We must stop meeting like this

I woke to brilliant sunshine and the promise of a great day’s riding. I dressed warmly, suspecting it might be chilly on Col de Vence. Yes, I decided today would be my first ascent of the year of the Col. The last two Saturday’s I have felt a bit fatigued, and today was no exception. As I wound my way up L’Ara to Vence I was feeling decidedly wobbly. It was also much colder, thanks to the Mistral-like wind, than I’d thought. Time for a change of plan.

Rather than turning straight up towards the Col, I turned right and headed for St Jeannet. On the way there I passed none other than Mr Boonen and assorted cycling buddies, chatting away and merrily proceeding in the opposite direction. Again, he wasn’t wearing a helmet or sunglasses. Tom, you’re setting a really bad example for impressionable youngsters. There’s no way I’m going to be seen riding with someone without a helmet – sorry!

Having foregone the climb up Col de Vence, I set off up towards the village of St Jeannet. I know, it’s only a couple of kms rather than 10km but that’s all I was capable of today. In addition, this is one of my favourite downhills. It’s steep, relatively straight and, traffic permitting, I can get down it without having to apply the brakes. I descended via La Gaude, passing several club mates huffing and puffing in the opposite direction and headed for my usual pit-stop for the newspapers and a coffee.

A piece in L’Equipe caught my eye. Vino has the same dental problems as Cavendish and won’t be riding in today’s La Strade Bianchi. I must send him my email on how to treat this. No need to compromise his season, or lose a tooth if he and his dentist follow my advice.

I felt considerably better after lunch, making me wonder if I’ve been a little too severe in the calorie cutting. The flat is now spotless and I’m enjoying the last few hours of peace and quiet before the return of my beloved who’ll be working from the home office all next week. This means, of course, that I’ll be in for a busy week.

In addition, I’ve guests arriving Thursday evening for a few days. It’s my friend Susi, she of the world-class performances in three disciplines: speed skating, cycling and triathlon. She’s bringing her partner and they’ll be taking photographs at the last two stages of Paris-Nice.

Tomorrow’s pointage is on the seafront at Cagnes sur Mer so I’ll be able to have a bit of a lie in. I’m then going to ride over to Monaco to watch our “racers” and juniors compete in a crit in Monaco. Let’s hope the weather stays fine. In the afternoon, I’ll be slumped in front of the tv, in the fleecy track suit, watching the first stage of Paris-Nice where I’m pretty sure Bert will want to take top honours overall to erase the memory of last year’s unfortunate “bonk”.

Wooden spoons at the ready

I’m really enjoying the training programme. At the end of last week, I was feeling a bit fatigued but this week I seem to have had a second wind. On Mondays, I ride for an hour on the flat in a fasted state. That’s essentially Cap d’Antibes and back. Thereafter, I do sets of exercises to build core strength and finish with some stretching. 

Because rain was forecast for Wednesday, I swapped around Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s exercises. I rode down to Theoule sur Mer and back on Tuesday at a good pace largely thanks to my traffic-light karma which must have been in overdrive. I barely had to stop, with each light miraculously turning green as I approached. I don’t know exactly how many traffic lights there are between Cagnes sur Mer and Theoule but I would hazard a guess at around 35, not counting the 6-7 temporary ones on account of all the on-going roadworks. Too many red lights can have a serious impact on one’s average speed!

It poured down most of Wednesday, so I spent just over an hour on the home trainer doing interval training. This really works up a sweat and is quite leg sapping. For the past two weeks, I have had the distraction of the Winter Olympics. This time, I decided to cycle along to some music which seemed to better help pass the time.

Today was another session on the home trainer: intervals with alternate legs to eliminate the dead spot. I confess I find this the most difficult exercise of all but, while I may be hopelessly deluding myself, I do feel that at long last I may be getting the hang of this. Only time will tell.

Thursday afternoons, I have my English language class at the cycling club. By and large, my “pupils” have been making good progress but sadly a couple have been shelled out the back of the peloton. A situation, I’m all to familiar with and so I’m splitting the group into two. Everyone’s welcome to come to both sessions, but part one will concentrate on talking in English while in part two we’ll revisit the basics.

I have a bit of a treat for them today. We’re going to talk cycling and they’ll be delighted to learn that the vocabulary of cycling borrows much from the French. I’ve also made them a delicious (if I say so myself) lemon cake. In future weeks, I’m going to be practising my repertoire of chocolate goodies.

Choc heaven

After the success of last month’s pancake evening at the monthly club meeting, we’re going to hold a chocolate evening next month in honour of Easter. After all, who doesn’t love chocolate? Exactly, I’m thinking brownies, chocolate chip cookies, marble cake, chocolate bark, florentines, rocky road, chocolate fondant, chocolate cheesecake, chocolate cup cakes and, as the meeting will be the day after M le President’s birthday, I’m thinking an over-the-top chocolate birthday cake. I however will be banned (self-imposed) from partaking of this chocoholic extravaganza. I simply cannot afford to sabotage my current weight loss plan. I am aiming (at long last) to get rid of that spare tyre around my middle which is constricting my lungs, and hence my aerobic capacity, before my great escapade: London to Paris.

Baking is a fairly recent passion of mine. There’s something very soothing about making cakes, cookies, bread and pastries. I also like experimenting with recipes though, of course, one has to be much more precise with baking than, say, with casseroles and also have a good understanding of how one’s oven functions. 

My first attempt at baking was not a success and it would be many  a year before I wielded a wooden spoon again. I would have been about 6 at the time, and my younger sister 3, when we decided to surprise my mother with a home-baked cake. We had carefully observed her making one the week before and decided, given that it had been so delicious, to make something a little bit bigger. 

Awaking early on Saturday morning, we tip-toed down to the kitchen to start our career as master bakers. We took my mother’s largest bowl into which we tipped a whole bag of flour, one of sugar, six eggs, a pint of milk and a block of margarine. We then tried to combine all these ingredients with a wooden spoon. At which point some of them fled the bowl, landing on the work surface, tiles, floor, kitchen chairs, us. I think you get the picture. With big blobs of margarine still bobbing around the wallpaper paste-like dough, we added a few raisins for good measure, put the bowl in the oven and switched it on. Wasn’t Mummy going to be surprised?

Half an hour or so later, my Mother came  downstairs to discover us and her previously spotless kitchen covered in the detritus of our little surprise and an ominous smell coming from the oven. The “cake” had risen magnificently covering most of the interior of the oven with a sticky gloop which was rapidly become a burnt-on crust.  To say she wasn’t too pleased with me would be  masterly English understatement.

In flagrente

After a few hours of respite yesterday, the downpour started again and has continued unabated today. I popped out early this morning to collect the edible goodies I had ordered for Xmas. Pre-ordering enables one to avoid the unavoidably long queues. 

There was a record queue at the bread shop snaking all around the premises. But it’s well organised with different staff taking one’s order to those taking one’s money, so I wasn’t in there too long. I was much amused to see that the nearby greengrocer/general store had hired security. One expects this in Gucci but not at the greengrocer’s. However, this place probably takes more in a year than all the Gucci stores on the Cote d’Azur. In fact both the bread shop and the greengrocer’s are veritable gold mines. Apart from the fact that they sell excellent produce, they’re in a great location and, to top it all, have free car parking. The car of choice is typically a Porsche Cayenne with Monaco number plates. Yes, while the tax dodgers rent broom cupboards in Monaco,  they live in palatial pads in and around St Paul de Vence. 

Popular stocking filler!

 

I returned to discover that my beloved had received a visit from Cagnes sur Mer’s finest and had purchased the obligatory calendar. Here one doesn’t tip either the postman or the fireman, instead one buys their calendars for a sum of one’s choosing. If I had known that Cagnes sur Mer’s firemen were going to get their kit off in this year’s calendar, I would have made a bulk purchase. It would have saved me buying a number of copies of Dieux du Stade for my girlfriends. 

Monsieur mars

 

I particularly like the look of Mr March. Though I don’t recall any of these hunks coming round to rescue me from our fire in 2005. Mind you, it’s hard to tell in all that gear they wear. However, since our very own M le President is head honcho down at the fire station (incidentally, he doesn’t feature in the calendar, although he could), I may have to pay him a visit at work on a pressing club matter. Seeing my interest in the calendar, my husband has wisely confiscated all matches and the candle ban remains in force. He doesn’t want any more conflagrations. 

Postscript: Apparently, M Mars is a keen mountain biker – more good news!