El número siete

I appreciate that the professional peloton has been racing in China and Japan last week, but my interest in cycling concludes with Il Lombardia. Coincidentally this is generally when the race for the blue-riband crown in MotoGP comes to the boil.

It was another early start yesterday morning to watch the race. The question on everyone’s lips was whether or not Marc Marquez would close out the championship in Japan in Honda’s backyard in front of its Head Honcho or would Andrea Dovizioso, lying second in the Championship, win from pole on board his Ducati and keep the championship race alive?

Fans of the sport will know that Marquez secured his fifth MotoGP world championship (seventh in all classes) with an eighth victory of the 2018 season in the Japanese Grand Prix as Dovi crashed with two laps to go.

How the race was won

Marquez started on the second row, in sixth place, at Motegi but quickly moved up to second on the opening lap, biding his time, before engaging in a nailbiting, seat of the pants duel with polesitter and last remaining realistic championship threat Dovizioso.

Waiting until 10 laps to go to make his first move, Marquez passed Dovi at Turn 9, but one corner later he ran wide on the dirt and lost momentum – with his rival almost piling into the back of him, and repassing for the lead.

Four laps later, Dovi recorded a new fastest lap, but Marquez went even quicker the following one and it became clear he was in no mood to settle for a safe second. Indeed, both riders needed to throw caution to the wind to achieve their objectives.

Marquez seized the lead on the 21st lap of 24 with a bold pass at the tight Turn 9 left-hander – he much prefers left to right-hand turns – but Dovi was going nowhere, stuck to his rival’s tail and looked poised to fight back until he lost the front end of his Ducati into the Turn 10 hairpin on the penultimate lap. Game over. Marquez reaches level 7!

More records fall

Titles:

– Marquez becomes the youngest rider to win five titles in the premier class at the age of 25 years and 246 days, taking the record from Valentino Rossi (26 years, 221 days).

– He becomes the youngest rider of all time to reach the milestone of seven World Championships across all classes, beating Mike Hailwood’s record, who was 26 years and 140 days old when he won his seventh title back in 1966.

– Marquez joins Valentino Rossi, Mick Doohan and Giacomo Agostini as one of four riders who has won five or more premier class World Championships.

– He becomes one of only eight riders who have more than seven titles across all classes: John Surtees (7), Phil Read (7), Carlo Ubbiali (9), Mike Hailwood (9), Valentino Rossi (9), Angel Nieto (13) and Giacomo Agostini (15).

Victories:

– Marquez has won at least five GPs per season in the last nine years across all three classes: 125cc, Moto2 and MotoGP. He’s the first rider in MotoGP’s 70 year history to achieve this.

Poles:

– With five pole positions this season, Marquez increases his overall pole position tally to 78 across all classes.

– In Thailand, the previous MotoGP, Marquez (25 years, 231 days) became the youngest rider to reach the milestone of 50 pole positions in the premier class, taking the record off Mick Doohan, who was 32 years and 122 days old when he took his 50th pole position at Philip Island in 1997.

What did Twitter have to say about it all?

Here’s where the race and championship were decided on Sunday.

Over enthusiastic celebrations resulting in a dislocated shoulder which was just popped back in. These MotoGP boys are TOUGH!

Congratulations poured in for for Marquez from other Spanish sporting legends.

I hope you carry on living the dream Marc for many years to come.

The Final Word

MotoGP is lucky to have Marquez, and Marquez is lucky to have landed in MotoGP at a time when such intense rivalries are made possible by the emergence of a generation of extremely talented riders with strong and divergent personalities – a bit like the big four in men’s tennis over the past decade. He is the kind of figure all sports dream of unearthing: a Tiger Woods, a Katarina Witt, a Usain Bolt, a unique individual whose combination of charisma and technical brilliance bursts through the limits and disciplines of their sport and engages multitudes.

Richard Williams, The Guardian

Holiday photos: day 13

A veritable smoregasbord of sport on Sunday, but what to watch, when? Our dilemna was partly resolved when Rafa lost in the semi-final at Wimbledon. It was unlikely that the final would reach similar heights and we fully expected Djokovic to win his fourth title which he did.

We ate lunch at our hotel in Saint Jean de Luz before settling down to watch a mouth watering afternoon of sport starting with the German MotoGP from Sachsenring. Nine poles and nine victories for my chou chou Marc Marquez, who’s leading the World Championship. I was a happy bunny.

Next up the Tour de France’s cobbled stage finishing in Roubaix which started a bit earlier so as not to clash with the match. Sadly crashes and inopportune mechanicals either put paid to or severely dented the ambitions of a number of riders, but hey that’s cycling. You also had to feel for those nursing injuries from earlier stages, those cobbles must’ve been really painful. It was good to see former Paris-Roubaix winner John Degenkolb pick up his first win since recovering from a terrible accident.

Finally, the blue-riband event, the eagerly awaited World Cup final. The beach and streets emptied, as everyone tuned into the match. Finals are rarely great matches, although this one was exciting. Lady luck was wearing red, white and blue as pre-match favourites France showed flashes of both brilliance and stupidity to beat Croatia 4-2 and lift their second World Cup, twenty years after their last. I’ve become a huge fan of Kylian Mbappe who has enchanted everyone with his maturity and was rightly best young playet of the tournament.

Some of my favourite scenes were President Macron’s celebratory dance – don’t give up the day job! – and the mass huggging which followed the presentation of the trophy and medals. The hotel where we were staying broke out the bubbles to toast the team. It had been a great week-end for the French, though you had to feel for the Croats, and for anyone in France hoping for a good night’s sleep.

 

Postcard from Montmelo

The Barcelona-Catalunya circuit in Montmelo has hosted a Grand Prix every year since it was first included on the calendar in 1992. It’s a superb track, with great facilities, well-organised, and the parking is free. It’s about 25km to the north of Barcelona and is the home venue for many of the sport’s biggest stars including reigning MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez, former world champion Jorge Lorenzo, Maverick Vinales – surely the best name ever –  Dani Pedrosa and the Espargaro brothers Aleix and Pol. Fortunately, the race falls in June, a great time of the year to visit this beautiful region.

It was as if we’d never left French soil. Everyone seated around us in the MotoGP grandstand  was speaking French and, as we strolled around the circuit, our ears were naturally tuned into all the French voices. Still, it’s easy enough to just pop over the border, though the French number plates in the car park came from all over.

Between sessions, we like to wander round the stalls, see who’s buying what and look at the various edible offerings. Apart from us, everyone seemed to be wearing an item supporting one of the teams or riders, usually a cap or t-shirt. Some were impressively decked out head to toe in support of their favourite rider, often along with a tattoo of the same. In fact, tatts were very much to the fore. The two of us were a small tattoo and endorsement free zone.

This MotoGP was sponsored by Monster Energy who put on an impressive display of trick cycling, wave boarding, a DJ and lots of lovely ladies in skimpy outfits, frolicking in more water – or was it Monster Energy? – with whom you can have a selfie.

Aside from the circuit, the French had also invaded and taken over the hotel where we were staying. They came, they saw, they conquered on their powerful motorbikes, all 1000cc. That’s a lot of throbbing power and gleaming chrome between your legs. I wouldn’t know as I have never been on a motorbike. That’s not a proud boast, rather an if only………..maybe one of these days!

The last time we attended the MotoGP in Catalunya was back in 2013. I’d purchased the trip on one of those cut-price sites. It turned out to be the bargain of the century. We had a fabulous time, including a day sight-seeing in Barcelona gorging on Gaudi and jamon. This time we stayed up the coast from Barcelona, just 30 minutes from the circuit, and airport.

We flew over on Thursday morning. The flight took less time than the wait for our luggage and car! But, finally, we were speeding along the motorway to the hotel chosen by my beloved (and approved by me). The boy done good! I like to think that after 40 years together he’s finally learned something.

We stayed in the coastal resort of Mataro, which has a rich history dating back to Roman times. Aside from its marina and wide sandy beaches beaches, there’s a number of archaeological sites, including some Roman remains. But that’s not all. The first ever railway line to be built on the Iberian Peninsula in 1848 linked Barcelona to Mataro.

Mataro’s Old Town is partly ringed by a 16th-century wall, within which is the 15th century Basilica of Santa Maria. La Wrier and La Rambla are the town’s main arteries along which lies its 17th century City Hall and, where the two roads converge, in Plaza de Santa Anna, there’s a lovely pink Baroque church.

It’s interesting to wander around the narrow lanes of the Old Town, wondering what you’ll find and/or see. We chanced upon Spain’s answer to Green Day conducting a sound check in one of the town’s many squares, plus some oddly dressed characters. Were they connected? Who knows! More importantly, we found an impressive cake shop and enjoyed its wares in its sunlit garden.

We combined the MotoGP with watching some of the World Cup football, including the opening match, plus Ronaldo v Spain. We missed France’s first game, as we were at the circuit, but much enjoyed seeing Mexico get the better of Germany. I also got to celebrate World Lobster Day, albeit a day late, with fried lobster – a first!

The sessions at the circuit kicked off early with Moto3 whose engines sound like pesky mosquitos that you’d like to swat before the full-throttled and ear shattering MotoGP engines take to the stage. Your entire body seems to throb in time with those revs. Friday is typically quieter in terms of spectators, building to capacity on Sunday. But whichever day, VR46 or Valentino Rossi fans outnumbered all the others combined.

We were in Spain but, Marc Marquez aside, fans of the other Spanish riders, including former world champion Jorge Lorenzo, are very much in the minority. Not so French rider Johann Zarco who mustered an impressive fan base. We’ve met his Dad who lives in Cannes and rides for one of the local cycling clubs.

I like to watch all the action at the circuit, not wishing to miss any of the Free Practice sessions, nor Qualifying or Warm Up. Throughout the three-days, there were thrills and spills, plus one bike combusted. Importantly no one was seriously injured. Unusually, three different nationalities topped the podiums in their respective classes including, for those sitting around us, a Frenchman in Moto2.

Funnily enough the least interesting race was probably the blue riband event, as the podium was settled fairly early on. But the week-end was nonetheless extremely enjoyable and, should we decide to go again, we’ll definitely stay in the same hotel.

 

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 6

This picture was taken in early September in Valencia and features two of the Calatrava designed buildings at the City of Arts and Sciences. The one on the left is L’Hemispheric, an IMAX cinema, planetarium and laserium, while the one to the right, El Paulau de les Arts Reina Sophia, is an opera house and centre of performing arts. The buildings form part of the 12 wonders of Spain and respectively were the first and last of a cluster of buildings to be built in Valencia on the former riverbed of the Turia. The buildings look like something you might see in a Star Wars movie but the architect was in fact inspired by the massive skeletons of dinosaurs. Either way, I love that the buildings are reflected in the surrounding ornamental pool.

My beloved had raved about Valencia ever since he’d seen the America’s Cup there with a former boss who was a keen sailor. I was keen to visit and while the City of Arts and Sciences is magnificent, as are its miles of sandy beach, Valencia is a bit of a curate’s egg – good in parts. I’d go back there  but only to watch the MotoGP season ending race in November or maybe  football match at the Mestalla.

Dolce far niente

It’s official, we’re enduring a heat wave similar to that of 2003, La Grande Canicule, which this time is appropriately called Lucifer. The problem with heatwaves is that it’s too hot to do much of anything, particularly housework. Iron a few garments and you’ve worked up enough sweat to re-soak said items. Sweep the floor and within seconds you’re perspiring all over the floor. Well, that’s my excuse for taking a rain check on housework. A few hours in the office, and you slump across the desk.

When it’s really hot you feel languid, as if everything’s just too much effort. Now, unlike my two sisters, I’m not one for sunbathing. I last about 30 minutes in the sun. I get bored lying still and doing nothing. While the cool waters of our pool beckon, it’s even hotter beside the pool as it’s sheltered from what little breeze is around. Plus, at this time of year, it’s pretty busy. My beloved prefers to swim either when it opens, or just before it closes. I prefer to sit outside, in the shade, while carrying on with a few chores, maybe read a book or just sit back and enjoy the scenery. I regularly return to the kitchen to check on whatever I have simmering on the hob or cooking in the oven. Plus, I can throw another pile of clothes into the washing machine. I find it hard to do absolutely nothing but have scaled back during the heat wave which looks to continue.

Fortunately, if we open all the windows in the apartment we can enjoy the slight through breeze. While I’m not a fan of air conditioning, just getting into the car and turning it on is blissful. As is turning the hairdryer on full-blast, cold to cool the sweat pouring from my brow after just brushing my teeth.

Yesterday, I relaxed on the balcony, in the shade, where there was a mere hint of a welcome breeze. The cicadas were rubbing their legs together to no avail. It’s the omnipresent sound of summer which typically dies down at night, but not this year. Those poor insects have been at it night and day. I sympathise, not even the linen sheets are cool but that could be because of the heat being given off by my beloved on the far side of the bed. Heat that’s welcome in winter but not now. I keep conjuring up scenes from that 1980s film Body Heat where Kathleen Turner and William Hurt cooled down in a bath full of ice cubes but the ice cube maker on the fridge-freezer isn’t working!

Early this morning we awoke to thunder and lightning, but no rain. That arrived later. It poured, but not for long, and 30 minutes later everything was dry. The thirsty earth had sucked up every drop of available moisture and the rain merely made conditions more humid. There was nothing for it, we’d have another lazy day, pottering around the flat and watching the MotoGP from Brno. Not that we need any excuse to watch sport!

 

 

 

It doesn’t get better than this!

Sunday, after a delicious vegetable chilli for lunch (recipe to follow shortly), my beloved and I settled down for a feast of sporting action. First up, the conclusion of a thrilling Volta a Catalunya dominated by the evergreen Movistarlet Alejandro Valverde. Next up was a spot of action from Belgium, with an exciting conclusion to Gent-Wevelgem where the victor was the in-form Olympic Champion, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). But there’s more!

After entreaties from my beloved, I have caved in and signed up for CanalPlus Sport giving us access to plenty of cycling and, more importantly, MotoGP live. Since, it moved from Eurosport to BTSport in the UK , I have had to be content with watching races the following day which tends to take the edge off of things. Now we have the luxury of watching all three classes live. I started watching MotoGP largely because of cycling, as typically the MotoGP races preceded those of cycling on Eurosport.

Joan Mir

I started watching MotoGP stars Marc Marquez and Maverick Vinales when they were both in MotoGP3 and I’ll be looking hard at this class to spot the stars of the future. Most of the MotoGP3 riders look too young to be out on their own on a bicycle let alone a 125cc moto bike. Their fresh faced enthusiasm is infectious and I couldn’t believe the winners were allowed to celebrate with champagne, surely lemonade would have been more appropriate? However, having checked them out, I discovered, quite incredibly, they were all over 18 and had come up either through their national series or that of Red Bull. The race was won by a 19 year old Spanish rider, Joan Mir, sponsored by Leopard – yes, the same one that supported a WorldTour team – who was MotoGP3 rookie of the year in 2016. Runner-up was John McPhee a British racer a few years older who’s been knocking around the circuits for a while. He was in a Spanish sandwich as Jorge Martin, another 19 year old, who’s been in the same class since 2015, finished third.

Franco Morbidelli

Incredibly there were no Spaniards on the podium in the MotoGP2 class. The winner, Italian Franco Morbidella, moved up to this class in 2013 and finished fourth last year. Runner-up was the evergreen Swiss Thomas Luthi who’s been racing this class for ten years and the podium was rounded out by the Japanese rider Takaani Nakagami who was the youngest ever winner of the Japanese GP series in 2006. First Spaniard was Alex Marquez, brother of Marc, in fifth place.

Maverick Vinales

This season with Jorge Lorenzo moving from Yamaha to Ducati, Maverick Vinales  – surely the best name in the sport – replaces him and really moves into contention after winning a race last season for Suzuki. Unfortunately, the blue-riband event was plagued by rain, uncertainty and was finally reduced to 20 dramatic laps. Vinales, who had dominated pre-season testing, was on pole and had a battle royal in the desert with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati). Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) was third after coming back from way back on the grid.

Marc Marquez

Andrea Iannone (Suzuki Ecstar) got off to a great start but was soon overshadowed by French rookie Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) who zoomed into the lead in the early laps, putting daylight between himself and the rest, before dramatically sliding out. Iannone soon followed suit leaving defending champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) chasing the leading three: Vinales, Dovizioso and Rossi. The first two traded places before Vinales held off Dovi on the penultimate lap to record his second MotoGP win, his first in Yamaha colours. Marquez crossed the line in fourth and admitted post-race he’d made an ill-advised tyre change just before the race start. That said, looking at previous results, the circuit has favoured the Yamaha bikes. Next up is Argentina, a new location ,followed by Austin where the Hondas have reigned supreme. It looks as if the 2017 season is off to an exciting start and I’m hoping it’ll be a close run competition.

All photographs courtesy Getty Images 

 

Sheree’s 2016 Sporting Highlights

Wishing you all good health, much happiness and every success in 2017.
There were so many lowlights in 2016 – 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!
(There are no photographs because I have limited WiFi capabilities).

Football

The inevitable descent of my beloved boys in claret and blue to the Championship was more than offset by the performance of OGC Nice who resurrected the career of Hatem Ben Arfa and qualifed for European football for the first time in around 20 years. As anticipated, at the start of the 2016/17 season, we lost our two frontmen and the manager, but the team’s confidence was boosted by the arrival of Mario Balotelli and the new manager has built on last season’s foundations. We’re currently riding high at the top, yes the top, of the league and, hopefully, will push PSG and Monaco all the way.

MotoGP

I was delighted when Marc Marquez won the blue riband event in his rookie year (2013). When he won back to back victories I grew concerned that the sport was following In the footsteps of F1. Last year’s battle royal between the winner, Spain’s Jorge Lorenzo, and his team mate – easily the most popular MotoGP rider by a country mile – Valentino Rossi, whose clash with Marquez arguably denied the former another championship victory, rather dented the popularity of the two Spanish riders who were booed on home turf. Another fascinating battle this year with nine different victors ignited the competition, invoked greater interest and ultimately led to a wiser and more mature Marquez lifting his third title. One of my new year’s resolutions is a 2017 trip to watch another MotoGP race, probably either in Mugello or again in Catalunya.

Cycling

While we didn’t achieve three grand departs like last year, attending all three grand tours afforded us the opportunity to visit some new locations either on the race route or along the way. Aside from watching perennial race favourites,  the Tour of the Basque Country and Clasica San Sebastian, we spent a very enjoyable weekend in Siena watching both the ladies and gents’ Strade Bianche, two tough but absorbing races which we’ll definitely watch again this year. In fact, the hotel’s already booked! As are those for all of this year’s races we intend to watch, including those for the starts of all three grand tours, in respectively Sardinia, Germany and France. That’s right, apart from the Giro, the other two are starting outside their home turf. But my cycling season highlight didn’t take place on the road. Instead, on my maiden visit to a velodrome, I witnessed Aussie rider Bridie O’Donnell set a new world record for the hour. It was an inspiring,  perfectly paced and commentated, absorbing ride which I consider I was so lucky to see.

Cricket

My father, a keen cricketer, taught me to play cricket at a young age. This probably contributed greatly to my eye-hand-ball co-ordination in games such as tennis and squash. School champion at throwing the rounders’ ball, I was also a bit of a demon on the cricket pitch on the rare occasions the school played the sport. However, I’ve never had the patience to sit through test cricket, even though I love the stats. Early this year in Australia I watched my first Twenty20 match live and fell in love. This time around we’ll see at least four live games in support of the Melbourne Renegades – great family entertainment and an exciting evening’s viewing.

My Health

I struggled a bit to find a fifth sporting highlight until I had a lightbulb moment. Of course, it’s my return to good health without which any sport is difficult. For someone who’s used to running everyone ragged and having oodles of energy, this past 18 months has been hard, at times even depressing. But the good news is that, after my last disfiguring bout of eczema, over a month ago, I appear to (finally) be heading in the right direction with a big energetic bounce in my step. I can’t wait to get back to riding and running regularly. I’m going to maintain my regime as a fish eating vegan because it’s had so many positive side effects on my health. Sure, I look on enviously as my beloved tucks into a slice of rare roast beef, a Wiener Schnitzel, a bacon sandwich or a plate of pata negra but I can do without them and I’ve discovered so many more interesting ways to eat fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. And, please, don’t get me started on the health benefits of tumeric!

Planning in vain

Yet again I find myself chomping at the bit to go out for a ride. I managed to slip out at lunchtime for a quick thrash around Cap d’Antibes but was left wanting more. Sadly, I’m still hosting a whole variety of tradespeople two weeks after they were supposed to have finished! This is playing havoc with my schedule.

Planner 2014edited

To be fair, it’s not been all bad. Their workmanship has largely been exemplary. The only issue, and it’s a personal one, has been the replacement trap doors in the flat. The previous ones were made for me by a carpenter to match my door surrounds and so I’ll shortly be replacing the new replacement ones. These new bog standard replacement door traps don’t quite cut it and mine are just that wee bit too small. However, I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one with this problem. Either the builders cut too large new access holes or the measurements taken were inaccurate. Either way, it doesn’t really matter. Of course, for some of my neighbours, particularly those with wallpapered walls, the end result is far from attractive and they’ll either have to lump it or totally redecorate their hallways, a far more expensive proposition than a replacement door and surround.

This week I had hoped to be spending days out on the bike enjoying the still mild weather, instead I’m spending way too much time cooped up inside. The only upside is that I’m tackling my backlog of work. Just as well as, once the builders have departed, everything will need a thorough clean. There’s dirt and dust everywhere. Still I have been enjoying the break from housework – who wouldn’t? I could have used Bob the Robot to keep the floor dust in check but it’s all proved too much for him. He’s gone on strike and won’t recharge. I’ve got to return him for a once-over and, possibly, replacement parts.

This week end it’ll be key to log plenty of kilometres in the saddle as next week I’m making one of my briefish trips to the UK for a Dental Exhibition – I know, I lead such an exciting life! – and to see my Dad. As a consequence, my training plans have rather gone out of the window in my quest to just ride as much as I can before the cold weather sets in. But hopefully that’s going to be many more weeks off.

Already, I’m making plans for next year. By the end of next month, I’ll typically have the following year pretty much planned out. My trip to the start of next year’s Tour de France in Yorkshire was booked about four months’ ago and I’ve just made plans to visit friends and clients in Italy next year to watch the latter part of the recently announced Giro d’Italia. In addition, I’ve selected the route and hotels for next year’s trip to the World Championships in Ponferrada, Spain. We’re turning it into a two week holiday, with bikes, which will give us plenty of opportunity to explore areas which we’ve never before visited.

My husband was pretty adamant that he wouldn’t be following the Tour of the Basque country next year, so that might have to be a solo road trip with what by then will be Tom IV. How time flies! But maybe he’ll relent by the time next Easter comes around. Just in case, I’d better book a hotel room large enough for us both. In truth, next year’s viewing of cycle races will follow a pretty similar agenda to this year’s, although I am hoping to squeeze in another trip to the MotoGP in either Spain or Italy.

It might seem as if all this planning and preparation takes away from the spontaneity of just rocking up to watch something but I find it’s quite the opposite. It gives me time to look forward and savour what’s on the horizon without stressing about whether or not I’ll find accommodation or have time to go. If it’s not in the diary, it’s easy to overlook or rashly commit  – or be committed by my beloved – to something else.

Can’t get enough

Yesterday morphed into an almost perfect day of sporting pleasure. I dropped my beloved off at the airport and, as the sun was shining, decided an early ride was in order. It was a perfect weather for a ride. I wasn’t the only one to think that as the roads were crowded with cyclists. I’m suffering a bit at the moment with my tree pollen allergy which gives me pink scratchy eyes, a runny nose and a wheeze. It’s worse when it’s windy, like on Saturday. But yesterday the wind was relatively benign which probably accounted for the rain shower which began just as I reached home.

Freed from the restrictions of having to feed my beloved, I enjoyed a lazy soak in my spa bath and even used the spa facility – sheer bliss. Lunch was left-overs from Saturday evening which I enjoyed on a tray in front of the television, so as not to miss a second of Sunday’s jam-packed sporting action. Given conflicting schedules I’m ashamed to admit I had all three televisions tuned in to various channels and could, but didn’t, have resorted to my laptop.

First up the London Marathon. Watching this always brings back memories of my own participation in 1994 where I do believe I set a record for the slowest recorded finish, just seconds before the cut-off. That’s almost 20 years’ ago – scary thought. I keep saying I’ll do another one, but I haven’t. There’s still plenty of time! It was great to see that the shocking events in Boston had increased, rather than diminished, the support for the race.

Then I was transported to Turkey to watch the first stage of the Presidential Tour, won in fine style by German sprinter Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano). I was however on friend-watch, which always makes any event much more enjoyable, and I saw them all finish safely in the bunch. At the same time I was checking on progress over in Belgium at La Doyenne, Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Handily, the rain had delayed the start of the tennis final in Monte Carlo where Nadal was bidding for his ninth win. That man owns the clay courts there but unfortunately not this year. Novak Djokovic won in imperious fashion, no doubt hoping to do the same in Paris, at the French Open. Nadal showed flashes of his old self but the long injury lay-off inevitably took its toll. He wasn’t able to respond as one might have anticipated despite the urging of the crowd, hoping for a third set.

Back to racing in Belgium, where fellow-Brummie Dan Martin surprised many with an emphatic victory, well-orchestrated by his Garmin-Sharp team. It also showed that Ryder Hesjedal, the defending Giro champion is on the money two-weeks before he gets to defend his pink jersey. Mechanicals proved the undoing of a couple of the Spanish riders while the Colombians again animated the race.

Cycling over, I stayed with two wheels and watched the MotoGP races from Austin, Texas. I made a mental note to try and visit my friends who live there next year!  I have tracked with interest the last few seasons the progress of Spanish prodigy Marc Marquez who had pole for the blue riband event – the youngest-ever rider to achieve that feat. However, first up were the Moto2 and Moto3 races, the former including the wonderfully named Maverick Vinales and, the latter, Marc’s younger brother Alex.

Now for reasons I won’t pretend to understand, but which have largely to do with the track and the brakes, Honda bikes were at a considerable advantage to the Yamaha ones. The reverse of the situation two weeks ago in Qatar. It was a thrilling race of cat and mouse with the two Honda riders, Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, well out in front and leaving us wondering who was going to win. Three laps from home we had our answer when Marquez built an unassailable lead to become the youngest-ever winner of a MotoGP race. He’s got an old head on very young shoulders and I’m sure I’m going to be using the description “youngest-ever” quite a lot.

Just enough time to check on OGCN’s progress at PSG – not good. We went down 3-0. Wherever the team ends up in the Ligue, it’s been a fantastic season. The team have punched well above their weight and budget for which credit has to be given to the manager. A few of you will be thinking what about the F1 from Bahrain. What about it? I’m not an F1 fan although I do know Vettel won. By which time I was more than ready for bed!