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.

Postcard from Adelaide

After a very pleasant 10-day stay in Adelaide, I totally understand why it ranks as such a desirable place to live. With a population of around 1.5m, it has leafy suburbs, plenty of open green spaces, beaches nearby, an abundance of excellent sporting facilities, architecture spanning the ages since the town’s inception – many built from honey coloured stone with gingerbread trimmed verandas – lively arts scene and plenty of excellent restaurants all serving vegan/vegetarian options.

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We organised our stay in Adelaide around the first race of the WorldTour season, the Santos Tour Down Under, whose organisation is based in Adelaide. The riders stay in the one hotel for the duration and the longest transfer from any stage finish is just 90 minutes, though the riders can and do ride to and from most of the stages.

Adelaide CBD
Adelaide CBD

The event showcases the region from the Barossa Valley, the Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Way, to the Shiraz Trail and the coast. It’s held during the Aussie summer holidays and the organisers slot the racing into a magnificent Festival of Cycling for recreational cyclists and their families.

Glenelg
Glenelg

Participation and inclusion is the name of the game and anyone in Australia who’s a cycling fan heads here. At least 50% of the spectators ride to watch part of the stage. We did too once the temperatures had dropped below 40C! Fortunately the climate is dry rather than humid.

Victor Harbor
Victor Harbor

The countryside is spectacular with vineyards, olive and fruit trees covering acres of undulating yellow ochre terrain. There’s plenty of small towns with family bakeries and restaurants offering great local produce.

Hahndorf, Adelaide Hills
Hahndorf, Adelaide Hills

While places like Hahndorf have a decidedly Germanic feel, many of the others make you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to UK of the 1960s, though not the restaurants. My beloved was delighted to revive childhood memories with a fragrant and delicate custard tart and a steak pie, with a mouth-watering rich filling encased in light pastry. I can’t say it was just like his mother used to make him as she’s always been a dreadful cook but it was probably closer to my mother’s or grandmother’s cooking – wholesome, regional and seasonal.

New World Hour Record holder, Dr Bridie O'Donnell
New World Hour Record holder, Dr Bridie O’Donnell

Aside from the road racing, we were also privileged to watch former professional cyclist, Dr Bridie O’Donnell break the Women’s UCI World Record. Remarkable given that it wasn’t undertaken at altitude and Bridie doesn’t have a background on the track. It was such a special moment to watch history being created.

Adelaide Oval
Adelaide Oval

We also went to watch the semi-final Big Bash between Adelaide Strikers and Sydney Thunder. I love live sport and while I would never claim to be a cricket fan, 20/20 is dynamic, fast paced and exciting. The tickets are inexpensive and everything is done to encourage families to visit. The victors, Sydney Thunder, went on to win the final which we watched in our local.

We were staying in an area with plenty of great restaurants but one really stood out. A massive pub with a music venue, gaming room and upscale restaurant attached. It was justifiably a veritable goldmine which perfectly catered for the local population’s demographics – empty nesters and young professionals. While we were on target in the restaurant, we definitely upped the average age in the bar.

While Adelaide has a multi-racial population, there’s many Brits who’ve relocated there for a better lifestyle and I can now understand why. It might have been my maiden visit to Adelaide but I’ve a feeling it won’t be my last.