More young guns

Monday’s generally a rest day and one where I apply myself to administrative matters for both the club and our company. However, having missed my Sunday ride, thanks to the subsequently cancelled La Ronde, I felt the road was calling me. According to the weather forecast, yesterday was scheduled to reach normal August temperatures of around 30C instead of languishing, as it has been, at around 23-25C. It was overcast and humid to start with but a very warm southerly wind blew away the clouds to leave an azure sky and a scorching temperature. I chose a well shaded route, hoping to postpone as long as possible the inevitable numbing and cramping in my feet. After only 40 minutes, my left foot started throbbing but I rode on trying hard to ignore the pain. After an hour, the right foot joined in.  After two hours, the pain was so bad I stopped for a short rest and a drink.

This generally does the trick and I rode for a further hour before again succumbing to another break. Yesterday was particularly bad because I had spent most of Sunday on my feet. I’m trying to rest them as much as possible but it’s really difficult to stay off them. By the time I reached home, I’d been out for about 4 hours. I had a 30 minute refreshing thrash about in the pool before settling down on the sofa, with my feet up, to watch the prologue in the Eneco Tour: a 5.7km technical course around Amersfoot in Holland.  Last year’s overall winner HTC’s Tony Martin was absent, but there was plenty of other strong time-trialling talent taking part. The course was smoked by BMC’s rookie, Taylor Phinney, a man with cycling in his DNA, to land his first [of many] ProTour win. He was the only rider to go under 7 minutes and finished 7 seconds ahead of Sky’s Edvald Boassen Hagen, the Norwegian time-trialling champ. Garvelo’s David Millar was 3rd. Lurking ominously in 8th place, and only 13 seconds back, was PhilGil, on the hunt for more points so as to finish the year as the UCI’s main man.

Rather than wait for the start of the Vuelta, I then decided to attack the post Tour ironing mountain. It’s awfully hard to iron while seated, there was nothing else for it. I was back on my feet. Numerous shirts and t-shirts later (all my beloved’s), I rewarded myself with a further rest on the sofa. Today was going to be my rest day but the weather was so glorious, I couldn’t resist going for a quick ride early this morning. I had a brief trip to the club this evening and, while watching today’s stage of the Eneco Tour, tackled the club’s accounts. While I’m not the Treasurer, and despite me spending many hours showing her how to reconcile the accounts and prepare the monthly analysis, she’s taken to having a half-hearted attempt and then handing it over to me.  As I’m going to be at my parents next week, I really needed to complete the task today so that I could hand her back the club’s records.

Today, the GC leader, Taylor Phinney, punctured with 20km to go and was paced up back to the front of the peloton by none other than Omega Pharma Lotto’s Belgian Classics King, Phil Gil. Phinney led out the sprint but faded to 7th. However, he hung on to his 7 second lead and his leader’s white jersey. Phil Gil’s team mate, Andrei Greipel took the win ahead of Katusha’s Denis Galimzyanov and Garvelo’s Tyler Farrar. Strong winds and narrow urban roads littered with street furniture had rendered today’s 192.1km stage, from Oosterhout to Sint Willebrord, crash prone. Numerous riders hit the deck, a number under the red kite, and five unfortunate souls were DNFs.

They weren’t the only DNFs today. I had last prepared the club accounts at the end of May only to discover the books were a complete dog’s breakfast. There were loads of cheques which had been encashed but were not in the manual cash book because the Treasurer hadn’t got the supporting documentation from M le President. This situation has not been addressed and, while I could make a pretty good guess, I’m not going to. They have to sort it out. So I reconciled the bank for the past two months and handed back the books this afternoon. They both became very animated when I explained the problem again, each blaming the other for misplacing the relevant paperwork. It’s quite possible that it’s a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other. The upshot is that I’m to become the Treasurer, while still retaining the bulk of my existing responsibilities.  Didn’t see that one coming but actually it will make the task much simpler as I’ll automate everything. M Le President is going to hand over his cheque book and the club credit card which should resolve the problem. They can sort out the mess they’ve made while I’m away and I’ll take over and do the accounts on my return.

I have another race scheduled  this week with the young lads who live on the Domaine. They reckon that having watched the Tour  they’ve worked out how to beat me. The race will be tomorrow morning as my outing with my coach has been postponed. I have no idea what their tactics will be but suspect they’re going to try and use their superior numbers to burn me off. However, given that the circuit is barely a kilometre long, I’m just going to sprint for it. I’ll be going for a good warm up beforehand, it generally takes me at least 25km to get into my stride, and then we’re rendezvousing at the entrance to the Domaine. I’m hoping there won’t be too much passing traffic. During August, as relatives arrive to spend time in the sun with their friends and loved ones, the Domaine resembles more a giant car park and obstacle course as people get ever more inventive as to where to leave their cars.

Mid-term report

Before the return of my beloved tomorrow morning from his recent trip to Australia and Singapore, it’s also useful for me to take stock of my achievements, particularly given how much time I have spent watching the Tour. I’m pleased to report the ironing mountain is much diminished, although I have yet to start on the mending, the administration is complete and up to date, organisation of the forthcoming La Ronde is well in hand, the flat is spotless, the plants are thriving and I have ridden approximately 1000km.

I say “approximately” because I have been unable to upload recent data via Garmin Connect. Even though Garmin assures me all my software is up to date, when I try to upload, I receive this message”UnsupportedDateTypeException: Your device is not supported by this application”. Well it was until a month or so ago. My beloved has also been having problems with his device. Every time he tries to upload his Garmin data, the HP Photosmart goes beserk and prints loads of blank paper. We have referred the issues to Garmin technical support and are awaiting a response. They’ve not been overly prompt in getting back to us but perhaps they’ve been kept busy with the Tour. Who knows?

My kilometrage doesn’t perfectly correlate with my beloved’s absence, it’s mandated by my training programme to which I try very hard to adhere, at all times. I do however often spend more time riding than given in the programme. For example, today I was supposed to ride for 3 hours, to include an ascent of the Col de la Madone. My coach wants me to ride up some longer gradients ahead of my assault next week on the Alps. During the week, it can take me as long as two hours to navigate the traffic and get to Menton for the start of the climb. It takes me an hour to get to Ste Agnes. So there we are, ride over and I’m nowhere near the top of the Col and a long way from home. I decided to save that treat for Saturday morning when there will be less traffic.  I may even treat myself to a light lunch in La Turbie, a mere hour from Ste Agnes, before my 90 minute ride home. Do the maths: for me it’s a 51/2hr ride. Going via Col d’Eze as he suggested, it would still take me 3 hours to get to the top of Lance’s favourite training ride.

Next week, I’m down for a couple of hours riding each day. I appreciate that my coach has never been on holiday with my beloved. If he had, he’d know that there’s no way we’re only going to be riding for an hour or so each day. That’s not to say my beloved is going to make me ride all the day’s stage but it’s fair to say that the riders and I will be spending a similar amount of time, each day, in the saddle.  That’s where the similarity ends. I’m also very flattered that my coach thinks it’s only going to take me 90 minutes to get up Alp d’Huez. I am also having another run at the Galibier, the more difficult ascent. In my book, cols don’t count unless you ride up them from the steepest side.

Hats off to the walking wounded who rode today’s shortish stage won by Andrei Greipel who relegated Mark Cavendish to second place. Surely, the cherry on top of the icing on the cake of his maiden Tour win, in his maiden Tour. Well played by team mate PhilGil who successfully disrupted the HTC train. None of the jerseys changed hands today. They might not change hands tomorrow either on tomorrow’s flattish stage into Lavaur, the Tour’s mid-point, before heading into the mountains on Bastille Day. First up,  the Pyrenees. Let there be pyrotechnics!

Just what was ordered

Having waved farewell to my beloved on Tuesday afternoon, I have spent the last few days enjoying the warm, sunny weather which I hope is here to stay. I’m trying to rebuild my form with some longer rides.  At the same time, I’ve a whole host of paperwork to deal with as it’s the end of the first quarter, plus  deadlines for filing accounts and tax returns are fast approaching. Additionally,  the club is keeping me busy as we attract ever more members.

I have found time, thanks to the tv in the office, to keep abreast of proceedings in the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde. This is generally a race for those whose ambitions have to be put aside on Sunday while they support their team leaders, although Ballan did win both this and the Tour of Flanders in 2007. It’s raced around the Belgian coastline which is prone to fierce, peloton splintering, cross-winds.

Riders who have showed promise elsewhere this year largely prevailed. The first stage on Tuesday, 194km from Middelkerke to Zottegem, was won by Andrei Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto), the lone sprinter in a 4-man break. He assumed the leader’s jersey only to lose it on the following day’s lumpy  219km to Koksijde. It was gratefully assumed by Liewe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) although the stage winner was  Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) who managed to hold off John Degenkolb (HTC-High Road).

This morning’s 111km sprint stage around De Panne was held in the rain, consequently a number of riders opted not to start : most notably, Alessandro Ballan (BMC), Peter Sagan (Liquigas), Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) and Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM). The sprint for the line from the leading bunch of around 50 riders was won by Jacopo Guarini (Liquigas) who managed to stay just ahead of Galimzyanov. Over 70 riders finished outside the time limit,  so there were only 56 competing in the afternoon’s individual time-trial.

Last man off was Bert De Backer (Skil-Shimano) who had taken the leader’s jersey with a sprint bonus that morning. But there were 27 riders within 10 seconds of him, including some notable chrono men. The sky was overcast and there was some rain on part of the course towards the back end. The biggest factor was once again the wind on what looked to be quite a technical course.

Sebastien Rosseler (RadioShack) comfortably won the time-trial and the overall. Westra was runner-up, once again, despite the frenzied and manical urgings of his DS from the team car. Although, for consolation, he had the climber’s and most combative jerseys.  De Backer won the sprints jersey and Galymzyanov the points one. Third-placed man on the podium was Rosseler’s team mate, 20 year-old Michal Kwiatkowski who had turned in a very fine performance in the time-trial. A Belgian winner on Belgian soil, just what the organisers and spectators wanted.

Clouds in the Sky

After dropping my beloved off at the airport this morning I returned home. The storm clouds were gathering so, mindful of my VO2max test on Wednesday morning, I opted for an hour on the home trainer followed by a full frontal attack on the pile of administrative matters.

I stopped at lunchtime to watch Stage II of the Tour of Qatar where  cross-winds were creating havoc in the peloton. Mind you, Sky’s bad luck started in the neutralised zone when Kurt-Asle Arvesen crashed, breaking a collar bone. Sky were then caught out by Quick Step and Cervelo, who attacked, as echelons formed in the strong cross-winds, splintering the peloton. Boassen Hagen then punctured. They do say bad luck comes in threes.

As I started watching the transmission, there were a couple of escapees up the road, with over a 12 minute advantage, being chased by a group of 28, containing most of the favourites, although no one from HTC-Columbia or Sky. Joy upon joy, the two managed to stay away with Geert Steurs (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) taking the stage win and Wouter Mol (Vacansoleil) seizing the gold jersey. The two now have a 2 minute advantage over their nearest rivals. So much for me thinking that Edvald Boassen Hagen would hang on to gold.

Elsewhere, the more mature riders continue to rock. Oscar Freire (Rabobank) held off Andre Greipel (HTC-Columbia) to win the Trofeo Cala Millor in Majorca.

Manx missile or toothless terror

It rained yesterday: statement of fact, not a complaint. This allowed me to catch up with my admin and check out what had been happening in the cycling world while I’d been sequestered in Birmingham.

Andre Greipel, in imperious form, had won the Tour Down Under. The previous holder of the title, one Alan Davies, was cast asunder on Day 1 because his team had forgotten to bring the radios. I’m not sure who was to blame for this blunder, but I have a suggestion – checklists. Come on, you know it makes sense! 

Meanwhile, over on another continent, Anthony Charteau of Bbox Bouygues Telecom won La Tropicale Amissa Bongo. Our local boy, Amael Moinard was 7th. Over on another continent, lime-green clad Vicenzo Nibali won the Tour of San Luis. Next up, the Tours of Qatar and Oman. Don’t forget your buckets and spades.

I had been looking forward to seeing a sprint fest between Boonen, who has laid claim to the sand dunes these past few years, and Cavendish, the fastest man on two (non-motorised) wheels.  Sadly, due to an infected tooth or teeth, Cavendish won’t be putting in an appearance before Ruta del Sol. It’s all yours Tom.

Toothless Tom

Tom will probably sympathise. I seem to recall he’s lost a few teeth for similar reasons. Indeed, at one time, I was wondering whether he might become “Toothless Tom”. Given that these problems are preventable with a rigorous dental regime, I decided to write to HTC-Columbia and give them the benefit of my encyclopaedic dental knowledge. You know what they say about a little knowledge being dangerous. Well, it’s totally true. It will be interesting to see if I get a response.

Pipped at the post

Another sunny day which I kicked off with a ride. I hadn’t gone far when I met up with two club mates and so I rode with them. I hadn’t seen either of them for a while. One was just recovering from a nasty dose of man flu while the other has been kept busy by his 12 grand-children.

We passed a number of club mates, going in the opposite direction, who had been out on that morning’s earlier club ride. Like me these two see no reason to ride when it’s really cold, preferring to leave an hour or so later. They also like to stop for a coffee and a chat on the way back: much more companiable.

Mind you I’d no sooner gotten back home, showered, changed and had lunch than I was off down to the club for our monthly meeting on the forthcoming Brevet Kivilev. Who knew that there were so many small details that needed to be taken care of – not me. For example, as the routes criss-cross 16 communes that’s 16 letters that have to be written to 16 mayors advising them of our plans. We’re also short of around 20 volunteers and while we’ve not yet resorted to press-ganging members and their families, or even strong arming them, don’t put it past us.

Nor have we started to solicit donations for the all-important tombola, the key prize of which is usually a bike frame. I’m donating one of those string vests (wouldn’t be seen dead in it), a Mellow Johnny’s T-shirt and a couple of cycling books. We’re hoping to drum up a few pieces of kit from the locally resident pros and anything else we can lay our hands on. M le President has done an excellent job on the tombola for the last couple of years. After all, if you had a local business, you’d want to keep on the right side of the head honcho down at the fire station – wouldn’t you?

The meeting ran into the regular monthly club meeting for which there was a particularly good attendance. All the better to hear that we had retained our regional championship, 2nd division on account of the number of members. Not only that but we’d come 2nd overall, beating off two larger clubs from nearby Antibes. I think this gives M le President bragging rights at the next UFOLEP meeting.   

Got back home (again) just in time to watch the highlights of today’s first stage in Adelaide of the Tour down Under which was won by Andrei Greipel (HTC-Columbia) who narrowly beat Gert Steegmans (Radio Shack) whom we’ve not seen competitively on a bike for a while – welcome back Gert. I last saw him in the tribune watching the team presentation at last year’s Tour de France in Monaco, where he resides.

It’s back!

The alarm went off at 07:00am and neither of us wanted to get up, but duty calls. When we arrived at the rendezvous point there were only three other club mates. Fortunately, by the time it was 08:30am, most had turned up. In fact, considering the climatic conditions (cold, damp and very overcast), it was a good turn out. Almost immediately after we set off, the peloton broke up into half a dozen groups, I was in the lead group and didn’t get distanced until the climb out of the Port of Nice.

Eventually, I was overtaken by all of the groups, but didn’t lose sight of the last of them until the climb up to Cap d’Ail. Something of a record. The sky looked distinctly heavy and threatening rain as I rode through Monaco. I arrived at the Town Hall in Beausoleil, just as my  club mates were setting off on the return leg. While it was hard to tell, judging by the entries on the register, I feel we may well have retained our regional championship.

By the time we got back home, we both felt really chilled. Lucky then that I had put a casserole in the oven before we left that morning. After a quick shower and change (into my fleecy tracksuit), I was ready for lunch. We then settled down to watch my beloved boys in claret and blue who were home to West Ham. Sadly, despite a number of opportunities, the boys failed to get onto the score sheet. It was a rather boring draw.

Fortunately, help was at hand to put some sporting zing into my afternoon in the shape of a 51km criterium around Adelaide, ahead of next week’s Tour down Under, won by Sky. Evidently starting as they mean to go on. They managed to disrupt the HTC-Columbia train to deny Andre Greipel, snatching a win for Greg Henderson and 2nd place for Chris Sutton – chapeau boys!

Random thoughts

This is the week when the football transfer season closes and it’s open season for the cyclists. Generally, it’s been the case that much speculated about transfers on various cycling websites and forums have been confirmed.  Sky, mindful of the soccer transfer deadline, has decided to keep everyone in suspense for a few days more over their new line-up for 2010.

For my mind, the most interesting aspect of the forthcoming season is how many teams want Pro-Tour licences. The UCI had always hoped that demand would exceed supply, we’ll have to wait and see whether that is indeed the case. Aside from the known new applicants, The Shack and Sky, there’s a number of teams hoping to extend their licences for another year. Will they succeed or will they be demoted to Pro- Conti status in favour of those wanting 3-year licences? Again, we’ll have to wait and see. Despite everyone’s prediction of the early demise of cycling (and its sponsors) the reverse would seem to be the case. Is it the Lance effect? Or has the global credit crunch switched more fans onto a sport that’s free to watch, either live or over the internet?

Meanwhile, the walking wounded ie most of those taking part in the Vuelta were no doubt happy to see the back of the rain soaked, diesel or dirt-slicked, crowded with traffic calming measures and liberally coverd in slide-inducing white paint  roads of Holland and Belgium for the much sunnier and warmer climes of Spain. I dare say that some of the riders on the Pro-Continental Spanish squads never want to venture that far north again. Their worst nightmare would be their DS saying ” great news we’ve got a wild card for some of the Belgian Classics.” Though, I noted some riders still had problems staying in the saddle yesterday. 

Much as I love riding my bike most days, I know that some of the most fruitful days are those that I spend off the bike, recuperating. Thanks to the return of the chest infection, I have had a quiet couple of weeks. Yesterday, I felt fully recovered and was positively flying along. I even overtook some riders (in club shirts) while going uphill: almost as rare an occurrence as hen’s teeth. 

A week or so ago I mentioned that my worse case scenario is being home sick with an incapable of dealing with the situation, healthy husband. I need to revise this. It’s actually, me being at home with tons of stuff to do while having to look after an unexpectedly, incapacitated, and even more demanding than normal husband.