I love watching cycling but I hate seeing anyone fall, it makes me feel sick to my stomach. You see, I’m not too good with blood, mine or anyone else’s, the mere sight of it makes me feel very faint. I go green, need to put my head between my knees and take great gulps of oxygen. This is somewhat unfortunate as I generally give the impression that I’m someone you could rely upon in an emergency and I am, providing there’s no blood or tangled limbs.

One of the participants in the recent Brevet Kivilev came to grief on the run in to the finish. He was cut up by a car coming in the opposite direction and ended up leaving vast swathes of skin on the road. Worryingly, as he was lying in 3rd position, he was just behind the lead car and two motorcycle outriders, the former bearing a large sign saying ” Take Care Cyclists” which must have been totally ignored by the oncoming vehicle. Calling upon his paramedic skills, M le President bandaged him up before sending him to outpatients.

Another local rider and M le President both came to grief this week end. While neither broke anything, they seem to have cornered the market in sticky plaster, both suffering severe road rash and contusions to their right sides.  I was called upon to sympathise and inspect their various war wounds, fortunately well after the event.

Yesterday, there was a huge pile-up in the sprint for the line in the Tour of Switzerland. Cavendish swerved into Haussler, taking them both down, and then the riders behind piled into them. There was a picture of the event in today’s L’Equipe and you can see the looks of dawning horror on the faces of the riders behind Cav and Haussler as they comprehend exactly what is about to befall them.  As someone who has a significant amount of experience of falling off things, I can confirm that it’s best to be first. Generally, one minute you’re where you’re supposed to be and the next minute you’re on the ground. Often without knowing how you’ve gotten there because it’s all happened so quickly: no time to react. The problem with knowing what’s about to happen is that you naturally tense and try, generally in vain, to take evasive action. In addition, the whole thing seems to happen in slow motion. The end result is generally worse injuries than those that caused the incident: and so it was.

Really excellent, thanks

Every two weeks my cycling coach asks me to complete a small questionnaire. On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), I have to say how tired I’m feeling, how confident I’m feeling about meeting my goal (London-Paris) and my mood. Generally, I score 5, 7 and 10 respectively. I also have to give him positives and negatives about my training regime.

This week the legs are definitely an 8 and I think I’ve a slight groin strain. I’m not sure how I did this. Was it the one-legged pedalling on Sunday or was it stomping on the pedals up the Col de la Madone yesterday? Today the weather was again wonderful, but I felt no real desire to cycle. Stretch yes, cycle no.

Instead, I went with M le President to the AGM of our local branch of Credit Agricole, one of the club’s sponsors. We decided that a show of solidarity was needed to cement the relationship and ensure their continued support. It seemed to work as they’ve agreed to cover the cost of the trophies for the forthcoming Kivilev. This is not an inconsiderable cost as we seem to hand them out willy, nilly to all and sundry.  I did suggest we recycle some of our considerable haul but suspect it was regarded much as a treasonable offence.

Back to the questionnaire. I’m still a 7 on meeting my goal, after all there’s just under 3 month’s of training. Though I did get a bit disheartened last Friday when I was overtaken by a man running up Col de Vence. My husband agreed that he was clearly a top runner and I could have easily overtaken him going the other way ie downhill. 

My mood is still a 10. In fact, it’s hardly ever less than 10. It’s much more likely to exceed 10. Indeed, when people ask me how I am, I generally say “Really excellent, as usual”.

My favourite bits of the programme are the two rest days this week though I’m going to have to get a fuller explanation as to what exactly is involved in Saturday’s “muscular activation including 5 accelerations lasting from 10-30 seconds”. I have checked and this activity definitely takes place on the bike. All this is leading up to Sunday’s cyclosportif La Charly Berard.

Like last year, I have opted for the shorter course (just three hills) but instead of starting at the back I’m going to be leading the charge from the front and trying to stay with the pack as long as possible. have me at 2-1 to get dropped on the ride up to Falicon – what do they know?

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.

Parisian diary

I took the train from Antibes to Paris: just over 5 hours door-to-door and a bargain at Euros 80 for a first-class return. I passed the journey lost in the pages of Sir Chris Hoy’s biography a very readable adjunct to “Heroes, Villains and Velodromes.

On my arrival in Paris, the skies cleared and the rain stopped so I decided to walk to our hotel on the Left Bank, near the Sorbonne. Each time we go to Paris we endeavour to stay in a different quarter as I enjoy traversing the streets looking at the magnificent architecture and window shopping – by far the safest type of shopping! In addition, I love browsing the art galleries, antiques and book shops.

I also adore finding us great restaurants for lunch and/or dinner. Now, of course, I could just fish out a guide book and book one of their many suggestions, but where would be the fun in that? No, I like to walk around, sizing up the restaurants and their menus before making my choice.

Over the years I’ve had many pleasurable trips to Paris. My first came courtesy of my French pen-friend who, while she lived in Grenoble, had a large family living in Paris. I spent a week with her aunt in an impressive apartment just off Boulevard Haussmann and traipsed to my heart’s content around all the sights of Paris and Versailles. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to visit it on a regular basis.

When I told my Dad we were off to Paris, he reminded me of the trip we had taken with them some years ago, at about the same time of year, where we had eaten “our most expensive meal”. He still has a copy of the bill from the now-defunct “Lucas Carton” near Place de la Madeleine.

I have to say it was a truly memorable meal but, at the time, I had no idea how much it had cost as neither my Mum nor I had menus with prices. I started with polenta and truffles, while everyone else had scallop tartar. Dad and my beloved followed that with lamb while Mum and I had lobster, at my Dad’s urging, as it’s my Mum’s favourite. We elected to have the wines chosen by the chef to accompany the meal, but didn’t have room for a dessert or coffee, although we did manage to demolish all of the mouth-watering, petit fours.

My Dad picked up the bill, which was not what I had intended. It was some months later that he asked me what I thought it had cost. The tilt of his eyebrows indicated that my initial bid was way off the mark. But he did concede it had been well worth the money.

My first job in Paris was to interview 20 French dentists about their periodontology regimes. After speaking to a couple, it was clear that a 4-page questionnaire was several pages too many despite the inducement of a free gift. I decided an alternative strategy was required and based myself outside of the exhibition, close to one of the many lunch-time venues. Sure enough, by 11:30am, there was a long queue of people waiting to be served and what better way to while away the time answering my questionnaire. By the time lunch was over, I had filled my quota.

After a delicious meal in a small family-run restaurant on Wednesday evening, we invited a business colleague to share some champagne and oysters with us on Thursday evening at a restaurant close to the Palais des Congrès where we have previously enjoyed many similar evenings. Like me, he’s a recent convert to cycling and we are considering organising a cycling trip next year for his readership, to coincide with the club’s “ Brevet Kivilev”.

I used to view oysters with great suspicion. After all, they look like large blobs of snot. Well, they do don’t they? However, I decided that millions of French people can’t be wrong and took the plunge. Now, they’re one of my favourite foods and I regret all those wasted oyster eating opportunities. So, if you’ve never tried them, go-ahead, just do it. I promise you won’t regret it.

I bought my beloved an oyster opening kit for last Xmas (among other things) so we can enjoy them at home. I like them best with a squeeze of lemon juice and a glass (or two) of champagne. As I’m fond of saying “I’m a woman of simple tastes, all of them expensive”.

Friday morning I rose early for a run along the Seine. I can’t totally abandon my new regime. Although my husband had promised to keep Friday clear, I truly did not anticipate seeing him at all. However, we shared lunch at a delightful Corsican restaurant I found in the Marais before he returned to the exhibition for a further round of business meetings.

Bike friendly Paris!

We rose on Saturday to find leaden skies. It rained from time to time but fortunately, not heavily. My beloved decided he wanted to look around the Louvre. I knew once he saw the queue, he would decide otherwise, and was proved correct. He hates to wait for even 5 minutes: strange behaviour from a guy who generally keeps everyone else waiting!

However, we happily whiled away the morning wandering around the area and I found a fabulous restaurant for lunch a few doors down from Le Grand Verfour, which, sadly, was not open for Saturday lunch – maybe, next time.

While from time to time, I enjoy a few days away, equally I enjoy getting back home. I’m already looking forward to tomorrow morning’s ride, weather permitting, to Roquebrune Cap Martin. It’s a 90km round trip for us and I still recall how equally exhausted and elated I was the first time I did it, two years ago. How time has flown!

Last one back buys the drinks

High, strong winds woke me at 04:00 and I found it difficult to go back to sleep. Thanks to my tree pollen allergy my lungs and head felt very congested, not an auspicious sign. Our plan had been to set off ahead of the scheduled 07:30 start but my beloved was feeling tired, jet lag. I let him sleep a bit longer.

We have these early starts now down to a fine art. We get absolutely everything ready the night before so that we can be up and out of the flat in less than 20 minutes.

We set off with everyone else at 07:30. I sat on Vino’s wheel, he was riding at what for him must have been a very leisurely pace. The main bunch stayed pretty much together until the climb to Gattieres where I dropped back through the peloton like a stone. Yes, my congested lungs were giving me problems and I knew straight away that I’d have to settle for the 100km parcours. Not even my Stars’n’Bars were going to get me out of this one. Despite that my husband kindly rode with me all the way.

As we climbed up to Bouyon, the wind appeared to have died down. The weather was pretty idyllic, as was the scenery. It’s a lovely route and there’s very little traffic. After a fast descent into Roquesteron, we topped ourselves up at feed zone manned by my clubmates who were duly supportive of my efforts and, as usual, had put on an excellent spread.

In fact, if there were a cup for “Best Refreshments” I’m sure my club would win it hands down. Considering that there’s a trophy for everything else, I don’t see why not. In addition, it just might encourage those clubs, whose refreshments generally leave a great deal to be desired, to make more of an effort.

Catch me if you can

Having crested the leg sapping rise to Gillette, we descended and made our way to the finish along the Var valley into a strong headwind. You may be thinking that at this point I was sheltering behind my husband or at least we were taking it in turns to pull on the front. But no, he took my wheel and stayed there until the finish. I was quicker than last year, but not by much.

We finished just ahead of Vino, who had ridden the longer route. Apparently, he’d rung M Le President part-way into the course when one of the lead riders had suffered a mechanical. M Le President had to break the bad news to him that the nearest support car was the broom wagon. Undeterred, Vino chased down the car at the front of the peloton for assistance. Not quite what you might expect from a soon-to-be-again pro-tour rider. But suffice to say he’s a very kind and generous individual.

Everyone had finished by 15:45. If I had done the longer course, the latter stages of which were very windy, I might have just gotten back in time for the eagerly awaited tombola. Then again……………………..