One from the vaults: Postcard from Como

Although we’ve not visited for a few years, in the past we’ve gone to watch the last so-called Classic bike race of the season around the wonderful Lake Como in early October. Here’s a re-run of our trip in 2016.

One of the many advantages of living on the Cote d’Azur is its proximity to Italy and La Dolce Vita. We watched Il Lombardia for the first time last year which afforded us an opportunity to make our maiden visit to Bergamo. This year, the course route was reversed and the race started in Como and finished in Bergamo. The ideal opportunity for a quick trip to Como to see the last WorldTour race of the season and one of my favourite Monuments.

We set off early on Friday morning, eating breakfast en route. Or I should  say that my beloved breakfasted while I watched enviously. Sadly, I’m still forbidden coffee and pastry cream filled croissants! The sun shone and the first part of the drive along the coast is glorious. As soon as we turned left before Genoa, the clouds put in an appearance. One reason to never live anywhere other than on the coast.

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We arrived in time for lunch on the lake. Sadly, it was a tad overcast but that didn’t lessen the pleasure of eating spaghetti vongole (clams). The afternoon I spent reacquainting myself with the old town. Many moons ago, I would visit Milan regularly on business and usually spend a week-end in Como, just 30 minutes away by train. However, this was a first for my beloved as we’d not really looked around much last year when the race concluded in Como. There’s plenty of cafes and restaurants, an eclectic mix of shops, plus plenty of buildings of architectural interest.

My beloved always likes to check out the price of property in the local estate agencies. While, I like to lust over a spot of property porn where the price is rarely given. Of course, any view of the lake just multiplies the price by a significant factor.

We stayed in a small hotel, right in the centre of town. It was housed in an old building which had been sensitively renovated, pleasingly mixing the old with the new. The WiFi worked, the rooms were light and spacious and the bed comfortable. The polished concrete floors and slate staircase looked good but, as we were later to discover, magnified every sound. Sadly, soundproofing between the rooms had been omitted which meant even heavy sleepers like me were in for a rude awakening. That was the only blot on a lovely week-end.

Neither of us felt particularly hungry at dinner time so we cruised a few of the bars which all have small serve yourself buffet tables of olives, grilled vegetables, pasta salad, pizza, focaccia etc to accompany their drinks, meaning we had no real need for dinner.

The sign-on for Il Lombardia took place less than 100 metres from out hotel meaning we rolled out of bed, grabbed breakfast and pitched up for a ringside seat. For many this was their last or nearly last race of the season but they were in for a long day in the saddle as the course had been reworked to include over 4,000 metres of climbing, much of it in the latter part of the race. It had rained heavily overnight and while still overcast, it was drying out as the riders departed from in front of the cathedral for their parade around the town.

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As the crowds started to disperse, a handful of riders were racing to catch up.

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Obviously, they didn’t get the memo about the time of the race start or, if they did, they hadn’t read it. These included the eventual victor Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange). It’s thirsty work watching racing, so we retired to a nearby café for fortification.

Rather than drive over to Bergamo to watch the race’s conclusion, we had arranged to meet friends for lunch at a local seafood restaurant for oysters and lobster – allowed under my regime. Dessert was a vegan ice cream from the shop next door to our hotel. It’s rare I can indulge in any dessert, let alone ice cream and I feel I showed great restraint by only darkening the shop’s door just the one time. After a disturbed night’s sleep, we had a power nap before watching the race conclusion on the television.

The route is surprisingly undulating, even alongside the lake, as the road frequently rises and falls around the surrounding hills. My beloved and I have frequently ridden around here but not this time. Having seen the forecast, we left the bikes at home. Luckily for the peloton, the rain only fell in the final kilometres of the race. Many had taken advantage of the short-cut back to Bergamo once their work for the day was done. Only a handful of riders finished the course which had been animated by two riders we know well – BMC’s Damiano Caruso and Cofidis’ Rudy Molard. We’d been enthusiastically cheering them on but sadly their early break didn’t succeed.

It was a later one which took the glory. It was a thrilling and fitting conclusion to the 2016 WorldTour season which saw Movistar finish top team for the fourth consecutive season and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) claim the UCI top rider spot. He’s had a fantastic season, dispelling the myth of the curse of the rainbow jersey which I’d love to see him retain next week in Doha.

Again, after that sumptuous lunch, it was drinks and nibbles with friends from the cycling world that evening where we enthusiastically discussed the many merits of the day’s race. A great way to pass an evening.

We were again woken up several times in the night by the other hotel guests returning to base. Consequently, we rose early and headed home where we knew warm sunshine awaited and we could go for a spin on our bikes. Lunch and dinner were courtesy of a superb delicatessen in Como. So we spent a relaxing day though opted for an early night to catch up on those lost hours of sleep.

 

Deconfinement +7

Well, frankly it’s been a funny old week, our first out of strict lockdown. About the only real difference is that we no longer need an attestation (self-certification) stating when and where we’re going. That is unless we’re travelling further than 100km from home, which we’re not.

Last Monday we had our first trip out other than to the bakery and supermarket. We drove into Nice to collect our masks from the cycle club whose HQ is in Place Garibaldi. We’d already obtained some disposable ones from our local town hall but these were reusuable ones with tons of disposable inserts.

Nice was definitely quiet, I don’t think I’ve ever driven in quite so quickly. There were plenty of people milling about of whom half were wearing masks. The mayor of Nice (5th largest city in France) has decreed that everyone should wear a mask when out in Nice, especially on public transport. Of the 50% wearing masks, about half we not wearing them correctly. It’s kinda difficult to smoke and wear a mask!

I didn’t venture out again in the car until Friday, largely due to the inclement weather and where was I going to go? It was around the same time as on Monday, 5 o’clock in the afternoon and the roads, unlike Monday, were really busy. I just nipped into my local organic store where everyone, without exception, was wearing masks and a couple of us also had disposable gloves.

Saturday, joy of joys, a couple of friends had invited us round for dinner. The husband is a professional cyclist who’s been honing his considerable cookery skills during lockdown. So expectations were high. En route we dropped in to see more friends, they have two small boys who usually rush out to hug us enthusiastically. They ran out to greet us and then halted in their tracks, no doubt remembering that this was no longer acceptable or advisable. Their new dog, whom we’d yet to meet, had no such qualms, sensing here was a pair of dog lovers, he jumped all over us. We didn’t mind. It was lovely to catch up with our friends face to face rather than via Zoom, albeit without bises (kisses) and at a suitable distance.

We then drove round for our dinner date which was so lovely. Frankly he could have served me beans on toast and I’d have been more than happy as it meant not having to cook and clear up after a meal. He’d prepared a refreshing fennel, orange, avocado and prawn salad to start, followed by lamb kebabs, ratatouille and spiced rice. Obviously, I just had a large portion of the delicious vegetables. My beloved said the lamb was perfectly cooked and seasoned. Dessert was a moist and very yummy vegan brownie (I have secured the recipe) with carpaccio of pineapple. We were more than happy bunnies.

The meal was well-balanced, very tasty and beautifully presented. The sort of meal you’d have been happy to pay for! If he ever quits professional cycling……… I did ask whether or not there was a Celebrity MasterChef on French television, I don’t recall ever seeing one but thought I’d check. There isn’t, which is a shame as he’d be a shoe in.

My beloved, who has never ever cooked me a meal did not feel moved to emulate our host. Probably just as well as because, unlike our host who was extremely neat and tidy in the kitchen, mine would probably look as is it had been hit by a bomb. I’ve seen the mess he makes when preparing a sandwich. A three-course meal just doesn’t bear thinking about.

As we drove home from our very enjoyable evening out we didn’t pass another car. It was just before midnight. Maybe everyone’s still observing the curfew?

On Sunday afternoon, we popped into our local garden centre which is at the nearby Polygone Riviera shopping centre. This was pretty quiet, only a few shops were open. Suitably distanced markers were outside all of the shops and there were security guards ensuring everyone followed the two-way pedestrian traffic signs. This time everyone was wearing a mask, except the smokers and they had theirs round their chins.

Restrictions on the beach were lifted on Sunday. We can swim, surf, paddleboard or sail in the water on our own, and walk on the beach but we cannot sit there, or hold parties and BBQs. This was possibly less of an issue due to the weekend weather. It wasn’t cold but it was Wet, Wet, Wet. Fortunately, the outlook is for much more sunshine.

Consequently, we were raring to go for a ride this morning, only our third this week. As far as we could tell, cyclists are pretty much abiding by the 10 metre rule or, in our case, at least 500 metres!

 

One from the vaults: Postcard from the Giro d’Italia Part II

Here’s Part II of our trip in May 2016 to watch part of the Giro d’Italia.

At the start of Tuesday’s stage, in a suburb of Florence, we caught up with staff we know at team Bardiani-CSF and evaluated their riders’ chances of a stage win. My parting comment was “I’ll keep my fingers crossed, who knows, today could be the one!” Prophetic or what? One of their promising neo-pros, Giulio Ciccone, won the stage.

Impressed by my cakes, one of the Sky boys challenged me to come up with a bar for their musettes. They gave me one prepared by the wife of one of soigneurs. It was okay but rather dry and tasteless. I promised to work on it the following week and will return to the final few stages with a much improved product, along with some of my brownies.

Go, Joe, go!
The King of Utah, Joe Dombrowski
Cannondale's chef and crew enjoying my fruit cake!
Cannondale’s chef and crew enjoying my fruit cake!

After watching the peloton depart, we headed to a town we’d never before visited. Yes, this was our maiden trip to Bologna, a town about which I had little or no expectations but it blew me away. We stayed in a delightful, modern, three-roomed bed and breakfast in the old town, just a short stroll from the main attractions. Before checking in, we had lunch in a restaurant nearby which had been in situ since 1957. If it’s lasted that long it’s got to be good – right? Absolutely! We enjoyed yet another magnificent meal in a family run neighbourhood institution. The owner had passed away in 2007 but his widow still helps out while the three children now run the restaurant.

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Much to my delight, the restaurant featured an old childhood favourite, the sweet trolley. I couldn’t indulge but my beloved had the house speciality Zuppa Inglesi. He proclaimed it “nice” but a pale imitation of my and my late mother’s rum soaked trifles. Then it was time to walk off those calories around the magnificent old town whose monuments are built almost exclusively of brick, many dating from the 14th century. Some of them are very tall, underlining how wealthy the city was in former times.  The shops are under attractive stone porticoes which have beautiful frescoed ceilings and wrought iron lights, clocks and shop signs. This is one of the most beautiful cities in northern Italy and deserves to feature more prominently on tourists’ itineraries. I shall return particularly now I know how close it is to Mugello, home to last week-end’s Italian MotoGP.

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The following day we headed directly to the Giro stage finish in Asolo, the Pearl of Veneto, where one of my dearest friends lives. A fabulous cook, she whipped up a delicious feast for lunch which we enjoyed before watching the peloton stream through Asolo’s beautiful old town in dribs and drabs. Dinner at a local restaurant followed, before we headed to our hotel for the next few days in Pordenone.

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From time to time my beloved works with a company based here. We know the town well but haven’t visited for a while so it was good to renew our acquaintance with our favourite restaurants and watering holes. Thursday’s stage hugged the Venetian coastline though Wednesday’s warm sunshine had retreated behind clouds and heavy rain. We went to the stage start but when it’s pouring down with rain, it’s difficult to do much more than wave at the riders one knows. Understandably, no one wants to spend a moment longer than necessary in the inclement conditions.

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Friday’s stage started close to Udine in a medieval border town and fared better weather wise, though the boys were looking nervous as the stage heralded a triptych in the mountains before another difficult week ahead of the finish in Turin. I promised to return in the Southern Alps with more baked goods to see them through the penultimate day of climbing.

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Saturday we headed to Trieste to meet with potential clients from Slovenia. We’d briefly visited the city when the Giro d’Italia finished there in 2014 but hadn’t time to have a good look around as we needed to get back for Cannondale’s farewell Giro party. It was great to get another opportunity to visit this fascinating town which still bears the influence of its former occupiers, the Austrians, on its buildings and cuisine. Sadly, I couldn’t find a cake shop doing vegan equivalents of any of those delicious Austrian cakes.

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It was a great trip. The Giro is a beautiful race and I love the way the Italians embrace it by decking themselves, their children, pets and shops in pink. It’s much more of an individual and not a community effort and, as you might expect, it’s generally done with great style, panache and much reverence for the Giro’s history. I consider myself fortunate to live only 45 minutes from the Italian border.

One from the vaults: Postcard from the Giro d’Italia Part I

It’s May, It’s time for the Giro d’Italia. But not this year. So I’m dragging out one of my many posts about our various trips to Italy to watch the Giro. This one’s from May 2016, part II follows later.

My beloved and I consider ourselves most fortunate to often be able to combine work with pleasure. We spent the European mid-May Bank Holiday week-end in Tuscany watching the Giro d’Italia and cycling around the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Although typical wet Bank holiday weather was forecast, it was better than anticipated, with rain falling either overnight or just in the late afternoon.

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We stayed in a hotel we had first visited back in 2005 while spending time with one of my beloved’s German clients, who has a house to die for in Chiantishire. Over several subsequent trips to the region we’ve spent time in a number of  Tuscan towns and have always been delighted (typical British understatement) with the food, wine and culture on offer. Plus the cycling, on undulating roads with little or no traffic, has always been fantastic.

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On Saturday, after a quick ride, we headed over to Arezzo, the finish town for stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia which included some of the (in)famous Strade Bianche. We made the mistake of steering clear of the motorway in preference to the country roads and found every which way was blocked by the race some 4km out of Arezzo.

Undaunted we elected to walk only to later discover that the finish line was actually 8km from where we’d left the car. Now I usually love a brisk walk but found this tougher than anticipated in the warm late afternoon sunshine. We arrived at the finish the same time as the tail-end Charlies from the stage. More significantly, we arrived at the Accreditation Centre seconds after it was supposed to close only to discover everyone had packed up early and moved on. Neither of us could face the hike back to the car so we took a taxi.

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By this point in the proceedings, and having missed lunch, my beloved and I were both famished. On the way back we stopped off in the town where we’d stayed during the 2013 World Championships. Our good humours were revived with an Aperol Spritz at a nearby bar followed by dinner at an Osteria, both of which we’d previously frequented. The owner of the Osteria, who runs front of house, remembered us and his wife duly whipped up a truly delicious meal. Sated, we could finally laugh about our afternoon of mishaps. I slept well that night.

After misfiring on Saturday, we had to collect our accreditations at the start of Sunday’s time-trial stage but this process wasn’t without its tribulations. I was fifth in the queue but none of those ahead of me had pre-registered. The convoluted process took over an hour, added to a further 30 minutes waiting for the accreditation staff to turn up. I managed to while away the time chatting to the other journos and former pro Paolo Longo Borghini, who’s now responsible for rider safety at the Giro, and part of RCS’s management team.

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Next up, and more importantly, I had to deliver my cakes to the respective teams before we headed to the finish in nearby Greve in Chianti with our wet weather gear. Yes, the sun was shining but we’d seen the weather forecast. Most of the peloton would be getting a soaking.

 

The Mighty Boz
The Mighty Boz, aka Ian Boswell

Monday’s rest day involved a recovery ride around the glorious Tuscan hills. We were fortunately back before the afternoon downpour and ate a superb meal in a nearby bar packed with locals. It was so filling we only needed an ice cream from the gelateria for dinner, where I was delighted to discover they did two flavours of vegan ice cream (coffee and raspberry) which, in the interests of research, I just had to try.

One from the vaults: Slogans

Yet another of my many posts about cycling and road hazards! This one’s from May 2014 and riding my bike daily is the one thing I’ve really missed during lockdown. Fingers crossed I’ll shortly be able to venture forth.

I saw a brilliant slogan on the back of a t-shirt in my Twitter timeline recently it said “You own a car, not the road.” So, so true and I just know I’m going to be quoting that in a variety of languages to various vehicle drivers. The other one I like is “A metre matters”. That’s exhorting drivers to leave plenty of room when overtaking cyclists. Particularly pertinent to those towing caravans or boats. They have a similar campaign in Spain which demands a metre and a half overtaking space.

But as anyone who occasionally reads my blog or who rides themselves knows, the best drivers are those that also cycle.  We need to get more people cycling. Such as the gentleman who blithely blocked the cycle path as he was waiting to exit the petrol station. To make my point, I slammed on my (new) brakes and stopped within a hair’s breadth of his car. Did he retreat? No! I was forced to wait until the road was clear to swing out and overtake the bonnet of his car. I gave him The Look and noted his number plate.

Just ten minutes later, as my riding buddy and I were cycling side by side along the deserted two-lane coastal road, we were rudely tooted at by white van man who yelled at us to get out of the road and onto the cycle path! A cycle path intended for kids and those of a nervous disposition with a 10km/h speed limit. Sadly, the sequencing of the traffic lights didn’t allow  me to advise said driver that he owned a van, not the road. But I was oh so tempted to give chase – next time.

However, it was hard to stay annoyed on such a beautiful day. I thank my lucky stars daily that I’m fortunate enough to live here. No amount of rude white van men will ever change that!

One from the Vaults: Worrying trend

I’ve decided that once a week I’ll re-post something from my extensive archives. Obviously many of my early posts 2009 – 2012 heavily feature cycling. I’ll try to keep these to a minimum as I know not everyone is a cycling fan. Here’s one from February 2014 and no it doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day!

Finding brochures with shoes and garments for the older woman in my letterbox troubled me last year but this year’s much worse. Indeed, it could hardly have gotten off to a worse start. I’ve been receiving spam most days with offers of cut price funerals, exhortations to pre-pay for mine and, which I think is even worse,  a tempting funeral comparison website! A sort of permanent www.Hotelscompare.com. I’ve had so many of these emails that I’m beginning to wonder what it is they know that I don’t?

Okay, so the grim reaper can strike at any time. He’s no respecter of age but it’s got me wondering whether these sites have been surreptitiously following me on my recent rides? I only venture this explanation because I’ve recently had a couple of very close scrapes. Mostly perpetrated by motorists who blithely ignore the mantra of “Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre” and head straight to “Manoeuvre”  bypassing the other two steps. To add insult to injury, one of my neighbours in the Domaine perpetrated one of these close encounters. And, yes, I have added their vehicle registration number to my Black List.

The weather has been partly to blame. It has washed lots of sand, stones and rubble into the cycle paths meaning that I occasionally have to venture onto that part of the road which many motorists think only they are entitled to use. Of course, they show me no such compunction when making use of the cycling lanes to overtake or park.

I haven’t ridden outside as much as I would have liked thanks to the rainstorms that seem to have swept most of Europe. Indeed, six weeks into the New Year and I have completed as many kilometres on the home trainer as I have on the road. An almost unheard of situation. My normally cheery disposition takes a bit of a dip without my daily dose of sunshine and cycling. It goes without saying, I am a fair-weather cyclist.

I find that if I have something to mull over you can’t beat a couple of hours on the bike. Inspiration  – and not a vehicle – will likely strike and I return to the office fired up and even more ready for action. It starts when I first awake.

Perfect day for a ride
Perfect day for a ride

I look out the floor to ceiling windows to find out what the weather’s going to hold for me that day. If it looks miserable, I’m far more inclined to roll-over and go back to sleep. If the start looks promising, I leap out of bed, with a spring in my step, and work in the office until I adjudge it warm enough to venture forth.

Happiness is……

After a few frustrating months, today I finally managed a very sweaty 45 minutes on the home trainer without so much as a twinge in my right knee/leg. I’ve been having problems with it since I slipped over in May. Initially I thought I’d tweaked my hamstring, as my foot slipped from underneath me on a gravel slope. But the pain, which came and went, finally settled in my knee for most of the holiday. Thalassotheraphy helped, walking didn’t. It was sooooooooooo painful, I almost rang my beloved’s physio for an appointment.

Just like my right arm, which I injured hauling too heavy shopping bags out of the car, a spot of R&R has mended  – touch wood – the problem. To be honest, we’ve looked like a right pair of oldies hobbling all over the place. My beloved’s hip has been giving him gip but, after swimming and exercising daily for the past 10 days that too is much less painful.

I used to tease my Dad about the visible and not so visible signs of aging as he gradually slowed down. He always used to say: “Wait ’til you’re older!” To which I’d reply: “I hope I get to find out!” Generally, of course, I like to totally ignore my age and carry on as usual but recent health scares have provided a bit of a wake up call. “Seize the day” is now definitely my motto.

I hate not being able to ride regularly. It’s been particularly hard this summer as we holidayed without the bikes and drove over roads we’ve regularly ridden in the past. All being well, that’s now behind us as my beloved also rode for 45 minutes on the home trainer without any discomfort in his hip. He’s had some lifts put in his cycling shoes as the leg he broke is now a centimetre shorter and that’s certainly helped, along with further strengthening his leg in the pool. It’s amazing how quickly you lose muscle and how long it takes to regain it. “Use it or lose it!” is so true.

It’ll take us a while to get back into our stride and back up to speed but it’ll so be worth it. I’ve really missed going out on the bike for a ride. It gives me an opportunity to decompress, put the world to rights and just…………breathe. I’ve missed all my usual routes where I inevitably spend far too much time gazing at property porn, there’s stacks of it down here on the Cote d’Azur. Plus, just gazing out to sea from the various climbs which I find so calming and restful, plus it takes your mind off the grind of riding uphill. I’ve also missed swooping downhill. Just reward for hard work.

 

 

 

Holiday photos: day 15

Not quite sure how it happened, but I’m writing short posts two rather than one day in arears. My only excuse is that I am on holiday. After two weeks of lotus eating, I’m now seriously chilled. That is, of course, the advantage of a long vacation. When I worked full-time in the City (of London) by the time I’d relaxed, it was time to go back to work. Mind you, most of the time, it still feels like I’m working full-time!

My beloved has kept on top of his work by spending a few hours each day answering emails and telephone calls but even he has managed to relax, aided by a spot of Thalassotherapy. After yesterday’s squall, the sunshine and crowds have returned, plus we have sporting action with the Tour de France.

It’s rare we go on vacation without the bikes but we’ve both been suffering of late; my beloved with the after effects of his broken leg and me with my tweaked hamstring. We’re now staying in a place where we’ve previously cycled a lot so we look longingly at anyone and everyone on two wheels – if only! To be honest, wherever we go, we assess the place in terms of whether or not it would be a great spot to ride around.

 

Holiday photos: day 7

Yesterday the Tour de France came to us with a stage start in La Baule, albeit at an out of town shopping centre. We arrived early to bag a car parking spot and watched the caravan go by. Was it my imagination, or was it really bigger than last year? Sadly Haribo weren’t distributing any of my favourite gummy bears though I did score a couple of shoppers – always handy.

The crowds were again a challenge as I fought my way into the Village for some water before picking my spot to photograph a few of the riders on their way to sign on. I found a much better spot than on Saturday, standing opposite a small group of boys who were clearly trying to collect as many rider autographs as possible, loudly hailing each of them by name as they rode past.

Obviously, on home turf, the crowd favours French riders but their biggest cheers were reserved for a certain Peter Sagan (pictured above) looking resplendent in the green points’ jersey. He happily signed plenty of autographs, including for the kids opposite, and posed for lots of selfies. Certain sections of the crowd were still booing Chris Froome but he too happily signed autographs.

I caught up with a few friends, including Rudy Molard who’d been felled at 60km/hr by a stray water bottle and had consequently cornered the market in bandages. I restrained myself from embracing him as he told me it hurt pretty much all over. However he was still smiling. Cyclists are a tough bunch.

All too soon the peloton was streaming out of town under a burning sky and I walked back to the car. Several days of rest and recuperation and my leg is feeling so much better. Time to head to our next destination, Bordeaux.

Back on the trainer!

Yes, I’m (unexpectedly) back on the home trainer. We enjoy around 300+ days of sunshine every year leaving around 65 when it’s not so great. Some of those 65 have occurred in the last two weeks. It was lovely the week after we returned from Dubai, but it’s been downhill ever since, culminating in snow. That’s right, SNOW! A pretty rare occurrence on the Cote d’Azur.

It never lasts long but chaos ensues every time. The morning snow was forecast, I was up at the ungodly hour of 05:00 am to run my beloved to the airport to catch a flight to Prague, by way of Lyon. We had thought it might be a difficult drive but the temperature was 4ºC and I dropped him off before returning to my bed. When I awoke a couple of hours later it was a whole different ball game. Snow was falling, and sticking!

We try to get out most days but have become perhaps overly cautious when it’s wet or damp, which covered most of the last ten days or so. We’re already recognising that it’ll be a cold week-end in Siena for the Strade Bianche race and will be packing plenty of cashmere and wet weather gear. On the bright side, we’ll only be watching, not taking part! Cakes will no doubt be gratefully received by those riders I know who are taking part in what’ll no doubt be a long, hard and cold race.

That race coincides with the start of Paris-Nice which may not be a race to the sun this year! The outlook is not favourable, we’ll have to wait and see. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed as this year’s route means I’ll be watching it live from Wednesday onwards, not just at the week-end.