Reduced numbers

For some unfathomable reason I woke up on Sunday morning at around 3:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep on account of my beloved’s snoring. So I rashly decided to get up and get on with some work. At 6:30 I loaded up the car with my baked goodies and headed down to where we hold “The Gentlemen”. I was surprised to find it was raining  but 5kms away at the start of the two-man team time-trial, the road was dry, although the sky looked menacing, and it was chilly. As a consequence of the weather, and another race over in Mandelieu, numbers were down on last year.

As first, despite, several down jackets, I was really chilled. So cold in fact that I wrapped myself up in the thermal car blanket. Finally, the sun came out and I began to thaw enough to start serving my cakes to the hungry hordes who fell on them like locusts. The pissaladiere disappeared almost as quickly as it was cut, along with the pain d’epices. The French find it vastly amusing that an English woman can dish up such delicious Nicois Classics. I’d brought a couple of new recipes along with my tried and tested banana cake, pain d’epices and carrot cake. A new chocolate cake recipe, which was very squishy and moreish, along with a lemon poppy seed cake that was light and crumbly, with just the right amount of tang. Following favourable feedback, these two will be added to the repertoire.

It was pleasing to see many of our past and present riders stepping onto the top step of the podium to collect the prize for their category. For the last two years, the cups have been handed out by Jeannie Longo. But she was a no show this year. I wonder why? I encouraged the chap we’re hoping to persuade to take over the role of M Le President to fulfill the role of Master of Ceremonies – he’s a natural.

Although many participants felt incumbent on trying a slice or two of anything they could lay their hands on, reduced numbers meant that I had a couple of cakes left over to add to the freezer for my forthcoming English classes. In addition, I’ll now start building my stocks for La Kivilev at the end of May. This is where the large chest freezer will be brought into service down at the club so as not to take up all the space in mine. Though I will have to take regular inventories or padlock the chest so as to ensure nothing goes walkabout – yes, really.

First up however will be next week’s birthday celebration for two of my English group. I’ll be away in the Basque country the following week so have promised them a slap up afternoon tea, including their favourite chocolate chip cookies, before I depart. The two of them have worked very hard over the last few months and are regularly scoring top marks in their English tests and homework, so I must be doing something right.

I’m in training for this Sunday’s sportif organised by my cycling coach who’s still taking it easy on account of his busted 3-times but finally healing collarbone. Today I rode with another of his clients who’s training for the Nice Ironman. We had a really good ride although I was feeling a bit fatigued at the end of it. Definitely overdid it on the interval sprints – watch out Cav!

My beloved has arrived safely in Australia after a couple of days in Dubai. I had hoped to tackle some pressing items on the “To Do List” before his return next Monday but our accountant has come up with a million and one questions about the year end accounts. The guy who’s handled everything for the past 5 years’ or so left and his replacement, who strikes me as being very efficient, has gone over everything with a fine tooth comb. I think I’ve managed to come up with an answer for pretty much everything.

Snowed under and attempting to dig myself out

I know, few tweets and no blogs. What have I been up to? It’s a good question and one I’m now well equipped to answer having looked back over my completed tasks of the past week. First up, and most important, after the deluge, I have been trying to maximise my time in the saddle. The weather is slowly getting colder, down to 15/16 degrees at midday, and I don’t want to waste a moment before it becomes too cold to climb the hills. I love this time of year when the leaves turn, the sky is a brilliant blue, the Xmas decorations are being put up in all the towns and villages, you can smell wood burning in the air from bonfires and chimneys as we rush headlong towards the festive season.

Secondly, my beloved, the original Mr High Maintenance, has been at home for ten days and it’s been pretty full on and exhausting. Fortunately he left Tuesday evening and I have a few days of respite, before his return on late Saturday evening. He creates an incredible amount of work when he’s home in addition to the cooking, cleaning and ironing. I love having him at home but I love it more when he leaves.

Thirdly, when you’re not in gainful full-time employment, everyone assumes (wrongly) that you’ve time on your hands. Running the cycling club, almost single handedly at the moment, is absorbing a huge amount of time and I realise that I’m doing the work that was previously undertaken by 5 retirees. I spent whole swathes of yesterday redrafting and correcting correspondence to be sent out in the New Year in respect of the Kivilev. I’m trying to get as much ready as possible in advance as I’ll be busy in mid-December preparing the accounts and all the associated paperwork for the AGM in early January.

M Le President bought a second hand laser printer in April but forgot to acquire the lead which connected it to the club PC and the relevant software. It’s been a useful photocopier but I need to make use of its scanning capabilities since my own printer will only scan sporadically. I have been nagging him for months to get the lead. Finally, on Tuesday he handed me the instruction booklet and suggested I deal with it. Tempted though I was to throw it back in his face, I realised that if I wanted the job done, the only person I could count on was moi. Six telephone calls to various offices of the manufacturer, who kept giving me another number to call, usually after I’d been on the line for at least 10 minutes pressing various buttons, and bingo I’ve found someone who can supply the lead tomorrow. Break out the bunting!

I have to come up with a design for the club Xmas card. Generally, I use the current club photo of all the members but we didn’t have one taken this year. So, I’ve decided to use one of the old black and white photos from when the club was established over 40 years ago. I’ll use another one from the same era for the invitations to the AGM and “Galettes des Rois”. Yes, in the interests of economy (money and time) we’re combining the two.

Our pointage at the week end was a success, with over 530 riders showing up to enjoy my cakes. It didn’t go unnoticed that some teams made two visits to the feedzone while certain riders tarried at the table for over 30 minutes. As usual, I collected plenty of compliments but, sadly this time, no marriage proposals.  I tried out a few new recipes which were universally hailed and will be added to the club repertoire. I’m hoping M le President can persuade someone else to do the shopping and preparation for the Telethon in early December. I have dinner guests that week end and will be rustling up something truly delicious in my kitchen.

I’ve also been spending a significant amount of time on planning my English classes. I try as much as possible to dovetail with their school syllabuses so that my teaching compliments what they’re learning at school. It takes time setting up the various exercises as I try to use examples based around their interests and use games and role-playing as reinforcements.

After my recent grand clear out I have been looking for some additions to my wardrobe. This is proving more difficult than anticipated. All the trousers this year seem to have uber-slim legs. I’ve picked up several pairs in my size where frankly I’d have trouble getting my arms into them, let alone my legs. I am not overly fond of shopping. If I find something I like and it fits well, I’ll buy it in a number of colours – problem solved. So far I haven’t found any trousers which fulfill those requirements. I may have to do a spot of shopping on my forthcoming trip to New York.

I have made no mention of shopping for Xmas presents and that’s because I have absolutely none to buy, no not even one for my beloved. Among family and friends we have decided to do away with Xmas (and birthday) presents. Instead, I have reserved the right to buy presents as and when an appropriate occasion occurs or if I see something I think a particular person would enjoy. This absolves everybody from the pressure of wondering what on earth to get and means I will no longer hear those dreaded words “I’ve bought you a present” from my beloved.

There’s a large number of tasks which just have to be completed before I leave next Wednesday for a week’s trip part business, part pleasure, to Paris and New York. These are largely administrative matters for the company. Happily, these are now well in hand. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the housework and ironing. Ah well, there’s always tomorrow.

Whiling away the hours

I woke this morning (strictly speaking, yesterday morning), opened my eyes, looked out of the window and the sky was a deep blue with nary a cloud in sight. I waited patiently until I thought the roads would have dried out somewhat before heading off into the wild blue yonder. Actually, it was only up to Vence but it was just so heavenly to be out on my bike, in the sunshine, with my beloved.

I was keen to see whether or not I had managed to maintain my excellent pre-monsoon form. I had. I recorded another “best ever” time for my ascent. There were surprisingly few cyclists out enjoying the road. Where was everybody? Most clubs, ours included, have club rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Maybe they were saving themselves for tomorrow’s Bank Holiday ride.

In any event, my beloved and I had a most enjoyable time, a taster for tomorrow’s main course. I’m keen to profit from these next few days of fine weather and log plenty of kilometres as Sunday we have the twice postponed club pointage, which will be taking place down on the seafront, where I’ll be on duty. I have spent this week replenishing my stocks so that we can offer a good mix of bought and home-made cakes to the hordes of cyclists.

No need to provide anything savoury, just biscuits, cakes, chocolate, dried fruit plus hot and cold beverages. We’re anticipating in excess of 500 riders; that’s a lot of cake. I’ve also discovered that they eat more if you provide home-made cake. They feel it’s incumbent upon them to pass knowledgable judgement on my baked goodies. This means the volunteers manning the refreshments table have to eke out the home-made cakes to give everyone a fair crack of the whip, otherwise they’re the first to be eaten.

I have made my usual selection of crowd pleasers (pain d’epice, banana cake, fruit cake) plus a couple of  new offerings (date loaf, flapjacks, lemon drizzle cake) which have already found favour with my English class. After Sunday the cupboard will be bare but I’ll have to quickly re-stock for the Telethon (charity) ride on the first Saturday in December.  I am hoping to persuade one of the other wives to take responsibility for this thereby enabling me to participate in the ride. It’s quite a spectacle and I missed taking part last year thanks to a bad cold.

I’m already thinking about tomorrow’s/today’s ride. Where shall I go? I could do with riding the last part of the amended longer Kivilev course to check my Google map calculations for the revised mileage and amount of climbing. I don’t need to ride the entire parcours, just the bit that’s changed. I am hoping that my beloved will ride with his clubmates leaving me to go when, where and for as long as I want. When he’s home we tend to do everything pretty much according to his timetable.

He’s fast asleep in bed attempting to rouse the dead with his snoring. I’ve asked him nicely to stop snoring. It hasn’t worked so I’m trying to tire myself out on my laptop. If this fails, I shall turn to yet another of my recent book purchases. I find that nothing sends me off to the land of nod quicker than reading, except maybe some soothing music but I can’t enjoy either of these in the bedroom. I think the Queen may be onto something with separate bedrooms. Ours is big enough to split in two. I would however have to sound proof my half otherwise it would defeat its intended purpose.

The snoring has abated somewhat, he must have rolled over onto his side.  Maybe, I’ll venture back.

Out with the old

Having dropped my beloved off at the airport early this morning, I resisted the inclination to slip back under the covers. Instead, I decided to press on with the admin and then go for a short ride. At some point the weather will turn, but until it does I want to profit from the on-going fine weather. You can sense that autumn is just waiting to pounce. Meanwhile, the earth’s still looking quite scorched and we’re still on fire alert pending some rain. I don’t know for sure but I would guess that the weather’s been great for the local wine harvest in Bellet.

Since getting back from my ride, I’ve been indulging in some cathartic clearing up and clearing out. I now have a large bag of clothes (too big) to take down to the local charity shop. You might be thinking that among the petite French that there’s not much call for larger sizes. Au contraire, being rarer than hen’s teeth, they’re much in demand. And, let’s face it, you can make something smaller but you can’t make it bigger!

I’m now feeling decidedly virtuous and have returned the flat to apple-pie order following the departure of he who loves to make a mess. He’ll be gone for three days and will be staying with my younger sister in London while he attends a series of meetings. He’s then home for an entire week before we both go to Birmingham, him to an exhibition and me to visit my parents.

This burst of energy hasn’t however reduced the ironing mountain which is again getting dangerously out of hand. So out of hand that I had to iron some shirts for my beloved’s trip. He’s not quite exhausted his supply, but he wanted to take the shirts which went best with one of his jackets, and they all needed ironing.

I’m looking forward to a longer ride tomorrow as I’m facing a long evening of meetings. First, the weekly meeting down at the cycling club and then we’ve been summoned (at short notice) to a meeting of the local sport’s federation down at the Town Hall, with all the other clubs. We have no idea why but no doubt all will be revealed at the meeting. However, it will provide us with an ideal opportunity to discuss a joint marketing initiative with the Triathlon Club which holds its annual event the Sunday after the Kivilev. There has to be scope for us to work more closely together.

Postscript: Two hour meeting at the Town Hall was a complete waste of time.  Nothing they had to say was of any relevance to us. In fact it all seemed to hinge around just a few of the other sports clubs but I suppose they didn’t want to appear to be picking on them!

Got home feeling rather weary only to discover my beloved, who’s now firmly ensconced in the dog house, had sent me a long, legal document to review and correct before tomorrow! A document which he clearly hadn’t even bothered to read before heading for a boy’s night out with his brother.

Progress report

Yesterday was pretty hectic. Nonetheless, I managed to fit in a ride with my beloved. It was short, but tough, thanks to the gale force cross-winds. The afternoon and evening were spent down at the club. Firstly with our regular monthly rendezvous to ascertain progress on the Kivilev. Everything is going according to plan although we still need more volunteers.

In between the end of that meeting and the start of the next one, I managed to check on the progress of Stage 3 of Paris Nice. In short, escapees brought back before final climb, Thomas Voeckler went on ultimately unsuccessful attack, bunch sprint finish, one of the favourites fell in final straight taking out a few others (no harm done), yellow jersey changed hands, Matt Goss, winner of sprint,  now GC leader.

Our next meeting was a weekly catch up for members of the club’s management team followed  by the club’s monthly meeting of its members. We finished with a BBQ and crepes. Well, it was Pancake Day. This ensured a greater than usual turn out. The wives, on International Women’s Day, had made 100s of pancakes. My 50 were the first to be devoured. I make them rather thicker than is the practice in France, all the better for soaking up the Grand Marnier. I also sweeten them, so there’s no need to add sugar and, quite frankly, they’re as delicious cold as they are hot.  Luckily I had held a few back for my beloved, otherwise he would have missed out.

The Treasurer, whose partner’s surprise birthday party a number of us are attending next Saturday (clashing with Milan-San Remo), has asked me to make a cake. I think she’s hoping for something rather more glamorous than my pain d’epice and I shan’t disappoint. After my training ride this morning, I  spent a couple of hours combing the recipe books for something suitably celebratory and I think I’ve found it in Eric Lanlard’s “Master Cakes”.  It’s going to be quite challenging finding enough time to make this and the cakes for the Gentleman.  I may have to make more cakes this week end and then pop them into the freezer down at the club (mine’s full) until next week end.  

Unusually, I’ve got my training plan for the next couple of months which I will be following steadily. This month I have the 8km, two-man, time-trial with my beloved next week end and then an 150km Audax (av. speed of 22km/hr) the following one. In the subsequent three months there are sportifs most week ends. My aim is, as always, to improve on my times of the previous year. Having had my Garmin now for just over 12 months, I can more readily appreciate the progress I’ve made. Of course, it’s less easy to understand what has brought about the improvement: weight loss, training, improved technique, or a combination of all of them?  Frankly, who cares? I’m getting quicker and that’s what really matters.

On high

I am spending way too much time on club business. My beloved (yes, he’s home until Wednesday afternoon) cannot believe that I have spent all day at my desk while the sun has been shining. But I need to get as much as possible up to date before my departure and then hand everything over to the Treasurer. I have made copious notes and lots of annotated examples to help her otherwise I’m afraid she might just decide it’s all too much and throw in the towel. Strictly speaking, as we’re in France, she would throw in the sponge. But I want no throwing of towels, sponges or any other missiles.

Friday afternoon we took the much anticipated decision to run next year’s Kivilev as both a randonnee and sportif. I have been put in charge of marketing, which includes production of the brochure. This is already well in hand and I’ll be working on it while I’m flying to and from on Oz. Well there’s only so many films you can watch and it’s an awfully long time to be airborne, even in Club class.

The club had a magnificent turn out for yesterday’s pointage which included a climb up Mont Chauve. I did this for the first time last year and was disappointed not to have done the race as no other women had taken part. But there were two this year, so I’d have been 3rd.  However, I decided not to contest the sprint and plodded away at my own pace. Amazingly, I overtook a number of riders who had probably set off too quickly and were beginning to flag in the final kilometers. However, the climb seemed much more difficult than I remembered and I suffered like a dog all the way up. Maybe it was the weather which was humid and overcast, ruining the normally panoramic view of Nice.

Still, it was all worthwhile as we won the pointage, which was hosted by the largest Nicois club, beating into second place the 2nd largest club mainly because a number of their riders had forgotten their licences and therefore they didn’t qualify for the bonifications. As usual, ladies only made up 5% of the 395 participants. Contrast this turn-out with our own event which was held in August. We had over 560.

Back on two wheels

After four days of enforced rest, I was raring to go on Sunday morning. I would have liked to head off up the Col de Vence but it was windy and I still have to ensure that I don’t get the wind in my eye, or worse, any grit. We settled for a ride along the coast to Las Trayas and back, exactly 100km, which I completed at an average of 25km/hour. The exact average speed I have to maintain in the peloton on the London-Paris ride – a result.

Pretty much all my administration had been pushed to one side to accommodate the workload generated by the Kivilev and therefore it needed to be tackled first thing on Monday morning. My beloved went for a ride on his own, therefore I didn’t head out until much later, opting for one of my regular routes with some interval sprint training. In fact I was doing just this when I was passed by Amael Moinard and Rein Taamarae, going in the other direction. They were positively loitering, it must have been a recovery ride. Amael waived and looked impressed as I shot past them. Fortunately, I managed to sustain my effort for longer than the required 15 seconds.

Since my last brush with the tarmac, still a fairly frequent occurrence, the largest gears on my rear cassette had been slipping. I don’t have to tell you that these are the ones that I use most frequently. A trip to my LBS, on the way back, to get them sorted was in order. I arrived just before afternoon opening hours and found the owner enjoying a coffee in the cafe next door with Sean Yates, one of only a handful of  Englishmen to grace the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, and currently a DS with Team Sky.

Having been introduced, we briefly discussed the Giro. I sympathised with him over the difficulty of this year’s edition, particularly given the appalling weather conditions. I later mentioned that I was training for London-Paris at the end of the month. He said he’d heard that it was really difficult. Thanks Sean, I did not need to know this! Remember, ignorance is bliss.

Yesterday, I rode with my trainer: always very informative. As someone who’s not been riding long, I’m keen to improve my technique and this is the best way to do it. He proffers loads of very helpful advice while we ride along. Yesterday’s session involved more interval training which is always easier to accomplish with someone else watching the stopwatch.

The last three days I have been riding  strongly and feel really well, totally fired up for London-Paris. Which rather emphasises the importance of rest days and today’s another one. However, I have four days of riding in Varese to look forward to, starting tomorrow,  and plenty of odds and ends to complete today before we depart.

Une Edition Record

La Laurentine Andrei Kivilev

The day of the event was warm and sunny: just what we’d ordered. For once there were no professional riders at the start , as the event clashed with their professional commitments.  No matter, a good time was still had by all thanks to the hard work of our vast team (60) of volunteers which did not go unnoticed or unappreciated by the participants.

Andrei’s widow kindly assisted with the presentation of the prizes and her son  performed a splendid job selecting the winning numbers for the tombola. Yes, not only did the participants get a goodie bag with a T-shirt commemorating the event, a bidon, a discount voucher from one of the local sports shops but they stood to win cycling related prizes, including 2 sets of wheels and a Look bike frame, in the tombola.

The event  was graced, as usual, by the Mayor and other local and regional officials responsible for sporting and cultural events as well as a representative from the Kazakh Embassy in France and a reporter and cameraman from Kazakh TV. Our event will be featured in a short segment which will be regularly repeated in the coming weeks on the main TV channel in Kazakhstan. In the spirit of cementing Franco-Kazakh relations, I decided to wear the dreaded white trousers from Le Grand Depart 2009, teaming them with a turquoise t-shirt and yellow sweater, swung over the shoulders: voila, the colours of team Astana and the Kazakh flag.  

We’ll be holding a post-mortem meeting this week to review what went well and, more importantly, how and where we can make improvements for next year’s edition. Ideally, we would like to turn it into a cyclosportif. Easier said than done.

All this hyperactivity meant that I missed watching 3 stages of the Giro, although I did see the final TT. Liquigas must have been delighted: three men in the top ten with Basso taking the maglia rosa , Nibali 3rd  and  Kiserlovski 10th. Equally, Caisse d’Epargne must be pleased with Arroyo’s 2nd place while honourable mentions for Scarponi (4th), Evans (5th) and Vino (6th). The Australians made a clean sweep of the remaining jerseys: points (Evans), mountains (Lloyd) and best young rider (Porte). The organisers are to be congratulated for organising a thrilling Giro.

Slip, sliding away

A bit of a hiatus this week due largely to  pressure of work and not an extended absence, as planned, watching the Giro. And what a Giro it has been. Cloud bursts made the TTT trial somewhat of a lottery and those men in lime green seized the opportunity to occupy the first three places on GC, and hence the maglia rosa, and the young rider’s jersey.

Thursday’s 5th stage to Novi Ligure was won by someone in the breakaway. Don’t you just love that when it happens? I do. Jerome Pineau won ahead of his breakaway companions, Julien Fouchard (Cofidis) and Yukira Arashiro (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) to record Quick Step’s 2nd stage win of this Giro, just 100 metres ahead of the advancing peloton.

And what do you know, a breakaway succeeded on Friday too. Matt Lloyd (Omega Pharma Lotto) and Rubens Bertogliati (Androni Giocattoli-Diquigiovanni) went away after 46kms and stayed away. The former beating the latter to the line in Marina di Carrara by over a minute. Danilo Hondo (Lampre Farnese-Vino) won the sprint for 3rd.

So, here we are, stage 7 to Montalcino and Liquigas are still occupying the podium. Yet another Aussi won today. Yes, Cadel “Cuddles” Evans won the mud fight on the strade bianche which had been turned brown by the rain. Indeed, it was hard to make out who was who as they were all literally covered in mud. The pink jersey slid off the wet, tarmac road taking out a number of his team mates and forcing a break in the leading group. Those ahead continued but, as per peloton protocol, didn’t force the pace. Evans bridged up to this group and, along with Vino, was responsible for finally whittling it down.

As they approached the finish line, Evans was ahead of Cunego with Vino in 3rd place. That’s how it stayed, as Evans rode strongly to victory. He’s really been a different rider since donning the rainbow jersey and now lies 1 min 12 secs back on Vino who’s looking pretty in pink again. Today’s biggest losers were Carlos Sastre and Xavier Tondo (Cervelo). But there’s still an awful long way to go.

We watched today’s stage after getting back from completing La Vencoise: 2000m of climbing over 105km. It’s the first time I’ve done this course which was well marshalled and organised. My beloved kindly kept me company until the final feed point at which point I set him free. I managed to avoid the cloud burst on the climb from St Pons to the top of Col de Vence on the run in for home. Riders faster than me, including my beloved, weren’t so lucky. Amazingly, I wasn’t the lanterne rouge, finished strongly and turned in a reasonable time (for me) of 5hr 48 minutes.  This should stand me in good stead for Thursday’s 175km ride  (2,713m) with the other volunteers for the Kivilev.  I guess I should do a time of around 11 hours which sounds like an awfully long time in the saddle.