Trifling pleasures

My beloved returned on Friday evening feeling a bit fatigued from an exhausting schedule of meetings. Yesterday, given he hadn’t ridden for a week, we had a pleasurable 65km meander around the area. Week ends I’m happy to follow his lead as I’ve plenty of opportunity to practise my prescribed exercises during the week. We’ll probably do a ride of a similar length today in the company of our friend who’s recovering from a collision with a car a few month’s back. Then it’ll be back up the Col de Vence on Monday morning before my afternoon departure to the UK.

We had dinner with a group of friends yesterday evening on the beach. It was a fun evening. With all three girls contributing to the veritable feast, no one was overburdened with work. I had prepared guacamole to stave off their hunger pangs while I cooked the burgers in our friend’s nearby apartment. She provided the accompanying chips and ice cream dessert while our other friend made a trio of delicious salads. The boys enjoyed being waited on hand and foot and worked off any excess calories with a swim and games of waterpolo, football and volleyball. This is my second trip to the beach in recent weeks, and something of a record for me, however the silly cycling sun tan lines persist.  I was in good company yesterday with five out of eight of us bearing similarly distinguishing marks.

Our friend is off on Wednesday to take part in the Vuelta during which he’ll be absent for his wife’s birthday, an occupational hazard. As a consequence, we’re all getting together again this evening for sushi at their place. This is something I have never attempted to make but his wife is a superb cook, so I know it’ll be fabulous. This time I’ve offered to make dessert. I had thought about something vaguely Japanese, such as green tea ice cream, which I adore. But it’s an acquired taste, so I’ll probably make more of a crowd pleaser and something which will appeal to their two hollow legged sons. I have some lemon scented sponge hangingabout in the cake tin which when drenched in my special liquer-enhanced raspberry sauce and then covered in layers of fresh raspberries, custard and cream will make a rather sinful ending to a virtuous dinner.

After this morning’s ride, my beloved and I will be checking out the final stage of the Eneco Tour which has turned into a rather more absorbing contest than anticipated. This race is generally won by a good time-triallist, another one of whom may win this year. Former race winner, Sky’s Edvald Boassen Hagen is currently leading while Garvelo’s David Millar and BMC rookie and prologue winner Taylor Phinney are respectively third and fourth on GC . Up there in the mix, and for whom today’s stage (22 bergs) might have been specifically planned, is Thursday’s stage winner, Classics King, PhilGil who is 12 seconds back. It’s going to be close but Belgium might be just about to get it’s first winner of this race.

Over in the Tour de L’Ain, Vuelta-bound David Moncoutie (Cofidis) in search of a 4th consecutive mountain’s jersey, took the GC from Wout Poels (Vacansoleil) on the final day’s stage which was won by his much younger compatriot, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). The Vuelta’s looking a more interesting race this year with a number of riders who exited the Tour early thanks to injuries (Bradley Wiggins, Jurgen Van Den Broeck) deciding to contest the final three week stage race of the year. On the other side of the pond, ahead of tomorrow’s final stage, RadioShack’s Levi Leipheimer seems to have a lock on the leader’s jersey. in the Tour of Utah.

When I’m going to fit in watching today’s MotoGP racing from Brno in the Czech Republic has yet to be determined. It would appear as if I’ve been ignoring my most recent sporting interest, I haven’t. It’s just that I’ve not had time to do it justice in my blog, but I will. I promise. I managed to catch a bit of the qualifying yesterday. Dani Pedrosa has seized his first pole start of the season in MotoGP, while Marc Marquez has his 3rd consecutive pole in Moto2 and Nico Terol, as usual, is on pole in 125cc class.

More young guns

Monday’s generally a rest day and one where I apply myself to administrative matters for both the club and our company. However, having missed my Sunday ride, thanks to the subsequently cancelled La Ronde, I felt the road was calling me. According to the weather forecast, yesterday was scheduled to reach normal August temperatures of around 30C instead of languishing, as it has been, at around 23-25C. It was overcast and humid to start with but a very warm southerly wind blew away the clouds to leave an azure sky and a scorching temperature. I chose a well shaded route, hoping to postpone as long as possible the inevitable numbing and cramping in my feet. After only 40 minutes, my left foot started throbbing but I rode on trying hard to ignore the pain. After an hour, the right foot joined in.  After two hours, the pain was so bad I stopped for a short rest and a drink.

This generally does the trick and I rode for a further hour before again succumbing to another break. Yesterday was particularly bad because I had spent most of Sunday on my feet. I’m trying to rest them as much as possible but it’s really difficult to stay off them. By the time I reached home, I’d been out for about 4 hours. I had a 30 minute refreshing thrash about in the pool before settling down on the sofa, with my feet up, to watch the prologue in the Eneco Tour: a 5.7km technical course around Amersfoot in Holland.  Last year’s overall winner HTC’s Tony Martin was absent, but there was plenty of other strong time-trialling talent taking part. The course was smoked by BMC’s rookie, Taylor Phinney, a man with cycling in his DNA, to land his first [of many] ProTour win. He was the only rider to go under 7 minutes and finished 7 seconds ahead of Sky’s Edvald Boassen Hagen, the Norwegian time-trialling champ. Garvelo’s David Millar was 3rd. Lurking ominously in 8th place, and only 13 seconds back, was PhilGil, on the hunt for more points so as to finish the year as the UCI’s main man.

Rather than wait for the start of the Vuelta, I then decided to attack the post Tour ironing mountain. It’s awfully hard to iron while seated, there was nothing else for it. I was back on my feet. Numerous shirts and t-shirts later (all my beloved’s), I rewarded myself with a further rest on the sofa. Today was going to be my rest day but the weather was so glorious, I couldn’t resist going for a quick ride early this morning. I had a brief trip to the club this evening and, while watching today’s stage of the Eneco Tour, tackled the club’s accounts. While I’m not the Treasurer, and despite me spending many hours showing her how to reconcile the accounts and prepare the monthly analysis, she’s taken to having a half-hearted attempt and then handing it over to me.  As I’m going to be at my parents next week, I really needed to complete the task today so that I could hand her back the club’s records.

Today, the GC leader, Taylor Phinney, punctured with 20km to go and was paced up back to the front of the peloton by none other than Omega Pharma Lotto’s Belgian Classics King, Phil Gil. Phinney led out the sprint but faded to 7th. However, he hung on to his 7 second lead and his leader’s white jersey. Phil Gil’s team mate, Andrei Greipel took the win ahead of Katusha’s Denis Galimzyanov and Garvelo’s Tyler Farrar. Strong winds and narrow urban roads littered with street furniture had rendered today’s 192.1km stage, from Oosterhout to Sint Willebrord, crash prone. Numerous riders hit the deck, a number under the red kite, and five unfortunate souls were DNFs.

They weren’t the only DNFs today. I had last prepared the club accounts at the end of May only to discover the books were a complete dog’s breakfast. There were loads of cheques which had been encashed but were not in the manual cash book because the Treasurer hadn’t got the supporting documentation from M le President. This situation has not been addressed and, while I could make a pretty good guess, I’m not going to. They have to sort it out. So I reconciled the bank for the past two months and handed back the books this afternoon. They both became very animated when I explained the problem again, each blaming the other for misplacing the relevant paperwork. It’s quite possible that it’s a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other. The upshot is that I’m to become the Treasurer, while still retaining the bulk of my existing responsibilities.  Didn’t see that one coming but actually it will make the task much simpler as I’ll automate everything. M Le President is going to hand over his cheque book and the club credit card which should resolve the problem. They can sort out the mess they’ve made while I’m away and I’ll take over and do the accounts on my return.

I have another race scheduled  this week with the young lads who live on the Domaine. They reckon that having watched the Tour  they’ve worked out how to beat me. The race will be tomorrow morning as my outing with my coach has been postponed. I have no idea what their tactics will be but suspect they’re going to try and use their superior numbers to burn me off. However, given that the circuit is barely a kilometre long, I’m just going to sprint for it. I’ll be going for a good warm up beforehand, it generally takes me at least 25km to get into my stride, and then we’re rendezvousing at the entrance to the Domaine. I’m hoping there won’t be too much passing traffic. During August, as relatives arrive to spend time in the sun with their friends and loved ones, the Domaine resembles more a giant car park and obstacle course as people get ever more inventive as to where to leave their cars.

Hit and run

After Tuesday’s hazardous ride, I was hoping for something less stressful on yesterday’s 3 hour training ride. Where shall I start: lorries driving past perilously close, a bee sting on my lip and woeful ignorance of the mantra “Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre”. This last occurred on a stretch where there’s some new traffic calming measures: an oxymoron if ever there was one.

Traffic calming measures were invented/started by the Dutch who, you may know, confine their cyclists to off road adjacent paths. Road furniture is generally created to slow the speed of traffic at junctions, roundabouts, hazards and through urban areas. It’s the stick approach to encouraging good habits. During races such as the Eneco Tour, which finished on Tuesday and was won by Tony Martin, the riders have to concentrate at all times so as not to fall foul of these many islands, bollards, humps, curbs, whatever. 

The offending piece of road furniture occurs just after a roundabout which gives way to the right and where I almost met my maker some time ago, thanks to a clapped out red Peugeot driven by a middle-aged woman. The thick white line denoting that I have right of way however remains, but the gentleman driving the clapped out Renault didn’t care. He just drove across the white line, while performing a u-turn, and cut me off. Luckily, I was alert to the potential danger and managed to avoid the car.

Likewise, a few minutes later, a car parked (as is their wont) in the cycle lane and the driver flung open the car door narrowly missing me.  Solely because, having just seen her park, I took evasive action.

The bee took me totally by surprise. For the past 5 kms or so I had been riding with a gentleman who overtook me on every rise only for me to overtake him on the subsequent descent. I had just overtaken him again when a bee stung me on the lip. I stopped and pulled out the sting. My lip was starting to feel like it does when the dentist has given you an anaesthetic. My beloved advised me only last week that if I was ever bitten I should lave the area with saliva. I followed his sound (for once) advice and my lip didn’t swell up. It, however, remains sore.

As a cyclist, I find that traffic calming measures prompt vehicles to behave in an opposite fashion to that which is intended. Generally, the road width prevents them from overtaking, so they sit behind you revving their engines until they can buzz past. However if they know the road, they’ll do anything and everything in their power to overtake you before the traffic calming measures, so as not to waste 15-30 seconds idly behind you. Should the opportunity arise, I like to point out that if they knock me off my bike it’ll delay their journey by a lot more than 30 seconds. Always assuming, of course, that they’d stop.

Jaws holidays on Cote d’Azur

I am not a fan of horror or scary movies, not even slightly scary ones. For example, I only have to hear the opening bars to the theme tune to Jaws for my blood to chill. I might be going to Australia in September, but I won’t be putting a foot on any beaches, much less dipping any of my 10 toes into the sea. So it was with great surprise, and much trepidation, that I read a shark had been sighted off my home town’s shores.

Yes, the red flag has been flying over the beach for a couple of days since  two lifeguards thought they saw a shark offshore. It’s now been assumed that it was probably only a dolphin and that they overreacted. Well, much better to be safe than sorry!

I hardly ever swim in the sea, despite my cycling coach suggesting that I spend some time swimming. He’s never seen me swim otherwise he’d realise its futility. Thirty minutes of my frantic, thrashing doggie paddle uses under 100 calories. In truth, I’ve not even been down to the pool this summer.  But, after the so-called shark sightings, I may never venture onto the seashore again. Much safer to stick to cycling.

Today’s training ride included yet more of those low gear, high cadence exercises of which my coach is much enamoured and are really tiring. Still if, as a consequence, I achieve 100th of Alberto’s fluency on the bike, it’ll all have been worthwhile. My coach has also re-introduced solo leg training on the home trainer after he realised that I couldn’t do the exercise out on the road. Well, I could but at such an embarrassingly slow pace. Much better to perform these exertions in the privacy of my bedroom and away from sniggering onlookers.

I got back in time from today’s training ride to watch the ever spritely, Robbie “Pocket-Rocket” McEwan kick ass in stage 1 of the Eneco Tour and win with a well-timed surge. He’s going to be in fine form for the World Championships in Melbourne, for which I have volunteered and where I have been allocated an interesting role. As usual, I volunteered for most things while giving details of what I’d done at past championships. But the organisers have  elected to give me something I’ve not done before which I suspect may have more to do with my linguistic skills. So far no news about the requirement to attend a couple of training days beforehand which could scupper my chances, as I won’t be able to attend.

My beloved, who was coming with me to Australia for the whole two weeks, is now cutting short his stay by one week to head for the US. So I will be sightseeing on my own, plus ca change! Though, obviously I won’t be spending any time on the beach, or in the sea. My one outstanding issue is how to get back to Nice with the bike (and my luggage) on the train from Milan airport.

Who would you be?

Recently while watching a stage of the Eneco Tour my husband asked ” if you were a professional rider, what type of rider would you be?” Now it would be nice to think of oneself as a multiple Grand Tour or stage winner, but that would just be wishful thinking, particularly in my case.

I decided to give the matter some serious thought. Of course, while I have the right attitude and mind set to compete at the highest level, I’m sadly lacking in that all important requirement: talent. Also, let’s not forget the almost total absence of the requisite bike-handling skills. I get skittish riding in a small group, riding in the peloton would totally freak me (and them) out. No good sending me back to collect the water bottles for the team. I don’t know about sticky bottle syndrome, I’d be off my bike and under the car’s wheels before the first handover had even taken place. I’d never be able to pick up a musette, much less empty it into my back pockets. Let’s face it, drinking one-handed is the sum total of my accomplishments.  The peloton would soon learn to give me a wide berth, lest they end up all going down around me like dominoes.

So I guess I’d probably be either up the front as one of the regular escape artists or out the back endeavouring to make the cut, forever the lanterne rouge.  I’d be viewed as “courageuse” by commentators and spectators alike and probably prove popular with the team’s sponsor thanks to the amount of television and press coverage I would garner. I would of course need this to make up for my total lack of results.

I would also have to lose an awful lot of weight, again not my forte. Knowing my luck, I’d end up on a team that wore white shorts. Does my butt look big in this? You bet it does! Frankly, this is looking more and more like a nightmare scenario. Patently, I am unsuited to life in the professional peloton and I haven’t even mentioned the pay, which truly sucks for all but a handful of riders. There are much easier ways to earn a living.

Everything and nothing

A combination of my recurring chest infection, the heat and a whole load of work has meant that I’ve probably spent more time than I would have liked indoors over the past week or so. On the plus side, this has allowed me to watch the Eneco Tour, Tour du Limousin, Tour of Ireland, GP de Plouay and some of the action from the athletics in Berlin.

Specifically, I had to check out how Romain Mesnil fared in the pole vault. You may recall this was the gentleman who ran around Paris naked, with only his pole for company, in order to attract a new sponsor. Apparently, it had the desired effect plus, according to L’Equipe, he now has a large female fan club. There were three Frenchman in the pole vault final, with Mesnil finishing second. This was sufficient for him to get his kit off yet again though his modesty, in the photos I saw, was safeguarded by the French flag.

The live racing I watched was notable for a couple of things: Boonen back to winning ways as the Eneco Tour went through his home turf; Cavendish notching up his 21st win of the season in Ireland; Russell Downing holding off a stellar bunch of names to clinch the overall in the Tour of Ireland and Simon Gerrans coming nicely into form with a win at GP de Plouay.

I am of course now looking forward to seeing Messrs Valverde, Sanchez and Vinokourov duking it out in the Vuelta. I already have an hors category mountain of ironing to keep me occupied during the first few days, while the Vuelta is in N Europe.

Cycling, even at a gentle pace, in this heat is tiring: doubly so with my cough. Last Friday, I rode up to Tourrettes-sur-Loup and had there been no one around I could have quite happily dived fully clothed into the village fountain. Instead, I had to be content with dousing myself with several bidons worth of cooling water.

It’s also been very humid which has a disastrous effect on my hair, when it’s not confined under my helmet. Do you remember that episode in Friends where Monica plays table tennis in the Bahamas and her hair looks as if she’d stuck her finger in an electric socket. Yes, well mine’s not quite that bad but you get the general idea.

A girlfriend has likened the effect of the current weather conditions as one big, long, hot flush. Since I’ve never had one of those, nor do I want one, I’m prepared to take her word for it.