should add I had no idea that he was in fact the Ambassador when we started corresponding.

One of the highlights of these events is the tombola. This year we surpassed ourselves with some prizes that I thought (for once) were actually worth winning, largely thanks to generous donations from club members, the Moinards and the Lequatres – thanks guys.

You might be wondering what happened to my beloved. He had a whale of a time playing at being Graham Watson on the back of the biggest motorbike I have ever seen. He’s taken some great shots which I will be featuring on the blog whenever he deigns to share them with me. To be fair, he left for Italy on Sunday evening and is due back this evening.

By the end of the day, at our wrap up evening meal, we all felt tired but content with a job well done. Typically, I was buzzing with ideas as how to improve next year’s event and I’m sure the others have some too. You cannot stand still and rest on your laurels, there’s always things that can be improved upon.

Postscript: You can find the photos from both courses on Picasa under “La Laurentine Andrei Kivilev 28 mai 2011”

La Kivilev

I have just spent all day pleasurably toiling in the warm sunshine handing out dossards and signing up participants for tomorrow’s, rather today’s event. If I’ve had such a tiring day why aren’t I tucked up in bed? Good question. I have been working in the kitchen to maintain my reputation as a domestic goddess. Tom III is packed to the gunwales with edible delights, mostly for the riders, but some for the volunteers, including a big batch of banana and maple syrup muffins for breakfast. In addition, I’ve made desserts for this evening’s post-race BBQ.

I had a complete change of heart largely brought about by the climatic conditions. Never, ever make meringues when it’s humid. I used the berries intended for the Pavlova in a summer pudding. The cream was used to make thyme-infused lemon creams and I whipped up a batch of chocolate rice pudding. M le President has also bought some fruit tarts. Let’s hope it all satisfies the hungry hordes who are facing a long day today. It all kicks off at 05:00. I’ll be leaving home in just over two hours. So exactly what is this all in aid of:-

On 12 March  2003, the Kazakh rider Andréï Kivilev, racing for Team Cofidis, tragically died from head injuries sustained in a fall on the 2nd stage of Paris-Nice.  Kivilev regularly trained on the roads of the Nicoise hinterland often in the company of his Kazakh compatriot, Alexandre Vinokourov. To honour  Kivilev, in 2006, the management of my cycling club decided to rechristen their annual randonée « La Laurentine Andréï Kivilev ».

The 6th edition of this event in Kivilev’s memory will,  for the first time, also include a timed cyclosportive, raced under UFOLEP rules, open to all entrants over 18. There are three different routes:

  1. 175km with 2,532m of climbing
  2. 105km with 1,242m of climbing
  3. 40km along the traffic-free cycling tracks of the Var valley

The first two routes can be ridden either as a cyclosportive or as a randonnee. Last year’s randonnnee event enjoyed unprecedented participation with 561 entrants  (2009 –  421) 342 of whom took part in 105km, 204 cycled 175km while a further 15  rode on the cycle tracks along the Var valley. We’re going to be hard pushed to break that number this year.

The prizes were awarded in the presence of the first secretary of the Kazakh Embassy in France, Mr. Anuarbek Akhmetov and Andréï’s widow, Nathalya Kivilev, accompanied by their son. A Kazakh journalist and film crew recorded the event which was subsequently shown on Kazakh television. It is anticipated that a representative from the Embassy will again be in attendance this Saturday, as will his son and widow.

The club had hoped that the addition of a cyclosportive would make the event even more attractive, particularly to those living outside the region and  overseas. But it’ll probably take us a few years to cement our reputation. A number of professional riders, including Alexandre Vinokourov, Amael Moinard and Geoffroy Lequatre have confirmed their participation. Ideal cycling weather is forecast: warm and sunny with just a light breeze. I wish I were cycling it……………………………

Closing in on D-day

The countdown to Saturday and La Laurentine Andrei Kivilev has started. I’m slowly ticking off all the things to do on my list. It’s another lovely morning and I’m going to ride over to my appointment with my nutritionist. The weight is continuing to disappear, more slowly than I might like, but what’s important is that both my weight and body fat percentages keep heading south. The other week, my cycling coach said he could see the weight loss in my face. At my age, this was not good news. I need that bit of fat to plump out the wrinkles laughter lines and resist the tug of gravity. Where did I put the address of that plastic surgeon? My rings keep sliding off, so I know my fingers are also getting thinner. No, I jest, I can tell from my clothes (the only reliable test) that I’m losing weight all over.

It takes me 3 hours to ride to my nutritionist’s office and back, for a 30 minute consultation. I’ll then be off hunting for large quantities of garden twine. We use it to fix the numbers to the bike frames. Each bike needs 2 x 20cm = 40cm. We’re anticipating 500 riders (max) so I need 200m of twine. I’ve been able to find it in 10m lengths, but that works out rather expensive, hence I’m off to a couple of the larger garden centres. I also need some more plants for my balcony tart-up, thereby killing two birds with one stone. Next on my crowded agenda is a meeting with the company who’s responsible for the Kivilev cyclosportive timing and on-line inscriptions. I have a number of queries and have to collect the frame numbers to stuff into my pre-prepared envelopes along with discount voucher, twine, tombola ticket, message from the club about heeding the regulations and a few bits of publicity.

After my meeting, I’m calling in at the florist to confirm our order: bouquets for the winners of each category, a larger bouquet for Kivilev’s widow and a wreath to lay on his grave in Carros. It’ll then be time for our usual Tuesday get together down at the club where we can iron out any outstanding issues ahead of Thursday afternoon’s meeting when we’ll be preparing the goodie bags for all of the entrants. Hopefully, I’ll get back home in time to watch the highlights of today’s time-trial on the television during which I’ll be making another two of my (in)famous pain d’epice and some brownies for my Wednesday English class. Actually, I’ll make two trays. Another one for the volunteers to enjoy on Thursday. Got to keep their strength up, it’ll be a long and tiring few days! One of my pupils father’s asked me whether the boys came for the English tuition or the goodies. I told him it was neither, they come because they enjoy themselves. I know because they told me so.

This Wednesday will be our last class together before summer recess. Although they don’t break up from school until the end of June, I’m away for the next three consecutive Wednesdays. However, I have set up project books for the two younger ones to complete during the month of June which will be a revision of everything we’ve learned over the three terms. My older pupils have their first BAC exams at the end of June and can use the additional revision time.

I have calculated that with a bit of careful planning, and continued fine weather, I might be able to squeeze in a quick ride tomorrow. Thereafter, it’ll be the home trainer in between finishing off the cakes for Saturday’s participants and preparing the desserts for Saturday evening’s BBQ. I’m also preparing a couple of desserts for Friday. Last year M le President ordered pizzas which took 2 hours to deliver. It would have been quicker if I’d gone home and made them from scratch. They’d have tasted a lot  better too. Remembering that old but very true adage, an army marches on its stomach, I’ll be preparing a few things for Friday’s lunch down at the departure village.

I have a slight logistical issue. On Saturday morning, bright and early, I’ll have to load up the car with all the cakes and desserts, plus my beloved who’s doing a “Graham Watson” on the back of a motor bike. There’s not enough room for everything and everyone. So, I’m going to take the desserts for Saturday evenings BBQ down to my sister’s flat in St Laurent du Var and pop them in the fridge on Friday evening. After proceedings on Saturday, I can go round and pop the chocolate bread and butter pudding into the oven to cook while I dress the pavlovas which may yet end up as Eaton Mess, I’m still weighing up the pros and cons.

Postscript: Huge amount of traffic in Cannes, particularly lorries, as they dismantle the paraphenalia of the film festival. The glitterati have returned to their luxury yachts and provencal estates only to reappear at this week end’s Monaco Grand Prix. I did leave some brochures for the Kivilev at the Cannes tourist office but none of those bike loving stars appears to have signed up. Maybe on Saturday?

Garibaldi’s Giro VII

It’s perhaps only fitting that on the Giro’s rest day I quickly reflect on the 3 day festival of pain and suffering the riders have just endured. Frankly, it was pretty exhausting just watching, let alone riding: long days in the saddle, lots and lots of tough climbs and dramatically different climatic conditions from start to finish. Despite some spirited opposition, Contador has a lock on the maglia rosa which only TAS can retrospectively wrest from his grasp. However, the other two podium places are still up for grabs and will be hotly contested in the coming days starting in tomorrow’s uphill time-trial.

Contador’s not the only Spaniard, or should that be Spanish speaker, with a smile on his face. Together for 17 years, 5 participations in the Giro and no wins summed up Euskaltel-Euskadi’s record before Anton’s ascent of the Zoncolan. Mind you, only a very small rider was going to be able to squeeze through those crowds. The place was positively heaving. Of course, it might easily have been Rujano, who is showing signs of a return to his 2005 form, but he was fatigued after his (gifted) win on stage 13. Fortunately, he had recovered sufficiently by Sunday to repay the favour and give Alberto a bit of a helping hand. Then, just like buses, along comes another win for Euskaltel with Mikel Nieve in the queen stage (15) atop Val di Fassa. Oh, weren’t they the team that shared the work load with Saxobank on Friday? What goes around, comes around.

Honourable mentions, IMHO, should also go to:-

  • Stefano Garzelli who won the Cima Coppi (first over highest point) and a shed load of mountain points.
  • Johnny Hoogerland for another of his seemingly fruitless, but nonetheless entertaining, solo escapes.
  • Robert Kiserlovski for grinning and baring broken teeth to follow Martinelli’s orders, to the letter.
  • John Gadret, the best placed Frenchman, in 4th place.
  • Michele Scarponi for daring to attack.
  • Vicenzo Nibali for his virtuoso, dare-devil descending.

Finally, I was saddened to learn of Xavier Tondo’s demise in what’s been reported as a bizarre accident with his garage door. My condolences to his family, friends and team mates.

Honey-packed week end

My beloved has gone, my unwanted guests have gone and I’m looking forward to a few idle hours on the sofa watching the Giro, stuffing envelopes with numbers and tombola tickets and making my lists, before bursting into action in the kitchen again. The past few days have been extremely busy but the next week will be positively frenzied, even for me, building to a crescendo on Saturday. We’ll then be off to the Luberon for some rest and relaxation and (yet another) attempt on Ventoux.

Meanwhile, Friday evening’s meeting for the Kivilev volunteers, followed by a BBQ, went well and my modest efforts were much appreciated. I am constantly amazed at the quantities of food sunk by small, slim, French people. As you know, I always over cater and there wasn’t so much as a crumble-crumb left. Additionally, despite being told that there was no need to buy anything for  dessert, M Le President (another man who doesn’t listen) had bought a number of fruit tarts which were also consumed with alacrity.

I’m now into the home run with my baking. I just have eight of my (in)famous pain d’epice to make and a couple of large date slices. I’ll also be making the desserts for the post-Kivi BBQ. I’m still undecided but, based on what I have in my cupboard, we’re looking at chocolate bread and butter pudding, summer fruit pavlova and lemon slices. I’ll also use up the remnants lurking in my fridge to make some more savoury cakes for the apero. It sounds like a lot to do but the key, as ever, is planning and preparation.

Inscription has also gathered pace, probably thanks to this article in the newspaper, and with prices rising this week end, I know I’ll have a full postbox on Monday. Large numbers also sign-up either the day before, or the morning of the event. If I recall correctly, we had a further 150 sign up last year on those days. If this pattern continues, we should have a not dissimilar number of entrants to last year. For the moment, numbers appear to be equally spread between the cyclosportif and the randonnee.

Yesterday, my beloved and I enjoyed a long ride, with plenty of climbing, in the Nicois hinterland. There were lots of cyclists and very little traffic – bliss. It was the warmest day of the year so far so, despite slathing on the sun bloc, our silly, cyclists’ tan lines are even more pronounced.  Despite the lack of rain, the countryside is still looking lush with an abundance of wild flowers in bloom. I’m pleased to report that I rode strongly and feel that my form has almost returned. Yesterday afternoon was spent enjoying the Giro and (finally) planting the various containers on the terrace. I have decided to give the terrace a bit of a (much-needed) face-lift. It’s a large, long wrap around terrace which enjoys sunshine throughout the day and it has groupings of tables, chairs and loungers along it’s length so as to better enjoy either the sun, or the shade.

Saturday evening, the club Treasurer’s son-in-law (who’s a bee keeper on the Tanneron), came to collect my bees. We had no real idea of the size of the hive. We imagined that it was just a few stray bees, and their queen, who were enjoying our hospitality. Imagine our surprise (and indeed his), when he (the bee keeper) lifted the tablecloth to reveal a sizeable number of bees clinging to a whopper of a honeycomb (header photo above). We’re talking around 5kg of honey and around 5,000 bees! He firstly smoked the bees into submission and then dumped the table and cloth, with its hive, into a couple of gi-normous dustbin liners to transport them back to the Tanneron. Sadly, we ended up with a few orphans which he said it was best to kill as they could turn nasty. The sad remains of his killing spree are on the balcony. I’ll have to clear them up otherwise they’ll attract ants which seem to eat anything and everything.

While this process was taking place, he very kindly told us everything we ever wanted to know about bees, and more. He’s a 5th generation bee keeper and so is steeped in bee-lore. Incidentally, the honey from the hive was clear and delicious, with just a hint of pine.

Garibaldi’s Giro VI

Unfortunately, due to more pressing commitments, I’ve only caught bits of the last few day’s of the Giro. Even worse, I have fallen asleep during transmission of the Tour of California. Why is it that when I watch transmission of the former I am entranced by the countryside, the honeyed stone-walled towns, the sense of history, the wide swathes of sandy coastline while in the latter I wonder why anyone would want to visit, let alone live there? I’m thinking, there’s a lesson to be learnt here. One of the aims of any Tour is to promote the region in which it’s taking place. The Americans haven’t quite got to grips with the concept. Of course, they’ve not been helped by the weather.  Meanwhile, over in the Giro, and in stark contrast to last year, the weather has been fabulous. Those pallid, concave,  pigeon chests are rapidly getting as tanned as their arms and legs.

The last couple of day’s has seen heroic French efforts sandwiched by two Cavendish wins. These wins were not without controversy as the winner allegedly had an assisted ride up Mount Etna on Sunday, thereby avoiding the cut.  Cavendish has hotly denied the accusations but my friends in the peloton tell me that not only does Cavendish get a ride from the team car but he’s often pushed over  hills by his team mates. No wonder he thanks them profusely after every win.  As we bade a fondish farewell to the sprinters, particularly Ale-jet, who are speedily exiting the Giro before the really big climbs, let’s return to the French.

Christophe Le Mevel (Garvelo) tried to seize the opportunity and the pink jersey yesterday. His team had been assured that Bert wasn’t fussed about defending it and decided to give it a go. Personally, I was willing Christophe into pink but had to leave before the end of the stage for my English class. It was only on my return I learnt that he’d sadly been unsuccessful. While SaxoBank would have been happy to let the jersey go, other teams wanted to preserve the position on GC of their riders and took up the chase. Thanks to a split in the peloton, Christophe lost time and dropped a place on GC. However, it was great to see him try. Too many riders ride just to defend their position, not to better it. Chapeau Christophe.

The win instead went to a diminutive grimpeur (another one who’ll never belong to that select sub-set who weigh more than me) John Gadret (AG2R-La Mondiale) who has a definite empathy with the climbs of the Giro and, with his bald head, a more than passing resemblance to Pantani. Fittingly, he dedicated his win to the late Wouter Weylandt, who’s funeral was held yesterday.

As tomorrow’s stage heads into Austria, can I suggest that the teams’ chefs prepare the boys a spot of post-race Kaiser’schmarrn which has to be one of the best things to eat after significant exertion. This dish is made from a rich pancake batter where the egg whites are whipped and folded into the batter to lighten it before cooking it in a frying pan. Once cooked it is shredded, sprinkled with icing sugar (and in my case, rum-soaked raisins) and served  with a fruit compote, generally apple or plum – enjoy.

Dig in, it's delish

Mistaken identity

I had arranged to collect my friend for his hospital appointment at 12:45, aiming to deliver him to the hospital promptly for his 13:30 appointment. When I arrived to collect him, my friend and his wife both looked concerned and explained that it might be a long wait at the hospital, as long as 2 hours!!!! So, if I dropped him off, his wife was prepared to go and collect him on the bus. Enough with the bus talk, I said. I realise that he’ll have to wait but that’s no problem as I have some chores to do in Nice. I’ll drop him off, go do my chores and come back to collect him and bring him home. So that’s what we did. He was ready by 15:30 and his appointment had taken over an hour. The Doctor has backed me up, no trips on the bus. He’s got a broken vertebrae for goodness sake.

I made it back in time for the meeting at the cycling club which allowed me to iron out a few outstanding issues. I then decided to pop round to see my sister who’s having a week’s break here in my old holiday flat. I had no sooner arrived when my phone rang. Assuming that it might be someone with a question about this year’s Kivilev, I answered it. On the other end was a very excitable woman demanding to know the whereabouts of my beloved. I looked at my watch and advised her he was in the air, bound for London. She demanded his mobile phone number, I declined to give it.

She then tried to tell me why she wanted his number. The explanation was very jumbled, initially I had thought she was the taxi driver who’d turned up to pick him up, but was an hour late. But no, she had delivered a parcel to him which wasn’t for him and she wanted it back.  She kept talking to me as if I knew exactly what had happened. I was at pains to explain, on the rare occasions she let me get a word in edgewise, that I hadn’t been home all day and had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. I assured her that I’d be home shortly and would look for the parcel.

Five minutes later, my phone rang again. She was trying to verify what my beloved looked like. Larger than average and not a lot of grey hair is an approximate description of my beloved but equally there are others in the building whom it would safely describe. I asked her why if the parcel wasn’t for us she had rung our intercom. You have to search for the correct name, it’s not something you can ring accidentally.  She claimed that when he answered the intercom she had asked for M Mattei, even though she must have seen the flashing name on the intercom said Whatley, he had answered in the affirmative. We established once again that I would look for the parcel as soon as I reached home.

When she rang me for the third time, I was beginning to lose patience and was decidedly unimpressed when she threatened me with the police. I hung up. Another call, this time her boss whose tone was altogether more apologetic. Again, he was most insistent that he needed my beloved’s mobile number. I explained, once more, that he was in the air and therefore out of contact. I had left him a message to contact me but I would be home before he landed and would look for the parcel. Did I think he would have taken the parcel with him? I said I had no idea but most likely it would be in the hall. It had been delivered shortly before he was due to leave for the airport, he would have been distracted and trying to get everything done, as is his wont, at the very last moment. He probably hadn’t even looked at it.

Ten minutes later he rang back and asked once more for my beloved’s number. Again, I declined. Instead, I asked how had they gotten my mobile number. I also added that all these calls were delaying my eventual return home. Apparently, the security guards had given my mobile number to his distraught employee, possibly soon to be ex-employee. I asked him to describe the package. He initially said it was large then told me it was a small,  grey box with Patek on the label. Patek to me says “Indian Spices”. My beloved would have assumed it was something culinary for me and would have left it in the hall. I tried to reassure him and promised to ring him back as soon as I reached home and found the package. His staff were waiting to retrieve it at the Domaine, as it was destined for one of my neighbours. I suggested I could just drop it off. This suggestion was not welcomed.

I had now been round at my sister’s for 60 minutes, 45 of which I had spent on the phone. Given that the delivery firm had made the initial error over what I had assumed was a trifle, I continued catching up with my sister and reached home an hour later. Said package was in fact in the hall and, as soon as I picked it up, I understood their agitation. It was a Patek Philippe clock, probably a family heirloom, which had been returned to its owner after its annual service (or whatever) by a firm who claimed to deliver goods of high value, safely. I called the gentleman and confirmed, as I had suspected, that the package was in the hall undisturbed. His employee came to collect it. I  made her sign for it. The gentleman apologised for disturbing me and promised to send me something for my trouble. I advised him not to bother. He didn’t!

Sweet and savoury delights

The weather this week is forecast to be truly fabulous, it then takes a turn for the worse. This is not what we want. As I discovered last year, most people sign up for the Kivilev either on the day before the price rises (ie a week before), the day before or the day of the event itself. Essentially, they’re trying to avoid losing money. It’s therefore essential for us as organisers that a) the weather’s fabulous in the run up to the event, and in the forecast, and b) we can reasonably accurately predict how many participants we’re likely to get. Unsurprisingly, b) tends to be contingent on a). If the forecast is correct, and it’s a very big if this far out, we’re staring down the barrel of a large loss. I would therefore ask all of you to start lighting candles and praying for fine weather on 26-28 May.

It would appear that someone, maybe even the Ambassador of Kazakhstan in France himself, will be attending the event. Indeed he may arrive the evening before offering the local Town Hall and dignitaries the chance to throw a reception in his honour. I should add that this will garner us plenty of civic brownie points. This is in addition to the ones we’ve recently earned as a result of the inspection of our books. I think it’s fair to say that they were blown away by the state of our record keeping. What can I say, they were easily impressed.

We are also assured of the presence of a large number of professional riders and not just the all-important Kazakh contingent lead by Alexandre Vinokourov.  This helps to boost participation as you can regale your friends with tales of how you rode with the pros. Of course, were I to ride I would see them at the start, they would then show me a clean pair of heels and I’d never see them again as they kept pace with the top riders in the race.  I speak from experience as I’ve “ridden” with a number of Grand Tour winners.

The baking is gathering pace and I’m about to gear up production with those cakes that’ll happily sit in either the fridge or a plastic container, gently improving in taste and texture, until the big day. First up however is the BBQ on Friday for our very large band of volunteers, many of whom have no connection with the club, or indeed cycling, they are serial volunteers. We’re delighted, of course, because without volunteers there can be no events of this type. Friday’s meeting is their initial briefing and when we’ll be handing over the all-important goodie bags. They’re getting a Kivilev T-shirt in rose pink, a sun hat, a bidon, a discount voucher from a local sports shop, a discount voucher from a local garage which carries out MOTs and a tombola ticket in which they can win all sorts of cycling related goodies including a Look frame, wheels, shoes, helmets, kit and tyres.  After which we’ll be providing a slap up BBQ.

I’m thinking I might well elect to cook a few items for the apero and, of course, dessert. This largesse is based purely on items I currently have in my store cupboard, or those which are in season and hence plentiful. The French really appreciate a bit of home cooking, after all anyone can buy a couple of large apple tarts from the local supermarket. We want to show them that we truly appreciate their forthcoming efforts. The French love savoury cakes and they are so easy to cook. It’s merely a question of putting together the right mix for the contents. I have found that the following combinations work well together:

  • feta cheese with herbs
  • mozzarella with pesto
  • ham and olives
  • pear, blue cheese and walnuts

Lucky then that I have all of these ingredients in my fridge and/or storecupboard. It’s important to provide some nibbles while we cook the chicken and sausages on the BBQ. In addition to the savoury cakes, there will be the usual selection of olives, peanuts, crisps and savoury biscuits. For dessert, I have a very large panetone which will make a fabulous bread and butter pudding. If I bake it just before leaving for the club, it will still be tremblingly warm and oozing with egging deliciousness. There’s a surfeit of red fruit at the moment which I can turn into a tart and tasty summer pudding, even though summer has yet to arrive. I also have a load of lemon and limes so I’m thinking maybe a key lime pie. You may think I’m being overly ambitious in making pudding for around 100 people but you have to understand the French mentality. They will all want pudding, but just a small spoonful of each will suffice.

Postscript: I had a bit of a change of heart and have made sinfully rich chocolate mousse, rum and raisin rice pudding and red fruit crumble: a trio of desserts for everyone. Thanks to all of you who lit candles, it’s worked, rain is no longer forecast for the Kivilev week end.

Super Sunday

I seem to have spent the week end unsuccessfully dodging cloud bursts. Having decided to skip yesterday’s La Vencoise we enjoyed a lengthy ride along the coast, arriving home just after the rain started. Meanwhile, the 400 riders who started La Vencoise enjoyed mixed fortunes. If you were a fast rider, the weather didn’t trouble you too much. If you weren’t so fast, you experienced fog, hail and chilly conditions. We all know what would have happened to me, don’t we?

Today started brightly enough. I decided to ride with the club to the pointage in Menton but ended up dropping back to keep a potential new member company. He was clearly struggling and, after a short chat with him, I reached the conclusion that we weren’t the club for him. No, if you want companionable rides at a leisurely pace, club mates who wait for you and with whom you can enjoy a cup of coffee, you need to join a neighbouring club. He thanked me for my advice and, since he was finding it difficult to hold my wheel (yes, really), decided to turn around. I rode on alone, enjoying the sunshine and the silence. I passed Phil Gil at Cap d’Ail, clearly awaiting his riding companions. He gave me a cheery wave. He’s such a nice bloke.

On the way back, having already been soaked by a cloudburst in Monaco, I popped into to see how my friend, who was knocked off his bike last Sunday, was faring. He’s putting a brave face on things but clearly finding the inactivity testing. He’s got to wear a corset for 45 days to protect his broken vertebrae. I volunteered to take him to his hospital appointments this week. He was proposing to go on the bus. I was having none of it. As I left, the heavens opened once more. The rain abated as I approached Nice only to start falling again just before I reached home. My beloved had gone to a business meeting in Menton so I could enjoy a leisurely hot shower before slipping into something comfortable and reposing on the sofa to watch a packed afternoon of sporting action: Monster Energy Moto GP from Le Mans, the Giro d’Italia from the slopes of Mount Etna and Arsenal v Villa.

Nico Terol’s domination of this season’s 125cc ended on the final corner of the final lap of the Le Mans circuit after jousting with a 16-year old called Maverick Vinales (what a brilliant name) who didn’t look old enough to be out without his Mum, let alone ride a bike. In fact he was too young to be given a bottle of champers on the podium – very responsible of the organisers. Efren Vazquez rounded out the podium.  Reigning 125cc champion Marc Marquez finally managed to finish a Moto2 race, without crashing, to take his maiden win in this class. He worked his way through the field to take the lead from Thomas Luthi with 5 laps to go. Takahashi was 3rd with current championship leader Stefan Bradl in 3rd place. Bradl’s closest rival for the championship, Iannone crashed on the first lap.

In the blue-riband event, the fireworks started in the warm up lap. Pole position holder, Casey Stoner, had a dust up with Randy de Puniet which earned him a Euros 5,000 fine. Meanwhile, Jorge Lorenzo’s first bike went up in flames, literally. Initially, Stoner was overtaken by his front-row companions, Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso but he clawed his way back into the lead after 2 1/2 laps and stayed there to finish a massive 14 seconds ahead of everyone else and record his second win of the season. Watch out Jorge, he’s closing the gap. Meanwhile, all the action happened way behind his back. Pedrosa clashed with Marco Simoncelli on lap 17, who was pushing him for 2nd place. Dani crashed, breaking his right collarbone. He’s only just recovering from an operation to resolve issues with his broken left collarbone. Simoncelli was given a ride-through penalty leaving a 3-way fight  between Lorenzo, Dovizioso and Rossi for the remaining podium places. Lorenzo ran wide with 3 laps remaining and finished 4th. Rossi couldn’t get past Dovi who finished 2nd. This is Rossi’s first podium of the season, and his 175th in all classes,I’m sure it won’t be his last.

On yesterday’s stage, allegedly one for the sprinters, neither Alberto Contador (SaxoBank) nor Oscar Gatto (Farnese) had read the script. I couldn’t resist coming up with a red top headline “Contador catches competition catnapping”. Those among you who are linguistically gifted will know that “gatto” is Italian for cat. As a consequence of his second place, Alberto gained 17 seconds, setting the stage for today’s ride up Mount Etna on Nibali’s home turf. Fireworks were anticipated but it looked as if we were going to get just a damp squib. The diminutive Jose Rujano (Androni) who’s never, ever going to make into that hallowed group of riders who weigh more than me, however much I lose, had set off towards the summit. Everyone was seemingly happy to let him go. Not so Alberto, who rocketed up the slope with 7km to go. Scarponi tried to give chase but blew up. The others took turns in trying to chase him down but to little avail.  Having reached Rujano it took Bert three fierce attacks to dislodge him from his back wheel. Alberto took his maiden Giro stage, the pink jersey and the plaudits. Nibali is now 81 seconds down.

My beloved boys in claret and blue took advantage of Arsenal’s defensive frailties to win 2-1 at the Emirates. The money paid for Darren Bent, who scored both of Villa’s goals, is looking like money well spent. But I have to ask, boys why couldn’t you play like that for the entire season? Danger averted. Not so for OGCN who lost a 6-pointer 3-0 away at Nancy.


When you’ve been as happily married, for as long as I have, people inevitably turn to you for advice on their love life. I am, of course, the worst possible person to ask for advice. I have no idea what it’s like out there in dateland. Although, I do know loads of single guys and gals all looking for their own Mrs or Mr Right. Maybe I should set up my own dating agency and introduce them all to one another? No, it’s been awhile since I tried my hand at matchmaking and I’ve learned my lesson. Generally, the only thing these people have in common is me. Besides do you really want to hear all the grubby details from both sides? Exactly, leave well alone is my motto.

Instead, I strive to be supportive, inject some humour into the situation but mostly I listen. Sometimes it just helps to offload. Afterwards, you can get them to put things in perspective and look at the issues from the other person’s point of view. But,  sometimes, none of that works and you just need to lend a shoulder to cry on.  Inevitably, people want to know what they did wrong. In truth, they didn’t do anything wrong, the other person just didn’t care enough.

None of us are perfect, we just need to find someone who can put up with our imperfections. I often say I married my beloved because I’d found someone who could put up with me 24/7 and I’d sensibly reasoned there couldn’t be too many like him. There’s an element of truth in this. I would be the first person to acknowledge I’m not easy to live with, he’s far more easy going than me. You also need compatibility. You can have your own interests but you do need to have some in common. For example, it would be unthinkable that I’d hook up with someone who didn’t like sport. You also need to be willing to compromise: yes, the C-word. A bit of give and take goes a long way.  Finally, and most importantly, you both need to care deeply about one another. Without that, none of the rest really matters.

Postscript: My beloved and I discussed this over breakfast, he feels that part of the problem is unrealistic expectations.