How much?

Today’s Armistice Day in France and hence a bank holiday. It’s also the designated day for my longer ride, anywhere between 100 and 150km. The weather today was sunny but decidedly chilly. Indeed, the mountains behind the coast already have a liberal dusting of snow. I decided to head off to Grasse via Sophia Antipolis, the coast’s Silicon Valley which affords some undulating terrain, returning by way of Pre du Lac.

While I was riding I was mulling over a recent news story. Allegedly, Astana Bertare offering Alberto Contador a contract worth Euros 8 million per annum if he signs up for another 4 years. This is double what he’s allegedly requested for next year’s contract. No word from Contador, who’s on holiday in Curacao, as the negotiations are being handled by his brother and manager, Fran who denies the claims. So I was thinking does Euros 8 million (US$12 million) seem like an excessive amount of money for a multiple Tour Winner or not?

By comparison with other sports, it’s not, but there’s one big difference. The fans don’t pay to watch live cycling. I accept they may pay to watch cycling on the internet or on cable or satellite tv but this money goes to the tv stations, event owners and organisers, not the owners of the cycling teams.  

So let’s put this in perspective. Tiger Woods, the best paid (and probably the best known) sportsman in the world picks up around US$100-128 million pa; approximately 80% endorsements and 20% Tour earnings. But Tiger isn’t paid a salary, nor is golf a dangerous sport. So maybe an F1 driver or Moto GP rider would be a more appropriate comparison. During the same period, it appears Alonso earned US$35 million and Rossi US$30 million. On that basis US$ 12 million doesn’t seem excessive. After all, Contador is only worth what someone is willing to pay him.

Back home I discovered that my beloved had left for a 10-day trip without his gout medication. That man would forget his head if were not attached to his body. I then sat down to start ploughing through the rather large amount of work I seem to have picked up over the last couple of weeks. Jobs are just like buses, they tend to come along in twos and threes.

Ma cherie

The wind of recent days has sucked the humidity out of the air and lowered the temperature a couple of degrees: ideal cycling weather. In addition, the heat haze has gone leaving clear views of both the coastline and hinterland for miles around.

My husband and I set off just ahead of the club on Sunday morning. Riding up to Le Rouret over tarmac still  painted with the names of those who took part in this year’s Tour de France. At Pre du Lac we tagged onto a large group of riders who’d taken the opportunity to refill their bidons at the fountain. Halfway to Grasse, they suddenly all swerved right up a small tributary road. Who was I to argue with the collective, cumulative knowledge of the peloton. We followed and after a couple of short, steep ascents and descents found ourselves on the N85 Route Napoleon leading to St Vallier, by way of the Col du Pillon.

The hills were most definitively alive with the sound of cyclists. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many on the road. But then the French holidays are over and everyone is back at work. My husband remarked that I seemed to know most of them, or rather most of them know my name.

You see, my christian name, pronounced correctly, sounds exactly like the french word for “darling” and engenders amusement and affection in equal measures. Not long after I started riding with the club on a regular basis, I passed a clubmate, going in the opposite direction, in a group of about 30 riders. He hailed me from the other side of the road “Salut Sheree”. This occasioned some ribbing as the rest of the peloton queried why he was being so familiar with a woman who was not his wife. I could hear him vainly explaining that “Sheree” was my christian name.

While a lot of woman cycle, not many cycle with clubs. On average, we make up only 5% of those taking part in local pointages, cyclosportifs, brevets and randonnees. We all know one another by sight, if not by name. I am one of the fortunate few able to cycle most days and am therefore a well known figure on my distinctive bike.

It’s the combination of these two factors that accounts for my being somewhat infamous. But it’s rather companionable when you’re cycling along to be hailed by your name by those passing in either direction.

In Napoleon’s footsteps

St Vallier de Thiey
St Vallier de Thiey

Tomorrow we’re off to St Vallier de Thiey, just above Grasse. This is also the date of the club’s annual picnic on the shores of Lac St Cassien. Two year’s ago, doubting my ability to cycle all the way to the Lac via St Vallier, I instead drove the car to the picnic and cycled around the lake. Last year, I went to watch a friend compete in the Monaco Ironman. This year I’m doing the pointage, but not the picnic.

St Vallier was the Archbishop of Antibes  martyred in the 17th century by the Visigoths. While Le Thiey is the mountain at 1552m overshadowing the village which has a pretty12th century church and ancient city gates. 

The route is a gentle incline all the way to Pre du Lac. Thereafter, it’s reasonably flat  to Grasse where you take a sharp right-hand turn up the Route Napoleon to St Vallier. So called because, this was the route Napoleon took  on his return from exile in Elba after having first landed in Golfe Juan. My return route will depend on the weather and how I’m feeling.  

My first trip to St Vallier was last October. Wanting to increase my kilometrage, I had been exhorted by a club mate to ride with an UFOLEP group on Tuesdays, who “rode along the coast”, his words. This was my first outing with them and I was somewhat apprehensive as to whether or not I could a) keep up and b) ride the distance.

I joined the group at St Laurent du Var and we rode along the coast at a pace I could just about sustain to Mandelieu where we took a right-hand turn and headed inland, in the direction of Grasse, over a succession of short steep climbs which saw me slide ignominiously out on the back of the peloton and halfway-down the hill. My club mate kindly kept me company and, from time to time, even gave me a helpful push. I honestly don’t remember the route we took but I do recall we stopped for a picnic lunch in St Vallier. Yes, French cafes are quite happy for you to eat a picnic lunch while seated at their tables, providing you buy something to drink. Ever the pragmatists, the owners understand that the revenue from 30-40 drinks is not to be sneezed at. Shame English cafe owners don’t embrace the same view.

I confess that I am not a real fan of picnics. Many years ago my husband, for reasons I have been unable to fathom, bought me a picnic set for Xmas. We have used it twice. Both times to have a picnic in the gardens of Cleveland Sq, where we used to live in London, with my goddaughter. Frankly, I prefer to stop at a cafe or restaurant, have something to eat and drink, and continue on my way.

I had fondly imagined that after lunch our return route would be downhill all the way. Not so, we were not done climbing. Again, I barely recall the route but we continued to climb before finally descending past the high security prison, built on high above Grasse. This was the first time I had ridden in excess of 100km. Furthermore, I had anticipated that it would be along the undulating coastal route, not in the hilly, arriere pays. While it had been enjoyable, I was truly, but pleasurably,worn out.

L’Antiboise

I was awoken by flashes of lightening and loud overhead thunder at about 04:30am this morning. Now I generally sleep like the dead. Once my head hits the pillow I’m out for the count for 8hrs minimum. So, if anything wakes me up- it’s loud, really loud. My bedroom windows overlook the sea and, since we’re not overlooked, I see no reason to cover the magnificent view with curtains. The bedroom was lit up like the Blackpool illuminations by the thunderstorm.

When the alarm went off at 06:00am, I could hear the rain so turned over and went back to sleep: no L’Antiboise today. Yes, once again rain has stopped play on a Sunday. I had planned to do the 150km Brevet today thereby garnering maximum points for the club and putting in some valuable Livestrong training mileage.

Last year I had ridden the 100km with my husband. The course starts in Antibes,  goes along the coast to Agay, then turns into the l’Esterel hills before returning back along the coast via La Napoule. The longer route takes you past Lac St Cassien and over towards Grasse before returning to Antibes via Valbonne. Both great rides in good weather.

It’s not that I’m afraid of getting wet but, as I found out in the Pyrenees, my brake pads need replacing. They’ve been ordered and will be fitted next week. We rode in the pouring rain in the Pyrenees over Easter. On the Saturday I was able to demonstrate “how to perform an emergency stop” to the rest of the group. My brakes failed as I was rolling down a hill to catch up with them. They were waiting for me by the side of the road. Noting that they were next to a grassy patch, and my husband was at the back I hollered “my brakes aren’t working”. My husband caught my arm, thereby slowing me down somewhat and I flung myself over to my right and onto the grass. Both the bike and I came away unscathed, though I did have some rather spectacular bruising to my right knee and elbow.

Now, I’m a pretty good descender, largely thanks to my bike. I had thought that it was due to my superior bodyweight but if my husband and I descend at the same time, I go much faster than he does and he’s a good 20kg heavier than me. 

By 10:00am the rain had stopped and the roads were starting to dry out. So I went for a ride with my husband, meeting a number of club members en route. Let’s hope the weather will be fine for the Louis Caput next week end.