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!

Reflections on the Tour

I’m still wallowing in post-Tour euphoria; and you thought it only applied to the riders. I’ll come crashing back to earth later this week when I start to miss my daily fix. Fortunately, help is at hand, as I’m heading to the Basque country this week end to watch a star-studded Clasica San Sebastian. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Firstly, I’d like to congratulate everyone who reached Paris: no mean feat.  Secondly, a huge thanks to all  the stage winners and the wearers of the various jerseys for making the last three weeks so entertaining, enthralling and absorbing. It’s much appreciated.

Now, let’s examine some of the firsts:

  • Cadel Evans, first Tour de France winner from Australia
  • Frank and Andy Schleck, first brothers on the podium
  • Mark Cavendish, first Brit (and Manx man) to win the green jersey
  • First time the Norwegians have taken 4 individual stages

I’m sure there were many more firsts but these were the ones which sprang to mind.

Not forgetting, of course, that there was plenty of cheer for the home nation:-

  • Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler’s 4th place was the first since 2000 (Christophe Moreau) having spent 10 days in the maillot jaune
  • Five Frenchmen (Voeckler, Peraud, Rolland, Coppel, Jeannesson) in the top 15 was the best result since 1991
  • First best young rider classification (Pierre Rolland) since 1999
  • First winner (Pierre Rolland) atop Alpe d’Huez since 1986 (Hinault)
  • FDJ’s Jeremy Roy voted most combative rider
  • Amael Moinard, the only Frenchman on the winner’s team (BMC)

The hopes and dreams of a number of notable riders were dashed largely due to crashes in the first week. Some struggled on to Paris, others departed the Tour in ambulances. A speedy recovery and return to two wheels to you all. Sadly, one of my favourite riders has decided to retire. It was on the cards and his fall in the Tour only accelerated matters. You’ll be sorely missed Alex but I’m sure you’ll lead your team to many more victories albeit from the team car.

Finally, congratulations to the winners of the various jerseys and classifications. I’m sure Dave Z was touched to see his full-sized cardboard cut out atop the podium as part of the winning team. I wonder, does Garmin Cervelo have one for each of the team?

It seems as if the entire world has proclaimed this the best Tour for the past 20 years. I can’t comment as I’ve only been addicted since 2004.

Finally and thankfully