This week it’s looking increasingly as if I will have to resort to the home trainer to meet my training requirements. The weather has truly turned. Last week I was wearing tongs, linen shorts and t-shirt, this week I’m in trousers, trainers and a warm fleecy top. With the onset of torrential rain, the temperature has fallen ten degrees. The Col de la Bonette has been closed to all traffic, thanks to the 20cms of snow covering the summit! The outlook is for more of the same.
Deluge on the Cote d’Azur
Now, I don’t mind riding in the rain once the first downpour has removed the greasy diesel slicks from the road. I rode in the rain along the coast last winter and spring. Plus, I rode in the Pyrenees and Austrian Alps in the pouring rain. It’s only water after. The trick is to wrap up warmly and not stay out too long. Once your hands and feet are cold and sodden, it’s time to get back home for a hot shower and a mug of soup.
I love soup while my husband regards it as merely a starter, a promise of better things to come. I can and do happily dine off a pot of soup all week. At the moment I’m brewing up separate pots of bortsch and spicy butternut squash. Just think, only last week I was still enjoying watermelon gazpacho and chilled cucumber and mint.
When we get back from a Sunday ride my husband always asks the same question “what’s for lunch?” Of course, when he first started riding with the club, I didn’t ride. I would get up early on Sunday mornings, make his breakfast, fill his bidons and musette and put out his cycling outfit. On his return, his post-ride recovery drink would be waiting for him and, after his shower; lunch would be on the table.
To be honest, not a lot has changed since I started riding. I still get up ahead of him to prepare breakfast, bidons and musettes. I will have laid out our kit the evening before and checked our tyres. Nothing more annoying than discovering you’ve got a slow puncture five minutes before you’re due to leave the house. In addition, I prepare lunch. In the winter months, when the rides tend to be shorter, it’s easy to pop a casserole into the oven which is ready for consumption upon our return. This is less easy during the summer, when rides are longer and you want something refreshing rather than comforting to eat. However, I have found that there are plenty of cold soups, salads and desserts that I can prepare the night before to satisfy my husband’s demand for sustenance as soon as he returns.
Yesterday we rode for 71/2hours – a record for me. I have wanted to tackle the Cole de la Bonette since it featured in last year’s Tour. I find something quite satisfying about following on in the pro-peloton’s footsteps. I may never play on the hallowed turfs of either Wembley or Wimbledon but I can climb any of those mythical cols.
It’s essentially a 100km climb from Nice along the Tinée valley to the top of the col, at some 2,860m above sea level. No, we didn’t cycle from Nice and back. We started some way up the valley and started climbing in the relative cool of the morning, taking full advantage of the shade which soon
disappears once you’re past St Ètienne-de-Tinée. My husband had ventured that this would be good place to stop for lunch on the way back. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we probably wouldn’t be back until late afternoon.
I had been advised to look out for marmots on the climb and I think I may have heard them, assuming they make a noise similar to those rubber squeezy toys.
The route is popular with walkers and cyclist alike but the only cyclists we saw were going in the other direction. We refilled our bidons at Bousiéyas, about half way up, where the climb starts to ramp up.
For me, the very worst bit of the ride was the horse flies, once my liberal application of insect repellent had melted away. I must have ridden a good part of the route with only one-hand on the handlebars as I used the other to swat at them. The best bit was as always the magnificent scenery. The relief when I reached the top was indescribable.
I felt as if I was on top of the world. Thereafter, it was downhill all the way back.
Of course, when we finally got back home my husband’s first words were “What’s for dinner?” Unsurprisingly, my response was “whatever you can find to eat in the fridge, dear!”