My Little Cupcake is my Facebook nickname for my dear friends’ middle son. I’ve known him for many years and, as the name suggests, I’m very fond of him. Like most teenagers he can inhale his bodyweight in baked goodies, which we often cook together, hence the nickname.
I take a close personal interest in his road racing as it’s almost three years since a two-week stay with me set him on the path of wanting to be a professional rider, just like his Dad. He’d previously taken little or no interest in cycling but I fostered it because I felt his alleged youthful mischievousness would be tamed by sport. I say alleged because I’d seen no evidence of it.
We now get together on a weekly basis, usually on a Saturday afternoon – racing permitting – to work on his English, the must-have language in today’s professional peloton. My beloved and I’d been on the road for most of April so we’d missed a few English classes but the two-week half-term has given us some opportunities to catch up and make sure we stay on or even ahead of the track. I always encourage him to talk about what he’s done since we last met in English. This invariably revolves around his training and racing. He races all over the region and in Italy so there are few opportunities for me to watch him race.
We had two such opportunities this last week-end. Friday he was racing in Vence, part of the season-long Tour de Cote d’Azur, where he was lying in second place overall. Friday was a Bank Holiday here in France and while it had started sunny, the weather turned to rain in the early afternoon, just as he started racing. One poor lad crashed out on the practice lap while the race leader came off on a corner late in the race and ended his chances of retaining the maillot jaune.
We watched the ‘minimes and younger’ category race. They looked so sweet and earnest as they raced around the short lumpy circuit, none more so than Astana General Manager Alex Vinokurov’s twin sons, who gave it their all but were roundly beaten by bigger boys. It didn’t seem to dim their enthusiasm or the support from their proud Dad.
Next up were my little cupcake and his friend and team-mate in the cadets. He’s currently struggling with some loss of power due to growing pains, which has affected his results but not his desire to go on the attack and try to shred the field. The pair of them did this twice during the race but were eventually overhauled by a tactically more astute rider. They’ll learn.
Third place was however enough to see my little cupcake into the yellow leader’s jersey. I say “see” though by that time both we, and his parents, had returned home thanks to the heavy rain. Like all sports there’s lots of hanging around, particularly for the podiums, always held at the end of all the racing and generally preceded by interminable speeches.
Saturday treated us to glorious sunshine for a hilly 6km individual time-trial in the neighbouring Var where he finished an exhausted sixth. Sunday he raced in Martigues, some two hours down the road from us, and the pictures show he finished in the top five, high enough to keep his King of the Mountain’s jersey in what I assume is the Tour du Var. We supported him from afar and couldn’t be prouder of him if he were ours.