Finally………………….

My regular readers have been complaining about the dearth of recent posts. I can only plead pressure of work and some much needed decompression time away from the key board. But, I’m back! Sadly probably not bigger and better than before.

I need to recap on the past couple of weeks: first up, La Kivilev. Once again, fortune smiled on us and despite torrential rains on the Friday afternoon, the Saturday of the event dawned warm, sunny and dry. A few early clouds were quickly banished and the smiles on the faces of the volunteers matched those of the participants.

Roche, Iglinskiy and Mizurov in front of poster of Andrei Kivilev
Roche, Iglinskiy and Mizurov in front of poster of Andrei Kivilev

We attracted our usual stellar cast: the winner of this year’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Maxim Ingliskiy; the  Kazakh national road race champion, Andrey Mizurov and, well-known local father and son pairing, Stephen and Nico Roche who were making their maiden appearance in the event. Stephen’s presence was particularly welcome as he celebrates the 25th anniversary of his holy trinity of Giro, Tour and World Championship. I like to think Nico was looking for that extra edge ahead of the Tour de Suisse or maybe just a welcome opportunity to stretch his legs with his Dad.

Other local riders who would have been there were it not for other commitments included Geoffroy Lequatre, Amael Moinard and Tristan Valentin. Geoffroy was however with us in spirit, if not in the flesh, as his better half animated the event village with the G4 Dimension stand showcasing their cutting edge, top notch cycling and casual wear designed by Geoffroy. It’s stylish and made from the latest hi-tec materials. It won’t make you ride as fast as Geoffroy but at least you’ll look and feel as if you could!

In terms of organisation, everyone agreed, this was our best yet but we can’t rest on our laurels and have already had our first post-mortem to look at where improvements can be made for next year’s event. It’s true that no sooner it’s over, we’re already planning for the following year.

After the Kivilev, I generally feel in need of a vacation. This year was no exception. My beloved was also much in need of some down time in a WiFi free zone. Back in October I had booked a ridiculously inexpensive trip to Barcelona to go and watch my first MotoGP live. Now, I’ve written almost nothing about MotoGP this season but that doesn’t mean to say I haven’t been glued to the action on the wide screen so I was really looking forward to this trip. Rather than drive, we had decided to fly to Barcelona and hire a car. We arrived late on the Thursday evening and drove straight to our hotel, just down the coast from Lloret del Mar.

This immediately brought back childhood memories of my first trip to Spain when I was five. We stayed in Lloret, then an unspoilt strictly Spanish holiday town with one hotel. There was a fiesta one evening while we were there and I so wanted one of those red and white spotted flamenco dresses particularly when I saw lots of cute, dark eyed moppets my age wearing them. I’m still waiting – one day!

The resort was busier than anticipated particularly with bus loads of tourists from all over Europe including what seemed like thousands of kids taking part in a local football tournament. Indeed, we had a team from Nice staying in our hotel. The resort was also ridiculously cheap by comparison with here. For example, we never paid more than a euro for coffee while here the cheapest is Euro 1.40. Just don’t get me started on the price of alcohol. Needless to say, you could easily get blind drunk on ten euros and have change to spare.

Friday morning, bright and early we braved the hotel breakfast buffet before climbing in the car and heading for Montmelo. I wasn’t going to miss a moment of the practice or qualifying sessions. Friday’s a quieter day at the circuit giving spectators the opportunity to wander at will and visit the pit lanes after the day’s practice sessions. It was noisy enough to warrant earplugs although most spectators didn’t bother. The circuit was well appointed and the eats and drinks on offer were reasonably priced which made a change from similar overpriced events in the UK.

I don’t like heights and I particularly don’t like walking up stairs where you can see through the gaps to down below so I had a few nervous moments each day ascending to our tribune seats. Once there, I never budged. Instead it was my beloved who popped up and down to fetch the assorted refreshments. Unsurpringly, many of the specatators arrive on their bikes and then strip off their leathers to sit in their skimpies to enjoy the racing, proudly displaying their tattoos. My beloved and I were a tattoo free islet in a sea of painted bodies.

Everyone's favourite rider: Valentino Rossi
Everyone’s favourite rider: Valentino Rossi

A number of things struck me. We were in Spain but the most popular guy on the circuit by a mile was Valentino Rossi. Indeed, stalls selling his branded products couldn’t take the money fast enough. Not all the riders are well known enough to sell their own brand of essentially t-shirts, caps etc. It’s basically just Rossi, Pedrosa, Lorenzo, new kid on the block Marquez and Spiess. I thought Spiess’s designs were superior but he doesn’t sell as much as the others. Rossi outsells everyone else 100 to 1, with Marquez, who’s likely to be the next Rossi, way down in second place. Stoner might be the reigning world champion but he doesn’t seem to engender much support apart from his home crowd.

I’d chosen our tickets well. We had an excellent view of the straight, the leader board, a big screen, the first corner, the first hill and the descent giving us a grandstand seat where most of the action unfolded during practice, qualifying, warm-up and race-day. The weather was excellent throughout the three days albeit with some rain on the Saturday which quickly dried up. Everything worked as per the programme and there’s more than enough action and variety to retain one’s interest throughout the three days. The only thing missing was the excellent commentary from British Eurosport’s crack team of Toby Moody, Julien English and Neil Spalding which I adore as it greatly adds to my knowledge of the sport. It just wasn’t the same in Spanish. Would I go again? You bet.

The Monday after the MotoGP was spent in Barcelona, a place my beloved has visited frequently for work but has never had an opportunity to look around. I was happy to be his guide as we wandered around enjoying Barcelona’s magnificent architecture. Arriving at the airport for our 20:00 flight we were told that the flight had been switched to 08:00 that morning. My beloved had been advised but hadn’t noted the change! Thank goodness he’s a “gold” card holder. We were booked onto the following morning’s flight and put up in the airport hotel where we were fed and watered.

Isola 2000 40 years ago
Isola 2000 40 years ago

This last week end we went up to Isola 2000 with some friends. It was kinda nice having the entire resort to ourselves apart from the assorted wildlife. I drove up there on Friday afternoon while my beloved rode. However, he couldn’t face the ride from the village to the resort so I had to cram him and his bike on the car. After a delicious dinner, and a good night’s sleep, we were ready for anything. The descent from the Col de la Lombarde is technical, lots of hairpin bends. I overshot a couple but fortunately without serious consequence largely because the road’s wide and the surface excellent. We rode as far as St Etienne sur Tinee which is where you start the climb for Col de la Bonette conquered by  me and my beloved two years ago. We stopped for coffee and chocolate before turning around and heading back to Isola 200o and that Col.

I let everyone else go at their own pace ie faster than mine. We’d half thought we’d conquer the 17km climb in around 2 hours but as I glanced down at my Garmin I realised I was certainly slo-mowing. The incline’s an average of 8% but for the first five kilometres  my Garmin never dropped below 9%. In fact, 9% was starting to feel like a false flat. It’s only as you start to approach the village (3km from the summit), and a series of tunnels, that the road flattens for a bit. I’m unaccustomed to long, steep hills so this was good training. At least that was what I kept telling myself. Three days later, my legs still ache!

Dear Santa…………….

What’s in your sack, Santa?

At this time of year the cycling press are happy to provide us with plenty of useful ideas for our Xmas lists. Now it’s been a few years since I last corresponded with Santa, but that’s not to say I shouldn’t give it another go. However, it’ll largely be an academic exercise as I’ve agreed not to buy anyone any Christmas or birthday presents again, ever.  While the whole point of present buying really isn’t reciprocity, I would hazard a guess that if I don’t buy any, I’m not going to receive any. Of course, with all the money I’ll save I could just buy myself something I really, really want.

Now if money were no object, I’d  like my own cycle team. I’m keen to nurture budding talent so I’d be more than happy with a continental ie French 3rd division side. This would also enable me to fulfill another objective as they’d largely only be racing at home.  Travelling with the team in my capacity as Owner, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, I’d get to visit and, more importantly cycle in, all parts of the Hexagon. With only one sponsor to satisfy, the kit could be simple and stylish. I’d probably ask Geoffroy Lequatre to spin a little G4 magic (www.g4dimension.com) and design the team’s kit and casual wear. Please note, we would definitely be avoiding the black, white and pale blue colour palette seemingly favoured by half the teams in the Pro-Tour peloton.

My beloved has taken some lovely cycling photographs with the Panasonic Lumix camera I bought him a few Christmas’s ago and I’ve been meaning to frame a few and hang them in the hall corridor. To supplement them, I’d love some of Jered Gruber’s magnificent photographs. If you’ve not seen them, please head on over to www.gruberimages.zenfolio.com and prepare to be enthralled. Oh, and don’t buy them all, save a few for me.

Despite the recent problems with my Garmin 500, I’d like some of the new Garmin vector pedals. I can use these on whichever of my bikes I happen to be riding, thereby avoiding the issues with different cranksets and hubs. Plus it’ll analyse and compare my left and ride pedalling actions. In theory more information about my riding should help me to further improve. In this case, less really isn’t more. It’s just less.

It seems a bit greedy but I’d like one of the new BMC bikes, specifically the model as ridden into Paris by this year’s Tour de France winner, the TMOI and Tour Bike.  Except, I don’t want it in yellow. It’s not really my colour and it’s such a difficult one to co-ordinate. Instead, I’d like it in black and white, with a white saddle and white handle bar tape. I’d also like to have my name on it. PhilGil’s got “Fast Phil” on his and I’d like “Slow and Steady Sheree” on mine. No point in denying the truth.

Last but not least, I’d like some trousers without matchstick legs. Yes, I know they’re fashionable but they don’t fit my slimmed down chunky legs, and never will, however little I weigh. Preferred colours: black, dark grey, navy blue and tan.

On the basis that it never pays to be too greedy, I’m going to stop here. Dear Santa, I’d be more than happy with any permutations of the above short but sweet list.

PS Just had another thought. Could you fix it for me to ride with Samu during my next trip to the Basque country?

Topsy turvy

I’ve been thrown a little off kilter this week by the Tour of Beijing, television coverage of which understandably has been in the morning. As a consequence, I have sacrified my pre-ride work to watch the racing. Unfortunately, this has added to the work which has piled up while I’ve been feeling under the weather with my cold. The cold has almost, but not quite, disappeared. More importantly, I’m finally managing to get a good night’s sleep. Everything is so much better after 8 hours in the land of nod. Back to the Tour of Beijing, a race which wouldn’t suit me at all. That thick haze of smog which perpetually shrouds the city would have me in respiratory distress.

Pretty much as anticipated, HTC’s Tony Martin blitzed the opening day 11.3km prologue on Wednesday and, in the process, overtook what seemed like half the field but, in reality, was only a couple of riders. He shot by Sammy Sanchez who, while intent on re-living some of his Olympic glory, had sadly been  felled by gastro-troubles: Beijing belly. The British, en masse, occupied the subsequent key places on GC.

The event was taking place during one of the official Chinese holiday periods and one can only assume that the good citizens of Beijing, despite being fervent bike fans, were in the country visiting relatives, hitting a few golf balls, shopping in Hong Kong or sunning themselves on the beach. They were not watching the cycling. However, it later emerged that the Chinese authorities, fearful of any incident marring the race, had once again made it difficult for anyone to watch the race live. However, as it progressed, particularly on Friday’s Queen stage, numbers of spectators increased or maybe it was just the same ones being bussed around to key points. Nonetheless, I do support the UCI’s globalisation initiative. It’s unthinkable that the world’s largest nation doesn’t get a look in, even though they produce most of the bikes. Cycling has to become less parochial if it’s to remain viable. It was particularly pleasing to see the Chinese team getting in breaks and generally holding their own in the peloton. It augurs well for the future of the sport which needs global sponsors, not sugar daddies.

It was generally accepted that whoever won the prologue would probably hang on for the overall as the following stages were largely sprint finishes with the exception of Stage 3, which would be unlikely to unduly perturb Martin. Stage 2 was won by Garvelo’s Heinrich Haussler who’s had a torrid season by anyone’s account. Nice to see him back to winning ways as he probably heads Down Under for a winter of racing. Irish eyes were smiling on Stage 3 which was won by AG2R’s Nico Roche, another rider (and team) badly in need of a win, followed by Radioshack’s Philip Deignan and Sky’s Chris Froome. Wins are like buses, once you’ve got one under your belt, others follow.

Day 4 saw a Liquigas Cannondale double header as Peter Sagan, leading out Elia Viviani for the win, finished 2nd. Today’s final stage, another sprint, where Katusha’s Denis Galimzyanov rode the lime-green train to seal the win, and the green points jersey. Radioshack’s Ben King was the best young rider and Eukaltel-Euskadi’s Igor Anton won the mountain’s jersey. Martin led this race from start to finish with Garvelo’s David Millar (2nd) and Sky’s Chris Froome (3rd) rounding out the podium.

Next up, Mark Cavendish’s first race showcasing the rainbow jersey, Paris-Tours, won last year by Oscar Freire. Phil Gil resplendent in his Belgian national jersey was also racing today and I note he’s got “Fast Phil” written on his bike. I wonder should I get “Slow Sheree” inscribed on mine? The race was animated by two breakaway groups who, having made the junction, left the main peloton behind to contest the win. A lot of work was put in by Leopard Trek’s Stuart O’Grady and Radioshack’s Geoffroy Lequatre early on to keep the breakaways well ahead of a disorganised peloton. You may remember that last year Lequatre was cruelly caught by the bunch 300m from the line thanks to a strong head wind.

With 15km to go, FDJ youngster Arnaud Gerard set off on his own. Team Type 1’s Laszlo Bodrogi and Rubens Bertogliati gave chase, but the group didn’t want to let two fine time-triallists off the leash and they were brought back. Next off the front were BMC’s Greg Van Avermaert and Vacansoleil’s Marco Mercato who overhauled Gerard and, even though the latter was subsequently joined by team mate Mickael Delage and then the rest of the breakaways, it was that duo who went on to contest the win. Van Avermaert, the better sprinter of the two prevailed with 3rd place going to Saxobank’s Kasper Klostergaard. I assume Fast Phil and the Manx Missile rolled in 90 seconds later with everyone else.

Kivilev post-mortem

One of ours!

What can I say? The weather was fantastic, the event was well supported and everyone enjoyed themselves. The local rag gave us a two page spread in the Sunday paper – unprecedented. Amael Moinard and Geoffroy Lequatre (wearing his G4 Dimension kit) both kindly rode the 105km course and gave one of our promising young riders a day to remember, for ever.  I should add that he was only the unofficial winner as, aged 15, he was too young to take part in the event.  The shorter course proved twice as popular as the longer one, with the winner completing it in 3h 00′ 22 “. That’s a wee bit quicker than I’d have managed to do it.

Those competing in the 175km cyclosportif also had some illustrious company: Alexandre Vinokourov, Andriy Grivko and Max Iglinsky. The winner, Gregoire Tarride, time-trialled his way to victory in 4h 58′ 47″, 11 minutes ahead of his nearest rival.  Remember that name, you’re going to be hearing it again. He’ll be riding as a neo-pro for VC La Pomme Marseillaise from next month. Another of our promising youngsters finished 3rd, Jeremy Couanon. That too is a name to remember.

While the amateur riders were happy to tuck into the delicious post race feast, including my cakes, the pros were more restrained, making a bee-line instead for the orange quarters. Though, I did see Grivko eating a piece of my pain d’epice.

We had lots of positive feedback from the participants, many of whom were taking part for the first time. They were particularly complimentary about the course security which for us is always the primordial issue. My Swiss friends, who had not ridden the course before, took it at a more leisurely pace than the winner, stopping to re-fuel at the feed zones en-route and generally enjoying the surrounding countryside.

The Swiss boys

The Kazakh Ambassador to France also graced us with his presence, much to the delight of the local dignitaries. Although I hadn’t met this gentleman before, we have been in regular correspondence since last year, so it was nice to put a face to a name. I should add I had no idea that he was in fact the Ambassador when we started corresponding.

One of the highlights of these events is the tombola. This year we surpassed ourselves with some prizes that I thought (for once) were actually worth winning, largely thanks to generous donations from club members, the Moinards and the Lequatres – thanks guys.

You might be wondering what happened to my beloved. He had a whale of a time playing at being Graham Watson on the back of the biggest motorbike I have ever seen. He’s taken some great shots which I will be featuring on the blog whenever he deigns to share them with me. To be fair, he left for Italy on Sunday evening and is due back this evening.

By the end of the day, at our wrap up evening meal, we all felt tired but content with a job well done. Typically, I was buzzing with ideas as how to improve next year’s event and I’m sure the others have some too. You cannot stand still and rest on your laurels, there’s always things that can be improved upon.

Postscript: You can find the photos from both courses on Picasa under “La Laurentine Andrei Kivilev 28 mai 2011”

La Kivilev

I have just spent all day pleasurably toiling in the warm sunshine handing out dossards and signing up participants for tomorrow’s, rather today’s event. If I’ve had such a tiring day why aren’t I tucked up in bed? Good question. I have been working in the kitchen to maintain my reputation as a domestic goddess. Tom III is packed to the gunwales with edible delights, mostly for the riders, but some for the volunteers, including a big batch of banana and maple syrup muffins for breakfast. In addition, I’ve made desserts for this evening’s post-race BBQ.

I had a complete change of heart largely brought about by the climatic conditions. Never, ever make meringues when it’s humid. I used the berries intended for the Pavlova in a summer pudding. The cream was used to make thyme-infused lemon creams and I whipped up a batch of chocolate rice pudding. M le President has also bought some fruit tarts. Let’s hope it all satisfies the hungry hordes who are facing a long day today. It all kicks off at 05:00. I’ll be leaving home in just over two hours. So exactly what is this all in aid of:-

On 12 March  2003, the Kazakh rider Andréï Kivilev, racing for Team Cofidis, tragically died from head injuries sustained in a fall on the 2nd stage of Paris-Nice.  Kivilev regularly trained on the roads of the Nicoise hinterland often in the company of his Kazakh compatriot, Alexandre Vinokourov. To honour  Kivilev, in 2006, the management of my cycling club decided to rechristen their annual randonée « La Laurentine Andréï Kivilev ».

The 6th edition of this event in Kivilev’s memory will,  for the first time, also include a timed cyclosportive, raced under UFOLEP rules, open to all entrants over 18. There are three different routes:

  1. 175km with 2,532m of climbing
  2. 105km with 1,242m of climbing
  3. 40km along the traffic-free cycling tracks of the Var valley

The first two routes can be ridden either as a cyclosportive or as a randonnee. Last year’s randonnnee event enjoyed unprecedented participation with 561 entrants  (2009 –  421) 342 of whom took part in 105km, 204 cycled 175km while a further 15  rode on the cycle tracks along the Var valley. We’re going to be hard pushed to break that number this year.

The prizes were awarded in the presence of the first secretary of the Kazakh Embassy in France, Mr. Anuarbek Akhmetov and Andréï’s widow, Nathalya Kivilev, accompanied by their son. A Kazakh journalist and film crew recorded the event which was subsequently shown on Kazakh television. It is anticipated that a representative from the Embassy will again be in attendance this Saturday, as will his son and widow.

The club had hoped that the addition of a cyclosportive would make the event even more attractive, particularly to those living outside the region and  overseas. But it’ll probably take us a few years to cement our reputation. A number of professional riders, including Alexandre Vinokourov, Amael Moinard and Geoffroy Lequatre have confirmed their participation. Ideal cycling weather is forecast: warm and sunny with just a light breeze. I wish I were cycling it……………………………

Bountiful

My beloved departed yesterday afternoon which is probably just as well given how busy the last couple of days have been. The weather’s not been ideal: grey, chilly and drizzly. Not great for Carnival but the lower temperatures and more snow have assured great skiing in the mountains close to Nice.

Monday I collected Tom III. Who would have thought that a few extra horses under the bonnet (or, in the case of a Smart, in the boot) would have made such a difference? Why didn’t I get a Brabus version before? I am so loving driving the new car and putting it through its paces. It’s got all the boys toys, some of which I’ll never use, but they’ll serve to amuse my beloved.

Monday, is also administration day and, as it was also a month end, cue invoices, expenses and salaries. Yesterday, after my weigh-in, I continued with the administration, this time for the club, specifically ensuring that everything is in good order for the Treasurer’s return.

Only the truly faithful made it down to the club yesterday evening in the pouring rain. These are, however, the ones who always volunteer and turn out for the club whatever and whenever. As none of them are getting any younger, we do need to start looking for replacements in the ranks of the more recently retired and about to retire.

One of the professional riders, who lives locally, popped in with his other half, to hand over his spare and old kit for our youngsters. In recent years he’s raced for Cofidis, Agritubel and now RadioShack who have changed their kit for this season – thanks. We’re looking forward to seeing him, and some of our other local riders, in next week’s Paris-Nice which I am hoping will be a race to the sun. The long-range forecasts look promising.

This donation is really generous of him and all this kit will be a great boon to the parents. While the youngsters do receive free kit from the club’s sponsors, it’s really for race days. Riding every day soon takes a toll on the kit which, when you add it all up, particularly with the stuff required for winter riding, is not cheap, even at cost.

Article in March's Velo Magazine

Talking about our youngsters, as you can see from above, there was a small piece on one of them in this month’s Velo magazine. Sadly, he wasn’t wearing club kit in the photo, and they got the club’s name wrong (I’ve  since dropped them a line with the corrections). Let’s hope this is just the first of many mentions for our riders.

I had completely forgotten that Nice were playing their Cup game away at division 2 Reims yesterday evening. They managed to win 3-2 in extra time and are now into the semi-finals. The draw for the next round will take place this week end. A trip to Paris for the final in May would be very welcome so I hope we don’t get Lille or PSG in the next round.. I also see there was some consolation for Arsenal yesterday, Chelsea beat Manchester United: a silver lining to Sunday’s cloud.

Almost home

To kill a bit of time yesterday, and give my weary feet a bit of a rest, I watched “Eat Pray Love”. An undemanding film which will no doubt boost tourism to Rome, Indian Ashrams and Bali. If I was going to “find myself” none of these destinations would be on my list of must see/visit places.

I’m not an adventuresome traveller. When I was younger, my friends inter-railed around Europe, sleeping whenever and wherever. I, meanwhile, found gainful employment and then spent two weeks in a luxury hotel. To me “tent” has always been a 4-lettered word. I will only stay in places that have clean toilets, and hot and cold running water. Hence, certain continents are a definite”no go” as are many countries. Call me chicken, but I know what I like and what I don’t like.

I had to change flights at Doha. On the way out, there was a 2 hour wait, but on the way back it’s 19 hours. Not wishing to spend all that time cooped up in the admittedly swanky Qatar Airways lounge, I decided to venture into downtown Qatar. My only experience of the Middle East has been numerous, largely business, trips to Dubai and a plane change in Muscat. I have however seen bits of Qatar on the television during the Tour of Qatar. This is largely a sprint fest which provides some warm weather training for those not taking part in the Tour down Under, and is followed by the Tour of Oman.

Qatar looks like Dubai did 15 years ago and its oil and gas rich rulers have ambitious plans for the place with a significant amount of construction planned in the hopes of attracting the World Cup in 2022. However, from what I’ve seen, I couldn’t recommend it as a holiday destination.

I can’t wait to get home but while I’m hanging around in Doha I hope to be able to see the Commonwealth Men’s Road Race. I have been watching the Australians hoover up almost all of the track medals at the Commonwealth Games. I had thought that Pom bashing was a bit of a myth and certainly never encountered any of it while in Melbourne and Sydney. However, the press seemed to make a big deal out of Australia whupping Britain in the Commonwealth Games, as if we were the only other team in town. It’s clear that they take the Games far more seriously, having sent their A team in all disciplines: not so the English.

With any luck and a good internet connect, I may also be able to see Paris-Tours. Can PhilGil can make it three in a row ? He’s probably still feeling the effects of jetlag but then so will most of his main competitors: Freire, Pozzato, Breschel, Feillu. However, I think he’ll have a point to prove after the World’s. Tom Boonen who’s still recovering from the after effects of his knee surgery is unlikely to be in contention.

Postscript: That man Oscarito popped up to take it on the line from Angelo Furlan and Gert Steegmans, whose team mate Geoffroy Lequatre, having soloed from 8km out, was swamped 400m from the line.

Postpostscript: Australia make it 14 out of 15 golds on offer in the Commonwealth cycling with Allan Davis winning gold in the Men’s, ahead of Hayden Roulston and David Millar while Rachel Gilmore won the Ladies’.

On the road again

The weather the last two days has been bright and sunny, albeit with a  wintery bite. I’ve started wearing  my winter jacket but haven’t yet had to don full-fingered gloves. But it’s only a matter of time before they, and my shoe covers, are required. The mountains behind Nice now have a thick covering of snow and most local ski resorts are opening this week end.

The past two days, I’ve ridden with my beloved around my winter circuit. Yesterday, as I reached Blvd Kennedy after the Garoupe climb, Christophe Le Mevel and Geoffroy Lequatre zoomed past with one of my former clubmates, and the current U23 regional champion, in their slipstream. I chased after them, they were only rolling along at around 30km, so I soon caught them up. It’s good to ride along with people who can maintain an even tempo and, as there were no climbs for a while, I could merrily wheelsuck, and chat to my friend who was on a training ride with them. 

I’m slowly clearing the decks workwise but haven’t yet found time to tackle the ironing mountain. However, my beloved is off on business for 10 days on Monday which will give me sufficient breathing space to get the flat in apple-pie order for Xmas. The Xmas cards arrived today and will be despatched this week end. I have yet to buy any presents, although I do have my list. All of them can be purchased over the internet and delivered to the recipient in time for Xmas – perfect. 

I have made the cake which needs to be fed with copious amounts of alcohol over the next week or so and then marzipanned and iced (both home made) just before Xmas. I’ve also made a second Xmas cake for my clubmates at the recreational afternoons down at the cycling club house. Though there’s going to be precious little recreation for me as the “boys” have decided they’d like to learn English and IT skills. So I have tomorrow’s lesson all prepared and I’ve made a couple of cakes to accompany the tea and coffee.

Saturday, is the Telethon: France’s fundraising for local children’s charities. We’ll be riding, en masse, from St Laurent du Var to Mandelieu La Napoule and back. It’s quite a sight to behold: imagine, if you will, two Tour de France pelotons on the right-hand side of the road. But, I guess it’s not terribly popular with car drivers. The weather forecast is promising. This is followed on Sunday by the departmental championship. My club has held this honour for the past ten years but, largely due to falling membership,  may be hard pressed to hold onto the coveted trophy. Naturally, M Le President has been exhorting everyone to turn out and fortunately, the pointage isn’t too far afield; it’s only at Antibes.

Postscript: Break out my favourite beverage, those boys in claret and blue are through to the semi-finals of the League Cup. Our opponents in the next round will be  Blackburn whom we will also be playing in the 3rd round of the FA Cup.