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.

Swopsies

This week’s training programme has 14 1/2hrs on the bike, on the road. However, I have something of a dilemma. I’m planning on spending all day Saturday in San Remo so, no riding. Yes, I could take my bike and go for a ride around the Poggio and Cipressa but I’m then literally left holding the bike to watch the finish. Not a great idea, as it’s always a bit of a squeeze near the finish. And no, I can’t put the beloved bike back on the car. If I do, it most definitely won’t be there when I get back.

I was planning on doing my one-legged interval training on the home trainer on Saturday evening and doing Saturday’s ride today. In preparation, I did today’s ride yesterday. Please note, yesterday’s ride should have been the one-legged interval training.

Sadly, the weather forecast for Sunday, and indeed Monday, indicates rain. On the programme for Sunday is a 4hr ride while Monday’s a rest day. As a consequence, I have decided to go for a longer ride today so that, if it does indeed rain on Sunday, I won’t have to spend too long on the home trainer. 

Prior to embarking on this rigorous training regime, Friday was the day on which I did my shopping, housework and cooking. You can see where I’m going with this. Fortunately, my beloved is not back from his trip until late tomorrow evening so, if it does indeed rain on Sunday, that’s when I’ll be doing the afore-mentioned chores.

Of course, if it doesn’t rain, I’ll be out on the bike (so no housework, cooking or shopping) either for the club ride or I may go over to Menton and return via La Turbie and Eze. In fact, thinking about it, the latter’s a better option since I’d like to time myself for the ride over to Menton. The concentration at Ste Agnes is on Sunday 4 April. You may recall, last year it was cancelled due to the rain. But I’ve been looking forward to doing this one ever since the “nul points” incident in 2008, which still rather rankles.

One of the small advantages of being club secretary is that I receive all the notices about all the concentrations giving full details of location and timing. I have already noted with interest that the pointage at Ste Agnes, via the Col de la Madone, now closes at 11:30hr. Woe betide them if I arrive once more at 11:10 to find they’ve packed up and gone home!

Still not quick enough

The cycling club has recently moved into new, bigger and better premises with a small patio garden which means we’ll be able to hold some social events there in the summer. It also has a small kitchen and my idea of holding a get together over afternoon tea once a week for some of our senior members has been well received. Little do the boys know that they’re going to be road testing my cake recipes. It will also enable us to provide those youngsters attending the cycling school with a pasta lunch after their Saturday morning ride.

Friday evening I attended my first UFOLEP meeting as secretary-elect of the cycling club. I went with the President-elect otherwise frankly I would never have found the meeting hall which was tucked away in a small side street the back of a school. The meeting was well chaired by the local UFOLEP Chairman who started the meeting by saying that he wouldn’t put up with everyone all talking at once. This is a charming feature of meetings in France. Someone kicks off the discussion and everyone piles in with their thoughts. It’s extremely hard to take minutes when everyone’s talking at the same time. I feel I may have to enforce the same ruling at future cycling club meetings.

The meeting generally revolved around the presentation of trophies to those clubs who had gained the most points at recent pointages. We came away with three which wasn’t a bad haul. However, two of the larger local clubs must have needed lorries to transport their swag back to HQ. I had met most of the other attendees at some time or other but I rarely recognize people off their bikes and in every day clothing. I find it helps to visualise them in helmets and sunglasses and concentrate on their jaw lines.

Having done a fair bit of hill training this week in preparation for Sunday’s cyclosportif, I was looking forward to gaining extra points for the club by zooming up Col D’Eze to Fort Revere. The ladies are in the last but two groups to set off up the hill. Having arrived at the start in good time, there’s a fair bit of hanging about, so I went for a ride around to keep warm.

It was a small but a select group of the usual suspects that set off at 09:40, most of whom are half my age. I was soon distanced by the others and happily rode along at my own pace. Once the 10% incline levels out I’m able to speed up and I even overtook a couple of riders. The rest of the ladies were tantalisingly up ahead, occasionally within sight but I don’t think there was any danger of me catching them. All too soon I was overhauled by most, but surprisingly not all, of the riders in the two groups who started after us.

Eze Village
Eze Village

Like the ascent up Mont Chauve, there are brilliant views of the coastline: this time from Villefranche to Eze and, indeed, of Eze village itself. It’s also a popular spot with dog walkers and one needs to keep a look out for our four footed friends. I would hate to run over someone’s beloved pooch.

I haven’t seen the results but I know I was last; however, I may well have been first in my age group. Checking my records, I note that my ascent was 8 minutes quicker than last year’s, a considerable improvement.

Postscript: As I suspected I was indeed last, by some way. The fastest lady was twice as fast as me! More telling, I was only 2nd in my age group, some 20 minutes behind! Methinks, I really need to work on my ascending skills and push myself much, much harder.

Astana au Tour

This coming week-

end we have once again a combined pointage and cyclosportif. I took part in this last year because, having already completed my maiden trip up Col D’Eze during Paris-Nice, I knew exactly what to expect. This, you may recall, was the year Astana were banned from the Tour de France as a consequence of events at the previous year’s Tour. The club had planned to cycle up to the summit of the Col wearing “Astana au Tour” t-shirts, thoughtfully provided by Vino, to highlight the team’s plight to one Christian Prudhomme.

Having refueled at Vino’s restaurant in Nice over lunchtime, we split into groups to head off up the Col. I was partnered with a much younger couple who promised to take it slowly on my account. It took us some time to find our way onto the Grande Corniche and I therefore anticipated that my club mates would arrive at the summit well ahead of me. The first few kms are quite tough and it was a very warm afternoon in early March. The younger couple started to flag, so I left them behind.

I ascended at my pace (painfully slow), stopping every so often for a quick drink. As I reached the last km, there were a number of club mates watching from the roadside who gave me plenty of verbal encouragement. Soon others had joined in and I felt emboldened to go as fast as I could: still pretty slow. At the summit there was no sign of the other riders.

A quick call to M le President confirmed they’d been delayed by a puncture and could no longer ascend to the summit, as the road had been closed by the police.  This was going to be a one woman protest: probably not so visually forceful. However, I did manage to attract the eye of Prudhomme as he was driven past and I featured prominently in the television coverage!

 

 

Lots of firsts

I’m a girl who believes in lots of planning and preparation. If I’m doing a cyclosportif, I like to have cycled the route beforehand. This is so that a) I know I can do it and b) I know when to conserve, or conversely, expend energy en route. It also gives me an opportunity to scout possible locations for a pit-stop as these generally tend to be few and far between. I prefer to wear bib shorts or tights, so there’s no way I can discretely slip out of my kit behind a bush. It’s a full-scale strip job, so you can understand my concerns and preference for a toilet.

I am currently training for the Charly Bérard which largely takes place on the course of my first ever pointage. A year or so ago, one the girls at the club invited me to cycle with her on Sundays, promising that we could go at my pace. She cycles with two of the club’s very spritely octogenarians who are both glowing adverts for the long-term benefits of cycling. I can only hope to emulate them when I’m their age.

When I told my husband I was going to do that Sunday’s pointage he was somewhat dismissive of my ability to get up the climbs. This time however I will have to ascend a tad quicker for fear of falling behind the dreaded “broom wagon” and having my timing device unceremoniously removed.

Most of the club events I take part in are self-timed. You tell the person writing the certificate your time and they put it on your certificate. Whether you finish first or last, your club gets the same number of points. You just have to finish. There are usually two courses on offer: one 50% longer than the other with more points on offer for the longer course. Trophies are awarded to the clubs whose riders garner the most points. There are no individual prizes save those for the youngest and oldest male and female entrants to complete the course.

In preparation, this week I did my first ascent this year of the Col de Vence (963m). This has to be my closest and favourite climb. I did it for the very first time in early April of last year. Buoyed with my feat of climbing Col d’Eze, via the more strenuous Grande Corniche, I decided I was ready to tackle the Col de Vence. I rode the slightly longer but less strenuous route up to Vence via La Gaude before turning onto the Col itself. The first few kilometres are the steepest but it soon levels out and there are simply splendid views down to the coast plus some pretty pricey real-estate to admire as you pedal your way up to the Chateau du Domaine St. Martin and beyond to the open pastures full of sheep.

I took comfort from the road markers telling me how many more kilometres I had to travel and the average gradient (7%). The top is a bit of an anti-climax but I couldn’t resist sending my husband a text to tell him I’d done it.

The Top
The Top

Today I cycled the quicker, slightly steeper route via La Colle sur Loup. Under darkening skies and into a strong headwind, I managed to ascend the hill for the first time without stopping at all: another first. Col de Vence is my favourite col not because of the ascent but because of the descent. You can easily see what little traffic there is coming up the hill so you can throw caution to the wind, keep your hands off the brakes and pretend you’re Samu Sanchez.  With that tailwind, it was my fastest descent ever.