My European cycling season starts now!

 

The previous week I was enjoying balmy temperatures among the sea, sand and skyscrapers of the Tour of Dubai, a six-day long sprint fest where those likely lads in lycra got to enjoy some of the trappings other sportsmen take for granted – club class airline travel and 5* hotels. This week-end the riders were back to earth with a bump and “enjoying” overcooked pasta and chicken at Ibis and Kyriad hotels, and riding in the pouring rain.

You might be wondering whether Arthur Vichot, back to back winner of the last two editions of Tour du Hau Var Matin, was going for a consecutive three-peat? He wasn’t, he didn’t take part. Instead it was the season opener for his FDJ team-mate and team leader Thibaut Pinot, last seen competing in the Transjurassienne, a cross-country ski race in which he finished a very creditable 50th.

It was the race’s 50th anniversary, as good an excuse as any for rolling out plenty of past winners and having Daniel Mageas – the voice of cycling – as MC. The winner of the first edition and the event’s god-father, Raymond Poulidor was in sparkling form. Three former winners were still racing: Sylvain Chavanel, Pippo Pozzato and Davide Revellin, the latter celebrating his 27th year in the professional peloton!

The race started, as is the custom for the past few years, in Le Cannet des Maures, a pretty village in the Var but, having gotten soaked at the start, unlike the peloton, we skipped the finish in Fayence and headed for home and watched the race on France 3.

Day two kicked off in Vidauban’s recently opened leisure park. As we entered the village du depart, we noted an unseemly scrum in the far corner. Was it one of the teams, no it was freebies! Wine, coffee, crepes, sandwiches and oysters – far too much to stomach at 10:00 in the morning but, as you can see from the crowds, I was in a minority of one.

After the race start, we headed for lunch and the finish in Flayosc, just 17 kilometres away. While the peloton went round in ever decreasing circles before thrice coming across the line ahead of the race finish. The result was an all French podium, guaranteed to delight the crowd. The race winner was double stage winner Jonathan Hivert. His small son was almost in tears standing in front of the podium. It’s so lovely for riders’ kids to share in the (all too infrequent) joy of victory.

TdHV7

Races such as these are often great for spotting emerging talent. The best young rider and fourth overall was 21 year old FDJ neo-pro Valentin Madouas who has had a great start to the season. Let’s see how he fares at his next race, Strade Bianche. Euskadi’s 22 year old neo pro Fernando Barcelo waltzed off with the mountains’ jersey while 21 year 0ld Miguel Angel Ballesteros from Alberto Contador’s Conti squad finished 17th overall. I wonder if he’s any good at golf?

TdHV5

The cherry on the icing of two days’ of exciting racing was Rudy Molard’s third place on the podium, replicating his recent result from the Tour of Provence. It’s always lovely seeing friends do well in races. Chapeau to another friend who’d been ill all last week but still managed to finish – Amael Moinard. These boys are tough.

 

 

Postcard from Dubai: 5 places I visited

I’ve visited Dubai plenty of times, largely for business with a few days of pleasure tacked on. This time my beloved’s Dental Exhibition coincided with the Tour of Dubai – how great is that? – giving me my first taste of live racing this season. We stayed in the same hotel as at this time last year. It’s in a great location, reasonably priced, with truly helpful staff, all the amenities you could need, large clean airy rooms and, even better, I scored an upgrade.

I did help my beloved assemble his stand, it’s not something you can do on your lonesome but thereafter headed off to watch the cycling where he joined me for its last two stages.

1. Sky Dive Dubai

The six days of racing started each day from Sky Dive Dubai which is near to the Dubai Marina, a 30-45 minute trip by Metro, tram and shank’s pony from where I was staying. However, I didn’t mind as I had a great view of the ongoing developments en route. I’d not previously visited Sky Dive Dubai which, as its name suggests, is for sky diving – not something I’ve ever fancied trying. We witnessed an aerial diving show on the Saturday with some divers gently floating to earth while others plummeted out of the sky. The latter have discouraged me from even contemplating having a go.

Each day’s stage start was held here. It’s a dead-end road beside the Marina, with large grassy areas and an outdoor gym which is popular with joggers, dog walkers and gym bunnies. None of whom seemed much interested in their space being colonised by loads of fit guys in lycra. The teams were all staying in the nearby 5* Westin Hotel having been flown in Club Class on Emirates. A nice treat for guys more used to Ibis, Kyriad  – and that misnomer  – Premiere Classe hotels and EasyJet steerage.

The area also provided a fitting backdrop for the racing particularly with the skyscrapers looming out of the early morning mist. The facilities in the start zone were excellent and aimed at encouraging families to spend the day watching the action on the big screen while the kids amused themselves on a variety of attractions. There were also plenty of food and sponsors’ stands. In truth you could count the spectators on the fingers of one hand in the days leading up to the week-end but the locals came out in their hordes on Friday and Saturday (Arab week-end).

2. Kinokuniya Bookshop – Dubai Mall

Easily one of my favourite shops in Dubai and one of my favourite bookshops worldwide. That’s praise indeed as my first port of call anywhere is generally a book store. My two younger sisters would be horrified to learn this was the only shop I visited in Dubai.

Kinokuniya is a Japanese owned group with shops in Japan, USA, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Taiwan and Dubai. The shop in the Dubai Mall is a whopping 6,500 square metres and it stocks more than half a million books and over a thousand magazines in English, Arabic, Japanese, French, German and Chinese. It also has a wonderful selection of stationery – another of my weaknesses. It has the largest selection of cookery books I have ever seen and I can happily spend  – and did – hours browsing through the various sections. I had deliberately left plenty of room in my luggage to bring back a few books which naturally enough included two cookery books – a girl can never have enough!

3. The Ritz-Carlton, DIFC

This hotel is just a block from where we were staying. We ate in one of its many restaurants last time and this time had two very enjoyable meals in its Bar Belge. Now, if I like it so much why didn’t I stay in it? Experience has taught me that when I’m watching live racing, and my beloved is working at an exhibition, we spend very little time in the hotel and are unable to enjoy its many benefits. So why pay for them?

Both times we ate early to benefit from Bar Belge’s Happy Hour prices and much enjoyed our seafood dinners which were no more expensive than at our own hotel. On our second meal there we struck up a conversation with our waiter who came from Bangalore, a city my beloved knows well, about cricket and his mother’s search for a suitable bride for him. He very kindly gave Richard a freebie dessert of Belgian waffles, speculoos ice cream and warm chocolate sauce.

4. City Walk

The final day’s stage of the Dubai Tour finished in City Walk, an area we’d not previously visited, just a short stroll from our hotel and the Dubai Mall. Walking anywhere in Dubai tends to be tricky, most people drive or take a cab, but I like to walk and am undeterred by the pavements that end abruptly the wire fencing down the middle of many roads.

City Walk has a distinctly European vibe probably catering for Dubai’s large expatriate community and I felt quite at home with many familiar names such as Galleries Lafayette, BHV Marais and so on…….Again, it’s a family friendly area with plenty of attractions for all ages.

5. Al Hallab

My beloved’s clients in Dubai originally hailed from Syria and, last time, they introduced us to a fabulous Syrian restaurant a couple of blocks from our hotel but, sadly, it has moved and neither they or we know where it has moved to. Their default restaurant is a Lebanese one with four locations in Dubai that serves equally fabulous food.

Arabs love groaning tables, do not expect or even try to finish everything. You need to leave something to demonstrate their generosity. Because I don’t eat meat, they order me a load of separate dishes which I couldn’t hope to finish even if my beloved decided to help me out. Fortunately, my regime excuses me from dessert. We’ve now eaten at three of the four branches and they’re all equally excellent.

Of course, there’s loads more to see and do in Dubai aside from the short list above.

Sheree’s 2017 Sporting Highlights

I’ve been a bit slow off the mark here largely because I’ve been out enjoying myself in the snow!

As usual there were many lowlights in 2017 – no need to depress ourselves by listing them – but I’ve always been a glass half full kinda gal and still found much to enjoy, particularly on the sporting front. I’ve limited myself to five – early new year discipline is no bad thing!

Football

With my beloved boys in claret and blue languishing in the Championship, it was again down to OGC Nice to provide me with some much needed cheer. Punching well above their financial might, the boys easily finished the 2016/17 season in third place, qualifying for the qualifying round of the Champions League. Sadly that proved to be a step too far too soon, though we’re currently doing well in the Europa Cup. Inevitably we lost six first team players to better (paying) clubs though hung onto both our manager and Super Mario (Balotelli).

A very shaky start to the new season has largely been rescued but I’m hoping and praying we don’t lose any key players in the January transfer window. Yes, Mario, I’m specifically talking about you! Meanwhile, AVFC yesterday crashed out of the FA Cup to concentrate on finishing at least in the play-offs giving them the chance to return to the Premiership. So 2018’s looking bright for both my teams.

MotoGP


2017 saw us attend the Italian MotoGP at Mugello, a fascinating race won unexpectedly by an Italian who wasn’t Valentino Rossi  – racing but still recovering from his broken leg – it was Andrea Dovizioso. It was possibly one of the most exciting seasons in recent history with Maverick Vinales – such a wonderful name – initially igniting hopes on the factory Yamaha vacated by Jorge Lorenzo, then Dovi coming to the fore on his Ducati before Marc Marquez steamed back to lift the title, his sixth and fourth in the blue riband event prompting #BigSix.

The event at Mugello was tinged with sadness as tribute was paid to former MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden, a hugely popular figure in the sport who’d moved to World Super Bikes at the start of the season. Hayden was killed while riding a bicycle in Italy. Attendance at another, as yet to be determined, MotoGP event is definitely on the cards for 2018.

Cycling

Once again we managed to attend the start of all three grand tours which afforded us the opportunity to visit some new locations in Sardinia, Nimes and Uzes  plus visit some old favourites in Duesseldorf and Maastricht. My beloved’s broken leg prevented us from attending the Tour of the Basque country though thankfully not the Clasica San Sebasian. Prior to his accident, we spent another very enjoyable weekend in Siena watching both the ladies and gents’ Strade Bianche, two tough but absorbing races which are now firm fixtures on our racing calendar – any excuse for a trip to Tuscany! Sadly, we won’t be kicking off our season watching racing Down Under instead, this year, it’ll be the Tour of Dubai – a first  – followed by plenty of races on home turf. (See pictures above. For reasons best known to WordPress, I couldn’t insert them in the correct section).

Skipping the Tour of the Basque country once more, we’ll be visiting the Giro and clients in N E Italy, watching the start of the Tour in the Vendee and in the Pyrenees while (sadly) passing on the Vuelta to attend a family wedding. Also, after a two year absence, we’ll be gracing the World Championships in Innsbruck, just down the road from where we’re staying. As ever, at all the races we’ll be cheering on the riders we know and hoping that one of them will win a race or a stage, or two.

Easily my highlight of 2017 was watching Larry Warbasse (Aqua Blue), a key member of my crack cake tasting team, winning his first WorldTour stage in the Tour de Suisse, followed by him lifting his national championships. He’s a very fitting Captain America and I’ll be hoping that his winning ways continue in 2018. He features in my header image courtesy of Sirotti.

In 2018 we waived goodbye to two giants of the sport, and two of my favourites, Tom Boonen and Alberto Contador, and much less gloriously and more disappointingly, Sammy Sanchez. A dear friend in the peloton told me he didn’t trust Samu. He was so right and I should never have doubted my friend. The riders know best.

Cricket

Last year in Australia I fell in love with #BigBash aka Twenty20 cricket and this year I was fortunate to attend more matches and watch the rest of the series on television. My beloved and I supported the Melbourne Renegades, largely because we spent more time in Melbourne than elsewhere and because their red and black colours reflect those of OGCN. As ever it was great family entertainment and an exciting evening’s viewing. This year I’ve had to contend with watching snippets on the internet. It’s nowhere near as good.

My Beloved’s Health

Having returned to good health towards the end of 2016, I was looking forward to getting back in the saddle and regaining my former fitness. I was definitely heading in the right direction until my beloved fell off his bike and broke his leg. It’s been a long road back (for both of us), despite the wondrous care and attention from the French healthcare system which cost us absolutely nothing and included 70 physio sessions. My beloved has never had particularly flexible hips and this injury has worsened the situation leaving him with less control over his balance. He’s fallen over a few times this vacation on the ice but fortunately nothing more serious than injured pride. He’s also back riding his bike but he’s being so much more cautious, probably no bad thing given his advancing years. I am concerned about his lack of flexibility and will be dragging him along to yoga with me when we’re back home at the end of the month. I’ll be hoping and praying for a healthy and injury-free 2018 for both of us.

12 days of Christmas: day 9

This quintessentially Provencal scene is the fountain in Uzes’ main square. The beautiful, mellow, honey-coloured stone, the trees providing essential shade from the summer sun, with the restaurant parasols providing further protection, all paint a charming scene. We stayed in Uzes to watch the start of the Vuelta a Espana in Nimes, not far away. It was our first visit to the area and we were charmed by its sense of languor, old-world charm and fabulous wines. I want to go back, if only to visit its Haribo factory. Gummy Bears anyone?

12 days of Christmas: day 8

After watching Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France in wet and windy Duesseldorf, we spent a couple of nights in Maastricht in a hotel overlooking the Meuse river. We know the town well having spent a fair amount of time here watching the 2012 UCI Road World Championships, Amstel Gold Races plus visiting clients nearby. It has a lovely old town but inevitably one’s eye is drawn to the bustling river which bisects the town, separating old from new. I took this photo from our hotel bedroom.

12 days of Christmas: day 7

This year’s Giro d’Italia, its 100th edition,  started in Sardinia, a place we’d never managed to visit. We spent just over a week on the island driving from Alghero in the north-west down the eastern coast via Olbia – not far from the Costa Smerelda – and Tortona before flying back from Cagliari. It’s a beautiful island, not unlike Corsica, largely unspoilt and very reasonably priced, Costa Smerelda aside! After my beloved broke his leg, I feared we’d have to cancel the trip but fortunately (for him) it went ahead. This is a picture of the north-west coastline near where we stopped for a sea food lunch before attending one of the team press conferences.

12 days of Christmas: day 2

So many of our holidays and trips are built around watching live bike racing. This photo was taken by my beloved at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, the ladies event. A race which was as equally thrilling as its men’s counterpart the following day. Unusually, my beloved had gone off on the back of a motorbike to watch the race unfold on the roads around Geelong which we first visited back in 2010 for the UCI Road World Championships. This photo showcases the verdant landscape and gives a flavour of the mounting excitement as the riders approach.

Bye bye Baby Blackbird bye bye

After Tom Boonen’s retirement earlier this year, yet another of my favourite riders has hung up his cleats. I am, of course, talking about Alberto Contador whose career I have followed with interest since 2006. On that year’s final stage of Paris-Nice, I was waiting behind the barriers at the start line in Nice when the rider nearest to me took off his helmet, removed his cycling cap and handed it to me. The elderly woman standing next to me tried to snatch it. However, I fended her off and gestured for the rider give the cap to the small boy standing next to me, and he did. The young lad, who looked to be aged about eight, was thrilled. The rider was none other than Alberto Contador and I wonder if that cap is still a treasured item. Sadly, Bertie didn’t get to strut his stuff at the Tour de France that year as he and five of his Astana-Würth teammates were barred from competing after their names were linked to the Operacion Puerto blood doping inquiry, though Bertie was later cleared of charges.

In 2007, Bertie won Paris-Nice. I was standing on one of the slopes on stage 6 when he applied the after burners and just dropped everyone. It was as if he had another gear to everyone else. I marveled at the amount of time he could ride with ease out of the saddle. That was the year he won his first Grand Tour, the Tour de France. Ostensibly riding in support of team-mate Levi Leipheimer, he quickly outpaced his leader. Though for much of the race  he seemed destined for second overall, until Michael Rasmussen was thrown off the Tour after lying about his pre-Tour whereabouts. Baby Blackbird assumed the maillot jaune and carried it all the way to Paris.

Stade Laurentin protestors

He didn’t take part in Paris-Nice in 2008 where I staged what ended up as a one-woman protest about the exclusion of Astana from that year’s Tour de France. The protest had been organised by Alexandr Vinokurov, who provided us with the t-shirts. The plan had been to cycle up Col d’Eze and stand on the top of the mountain classification line thereby attracting the attention of ASO’s Christian Prudhomme and the television cameras. I was the only one from the club to make it up the climb in time, the others got stuck at the junction so it was a rather muted protest. I appeared only briefly on camera and while M. Prudhomme probably noticed me, he didn’t change his mind.  Unable to compete at the Tour, Bertie won a Giro-Vuelta double becoming the youngest rider ever to complete a full set of Grand Tour victories. A glittering future surely awaited him.

Bertie returned to Paris-Nice in 2009. But he didn’t win after spectacularly bonking on stage 6 into Fayence. If only he’d said? I was in the village and had energy bars to spare. His effort to gain back time on the final stage won him a lot of French fans who loved his attacking style. The French adore riders with “Panache.” On the Sunday evening, after the conclusion of the race, we attended a small, intimate dinner organised by Vino in his restaurant in Nice, where the guest of honour was none other than Bertie. After dinner, my club-mates were queuing up to have their photos taken with him, but not me. As I reminded Vino, there’s no way I wanted my photo taken with a guy who weighed less than me! I did have a brief chat with him in my poor Spanish and was left with the impression of someone who was both very humble and shy, and had a sweet tooth.

Post Paris-Nice dinner

In a move he probably now deeply regrets, Lance Armstrong emerged from retirement to join Astana in 2009, but Bertie had the mental fortitude to see off that internal challenge and add a second Tour de France title to his palmares. We stayed in the same hotel as Astana on the eve of stage 4’s team time-trail in Montpellier and you really could cut the atmosphere with a knife.

Bertie won Paris-Nice again in 2010, a year which left an indelible stain on his mighty career. At that year’s Tour de France, Bertie emerged victorious over Andy Schleck only for a positive test for Clenbuterol on the second rest day to scrub it from the record books. News of the positive test broke in September 2010. I was at the World Championships in Melbourne at the hotel where the Spanish team were staying and I well remember their collective shock and disappointment.

It took more than 16 months of investigations, hearings and appeals for Bertie to finally be sanctioned with a retroactive two-year ban. He’d continued to race and win while the debate raged and his 2011 Giro d’Italia triumph was perhaps the most dominant of his entire career, even if the title would eventually pass to the late Michele Scarponi.

The 2011 Tour de France was, in light of Bertie’s resurrection as attacking shaman, perhaps his defining race. He arrived for the Grand Depart as the overwhelming favourite, still uncertain whether he would be sanctioned for his 2010 positive test. I clearly remember he was roundly booed by spectators at the team presentation at Le Puy de Fou. Three weeks later, it was a different matter and he received a notably warmer welcome when he rode into Paris in fifth place overall. A crash on the opening stage, not to mention the exertions of his (revoked) Giro d’Italia win the previous month, meant he was a much reduced presence on that Tour. But his startling, all-or-nothing attack on the short stage to l’Alpe d’Huez almost turned the race on its head. In many ways, the rehabilitation of his reputation began there, even before the Court of Arbitration for Sport decided to hand him a retroactive two-year ban the following February.

Post-Ban Career

Vuelta Spagna 2012 – Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) – Alberto Contador (Saxo – TinkoffBank) – Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) – foto Graham Watson/BettiniPhoto©2012

Following his return to racing in 2012, it seemed as if Bertie would never again scale such giddy heights, even despite his surprising victory in the 2012 Vuelta a Espana with a trademark attack on the road to Fuente Dé. It was perhaps the greatest heist of his career and set a pattern for performances in future grand tours.  Bertie’s racing continued in a similar vein in 2013 where he struggled to finish fourth overall at the Tour de France.

2014 saw a marked improvement as Bertie was undeniably the outstanding rider of the opening half of the season. He won Tirreno-Adriatico in spectacular fashion followed by an emphatic victory in Vuelta al Pais Vasco. Disappointingly, he was forced to abandon the Tour when he suffered a fracture of the tibia in a crash on the road to La Planche des Belles Filles. Amazingly, he returned in time to ride to victory in the Vuelta.

Seven times a grand tour winner: Alberto Contador’s signature

Bertie then set himself, or had set for him,  the lofty goal of winning the Giro-Tour double in 2015. I met up with him in the garden of his hotel, just before the press conference, to secure his autograph on the illustrated page of Book de Tour which showed him leaving the previous year’s Tour de France. He was happy to sign the page and showed a keen interest in the book. Bertie achieved the first part of  his goal but paid for his exertions with a fifth-place finish in Paris.

In the final two years of his career, Bertie has raged against the dying of the light by seeking to replicate his Fuente Dé display across the entire calendar.

Vuelta Pais Vasco 2017 Podium – Alberto CONTADOR, Alejandro VALVERDE, Ion IZAGUIRRE and daughter © Tim De Waele

In both 2016 and 2017, he animated Paris-Nice with final stage attacks that brought him to within seconds of overall victory. His aggression at the 2016 Vuelta helped  tip the balance in Nairo Quintana’s favour. His attacking on the road to Foix at this year’s Tour de France brought Mikel Landa into play as a contender for overall victory. Contador, however, had to settle for ninth overall in Paris and the realisation that he would never again win the Tour. He had the option of a second season at Trek-Segafredo, but decided to bow out with one final tilt at the Vuelta rather than continue as a reduced version of himself.

Bertie managed to go out with a final flourish in the Vuelta with victory atop the Alto de l’Angliru and well-deserved a hero’s welcome into Madrid the following day.

Baby Blackbird left professional cycling with seven Grand Tour titles to his name even though he (and I) likes to count nine victories.  It’s a succinct epitaph for a career that is both controversial and complicated. For some, he’ll be remembered as the greatest stage race rider of his generation and arguably the most exciting talent to grace the professional peloton in the 21st century. For others, he will forever be tainted.

What’s Next

I no longer have to go out on the bike every day but you can put that energy into other things. I have lots of great opportunities for the coming years. Pretty much everything will be cycling-related – apart from the work I’m doing with stroke charities. I’m motivated; I have lots of projects and lots of different motivations. You have to have something to motivate you when you get out of the bed in the morning, and I have many.

 He no longer has to watch his weight, so can indulge his sweet tooth.

Enjoy your retirement Bertie, it’s merited! However, you’ll be sorely missed…………….

Off-season

After last week’s much-needed deluges – yes, it does rain here occasionally! – the sun has returned this week though daytime temperatures have dropped a couple of degrees to below 20C. Last week I took my bike down to my local bike shop for its winter tyres and a quick service. As usual, it has come back looking like new and I’ve been out for  a few gentle rides up and down the coast. There’s little to no holiday traffic, just locals. The views have been spectacular particularly with the backdrop of snowy peaks.  The southern alps have had heavy snowfalls boding well for the forthcoming ski season.

Typically I’ll set off for my ride as many of the clubs’ group rides are returning to base, having started at some ungodly hour when it’s much colder and there’s loads of  traffic. The riders will generally hail me by my christian name from the other side of the road. Having a name which sounds like the French equivalent of “Darling” (Chérie) always gives rise to a spot of hilarity and some odd stares from those not in the know.

I’m gradually building up the distance I ride each week. It’s pitiful at the moment but I’m hoping by the end of winter I’ll be able to do my 100km Wednesday ride along the coast with ease. The coastal route is only undulating in parts, nothing too steep for too long. The scenery is wonderful and I pass lots of prime real-estate. You know how I love gazing at a spot of property porn.  Of course, there’s urban stretches where you have to keep a closer eye on the traffic but generally it’s relatively quiet.

Some of my regular pit stops close during the winter months, something I need to bear in mind if I need to use their facilities. Generally I’ll only stop for a coffee once I’ve completed my ride. However, if I need to use someone’s facilities, I’ll stop for a coffee mid-ride or dash into one of the hotels, leaving my bike with the doorman or reception. There are some public facilities but there’s nowhere to safely leave my bike.

One of the things I’ve most missed about not riding, is the opportunity for some quiet contemplation. Sometimes I’ll ride with one of my girlfriends but I find they talk far too much while I just want to soak up the scenery, fill my lungs and enjoy turning the pedals. If I ride with my beloved, he’ll inevitably huff and puff about riding in my wake until I let him off the leash.

For me, one of the best things about riding a bike is that I don’t need anyone else. I can ride when and where I want. I don’t have to stick to a time or set route. This is particularly true in the months when riding is pretty much limited to the coastal roads. Once I head up into the hills during the summer, if I’m on my own, I have to bear in mind mobile phone coverage. But I don’t have to worry about that until next year. Meanwhile, onwards and upwards or should that be onwards and onwards?

 

 

Turning tides

Usually in October I slip seamlessly into my 3/4 bib shorts and long-sleeved jersey but I’m still riding in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey and it’s almost November. Okay, I have on occasion worn arm warmers for the first part of my ride and on some descents I’ve worn a sleeveless gilet, but otherwise the weather’s been such that no further adornment has been necessary. I’m therefore blind to the blandishments of the virtues of winter cycling wear as extolled by the various manufacturers during our continuing Indian Summer.

Glorious views

To be fair, it never gets too cold on the Cote d’Azur and my 3/4 thermal bib-shorts with a zip-up bodice, rather than suspenders, see me through all but the coldest of winter days. Only if it’s absolutely necessary will I manfully struggle into my bib-tights, double layered jacket, thin full-fingered gloves and wool rather than cotton socks. My extremities rarely get cold. I always have hot hands – ruinous for pastry – and hot feet. Of course, I rarely venture out if it’s raining or if it’s below 10C.

Like me, this tandem has seen better days!

I’m still slogging around my regular routes and admiring the scenery. It’s sometimes an uphill (literally) struggle as I’ve yet to recover my former fitness. My doctor has suggested supplementing my cycle training with some Yoga. I’ve never tried this but my former personal assistant, now a highly regarded yoga teacher in LA, looks uber fabulous for her age so perhaps it’s time to give it a whirl. Classes in France are not expensive so I may opt for some private tuition, to avoid embarrassing myself, before joining a class. I want to regain some of my former suppleness which has been slip, slipping away this past year or so. Sadly, I can no longer do the splits!

Prayer and lighting candles might help

My beloved, who’s still to recover all his former hip flexibility following his broken leg, is keener to try Pilates rather than Yoga. However, I can’t but feel that a mixture of the two might be more beneficial, particularly during the winter months when we’re occasionally constrained from riding quite as much. Of course, some of this reduced flexibility may well be due to my advancing years but I’m not about to give in without a struggle.

Almost home

To mix up my training regimen, I occasionally go for a run (aka jog) along the sea front. Yesterday, loads of people jogged past me while I was sprinting between the lamp-posts. I was feeling a tad discouraged until I remembered that the Nice to Cannes marathon is this week-end and people would’ve been out training in earnest, wouldn’t they? I keep meaning to take part in another marathon, my one and only was London 1994. The passage of time has dimmed the pain and maybe, if I start training now, I’ll be in good enough shape in 2018 to tackle the one from Nice to Cannes? I briefly ponder this question most years but still haven’t gotten around to doing anything about it. The issue is how will I find time to ride, run and do Yoga? Answers in the comments section below, please!