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.
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!
There’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.
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!
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.