Imprisoned

You may recall that my goal for this summer was to better my fastest ever ascent of Col de Vence. I achieved that last Saturday though conversely I also posted my slowest descent. Before you congratulate me I should confess that I was in the car and the ascent had been occasioned by going to watch my little Cup Cake ride an individual time-trial up the other side. He finished second to his arch-rival by a meagre couple of seconds. He was not a happy bunny but his Dad, who had ridden behind him, albeit at a respectable distance, thought he’d gone off too fast. I only saw him at the end, hunched over his handlebars, gasping for air. He’d certainly given his all.

Col de Vence

Work sadly has been grossly interfering with my cycling so much so that I’ve been reduced to two-hourly rides – better than nothing. The weather is now starting to cool and we’re enjoying an Indian summer, much my favourite time of year when temperatures are ideal for longer rides and many of the tourists have gone home making the roads so much safer.

Sadly, my desire to ride has been modified by my need to keep an eye on the workmen who are replacing the water downpipes in the entire building. I had thought that they might be able to forewarn you of their arrival as they methodically worked their way up the block. That seemed to work reasonably well in week one although they have now fallen behind their planned schedule. Apparently, the building is made of concrete reinforced with glass fibres – pretty much indestructible – which means drilling out is taking three-times longer than planned. As a consequence, they had to work the first Saturday. Not a popular move with the residents, many of whom (myself excluded) are elderly.

In an effort to make up time, they’ve decided to work concurrently on the left and right sides of Block A.  Disaster struck Monday afternoon, and severely interrupted my viewing of the Vuelta a Espana, when water gushed from top to bottom from one of the external (thankfully) pipes. We were all a little taken aback as the water had allegedly been switched off. Cue loads of plumbers in dirty boots muddying the terrace and laundry floors. These types of occurrences don’t fill one with confidence.  But I was far luckier than one of my neighbours who had water gushing into his flat. As a result, I’ve had no water in my laundry for two days and am unable to do any washing. In all the neighbouring flats, my laundry space is their kitchens and so they’ve been much more inconvenienced.

Last week I managed to work around them thanks to their two-hour lunch break. Just over two hours is generally all I need to ascend Col de Vence and then return home. This week the two-hour lunch break appears to have gone by the wayside and they’re having to work through lunch – sacre bleu! As a consequence, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that I’ll be able to venture out at all until they pack up tools and head for home – around 18:00.

I’m already chaffing at the invisible ties which bind. In practice, and in the event of an emergency, they do have access to a spare key but, if water starts cascading through the flat, I don’t want them fumbling for a key I want the matter resolved pronto. So, despite the perfect weather conditions, I might have to resort to the home trainer.

Get with the programme

Bouyon - only half-way
Bouyon – only half-way!

Sunday, after the departure of my beloved on a 10-day trip to Thailand and Malaysia, I decided to bite the bullet. I needed a long, tiring ride. I set off in the company of two of my girlfriends who were riding part of the route with me. As I plodded along behind them, in the armchair seat, I realised I was feeling the effects of too many years, too many kilos and not enough kilometres. Something I need to address this summer. We broke our ride for a drink. They both had coffee but I needed the sugar hit of a cold coke to keep me going.

We parted, they turned for home and I rode on. This is one of my all-time favourite rides, ridden in either direction, providing a not unduly testing terrain: 1500m of climbing over 85km. The weather, pressure of work, trips away without the bike and sheer laziness on my part means I’ve ridden less kilometres for the first part of this year than I have in the last three or four. The rot simply has to stop.

I needed another infusion of coke before tackling my favourite descent, the Col de Vence, where I clocked one of my fastest descents ever – those extra kilos again. From thereon it was downhill all the way until my final climb back to the Domaine where I was frankly on autopilot. No time to shower and change, the Dauphine transmission was about to start. I usually watch this in HD on the big screen in the office but for some reason, I couldn’t get it to switch on and ended up with a pirate feed that was at least 3km behind the live one!

My previous really long ride had been on the Giro d’Italia’s first rest day  – yes, that long ago – and was largely ridden on the flat while the rest of the time I have made do with a quick dash around some of my traditional short winter routes in between assignments. So I’ve got my training programme out, dialled it back a bit and have rides planned for the forthcoming week. I’m just praying the weather co-operates. The sky’s currently a brilliant azure blue and cloud-free. Let’s hope it’s finally here to stay.

I’ve added a weekly ride up my favourite Col de Vence as my aim is to improve on my best time for the ascent from Vence. I’m also going to head over to the Col de la Madone on some week ends, it’s longer and more testing. Plus, there’s a couple of hills I’ve never gotten around to tackling, largely because I shouldn’t ride them on my own, I do need to ride them with my beloved.

He, on the other hand, has signed up to ride the Tour team time-trial route as part of a four-man team which badly needs to get in some practice ahead of the challenge. Individually they’re all pretty good at time-trialling but it’s a very different matter holding it together as a team. The week end after their challenge I’m hoping to take part in the local Rapha Women’s 100 but my availability will depend on my friend who’s due to give birth that very week end. Her husband is likely to be away and I may be on call.

At the end of July my beloved will be putting me through my paces once more in the Basque country. Earlier in the year we found some great hilly climbs but couldn’t tackle them thanks to the driving rain and snow. I just know we’re going to be revisiting them. I’ll also be hoping to spend some more time with him in Italy which will give me an opportunity to ride in the Dolomites, following some of the parcours from this year’s Giro albeit in much better weather.

So I have plenty of plans, I just need to stick to them.

You shall go to the ball

Ever since I found out about the time-trial up my favourite hill, the Col de Vence, I’ve had it as my season’s objective. My cycling coach had me train by riding up inclines three times, each ascent faster than the last. Except I never quite managed that part. At best I might have managed a slightly, and I do mean slightly, faster second ascent but the third was always slower. Undeterred, I persisted.

My desire to take part in the race arose from the fact that the slowest time recorded last year was 67 minutes, way more than my best time. When I told my husband he replied “he must’ve punctured!” The event was held last Sunday and you’re probably wondering how I fared? I didn’t take part, instead I played a key supporting role.

One of my teens was planning on riding in a race to Auron on Saturday, when it was cancelled he decided to take part in the Col de Vence race. For minimes and cadets it’s a race rather than an individual time-trial. So I signed him up and arranged that he’d stay overnight with us. The teen with whom he has English lessons had just returned from his summer holidays and he wanted to take part as well. So I signed him up too. In the course of making sure they were both entered, I got chatting to the organiser. I explained that I had thought about entering based on the time of last year’s lanterne rouge. He said: “Oh him, he punctured………twice!” That’s right, my desire to enter vanished in a trice.

So, Sunday morning, after a winning breakfast of French toast, we arrived at the start bright and early. The boys picked up their numbers and went for a gentle warm-up. There was a much better turn-out than for La Ronde although the boy who won that was there too. Initially, I watched the time trial. Last year a new record of 24:24 was established, this year the race was won by a mountain biker with a time of 25:00. There was only one female entrant, so I’d have been no worse than second. She was much younger than me so I’d at least have been first in my age group.

The teens were nervous; butterflies in their stomachs. They set off up the hill. My beloved was waiting at the top. I went for a coffee and a catch up with all the riders I know and haven’t seen for a while. An hour later, we all gathered for the speeches and prize-giving. These events are always well supported by the local politicians so after what seemed like a cast of thousands had their 15 seconds of fame, the winners were announced. Because the cadets, minimes and juniors had ridden together my teens had no idea where they’d finished. In fact we still don’t know how they fared other than they weren’t in the top three. My one teen was delighted to have beaten the lad who beat him in La Ronde and we think he must have finished fifth. The other, after a two month holiday, was further back.

This competition has further whetted their appetites and I’ve found them a couple more races at the end of the season plus a potential club for next year. If either of them ever turns professional, I hope they remember who first set them on the road……………………………I meanwhile am back on my bike and training for next year. It won’t be 25 minutes, it won’t even be the teen’s time of 38 minutes, but it’ll be better than this year’s best time.

New term

Things are starting to wind down as holidays come to an end and the kids go back to school next week. The Domaine resembles less and less a single-storey car park though I have to applaud the inventiveness of some car owners as to how and where they abandon their cars. The weather has also turned and dropped a few degrees which makes cycling far more pleasurable. It’s amazing what a difference a small temperature change makes, plus it’s much less sultry.

A lot of families have a second homes in the Domaine but they head back to their roots in July and August while their extended families make use of their apartments. This is where the French indulge in one of their national pastimes “How many people can we cram into a three-roomed apartment with only one bathroom?” You do not want to know the answer to that question other than to understand it severely breaches my rule of one bathroom per couple.

It’s also start of the “new term” at the club as affiliation to our principal cycling association runs from 1 September to 31 August. The other associations, and indeed the club, run on a calendar year. This year the principal association has delivered us something of a dilemma, a doubling of its fees caused, we’re advised, by the rising risk profile of cycling and hence increased third-party insurance costs. We were obliged to raise membership fees by Euros 5 last year, after maintaining them at the same level for over six years, and there was almost a mutiny. Goodness knows what’ll be the fallout this year. I should add, we’ve always been one of the less expensive clubs to join thanks to our high level of local and corporate sponsorship. But many of our members are retired and on fixed incomes, so any increase is keenly felt.

It’s prompted many to say that they’ll just join one of the other associations as they’re both substantially cheaper. This is not going to go down well with the rank and file. You see it’s the principal association which organises the Sunday pointages and if, but only if, you have one of their licences you can amass up to 5 points for your club. Any other licence has a maximum of 1 point. This will have a direct result on our trophy haul most of which we recycle at other events. Those members who collect the most points through attendance at pointages are rewarded at the AGM. There’s stiff competition to top the leaderboard as the “Most Regular” with trophies and club kit handed to the top five. I’ve won the female category for the last five years largely through lack of competition.

Any shift in membership from the principal association will be somewhat embarrassing for the new incoming President who holds a high office in said association. Indeed, he did mention that he was only prepared to countenance membership of the principal association so this might well be our last chance. Of course, anyone who races tends to either have two licences or opts for the association with the most organised events. If this licence is no longer available, the few racers we have left will depart. As a consequence we won’t generate anywhere near our usual level of publicity for our corporate sponsors. This could have a knock-on effect when our three-year sponsorship deal’s up for renewal in 2015.

I’ve been giving the issue some thought and, given that my term of office ends this year, I’ll have no compunction in going for the cheaper option for both of us. You might be wondering why we’re even bothering to get  licences. Well it saves paying for a medical certificate for all the sportifs we enter, and which charge a supplement if you don’t have a licence. Yes, it’s still the cheapest option.

I have created a monster. My friend’s teenager whom I wore out by making him ride on the road while staying with me in July has been truly bitten with the bug. He’s determined to follow in his Dad’s footsteps and become a professional racer. He’s now trying to take part in as many races as possible. I’m not sure that’s necessarily the best strategy but if he’s enjoying himself…….. He was going to do one this Saturday but it’s been cancelled so he wants to take part in this Sunday’s race up Col de Vence. Yes, it’s the same one I wanted to take part in, so I’ve signed him up for it. It starts early in the morning but as he’ll need to warm up we’ll ride over to it. No need for rollers and noseplugs. It’ll also probably be better if he stays with us overnight on Saturday.

Now, you might be wondering why his parents aren’t taking him to the race. It’s simples, as the meerkats would say, his Dad’s leaving to ride in Italy on Sunday morning and his Mum doesn’t drive! I suggested picking him up Saturday evening but he’s going to ride over to me in the afternoon, so I’ll have company for my afternoon viewing of the Vuelta.

Back on track

We all need goals and I’m not talking football here. I’m  saying we all need something to aim for whether at work or play. I’ve been a bit slack the past year or so with not having any major cycling event as an objective. Instead, it’s been a bit vague and woolly. I just want to ride better. By that I mean quicker and with improved technique.

As you know, I’m not overly keen on mass events. I’ve love to do L’Etape du Tour with a group of 50 or so like minded individuals, with full team support. Sadly, this isn’t going to happen any time soon. As a consequence, I’ve plumped for an uphill time-trial as this year’s goal. Largely because last year’s lanterne rouge was way slower than me. Of course, and I didn’t think to check, he might have had a mechanical. I saw the times turned in by the ladies, all young enough to be my daughters, and I know there’s no way I can get even near to their last-placed finisher. So, I’ll most probably be the female lanterne rouge and most definitely, la doyenne. Chances are all the ladies will be given cups just for turning up. It’s the only way I’m going to get one.

Of necessity, a time-trial restricts the number of riders on any given part of the road though, given my snail-like pace, I’m sure to be overtaken by many. I shan’t count it’ll be too depressing. When I set this objective back in January, it was so far off I promptly forgot about it. It’s now only two months away and I’m having a bit of a panic.You have to remember that this is my most oft ridden Col and where I was once embarrassingly overtaken by someone running – uphill, not down.

Actually, I have no idea of the exact date of the event or whether its even being held this year. Events do have a habit of dropping off the calendar but I’m assuming a) it’s taking place and b) I’ll be here to take part. If not, I’ll just keep prevaricating won’t I?

Of course, having been given a good work out by my boys over the past two weeks or so I am feeling in pretty reasonable shape but, since this is all uphill, I really need to step up the weight reduction programme which has stalled somewhat in recent months.

Back in late April, I recorded my best ever time for an ascension of Col de Vence but I’ve not been able to improve on that, until now. Having ridden the hill so often, my split times are engraved in my elephantine memory. This week, my coach set me the task of riding three times up the first part of the hill. I was to progressively increase my speed at each attempt, something I wasn’t too sure I could do. I could and managed to significantly improve my time by the third attempt. Subconsciously I must have been riding slower on the two previous attempts? Well, no, I was on record setting pace both times.Okay, I didn’t ride the entire hill but I’m sure we’ll be working up to this over the coming weeks. Meanwhile, this Sunday’s ride takes us up and over the Col. I’ll be ready.

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.

Peaking too soon!

There’s been a lot of concern expressed in the press about the form of certain riders, such as the Schlecks, ahead of this year’s Tour de France. Opinion seems to be divided as to whether they’re where they should be with just over two months to go. To be honest, when it comes to my own form, I’m not too sure what a peak looks like. That said a couple of key markers were established in Saturday’s La Louis Caput.

I had ridden strongly earlier in the week with my beloved who had even remarked upon it. While my Garmin faithfully records all the details, for me it’s often about how much time and distance my beloved puts into me on our rides. He’ll typically ride off up an incline, turn, ride back down and remount with me. The point at which our paths cross is always telling and it says far more about my form than his. I’d ridden the rest of the week on my own, faithfully following the training program. But it’s been so windy and I find riding into a constant headwind, praying that the wind’ll change direction, to be rather tiring. It’s like wading through treacle.

Saturday, my beloved expressed a desire to ride on without me. He’ll often ride all or part of one of these courses with me. After all it’s not about time as we’re merely collecting points for the club with our participation. Although, on my return, I will compare how I did the previous year. I reminded him about the route (there’s no arrows) and we set off quite late, leaving directly from home as I’d collected our frame numbers the day before. As I headed toward Vence, I was aware that I was about to do my best ever ascent, time-wise. Strange as I wasn’t feeling particularly on-song and I’d stopped twice to blow my nose. The wind had stirred the pollen from the trees and aggravated my allergy.

As I headed toward the base of Col de Vence, I was overtaken by the broom wagon. Never before seen on any of my previous participations in this event. Clearly, I was usually so far behind that no one had noticed that I was behind rather than in front of said wagon. The thought did cross my mind that we might be keeping one another company, again not an uncommon occurrence for me. Even stranger was the thought that I might not actually be last.

Some of my clubmates run a bike shop at the base of the climb, I waived as I sailed past. The first bit is steep so I shifted into my lowest gear and churned away. I’m particularly fond of this climb, know it well, ride it frequently and am aiming to peak for a race up it in September. It’s also one of my favourite descents largely because you can see the on-coming traffic and therefore make use of the entire road with a fair amount of impunity.

This was my maiden ascent of the year and I was keen to check out progress on a modern house which had been built on one of its early switchbacks. I was surprised to see that they still hadn’t landscaped the garden.  When you ride at my speed you’ve time to make quite an inventory of the area. The view back down to the coast was unusually spectacular. Later in the season it tends to be obscured by a heat haze.

I was going well. So well that I never even noticed my bete noire, the two kilometre stretch between 6km and 4km to go. I wouldn’t say I was motoring but the splits were looking promising. I’d even overtaken a number of people. I was overtaken by a group from one of the neighbouring clubs who invited me to ride the longer course (150km rather than 100km) with them. They were, of course, joking. I replied that I would if they pushed me. That’ll be a “No” then!

I had my photograph taken as I wound my way up the climb. Another first, he’s normally long gone by the time I reach this point. I said hello again to the boys in the broomwagon who confirmed there were plenty of riders behind me. Must have left it very late to start! I passed the sign telling me it was only two kilometres to the horse-ranch which is 500km from the summit. I was feeling good, I picked up the pace. I was on target to better my best-ever time by over 5 minutes: what an incentive. I got out of the saddle and as I did so I noticed the rider descending and about to cross my path was none other than my beloved. Damm, I was going to have to stop.

It would appear that my beloved wasn’t feeling too well. The combined effects of a late night, a busy week and the side-effects of the medicaments taken to fight off his gout. Now he didn’t necessarily expect me to stop, but I could tell by the look on his face that he was hoping I would. Ah well, my record breaking climb would have to be postponed!

Still pedalling furiously

The professional peloton might be racing again but I’m still training, and I should add that I’m maintaining my fine form. My first event is going to be a sportif  at the end of February on a parcours not too dissimilar from one of the stages in the forthcoming Tour de Haut-Var, and indeed it’s organised by the same team. However, whether I do the long or the short course will depend very much on the weather. I’m familiar with the terrain, and more importantly the climbs. It’s an area I enjoy riding in and  it’s a lovely part of the world. The course route weaves around a number of the old walled villages from whence you get breathtaking views.

Next up will be my coach’s WTS Classic which has moved (thankfully) from the end of January to the end of March. It covers a not too dissimilar terrain to the first event,  and this year it’ll include a timed time-trial. Helpful advice from Messrs Martin and Cancellara would be most welcome. Twitter would be fine and in English, German or Fabianese – I don’t mind.

Thereafter, I’ll be taking part in the same events as in previous years always aiming, of course, to produce a better time. These events tail off in mid-June, taking account of the increased tourist traffic. After a three-month break, there’s a final flurry of events looming large towards the end of September, all of which involve climbs: Mont Chauve, Col d’Eze and Col du Vence. I’m going to be training hard during the summer months for these last three events with regular ascensions of all three, plus Col de la Madone. This’ll be supplemented with some climbing in the Basque country during the first week of the Vuelta.

My cycling coach has suggested I look to acquire a power meter. I’ve been toying with the idea for some time. It’s expensive but it’s not the price I find offputting, more it’s inflexibility. I have three racing bikes: two BMCs both fitted with Compagnolo and one Orbea with Shimano Ultegra. I think the Garmin Vector, available this March and compatible with my Garmin 500 would be a better bet. It’ll be much more easily transferable between the bikes, I’ll just have to change the pedals, even I can do that! It’ll also provide separate analyses of my left and right legs. I’m pretty sure I know what it’s going to to say but it’ll be interesting nonetheless.

Heart’s Desire

I should warn you that I’m no longer going to be blogging here much about professional cycling. You will however be able to find your heart’s desire over on VeloVoices where I’m one of the contributors.

Back on the treadmill

My coach is finally back out on his bike after a six week break with a multiple fracture of the right collarbone. Since he’s supposed to be “taking it easy”, I’m the ideal riding companion. I rode over to his office from whence we set off to undertake today’s training exercises.  Actually, we did tomorrow’s, as I did today’s yesterday. I saved my least favourite: pedalling in a high cadence. I find these exercises tiring and they expose my pedalling weaknesses. I have been working on this and my coach felt that I was making some progress. My action is getting more supple and I don’t bob about as much as before. Possibly because there’s less of me to bobble.

I did wonder whether my coach would put on any weight during his enforced rest. Well if he has, I haven’t spotted where he’s put it. On his slender frame there’s nowhere to hide. Sensibly, once the wind sprang up, he allowed me to ride in front, while he took shelter. Interestingly, he didn’t indulge in too much “look no hands” riding today. Obviously not keen to get another busted collarbone anytime soon.

We discussed my goals for next year. They’re going to be pretty much the same as this year with the addition of a couple of competitive time trials, one of which will be up Col de Vence.  I would love to do the Haute Route (Geneva to Nice) and am confident I would have no problem completing the arduous parcours. But everyone else would get fed up waiting for me and I’d probably be consigned to the broom wagon. I have no desire to take part in any event which has more than 500 participants, in truth, even then there’s about 495 too many. So that pretty much eliminates events such as L’Etape du Tour, La Marmote, Bosses du 13 and so on.

As part of my training package, I get to ride once a month with my coach but due to his injury we’re now playing catch up. So we’re riding again together next week. This will give me a welcome break from my beloved with whom I’m going to be spending the next three weeks. I know, it’s going to be tricky, but hopefully we’ll muddle through. He’s over in the UK racking up some serious brownie points taking the outlaw out for dinner. His brother’s keeping him company so the outlaw will be in heaven: both her boys together.

The great weather’s continuing. I sat outside, read L’Equipe and had a coffee after my 3 1/2 ride before heading back home. This evening was my last English class for a month. Two week break for Xmas, the week after’s the club AGM and then I’m visiting the folks. Wanting to maintain momentum, my two youngsters are finally getting good grades in their English tests at school, I’ve given them a project for the holidays. They’ve got to report on a football match and give me potted stats and bios on five of the players. Knowing these two they’ll plump for a match involving Barcelona. The month’s break will also allow me to restock my supply of cakes and cookies, the cupboard is bare.

Double jeopardy

Our indian summer is continuing and, despite still not feeling 100%, it was time to get back with my training programme: a 3 hour ride to include 2 x 20 minutes of endurance in specific training zones. My warm up was my climb up to Vence via L’Ara which I achieved in my, wait for it, best time ever!! How shocking is that? I wasn’t even conscious of really making an effort. I must try and subsist on mostly water and rice cakes more often.

I noticed this morning when I weighed myself that I’ve finally managed to shed my surplus kilos of retained water and substantially reduce further my percentage of body fat. My nutritionist is going to be delighted. Maybe the  weight loss is coming home to roost and finally benefiting my power to weight ratio. I certainly hope so. However, now is not the time to become complacent. No, indeed, I need to press on with those final stubborn kilos to be ready for the start of next season.

Training over I returned home by way of La Gaude, a quick descent I know well and where I rarely need to apply the brakes. As I took a series of bends leading to La Gaude I felt my front tyre start to slip from underneath me as it came into contact with a load of sand on the road; frequently a sign of a diesel or oil spill. I find that incidents such as these seem to take place in slow motion. The trick is not to panic and quickly think through your options. I was descending at around 50km/hr so we were looking at probably leaving skin on the road. However, of more pressing concern was the large vehicle right on my tail which had been unable to overtake due to the flow of oncoming traffic. It’s likely, if I’d fallen, that he would have run straight over me. This wouldn’t have been a good option for either me, or my beloved BMC I. In a move I’d like to describe as saganesque, I quickly pulled upwards on the handlebars and righted myself. I wombled alarmingly but both of us remained upright. It was clear that I’d given the driver of the large black SUV behind me a bit of a scare took as he mimed wiping his brow at me through the open window and applauded my bike handling skills. I wish, more a highly developed sense of preservation.

Once safely home, showered and ready for more of those delicious race cakes, I finally got around to reading yesterday’s news paper. I noted that a new race had taken place over the week end: the 1st GP des Commercants (shopkeepers). An ITT held on my favourite Col de Vence. My faithful readers will know that I’ve only recently managed to consistently crack 60 mins for my ascent of this venerable climb. To put this in context, my friends in the professional peloton do it in 22 minutes as part of a training ride! The winner, who comes from Aix and therefore wouldn’t have been too familiar with the climb, did it in 24′ 24″ and won a prize of Euros 800. Not too shabby for a morning’s effort.

Twenty-five of the eighty entrants took less than 30 minutes to complete the ascent. The oldest entrant, a gentleman aged 74 years young, did it in 37’46”, a very impressive time. The fastest lady, a local rider, who is half my age and easily weighs 20kg less than me, did it in 33’23”. So there’s no fear of me beating her when I enter the race next year.  With all these impressive times being recorded you might wonder why I’m even considering taking part next year. It’s quite simple. The slowest person took 67′, so I wouldn’t (for once) be the Lanterne Rouge. I need a challenge for next year and, I’ve decided, this nicely fits the bill. Better pass on the good news to my coach.