So much to do, so little time

I know, I know it’s been a while since I last posted anything but in my defence I have been quite busy. With under three weeks to go until La Kivilev, things are gathering pace. I must confess that I’m going to breathe a huge sigh of relief once it’s over and go away for a few days, but more of that later.

The MotoGP season has restarted and while I’ve managed to watch all of the races not all of them have been live. Thank goodness for Eurosport’s endless repeats of sporting events. The football season is almost at an end with barely a comment from me. All I can say is that it looks as if both my clubs will live to fight another season in their respective top leagues. It’s been a season of struggling to survive with the odd flash, nothing more, of brilliance. Bayern play Chelsea at Bayern in the Champions League final – bet no one saw that one coming – and then it’s all over for a week or so until Euro 2012. It’s going to be a bumper sporting summer, but will I have the necessary stamina to survive?

I’m finding it hard to enthuse about London 2012 which sounds as if it’s going to be a logistical nightmare. Now that they’re going to charge spectators to watch the road races from Boxhill and the time-trial in Hampton Court, I’ve decided that this is one live event I can and will do without. I’ll be watching the Olympics from the comfort of my lounge, including the cycling.

I’ve attended another Triathlon, purely as an exhibitor you understand, just thinking about attempting one is enough to leave me fatigued. I’d be happy to do the cycle but I’d never manage the swim with my floundering doggy paddle. I was helping out my friends on their premium clothing stand (www.g4dimension.com) and it’s always interesting to meet a different sporting crowd. TriStar Cannes featured rather shorter events and therefore attracted a rather different crowd from last year’s Ironman event –  less international and less hardcore. Still plenty of tattoos though. It was nice to see the fruit of some of my recent labours as I’d done all the translation work for their re-launched website and new product catalogue.

I may also be doing a stint as a surrogate parent to two teenage boys. Their parents are looking for some quality time together and I’ve volunteered. It’ll be an enjoyable 10 days or so and anyone who knows me well will know that they’ll be no match for me. That’s right, they’ll be returning to their parents happy, but exhausted, after a few days with Auntie Sheree.

An old friend came for a visit last week and it was good to spend some quality time with her and do some much-neglected sightseeing. Yes, my reintroduction of one day a week visiting different towns and places very quickly went by the wayside. I keep thinking, next year, after I’m no longer slaving for the club. As you might imagine, the list of things I’m going to do “next year” is growing exponentially.

I’m back on my bike and training for this week end’s la Vencoise which goes up and over my favourite hill, the Col de Vence, in both directions. I’ve been adding a few longer rides, plus more climbs, to my weekly rides as we head relentlessly towards summer and the possibility of rides up some of the longer local hills. Would you believe I’ve still to climb the Col du Turini! We’ve got the Kivilev ride for the volunteers this week but I’m going to have to dip out – lack of time.

Of course, May’s main event is the Giro and over at VeloVoices we’re having a swell time in pink. I watched, tweeted and commented on yesterday’s stage – the team time-trial in Verona – all the while thinking I should have been there. Yes, the Giro is yet another one for my “next year” list. Yesterday’s stage was doubly disappointing as it would have given me an opportunity to catch up with friends who live close to Verona, a city I’ve yet to visit. The Giro’s start in Savona next Friday was another on my list but is currently under threat from the advancing work load.

Of course, VeloVoices is one of the reasons why I haven’t written so much on the blog in recent months. I’m pouring my energies into that and frankly while it’s very enjoyable it’s also very time-consuming. How my fellow writers manage to produce so much copy while holding down full-time jobs and families just amazes me until I realise I actually have a full-time job too and one very large baby to look after – my beloved.

Home advantage

For the first time this year, everything fell into place. My beloved was home, OGCN were at home and the weather was glorious. As a consequence, we decided a trip to Stade du Ray was in order.

We parked our car at the tram terminus and hopped on the tram for the two stops the stadium, to pick up our tickets. There’s never any problems buying tickets on the day. We had some time in hand, so we retired to a local bar for some fortification.

Three days after qualifying for the quarter-finals of the French Cup at Drancy, OGCN were back on home turf taking on Sochaux, a team with whom we’ve had some memorable encounters in recent seasons. And when I say “memorable”, I should add that the result has generally not been in our favour.

We started brightly with several shots on target in the first 20 minutes. Frankly, we weren’t looking like a team staring down the barrel of relegation. Our efforts were finally rewarded by a goal in the 29th minute from Nemanja Pejcinov, following a 45m free-kick from Anthony Mounier.

Sochaux lost arguably their best player (Anin) in 44th minute following a second yellow card after a handbags at dawn set to with Clerc. There was barely a reaction from the 18 Sochaux fans (yes, I counted them) in the away enclosure.  

During half-time, we’re generally treated to a shoot out between two local junior sides. This evening, we were also afforded a bunch of nubiles dancing to opera. I’m not sure that it was truly appreciated by the fans. Just stick to the football.

In the second half, OGCN failed spectacularly to exploit their advantage. Indeed, on a number of occasions I did a quick headcount just to check that Sochaux only had 10 men on the pitch. Early on in the second half, Sochaux had a goal rightfully disallowed, for a foul on the goalkeeper.

Sochaux, however, continued to press their disadvantage and, in the final 20 minutes, looked as if they might score. Particularly, as their substitutes kept barging into and knocking flat our goalkeeper. These were all the size of players who in the UK would prompt the chant “Who ate all the pies?” Pies are not served at Stade du Ray: pizza, pissaladiere, club sandwiches and tourte aux blettes, but no pies. I’m not sure whether these are the preserve of northern French clubs, but I suspect not.

In any event, we held on to take all three points and now lie 14th in the division. The same place as occupied by my beloved boys in claret and blue, after their regrettable 2-2 draw with Fulham.

Today’s ride started under climatic conditions similar to last week: wet and damp. However, the sun soon burned through the clouds, heating us up and drying out the roads. Today’s pointage was in Valbonne village, always an enjoyable ride and an opportunity for a little window shopping as we ride through the village.

I lingered at the pointage just long enough to exchange greetings with one of the home club’s members, an American lady who’s lived here for over 20 years and who’s a pretty good rider. I decided to return via a different route and then headed for my regular watering hole for a coffee and the newspapers where I settled down to wait for my beloved to put in an appearance.

We returned home for lunch and an afternoon spent dealing with various work-related matters. We decided to turn on the new all-singing, all-dancing, HD television and, much to our surprise, it worked. We travailled happily side by side enjoying the Chelsea v Liverpool match, followed by Real Madrid v Real Sociedad. I have to be honest, this TV has been one of my beloved’s more inspired purchases.

Let off the leash

What do you call someone who takes the wrong turning on a pre-agreed route leaving behind the person with the house keys, money, mobile phone, spare inner tube and pump: careless, foolish, idiotic? I think we know the answer to this one. It did of course mean that by the time he reached home his lunch was ready and waiting for him!

Eighteen brave club mates ignored the Arctic conditions to cycle to Roquebrune Cap Martin last Sunday placing us 2nd at the pointage and  catapulting us into 3rd pace, above CC Cannes, in the season long Souvenir Cattanneo  – chapeau guys!

After yesterday’s damp conditions, the sunshine returned, though it was still very cold. Today’s ride was just a club run but I bet we had a very good turn out. I don’t know because my beloved let me sleep in until 09:00am after a night disturbed by my coughing and sneezing.The chest cold is in its death throes.

When we finally went out for our ride it seemed as if every man, woman, child and dog had taken to two wheels. Largely, I suspect because there’s only so much families and festivities one can stomach in the space of a few days.

My nose was streaming much more than usual and I had to keep stopping to blow it. Most cyclists just duck their heads closer to the road, block one nostril and blow. I’ve tried this, without success. I tend to end up with snot all over my face and jersey – not a good look. Maybe my mucus is the wrong viscosity for such a manoeuvre.

I’ve just watched my beloved boys in claret and blue being given a footballing lesson at the Emirates. Arsenal ran out the deserving winners 3-0. Villa were undone by 21 minutes of footballing brilliance from Cesc Fabregas, who came off the bench an hour into the match to strike terror into the heart of the Premiership’s meanest defence. Abou Diaby, France’s new Patrick Vieira, added a third in the dying seconds. This means Arsenal are now 4 points behind Chelsea, with a game in hand, and Villa will have to try harder if they’re to win a place in football’s elite – the Champion’s League.

Tuesday postscript: With both Man City and Spurs recording wins yesterday, tonight’s match against Liverpool was a “6-pointer”. In truth neither team played well enough to win it and it looked as it was heading for a goalless draw when a Villa error in the dying seconds of extra time left Fernando Torres one on one with Brad Friedel. The result was inevitable. Martin O’Neil hung his head in sorrow. Six points lost and an even bigger dent in our ambitions.

Killed off

Yesterday morning I killed the perpetrator of some unspeakable acts of gluttony. He’d spent the previous night gorging himself on my right shoulder, as the raised red welts bore witness. He’d also dined off my right hand and fingers. Death was the only reasonable response.

The weather has been both cold and chilly this week end, with rain yesterday afternoon and evening. This has not prevented us from riding though it has restricted us to the coastal roads. Our disappointment with the weather was much ameliorated by yesterday’s football scores. After a unsatisfactory loss in the dying minutes to West Ham last Wednesday, the Villa boys bounced back to thump Bolton 5-1. This was particularly gratifying as the number of ex-Villa players at Bolton is legion. Not to be outdone, OGC Nice registered their third win on the trot, treating PSG to their first home loss of the season.

 My beloved’s gout was bothering him again this morning, so I left him in bed and cycled to the club’s rendezvous. A heated discussion ensued on how best to avoid the routes closed to traffic and cyclists alike thanks to the marathon. A solution was rapidly found and off we cycled, shortly to be joined by those from a neighbouring club. Clearly a popular solution which afforded us glimpses of the runners heading in the opposite direction. In Nice, we profited from a closed Promenade des Anglais, cycling merrily across all four of the lanes – what a treat.

 We had somehow misplaced one of our groups and I found myself cycling with the better ie faster riders who dropped me as soon as we climbed out of Nice. I didn’t see most of them again until the pointage although I did pass a few who’d punctured.  The club was continuing on to Menton and returning by way of the same route as last week end. But, given the weather, I decided to cycle straight back. That way I’d have plenty of time to prepare and enjoy lunch before settling down to watch the Chelsea v Manchester United match.

 After yesterday’s frolic in the sun, the Amstel Curacao race won by one

Bert and companion
Bert and companion in Curacao

Alberto Contador, there’s no real racing until the Tour Down Under so it’s during this period that my interest turns to football and cross-country skiing. Yes, yet another sport where the participants wear lycra!

Four in a row

From last week to this, we’ve gone from an Indian summer to autumn. Today I wore my long sleeved club jersey and gilet, teamed with ¾ bib shorts for what might well be my last assault this year on the Col de Vence. It was a chilly descent back home and I was forced to don my windproof.

After my 100km ride I was back home in time to watch the Tour of Lombardy on Rai Tre. I prefer, if at all possible, to watch racing on the host broadcaster’s channel.  Of course, I should have been tackling the Vuelta and post Vuelta ironing mountains, but what the heck!

I see the weather around Como was a little chillier than here and the sky somewhat greyer, but at least it was dry. Obviously the Italian commentators were hoping for and even anticipating a 4th Cunego victory.

Philippe “Pants on Fire” Gilbert had other ideas. Going for his 4th consecutive win in 10 days, he took off in the last 6km and only Sammy Sanchez was able to bridge up to him. Vino tried too but dropped back to the chasing group.

Both riders worked together until the final few hundred metres. Sammy gave it his best shot but he was never going to beat Gilbert in a sprint. Let’s not forget this is the man who bested Tom Boonen in a sprint at Paris-Tours last week end. The Italians had to settle for Cunego’s team mate, Santambrogio, winning the “most combative”.

Podium Boys
Podium Boys

So, two of my favourite riders finishing 1st and 2nd; a highly satisfactory result which could  have been bettered only if Vino, rather than Kolobnev, had also finished on the podium. This wasn’t the only good bit of sporting news. Villa beat Chelsea 2-1 at home. Let’s see if OGCN can make it three in a row tomorrow evening.

Tomorrow we’re off to Beausoleil, followed by a climb up Mont des Mules to La Turbie, weather permitting. Yes, there’s a storm brewing with spectacular flashes of lightening illuminating the shoreline. With any luck it’ll have cleared up by tomorrow morning.

Postscript: Chilly, but sunny and very enjoyable ride today; Vino won the Chrono des Nations (3rd in a row) but OGC Nice failed to give me 4 in a row by losing 4-1 away at Lorient.