Lazy Sundays

When doing a sportif I haven’t done before I like to be as well prepared as possible. Ahead of todays’ L’Etape du Tour du Haut Var, my beloved and I visited Montauroux yesterday afternoon to pick up our numbers and check out some of the parcours. I’m reasonably familiar with the roads around there but I wanted to revisit the first few kilometres to check the gradient. If it was as steep as I remembered, I would need to warm up beforehand.

According to the event brochure, we could collect our numbers from the Salle des Fetes between 14:00 and 18:00. We arrived around 15:00 and our first problem was actually locating the afore-mentioned Salle des Fetes. It’s a bit off the beaten track, not in the centre of the village. I commented to my beloved that the organisers should have helpfully sign-posted the route. We do it for the Kivilev despite my club mates assertions that everyone knows the way.

Disturbingly, there seemed to be absolutely no preparations whatsoever underway for the following day’s race: nothing, nada. We finally located the Salle des Fetes. It was closed without so much as a notice on the door to indicate why it was not a veritable hive of activity. In the absence of anything to confirm our suspicions, we realized that something was not quite right. On reaching home, I checked the website and the race had been cancelled because  the organisers had not obtained the relevant approvals to effect necessary road closures!

All very tiresome  and while this may well have been known only at the last moment, you’d have thought the organisers would have emailed participants advising them of this sad state of affairs. I wonder how many turned up this morning to start the race?

This meant we could ride with the club this morning to the pointage in Beausoleil, just above Monaco. It wasn’t “beau soleil” when we set off. It was humid and overcast but I had every confidence that the sun would burn through the layer of cloud. My confidence was not misplaced and by 11 o’clock it had turned into a gorgeously sunny day. I love riding this route in the winter months. The lack of leaves on the trees ensures uninterrupted views across the bays.

En route there was the usual meet and greet with riders from other clubs as they either overtook us or passed by us on the opposite side of the road. As they merrily greet me by name, my beloved always asks who they are. To be honest I know hardly any of them by name but they all know me, and my cakes. I think that makes me infamous, rather than famous.

After the pointage we decided to make our regular pilgrimage into Italy for a cup of coffee. However, the roads were closed in Menton on account of its Citrus Festival so, rather than navigate our way over the border on unfamiliar roads,  we settled for a coffee on the sea front before heading back home. We had another stop en route to refuel with a coke as I was rapidly running low on energy.

Once home, I quickly prepared lunch before settling back on the sofa (yes, in my jimjams) for a veritable smorgasbord of sporting action: football, cycling, rugby. What more could a girl ask for?

Monday Postascript: A letter arrived today in the post from the organiser of the cancelled sportif, returning our cheque. Insufficient participants was cited as the cause of the “postponement”. This rings much truer than lack of authorisation but whatever excuse they’re using, they should be consistent.

The French are hugely price sensitive as we learned to our cost last year at the Kivilev when we charged the same price as the earlier sportif, La Charly Berard. The main difference was that we were giving away a cheap T-shirt while the organisers of the Charly Berard had sufficient sponsorship for a cycling shirt! We’ve halved our price this year and done away with the t-shirt.


I’ve not been feeling my usual perky self. In fact, I would go as far as saying that I’m feeling a bit “run down”. Generally, I’m a hugely energetic person, but I’ve been feeling positively sluggish and my riding is suffering too. Witness my recent laboured ascents of Col de Vence. My nutritionist has made a few suggestions which I’m happy to follow. I sense I need a day’s peace and quiet but I’m not going to get that anytime soon.

I was feeling so tired last week, thanks to my beloved’s snoring the night before that, after dropping him off at the airport, I went and sat on the beach, in the warm sunshine and enjoyed a quiet hour with the newspapers. This is the first time, since we moved here 6 year’s ago, that I’ve just gone and sat on the beach.  Of course, I could have gone home but as I was due down the club in an hour, it wasn’t worth considering.

This general fatigue has manifested as a continuing lack of form on the bike which I’m at a loss to explain. I’ve stuck rigidly to the training programme and the new regime. I’m long since over the cold, and my allergies have been nowhere near as bad as last year. My mileage this year is similar to last, however I haven’t climbed as much. This was partly due to the colder weather in March and April, and completing fewer brevets than at the same time last year. I missed La Charly Berard while we were in Roubaix. La Louis Caput was rained off and I didn’t finish La Lazarides.

My coach, initially worried that I’d overtrained (as if?), counselled building more base mileage and, with the warm sunny weather continuing over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been more than happy to oblige. I’ve stuck to my tried and tested routes, to better enable direct comparison. In addition to which I’ve completed a number of longer rides; specifically, Tuesday’s attempt at La Kivilev’s 175km ride which went well. In fact better than anticipated, so maybe my elusive form is slowly returning.

Saturday, I’ll be riding the 100km course of La Vencoise. Actually, I’ll be riding 130km as I intend to ride to and from the start. You see, I find it very difficult to head up an average 7% climb for nearly 11km with only a 1km warm up. I think I’ll do much better if I start by following my usual route. At least that’s the theory. Sunday’s pointage takes us to Menton and then up and over Col de la Madone. I’m sensing I’m going to enjoy the following week’s rest.

With only a couple of weeks to go until the day of the Kivilev, everyone involved in it’s organisation is pretty busy. The baking is going well, in fact I recently whipped up a trial batch of post-ride cookies. My English pupils love cookies and are willing to eat any of my experiments. I combined a couple of recipes to produce banana oaten cookies, containing both fresh and dried bananas. They were a huge hit and evaporated in minutes.  I made a second batch for everyone at the Kivilev Commission meeting. The older boys gave them the thumbs up too. A number of my available club mates keep asking me if I have any single girl friends who cook as well as I do. Of course not, anyone who cooks that well’s bound to be married I say. They shake their heads knowingly in agreement. So if any of my female readers can cook well, like cycling and are single, do drop me a line.

My LBS rang me up. The man from UPS had tried to deliver the Kivilev t-shirts to the club but there’s rarely anyone there during the day. He was round at my LBS making another delivery and asked the owner for advice on how to contact us as he only had the club’s phone number. The owner rang me. Now while Tom III is more spacious than you might imagine, there’s no way I can cram in eight large cartons, each containing 100 t-shirts. To be honest, I couldn’t even get one of those cartons into the car. My LBS took them in overnight and the Treasurer picked them up the next day. To thank my LBS owner and his trusty assistant, I dropped off a few of my cookies. They too gave them the thumbs up. The recipe is now a confirmed hit.

Differing fortunes

On the one hand, it’s been a disappointing week end. I’ll start with the football. My beloved boys in claret and blue lost 3-0 to Chelsea at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final. Having played well in the first half, they were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty and Chelsea were fortunate that the referee only gave Terry a yellow card for his tackle on Milner. Sadly, the higher you are up the league, the more often decisions go in your favour, or are bottled by the referee. Having lost, we were hoping that Spurs would beat Portsmouth in the other semi-final. The runners-up (or the winners, if they beat Chelsea) in the FA Cup will get a place in the Europa Cup. Spurs are ahead of us in the League, therefore, if we were to finish 7th (worst case, and sadly, most likely scenario), Spurs having already secured a cup spot, we too would get a place in the Europa Cup. Now, that too may be out of our reach.

As expected, OGCN lost 4-1 away at Marseille who are currently leading the French championship. Nice have nothing to play for having already secured enough points to avoid relegation.

Fabian Cancellara has been sandbagging this week, and we all fell for it. Today, in Paris-Roubaix, he waited for the right moment to catch Boonen unawares, opened the throttle and cruised away from the other favourites. Game over, again. He is a truly magnificent rider and we’re all left wondering what else he’ll achieve this year, next and in the coming years: anything’s possible. The Belgian cobbled classics and semi-classics have all been won this year by riders hailing from outside Belgium. Prediction: a collective weeping and a wailing in Flanders.

That man in orange, Sammy Sanchez won the Klasica Primavera, ahead of team mate Igor Anton and Frank Schleck. He’s obviously coming into form for the forthcoming Ardennes Classics.

Depart fictif grand parcours

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. I bettered my time in La Charly Berard and really felt that I went as fast as I could. Mind you, I nearly had a disastrous start when another rider fell against me in the first 100 metres and knocked me off the bike. Of course, he wasn’t one of the 60kg wet Frenchman but a great hulking brute who easily weighted over 100kg.

I started feeling somewhat winded, understandably, and as anticipated the field rode away from me leaving me on my lonesome, as usual. Apart from the Broom Wagon, which was obviously keen to drum up some custom and persisted in trying to knock me off my bike. I managed to evade it, but only just. The course differed slightly from last year, so it’s not easy to make direct comparisons. Other than to say my time to Contes was 17 minutes quicker than last year, despite the howling headwind. This was particularly tough on the final 10km back to Nice.

I rode back with a couple of other guys who were impressed that I could keep up with them in the wind. I took my turn on the front and then sprinted past them to the finish line where I was greeted by the chap who was 2nd on the longer parcours. He’s been riding a similar length of time to me and is a very talented (much younger) local rider.

However, there was no time to lose. I wanted to get back home before it started to rain and before I’d missed too much of Paris-Roubaix. So eschewing the roses (female competitors only) and the meal (pasta salad), we headed back home where I had a hot date with the fleecy track suit, and the sofa.

I see from the results listed in today’s paper that I was first in my age group. I wonder if someone from the club picked up my trophy? Far fewer women took part this year. Indeed, there were just 5 who undertook the short parcours. The quickest (and youngest) was 40 minutes faster than me, so there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Really excellent, thanks

Every two weeks my cycling coach asks me to complete a small questionnaire. On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), I have to say how tired I’m feeling, how confident I’m feeling about meeting my goal (London-Paris) and my mood. Generally, I score 5, 7 and 10 respectively. I also have to give him positives and negatives about my training regime.

This week the legs are definitely an 8 and I think I’ve a slight groin strain. I’m not sure how I did this. Was it the one-legged pedalling on Sunday or was it stomping on the pedals up the Col de la Madone yesterday? Today the weather was again wonderful, but I felt no real desire to cycle. Stretch yes, cycle no.

Instead, I went with M le President to the AGM of our local branch of Credit Agricole, one of the club’s sponsors. We decided that a show of solidarity was needed to cement the relationship and ensure their continued support. It seemed to work as they’ve agreed to cover the cost of the trophies for the forthcoming Kivilev. This is not an inconsiderable cost as we seem to hand them out willy, nilly to all and sundry.  I did suggest we recycle some of our considerable haul but suspect it was regarded much as a treasonable offence.

Back to the questionnaire. I’m still a 7 on meeting my goal, after all there’s just under 3 month’s of training. Though I did get a bit disheartened last Friday when I was overtaken by a man running up Col de Vence. My husband agreed that he was clearly a top runner and I could have easily overtaken him going the other way ie downhill. 

My mood is still a 10. In fact, it’s hardly ever less than 10. It’s much more likely to exceed 10. Indeed, when people ask me how I am, I generally say “Really excellent, as usual”.

My favourite bits of the programme are the two rest days this week though I’m going to have to get a fuller explanation as to what exactly is involved in Saturday’s “muscular activation including 5 accelerations lasting from 10-30 seconds”. I have checked and this activity definitely takes place on the bike. All this is leading up to Sunday’s cyclosportif La Charly Berard.

Like last year, I have opted for the shorter course (just three hills) but instead of starting at the back I’m going to be leading the charge from the front and trying to stay with the pack as long as possible. have me at 2-1 to get dropped on the ride up to Falicon – what do they know?

Everyone’s a winner

I rode the La Charly Bérard with a girlfriend. It was the first time for both of us and we’d elected to ride the shorter course: only three hills. At the start, the organisers were urging all the girls to the front of the peloton. We declined. What was the point, we were only going to be overtaken by the boys. We knew it would be much better to get underway at our own pace, well to the rear of the peloton, out of everyone’s way. 

Five minutes after the depart réal, there was just the three of us: me, my friend and a guy 500 metres up the road. I managed to bridge up to him once past the steepish 2km climb to Falicon. As I drew alongside, I engaged him in polite conversation and soon realised that I was talking to the Wim Vansevenant of La Charly Bérard. Well not this year pal; it was going to be a three-way, tightly contested fight to the finish to be this year’s lanterne rouge.

It was a perfect day for a ride, sunny without being too warm. And, with the Broom Wagon keeping us company, we were in no danger of getting lost. I had cycled most of the route beforehand, so knew where to go and what to expect: for me, the perfect scenario. Just as well really given that the guy charged with removing the “fleches” (directions) was a couple of kms up the road from us.

So how did we fare? My friend won the Lanterne Rouge and Wim Vansevenant claimed the same prize for the medium course. Me, I was just glad not to be last.

However, I had won a prize in the tombola: a month’s cycle training. I was thrilled. I never win anything on tombolas or in raffles. In fact the last thing I won was a box of broken biscuits in a working men’s club raffle when I was playing in the bank’s ladies darts team. I know, is there no end to my sporting talents?