One from the vaults: You shall go to the ball

We’re heading to September 2012 with this one and my favourite training ground, Col de Vence. Despite adding more years to the clock, I’ve finally mastered this climb and more recently turned in my best time ever!

Ever since I found out about the time-trial up my favourite hill, the Col de Vence, I’ve had it as my season’s objective. My cycling coach had me train by riding up inclines three times, each ascent faster than the last. Except I never quite managed that part. At best I might have managed a slightly, and I do mean slightly, faster second ascent but the third was always slower. Undeterred, I persisted.

My desire to take part in the race arose from the fact that the slowest time recorded last year was 67 minutes, way more than my best time. When I told my husband he replied “he must’ve punctured!” The event was held last Sunday and you’re probably wondering how I fared? I didn’t take part, instead I played a key supporting role.

One of my teens was planning on riding in a race to Auron on Saturday, when it was cancelled he decided to take part in the Col de Vence race. For minimes and cadets it’s a race rather than an individual time-trial. So I signed him up and arranged that he’d stay overnight with us. The teen with whom he has English lessons had just returned from his summer holidays and he wanted to take part as well. So I signed him up too. In the course of making sure they were both entered, I got chatting to the organiser. I explained that I had thought about entering based on the time of last year’s lanterne rouge. He said: “Oh him, he punctured………twice!” That’s right, my desire to enter vanished in a trice.

So, Sunday morning, after a winning breakfast of French toast, we arrived at the start bright and early. The boys picked up their numbers and went for a gentle warm-up. There was a much better turn-out than for La Ronde (our local club race) although the boy who won that was there too. Initially, I watched the time trial. Last year a new record of 24:24 was established, this year the race was won by a mountain biker with a time of 25:00. There was only one female entrant, so I’d have been no worse than second. She was much younger than me so I’d at least have been first in my age group – result!

The teens were nervous; butterflies in their stomachs. They set off up the hill. My beloved was waiting at the top. I went for a coffee and a catch up with all the riders I know and haven’t seen for a while. An hour later, we all gathered for the speeches and prize-giving. These events are always well supported by the local politicians so after what seemed like a cast of thousands had enjoyed their 15 seconds of fame, the winners were announced. Because the cadets, minimes and juniors had ridden together, my teens had no idea where they’d finished. In fact we still don’t know how they fared other than they weren’t in the top three. My one teen was delighted to have beaten the lad who beat him in La Ronde and we think he must have finished fifth. The other, after a two month holiday, was further back.

This competition has further whetted their appetites and I’ve found them a couple more races at the end of the season plus a potential club for next year. If either of them ever turns professional, I hope they remember who first set them on the road……………………………I meanwhile am back on my bike and training for next year. It won’t be 25 minutes, it won’t even be the teen’s time of 38 minutes, but it’ll be better than this year’s best time.

New term

Things are starting to wind down as holidays come to an end and the kids go back to school next week. The Domaine resembles less and less a single-storey car park though I have to applaud the inventiveness of some car owners as to how and where they abandon their cars. The weather has also turned and dropped a few degrees which makes cycling far more pleasurable. It’s amazing what a difference a small temperature change makes, plus it’s much less sultry.

A lot of families have a second homes in the Domaine but they head back to their roots in July and August while their extended families make use of their apartments. This is where the French indulge in one of their national pastimes “How many people can we cram into a three-roomed apartment with only one bathroom?” You do not want to know the answer to that question other than to understand it severely breaches my rule of one bathroom per couple.

It’s also start of the “new term” at the club as affiliation to our principal cycling association runs from 1 September to 31 August. The other associations, and indeed the club, run on a calendar year. This year the principal association has delivered us something of a dilemma, a doubling of its fees caused, we’re advised, by the rising risk profile of cycling and hence increased third-party insurance costs. We were obliged to raise membership fees by Euros 5 last year, after maintaining them at the same level for over six years, and there was almost a mutiny. Goodness knows what’ll be the fallout this year. I should add, we’ve always been one of the less expensive clubs to join thanks to our high level of local and corporate sponsorship. But many of our members are retired and on fixed incomes, so any increase is keenly felt.

It’s prompted many to say that they’ll just join one of the other associations as they’re both substantially cheaper. This is not going to go down well with the rank and file. You see it’s the principal association which organises the Sunday pointages and if, but only if, you have one of their licences you can amass up to 5 points for your club. Any other licence has a maximum of 1 point. This will have a direct result on our trophy haul most of which we recycle at other events. Those members who collect the most points through attendance at pointages are rewarded at the AGM. There’s stiff competition to top the leaderboard as the “Most Regular” with trophies and club kit handed to the top five. I’ve won the female category for the last five years largely through lack of competition.

Any shift in membership from the principal association will be somewhat embarrassing for the new incoming President who holds a high office in said association. Indeed, he did mention that he was only prepared to countenance membership of the principal association so this might well be our last chance. Of course, anyone who races tends to either have two licences or opts for the association with the most organised events. If this licence is no longer available, the few racers we have left will depart. As a consequence we won’t generate anywhere near our usual level of publicity for our corporate sponsors. This could have a knock-on effect when our three-year sponsorship deal’s up for renewal in 2015.

I’ve been giving the issue some thought and, given that my term of office ends this year, I’ll have no compunction in going for the cheaper option for both of us. You might be wondering why we’re even bothering to get  licences. Well it saves paying for a medical certificate for all the sportifs we enter, and which charge a supplement if you don’t have a licence. Yes, it’s still the cheapest option.

I have created a monster. My friend’s teenager whom I wore out by making him ride on the road while staying with me in July has been truly bitten with the bug. He’s determined to follow in his Dad’s footsteps and become a professional racer. He’s now trying to take part in as many races as possible. I’m not sure that’s necessarily the best strategy but if he’s enjoying himself…….. He was going to do one this Saturday but it’s been cancelled so he wants to take part in this Sunday’s race up Col de Vence. Yes, it’s the same one I wanted to take part in, so I’ve signed him up for it. It starts early in the morning but as he’ll need to warm up we’ll ride over to it. No need for rollers and noseplugs. It’ll also probably be better if he stays with us overnight on Saturday.

Now, you might be wondering why his parents aren’t taking him to the race. It’s simples, as the meerkats would say, his Dad’s leaving to ride in Italy on Sunday morning and his Mum doesn’t drive! I suggested picking him up Saturday evening but he’s going to ride over to me in the afternoon, so I’ll have company for my afternoon viewing of the Vuelta.