Une Edition Record

La Laurentine Andrei Kivilev

The day of the event was warm and sunny: just what we’d ordered. For once there were no professional riders at the start , as the event clashed with their professional commitments.  No matter, a good time was still had by all thanks to the hard work of our vast team (60) of volunteers which did not go unnoticed or unappreciated by the participants.

Andrei’s widow kindly assisted with the presentation of the prizes and her son  performed a splendid job selecting the winning numbers for the tombola. Yes, not only did the participants get a goodie bag with a T-shirt commemorating the event, a bidon, a discount voucher from one of the local sports shops but they stood to win cycling related prizes, including 2 sets of wheels and a Look bike frame, in the tombola.

The event  was graced, as usual, by the Mayor and other local and regional officials responsible for sporting and cultural events as well as a representative from the Kazakh Embassy in France and a reporter and cameraman from Kazakh TV. Our event will be featured in a short segment which will be regularly repeated in the coming weeks on the main TV channel in Kazakhstan. In the spirit of cementing Franco-Kazakh relations, I decided to wear the dreaded white trousers from Le Grand Depart 2009, teaming them with a turquoise t-shirt and yellow sweater, swung over the shoulders: voila, the colours of team Astana and the Kazakh flag.  

We’ll be holding a post-mortem meeting this week to review what went well and, more importantly, how and where we can make improvements for next year’s edition. Ideally, we would like to turn it into a cyclosportif. Easier said than done.

All this hyperactivity meant that I missed watching 3 stages of the Giro, although I did see the final TT. Liquigas must have been delighted: three men in the top ten with Basso taking the maglia rosa , Nibali 3rd  and  Kiserlovski 10th. Equally, Caisse d’Epargne must be pleased with Arroyo’s 2nd place while honourable mentions for Scarponi (4th), Evans (5th) and Vino (6th). The Australians made a clean sweep of the remaining jerseys: points (Evans), mountains (Lloyd) and best young rider (Porte). The organisers are to be congratulated for organising a thrilling Giro.

I spy with my little eye…..

Only hours after having my eye lasered, I can see without glasses. I was a little apprehensive beforehand, but the clinic did everything to put me at ease, including giving me a therapeutic foot massage. Attractively clad in slip on disposable booties, a paper shower cap and blue apron I lay down on the operating table and did exactly as I was told. My charming opthalmic surgeon was ably assisted by a nurse and a technician who reassuringly talked me through the entire procedure.

After anaesthesia in both eyes, my right eye underwent treatment to cure my short-sightedness and astigmatism. It was uncomfortable, rather than painful, and over very quickly. Afterwards my eye felt a little scratchy. I was expecting it to be more painful as the anaesthetic wore off, but it wasn’t.

I declined the post-operative coffee and cakes, settled my bill, thanked everyone and headed off home to watch the Giro. After yesterday’s exciting TT up the Plan de Corones, won by Stefano Garzelli, today’s was a more prosaic stage: 173km to Pejo Terme. The fireworks were provided by yet another lone rider from a breakaway group who landed his first professional win in an 8-year career with Cofidis to give France its second stage winner in this edition. Damien Mounier set off 3km from the finish leaving behind his breakaway companions and held on to take his first ever pro-tour win – fantastic. Arroyo is still in pink and the usual suspects are lurking in the wings, waiting to pounce.

Lazy Sunday afternoons

My beloved returned yesterday evening from a hectic week in the UK. I let him sleep in this morning as there was no pointage, just a club ride to Aspremont. Instead, we decided to ride over to Menton and tackle the Col de la Madone. However, my beloved was feeling really fatigued so rather than ride over to La Turbie, we descended to Menton and retraced our steps.

Thanks to the gloriously warm summer-like conditions, the roads were busy with holiday traffic (Monday’s a Bank holiday here). We spotted 2 Rolls Royces, 6 Ferraris, 1 Lambourghini, I Bentley and only 1 Aston Martin. Yes, we take note of the number of high value cars we see when we ride over in the direction on Monaco. We do not include Porsches, Mercedes or BMWs, far too common, though we do include Audi R8 Spyders.

With lunchtime almost over, we stopped at a small Italian roadside restaurant in Eze, where we could leave the bikes in the courtyard garden, and enjoyed a magnificent spaghetti with clams, followed by that Italian classic “Tiramisu”, which was deliciously light. Seriously fortified, we pedalled home strongly to catch the action on the Monte Zoncolan.

As anticipated the man who saved his legs yesterday, Ivan Basso, distanced everyone on that 11.9% average climb to the finish. He was followed in by (in order) Evans, Scarponi, Cunego, Vino, Sastre and Nibali. David Arroyo is still sitting pretty in pink, ahead of Ritchie Porte in white, followed by Basso, Sastre, Evans, Vino ( looking good in the red point’s jersey), Nibali and Scarponi.  I’m sure they’re all looking forward to tomorrow’s rest day, I know I am.

Normal service resumed

Today, I set off down the Var valley towards Castagniers for my Power Tap test. I was looking forward to seeing what, if any, progress I’d made since my first test. My coach promises a 5% improvement. Now, if I were an elite athlete, 5% improvement would sound like a good deal. However, since I’m not, I’m looking for around 20% improvement over 6 months.

I’m pleased to report that I’m on target with a 10% improvement over the last 3 months. I rode for 20 minutes along the D2202, easily one of my least favourite roads, on account of the very fast moving traffic and the amount of gravel and glass along its verges. The test was supposed to have taken place at the velodrome in La Bocca but it’s closed on account of this being a holiday week end. My trainer told me to stay at an average of 200 watts for the first 10 minutes and then give it my all. However, I barely managed to exceed 170 for the first 10 minutes. I did, fortunately, fare very much better on the way back. Though, I think it’s fair to say, Spartacus won’t be quaking in his Sidis any time soon.

I popped in to my LBS on the way back to say hello to the owner as, most unusually,  I’ve not been in for a couple of weeks. Then it was back home, shower, change into the fleecy tracksuit, lunch and onto the sofa for today’s stage of the Giro.

What did I say about buses? Yet another Italian win: third in a row. This time Vicenzo Nibali, largely thanks to some kamikaze descending off the Monte Grappa en route to Asolo. Today, it was the turn of the dethroned favourites to put the hurt on the rest of the peloton. Liquigas laid down a punishing pace on the ascent of the Monte Grappa, scattering GC contenders all over its steep slopes.

Finishing behind Nibali were (in order) Basso, Scarponi and Evans, with a gap to Vino, who now leads the points classification. David Arroyo is now in pink, 39 seconds ahead of former maglia rosa wearer, Ritchie Porte, with Tondo in 3rd place. Nibali is now 8th on GC, while Vino is 9th. I think we can expect further fireworks on tomorrow’s stage which includes the Monte Zoncolan: 10.1km with an average gradient of 11.9%. That’s going to hurt.

Back to back victories

Yesterday, I set off ahead of the rest of my clubmates fearing that I would arrive only to find the lunchtime picnic had already been demolished but mainly so as not to keep anyone waiting for me. It was decidedly chilly as I left St Jeannet, having driven there in the car. I was well wrapped up in  my long sleeved jersey, gilet and leg warmers. Although it was much balmier later in the day, I stayed thus clad.

Despite the cold, I was going surprisingly well and was joined by another early starter on the road to Bouyon. We rode on together until Roquesteron where, concerned that this might be the last bastion, I took a comfort break in one of the cafes. You do not want to be caught short, or rather I don’t, on the plateau: it’s very exposed.

I then plodded into the unknown as I’ve never ridden this particular stretch of road. It was largely uphill through Sigale, Collongues, Brianconnet, St Auban and Malamaire then fairly flat across the plateau. At this time of year, it’s pretty deserted and we saw few cars and few other cyclists. The countryside, thanks to the recent combination of sunshine and showers, was looking truly magnificent and I rode to the lake at Thorenc where two of the wives had prepared a magnificent picnic for us. The boys had overtaken me on the long uphill stretch and had already feasted by the time I arrived. I only stopped long enough to down a couple of cokes and a ham sandwich before remounting and setting off towards home.

I was determined that they were not going to overtake me on the way back. I set off at a brisk pace and really pushed on the descents. After the climb up St Pons to Coursegoules, its pretty much downhill all the way. I made it back to the car without being caught though to be honest our paths would have diverged after Carros. When I checked with them today, it appears that I wasn’t caught thanks to time lost on two punctures. In any event, I broke 10 hours by 14 minutes. Job well done.

I got back home in time to witness Pippo Pozzato, resplendent in the Italian champion’s jersey, take Italy’s first stage win of the Giro from a breakaway. Not one that had been away all day, but one that had slipped away in the final kilometers and was composed largely of the recently dethroned favourites, minus Evans, who managed to pull back a few seconds on those better placed on GC.

Well wouldn’t you know it, victories are just like buses. You wait ages for one and then another one comes along soon after. Yes, homeboy Manuel Belletti (Colnago CSF-Inox) won the sprint for the line from a breakaway into Cesenatico, a stage devoted to another local, one Marco Pantani.

Karpets, the scariest looking rider in the peloton, who was in the breakaway, took back over two minutes to leapfrog from 19th to 12th on GC. Otherwise, the status quo was maintained. However, it all kicks off tomorrow with a very lumpy stage which finishes in Asolo, home to one of my dearest friends. I do hope she’ll be watching it live.

They’ve got my number

This week I received a call from a gentleman purporting to be from the Kazakhstan Embassy in France. I say “purporting” because, at first, I didn’t know whether or not this was a genuine call. Many of my clubmates have wicked senses of humour and this could just be a wind up. On the other hand, it might just be genuine and, in such cases, I find it’s best to err on the side of caution.

He started talking about La Laurentine Kivilev and asked me if I was up to date with its state of affairs. I reassured him that not only was I the club secretary but I was also on the committee responsible for organising the Kivilev. He went on to say how delighted he was to hear that we were honouring Andrei in this way who is still (quite rightly) regarded as a big hero back in Kazakhstan.

He then threw me a bit of a curve ball by asking if we’d invited anyone from the Kazakh Cycling Federation to the event. I said that, as far as I was aware, we had not, but Andrei’s widow and son had been invited along with all the Kazakh cyclists living locally. He was pleased to hear this but still felt that our event warranted representation from the Federation. At which point I advised that we would be happy to issue an invite and that I would speak to M Le President that very afternoon.

Apparently, we did issue an open invite to the Kazakh Cycling Federation for the inaugural event back in 2006 but no one replied, let alone turned up. However, we’re happy to oblige and so yesterday evening I sent invitations to both the Federation and the Embassy. I’m not holding my breath.

Afterwards, I started wondering how the Embassy had gotten hold of my mobile phone number. Yes, it’s on the French version of the flyer, and on the club website, but so’s the mobile number of M Le President and, if that was the case, I’m guessing the Embassy would have followed protocol and rung him. So, there’s really only one other possibility. My favourite Kazakh must have given the embassy my number. Now, if you’re wondering why and how he’s got my mobile number I’m sorry, but I’m not going to enlighten you.  After all, a girl’s got to have a few secrets, hasn’t she?

Bouleversement

I got caught in the rain this morning as I went out for a quick training ride ahead of tomorrow’s marathon: 175km and 2,713m of climbing.  I then rushed around, like the mad woman that I am, fulfilling my long list of must do chores for today. I arrived back home in time to watch today’s stage of the Giro, a fairy innocuous (or so I thought), long (262km) stage to L’Aquila.

I switched on the tv to discover one-third of the peloton (56 riders) were having a Perreiro moment. They’d gone away in the 20th kilometer and had built up an advantage of 17 minutes in the pouring rain. Yes, after yesterday’s sunshine, the weather gods are once more displeased.

Most of those occupying the top 15 spots on GC, including the maglia rosa, were in Group 2. Those who we were all (wrongly) figuring might be out of contention, were in Group 1. How they were allowed to build up such an advantage remains a mystery but, is bound to be a talking point at the dinner table this evening. By the time the favourites started taking their turn on the front of Group 2, having exhausted their troops, it was definitely a case of far too little, too late.

The stage was won by Evgeni Petrov (Katusha) ahead of Dario Cataldo (Quick Step) and Carlos Sastre (Cervelo); so, still no Italian stage win.  Ritchie Porte (Saxo Bank) now has both the pink and white jerseys.  David Arroyo (Casse d’Epargne) is in 2nd place while Robert Kiserlovski (Liquigas) is 3rd.

Group 2 containing Vinokourov, Basso, Nibali, Evans, Garzelli, Scarponi, Pozzato, Karpets, Cunego and Pinotti (among others) came in over 12 minutes and 46 seconds down and they are now way back on GC. This is turning into one hell of a Giro, I can hardly wait for tomorrow’s stage. What better incentive to finish tomorrow’s ride in a reasonable time so that I can watch the highlights. What, you thought I’d be back in time to watch it live?  Sadly, no way, but I’m hoping to break 10 hours.

Aussies rule

Three stage wins and three jerseys, the Aussies are having a very good Giro. After gracing two jerseys and the top three places on GC for a few days, the Italians are finding it tough to score and are, no doubt, being lambasted in the pink pages of La Gazzetta dello Sport. But there’s plenty of stages left, particularly those in the tough 3rd week, for Italians to shine on home soil.

Will fans please go and light candles in their nearest church and pray for better weather in the Giro. Those boys are being assaulted by the elements every day. After Saturday’s mudbath and Sunday’s freezing fog atop the mountain finish, yesterday they had to contend with another torrential downpour. Mind you, it wasn’t much better over in the Tour of California which has allegedly been moved to May to take advantage of the more clement weather. Again, one can only assume insufficient lighting of candles and sacrifices to the weather gods. There’s plenty of riders covered in road rash after falling on yesterday’s wet stage to add to those who fell on Sunday in the final kilometre. Some, like George Hincapie, have fallen both days.

Meanwhile, we’re enjoying more clemency on the Cote d’Azur. I felt positively overdressed for Sunday’s ride. I followed the designated route on the club site, which necessitated a detour to collect a ticket. This is a device used by a number of clubs when their pointage is on the coast road to encourage the other clubs to take a longer ride. An additional point is awarded for the ticket. Happily, I felt no ill-effects whatsoever from Saturday’s ride and spun along quite happily in the warm sunshine. My beloved, with my permission, had ridden off with one of our clubmates.

Yesterday, as per the training programme, was a rest day and, coincidentally,  the best weather we’ve enjoyed so far this year. Fortunately, it looks set to continue. More importantly, yesterday afternoon, the club took a historic step. We’ve “signed” our first paid Directeur Sportif and first paid apprentice thanks to a rather novel French scheme. This has been set up in PACA to encourage ex-professionals and very good amateurs, in a variety of sports, to become  coaches at the grass roots level. Our DS is a retired policeman, and very good cyclist, who will spend 25hrs a week learning his new trade and 10hrs a week training our racers and cycling school. The apprentices are young, promising riders who will be fitting their schooling in around their cycling, not the other way around. This schooling will again equip them to become sports coaches though the hope, rather than expectation, is that at least one of them may become a professional cyclist. Best news of all, it costs us absolutely nothing. Yes, that’s right absolutely nothing.

Slip, sliding away

A bit of a hiatus this week due largely to  pressure of work and not an extended absence, as planned, watching the Giro. And what a Giro it has been. Cloud bursts made the TTT trial somewhat of a lottery and those men in lime green seized the opportunity to occupy the first three places on GC, and hence the maglia rosa, and the young rider’s jersey.

Thursday’s 5th stage to Novi Ligure was won by someone in the breakaway. Don’t you just love that when it happens? I do. Jerome Pineau won ahead of his breakaway companions, Julien Fouchard (Cofidis) and Yukira Arashiro (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) to record Quick Step’s 2nd stage win of this Giro, just 100 metres ahead of the advancing peloton.

And what do you know, a breakaway succeeded on Friday too. Matt Lloyd (Omega Pharma Lotto) and Rubens Bertogliati (Androni Giocattoli-Diquigiovanni) went away after 46kms and stayed away. The former beating the latter to the line in Marina di Carrara by over a minute. Danilo Hondo (Lampre Farnese-Vino) won the sprint for 3rd.

So, here we are, stage 7 to Montalcino and Liquigas are still occupying the podium. Yet another Aussi won today. Yes, Cadel “Cuddles” Evans won the mud fight on the strade bianche which had been turned brown by the rain. Indeed, it was hard to make out who was who as they were all literally covered in mud. The pink jersey slid off the wet, tarmac road taking out a number of his team mates and forcing a break in the leading group. Those ahead continued but, as per peloton protocol, didn’t force the pace. Evans bridged up to this group and, along with Vino, was responsible for finally whittling it down.

As they approached the finish line, Evans was ahead of Cunego with Vino in 3rd place. That’s how it stayed, as Evans rode strongly to victory. He’s really been a different rider since donning the rainbow jersey and now lies 1 min 12 secs back on Vino who’s looking pretty in pink again. Today’s biggest losers were Carlos Sastre and Xavier Tondo (Cervelo). But there’s still an awful long way to go.

We watched today’s stage after getting back from completing La Vencoise: 2000m of climbing over 105km. It’s the first time I’ve done this course which was well marshalled and organised. My beloved kindly kept me company until the final feed point at which point I set him free. I managed to avoid the cloud burst on the climb from St Pons to the top of Col de Vence on the run in for home. Riders faster than me, including my beloved, weren’t so lucky. Amazingly, I wasn’t the lanterne rouge, finished strongly and turned in a reasonable time (for me) of 5hr 48 minutes.  This should stand me in good stead for Thursday’s 175km ride  (2,713m) with the other volunteers for the Kivilev.  I guess I should do a time of around 11 hours which sounds like an awfully long time in the saddle.

Oops-a-daisy

Sunny again on the coast this morning while the hills behind were once more shrouded in cloud. It didn’t rain, and I managed to fit in my 4 hour training ride. I’m back in my bib shorts but am still wearing my long-sleeved cycling shirt and gilet. While I was out, my beloved was whisked to the airport on a motorbike for his trip to Poland. I’m expecting him back sometime Wednesday evening, or maybe Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, I have received a desperate cry for hospitality from my Swiss cycling friend who, keen to swop the rain swept mountains of Switzerland, may be paying us a visit this week end. That’ll be three of us for the Vencoise. If so, I’ll let the boys ride together on the longer parcours.

Cycling and chores over I settled down to watch Stage 3 of the Giro, from Amsterdam to Middleburg, by way of the sandy, windy, Dutch coastline.  The wind split the peloton and crashes dashed the chances of a few of the favourites. Wily campaigners like Vino, Basso, Scarponi, and Garzelli managed to stay out of trouble as did some of the newer boys on the block, such as Porte and Nibali. Evans relinquished the pink jersey having been detained by the multiple Sky pile up and, lacking the support of any team mates, he led the chase over the line to minimize his time loss. Most commentators expected Greipel to win both the stage and the pink jersey but he lost the wheel of his lead out man and, fittingly, it was Belgian Wouter Weylandt, who hefted his arms aloft on the line. Who’s in pink? That man Vino. Pink suits him and it puts his team in last place for the TTT, always an advantage.

Please note, these two stages should be compulsory viewing for all those riding this year’s Tour de France along with all their Directeur Sportifs. There’ll be no excuses come July, you’ve been warned.