Benevolence

As the New Year gets underway you can’t help but wonder what it’ll have in store for you. I have in theory given up my responsibilities at the cycle club. A new management team has been elected and I have everything ready and in place to hand over to the new team but none of them seem to be showing much interest in getting the handover underway. I’m wondering if they are labouring under the misapprehension that their new roles commenced with the start of the new year?

I have no real worries on the Treasury front. The club’s honorary auditor and I are swapping hats. He’s an accountant, so there’s no need to teach Grandma to suck eggs. The incoming President, a recent retiree who lives locally and one who’s been president of another club is slowly getting to grips with the club’s affairs and is learning that I’m pretty much the go to person for pretty much everything. So the sooner I can pass on the baton, the better.

He recently complained that he didn’t have the email addresses of some of those on the new management team. I politely explained that was because a) they didn’t have email and b) nor did they possess computers. He seemed a bit taken aback, as well he might be. No doubt he was wondering where exactly these members were going to “lend a hand” not with the papaerwork, that’s for sure. He’s not been overly forthcoming himself. There’s been no circulation of the minutes of the first management team meeting nor an organisation chart explaining who’s now doing what. I understand via the grapevine that the first club event of the year, the famous Galette des Rois, has been scheduled for next Tuesday evening and today – two days before the event – received an invitation.

I have seen the new M le President out riding with the club and maybe he’s taken that opportunity to advise verbally of forthcoming events. But not all members ride regularly with the club. Here we may be coming to the crux of the issue. The Club was a member of three federations, two of which were solely for the benefit of our racers mostly, but not all, long since departed. The remaining association is the one which our president presides over. Yes, he’s once, twice a President and therefore keen to only promote membership of the one of which he’s president.  If that’s truly the case, membership will dwindle even further and the average age will rocket to around 65.

A sizeable number of disaffected members have already started another Sunday ride which leaves not from the club meeting point but from our local bike shop. Discussions are afoot to start another small club of like-minded and similarly skilled riders whose interests will no longer be catered for by our current club. I’m not sure the new president fully appreciates the ramifications. Shorn of racers, the club shirt will no longer feature prominently in the local press and our commercial sponsor, Skoda, may well withdraw its support. In addition, the subsidy we receive from the local authority is membership based. With the local sport’s federation strapped for funds, money will – and quite rightly so – be diverted from the old to the young. In addition, those members who currently sponsor the club are part of the disaffected block likely to move to pastures new, thereby further exacerbating the situation. Without those funds to bolster the coffers putting on events such as La Kivilev gets called into question. Already the decision has been made to return it to a cyclo-tourist ride, thereby eliminating the competitive  – and most attractive – element.

In truth I cannot complain as I was unwilling to either stand as the new president or remain a part of the management team and continue to carry my rather unwieldy work load. A professional to my finger tips I am handing over things in a very different fashion as to how I received them. Everything is documented and in apple-pie order and I have offered to help ease in those acquiring new responsibilities. But that’s where it ends. So you can understand why, when I recently received an email entitled “Interested in Volunteering?” I deleted it immediately.

Overdose

It’s true, I’ve overdosed on sport. With the Olympics being in the same time zone – well, give or take an hour – the temptation has been to watch pretty much everything I can, and more. It’s been wholly addictive from the opening ceremony, the pool, the track, the streets of Britain and so on. It’s just gotta stop! Work has pretty much ground to a halt, the housework is piling up, including the ironing, and I sense the economy is suffering. As we ease into the final days, I’m limiting my exposure.

Of course, I did manage to squeeze in last week end’s La Ronde du St Laurent which you may recall was cancelled twice last year due to rain. Rain in August! Not this year. Although we did have a ten minute downpour on Monday evening, the fair weather’s continued all summer long. We had our usual 400+ turnout for the race and pointage although there were a few long faces. I hadn’t made any cakes. Largely because we still had leftovers from the Kivilev at the end of May which we’d frozen specifically for this event. I still thought we put on a better than average spread, though not perhaps up to our/my usual standards. Afterwards, I got to reprise my favourite role as the world’s oldest podium girl. Like I always say, at my age any chance to get to kiss a load of fit young blokes should be grabbed with both hands.

One of the teenagers who started road cycling while he was staying with me at the end of June came second in his event, just behind the regional and departmental champion who’s actually a year older. The latter sat on his wheel for most of the race which means he ignored my sage advice to do the reverse. He’ll have learned his lesson and won’t do that again. He’s now got the competitive bug as he’s training for the next race at the beginning of September. I predict it’s just the start of a large collection of trophies and medals.

My two sisters have been over soaking up the sunshine, quite one of their favourite activities. I managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the beach to check on their progress. I found them both nut brown and wrinkled. It won’t be long before I look like the youngest and not the oldest! It’s beyond me how they can spend so long just soaking up the sun but they probably feel the same way about my sports addition although they did admit to watching the Olympic action on the television in the evenings.

I did a rough tally the other evening of medals won by those athletes who live on the Cote d’Azur. While large numbers of them are clustered in tax sparing Monaco – all the non-French – there’s plenty of swimmers and other water sports athletes dotted up and down the coast. If my calculations are correct, the Cote d’Azur’s in third place – not a bad haul!

I need to make an effort to get everything back on track this week end before we head down to the Basque country for more cycling: the Clasica San Sebastian and the start of the Vuelta. This time we’re leaving the bikes at home in favour of walking. We know from last year – temperatures approaching 40C –  that it’ll probably be too hot to ride and certainly too hot to lounge on the beach. I’m up for exploring some cool ancient buildings, something we struggle to do when we’re accompanied by our bikes. Better get started on that ironing or we’ll have nothing to wear.

(In case you were wondering, the picture is of Andy Murray’s dogs wearing his gold (men’s singles) and silver (mixed doubles) medals.)

Spoilt

Another day, another post! I don’t expect this will last long. I’m feeling fatigued from yesterday’s ride with my coach. We’re playing catch up after he was “hors combat” with his broken collar-bone. I set off early to have coffee with some Australians with whom I had been in correspondence for over a year and who’re holidaying here briefly as part of a longer trip around Europe. This meant I had to channel my inner-Spartacus to make my appointed time with my coach. This particular ride usually takes over an hour but I had barely 40 minutes to spare. I made it, but paid for it the rest of the morning.

I’d worked up a good sweat in my stylish new G4 kit but, as we rode down the shaded Vesubie valley, I  became totally chilled. When I’m cold, my body seizes up. I was struggling. My coach rode ahead of me so that I could benefit from his slipstream. As ever, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that as he’s half my width, there’s little or no benefit to be had.  For the first time ever on our rides together, I had to stop for an injection of Coke, it’s the only thing that bucks me up. I was sorely in need of fortification.

By the time I got back home, I’d been in the saddle for six hours. I wasn’t hungry but I did feel dehydrated. After a liquid lunch (soup) I could barely keep my eyes open and dozed off on the sofa, rousing only for the last few kilometres of the fifth stage of the Tour de Suisse. My legs were feeling decidedly lead-like again.

My beloved is thankfully away until this evening so I’ve been able to press on with the housework as we’ve a guest arriving this week-end. It’s one of my English pupils and the younger son of some dear friends. While many might not fancy the prospect of a teenager for two weeks, I’m relishing the occasion. His mother was concerned I might find him too tiring. I’ve reassured her that’s not going to happen! In fact, I have an action packed programme for the two of us and I, for one, can’t wait.

I was up early this morning, finished a short piece for VeloVoices. While a lot of the writing is programmed, I do like to respond to news items or do things on the spur of the moment. Lucky then that I have understanding editor(s). With the Tour just around the corner, we’re going to be busy, busy, busy so I need to “bank” a few pieces to relieve the pressure.

My friend who’s cycling from southern to northern France, in aid of charity, kindly sent me a text to let me know she was okay. The first three days were going to be the most tiring but she’s survived those and it now sounds as if she’s beginning to enjoy the adventure. I shall look forward to hearing all about it on her return.

The Nice Ironman organisation have been dealt a bitter blow. Their star turn, Lance Armstrong has been banned pending a USADA investigation into an alleged doping conspiracy while he was a top level cyclist. Of course, there’ll be plenty of other top athletes taking part and I’m looking forward to meeting with some of those I was fortunate to meet last year while working on the G4Dimension stand. This year, they’ve secured a plum spot in the village, right next to the LiveStrong stand. While I’m working, I’ll be leaving my young guest in my beloved’s capable hands.

Our three-year tenure at the helm of the cycling club ends this year and I, for one, have been making plans for next year. I never intended to take on quite so much work but as others have fallen by the wayside, I’ve assumed more and more responsibility. I’ve done it partly on the basis that “it won’t be for long”. I did set out my ideas for re-organising things so as to share out the workload and sent it to M Le President last year but it was clear he’d never even bothered to look at it let alone discuss it with me. After, the success of this year’s La Kivilev, he’s decided he will stay on as President if we can find a few more willing souls to lend us a hand.

Now I thought about this long and hard but I have no intention of extending my term of office. My fellow members have embarked in recent months on a charm offensive but I’ve worked in investment banking, and hence, with some of the best bull-shitters in the business, so remain unmoved by their blandishments. There’s a meeting of like minded souls this evening at the club to see if there’s enough people willing to take up the reins. As I’ve discovered to my cost, people love important sounding titles but, in reality, don’t want any responsibility. I therefore have no desire to remain part of the management team and get dumped on again. Meanwhile I have everything in apple-pie order ready to effect a handover at the end of the year, something I never benefited from. Actually, I’ve set up most things so that they can just be copied, pasted and blindly followed.

I should be there

It’s been the same story for the past three Giro’s, I make plans to go and watch a stage and pressure of work, more specifically La Kivilev, means they’re cancelled at the last moment. The Giro arrived into the Italian Riviera yesterday afternoon which for me always conjures up pictures of chic Italians in Riva boats. It looked so lovely on the television and I kept thinking, I should be there. My plan had been to watch yesterday’s stage finish into Sestri Levante and watch it depart today from Savonna. I would, of course, have taken my bike and had a bit of a ride around too.

However, as I’m responsible for providing once again a large proportion of the food for this evening’s BBQ for the Kivilev’s volunteers, my plans were snuffed out fairly early on. Next year, I keep telling myself, will be different. While I’m not doing anything overly complicated for this evening, it is acting as a dry run for next week. I’ve made the carrot and tabbouleh salads for the 40 attendees this evening which has given me a good idea of the time it’ll take to do the same next week, albeit for 175. I had hoped to do a lot in advance however space is an issue, specifically space in the fridges. So most will have to be done the night before. Last year I recall that I stayed up all night cooking, I’m not expecting this year to be any different.

I’ve made a rich, crumbly almond cake to serve with my vinegar glazed strawberries this evening. Spanish strawberries are cheap at the moment and tasteless. I enrobe them in a balsamic vinegar caramel which really brings out the taste. I’m not proposing to do this next week at La Kivilev, no they’ll be having spiced rice pudding and a piece of my (in)famous pain d’epice for dessert.

In addition to the cooking, I’ve also got to purchase all the food for this evening. We keep the BBQ simple: sausages and chicken. Fortunately, someone else has kindly offered to cook these. My beloved did it last year but he’s still in the UK and therefore unavailable this evening. Obviously having him absent does make my workload easier.

One of my biggest issues is trying to calculate who’ll turn up this evening. We’ve reckoned on 40. However, it’s less of an issue as whatever’s left over can happily be popped into the freezer. Though it’s rare that there’s much more than crumbs after these events. I’m constantly amazed at my clubmates ability to consume what is essentially free food. I’m beginning to suspect that they starve themselves beforehand so as to maximise the benefit. Most of them are only 60kg when wet!

I’m obviously a glutton for punishment as I’ve also offered to cook for the dozen or so volunteers next Friday. In year’s past we’ve ordered salads and pizzas which take an age to arrive and are rarely appetizing. In the interests of economy, I’m going to prepare lunch for a fraction of the cost: tortilla with two different salads  – coleslaw and tomato – followed by dessert. Haven’t yet decided what to do for dessert, probably some cake and cookies to have with coffee.

It might sound as if I’m having a bit of a moan but in truth I like cooking for large numbers. Indeed, I enjoy the logistical challenge and, as ever, it really is all about planning and preparation.

So much to do, so little time

I know, I know it’s been a while since I last posted anything but in my defence I have been quite busy. With under three weeks to go until La Kivilev, things are gathering pace. I must confess that I’m going to breathe a huge sigh of relief once it’s over and go away for a few days, but more of that later.

The MotoGP season has restarted and while I’ve managed to watch all of the races not all of them have been live. Thank goodness for Eurosport’s endless repeats of sporting events. The football season is almost at an end with barely a comment from me. All I can say is that it looks as if both my clubs will live to fight another season in their respective top leagues. It’s been a season of struggling to survive with the odd flash, nothing more, of brilliance. Bayern play Chelsea at Bayern in the Champions League final – bet no one saw that one coming – and then it’s all over for a week or so until Euro 2012. It’s going to be a bumper sporting summer, but will I have the necessary stamina to survive?

I’m finding it hard to enthuse about London 2012 which sounds as if it’s going to be a logistical nightmare. Now that they’re going to charge spectators to watch the road races from Boxhill and the time-trial in Hampton Court, I’ve decided that this is one live event I can and will do without. I’ll be watching the Olympics from the comfort of my lounge, including the cycling.

I’ve attended another Triathlon, purely as an exhibitor you understand, just thinking about attempting one is enough to leave me fatigued. I’d be happy to do the cycle but I’d never manage the swim with my floundering doggy paddle. I was helping out my friends on their premium clothing stand (www.g4dimension.com) and it’s always interesting to meet a different sporting crowd. TriStar Cannes featured rather shorter events and therefore attracted a rather different crowd from last year’s Ironman event –  less international and less hardcore. Still plenty of tattoos though. It was nice to see the fruit of some of my recent labours as I’d done all the translation work for their re-launched website and new product catalogue.

I may also be doing a stint as a surrogate parent to two teenage boys. Their parents are looking for some quality time together and I’ve volunteered. It’ll be an enjoyable 10 days or so and anyone who knows me well will know that they’ll be no match for me. That’s right, they’ll be returning to their parents happy, but exhausted, after a few days with Auntie Sheree.

An old friend came for a visit last week and it was good to spend some quality time with her and do some much-neglected sightseeing. Yes, my reintroduction of one day a week visiting different towns and places very quickly went by the wayside. I keep thinking, next year, after I’m no longer slaving for the club. As you might imagine, the list of things I’m going to do “next year” is growing exponentially.

I’m back on my bike and training for this week end’s la Vencoise which goes up and over my favourite hill, the Col de Vence, in both directions. I’ve been adding a few longer rides, plus more climbs, to my weekly rides as we head relentlessly towards summer and the possibility of rides up some of the longer local hills. Would you believe I’ve still to climb the Col du Turini! We’ve got the Kivilev ride for the volunteers this week but I’m going to have to dip out – lack of time.

Of course, May’s main event is the Giro and over at VeloVoices we’re having a swell time in pink. I watched, tweeted and commented on yesterday’s stage – the team time-trial in Verona – all the while thinking I should have been there. Yes, the Giro is yet another one for my “next year” list. Yesterday’s stage was doubly disappointing as it would have given me an opportunity to catch up with friends who live close to Verona, a city I’ve yet to visit. The Giro’s start in Savona next Friday was another on my list but is currently under threat from the advancing work load.

Of course, VeloVoices is one of the reasons why I haven’t written so much on the blog in recent months. I’m pouring my energies into that and frankly while it’s very enjoyable it’s also very time-consuming. How my fellow writers manage to produce so much copy while holding down full-time jobs and families just amazes me until I realise I actually have a full-time job too and one very large baby to look after – my beloved.

Plan of action

Today’s the day of the L’Antiboise, a 100 or 150km ride, along the coast and through splendid countryside. The cycle club was assured a good turnout in support of one of our larger, neighbouring clubs as it had offered to pay everyone’s subscription (Euros 2). We’re hoping that providing visible support to the larger clubs, and their events, means they’ll return the favour come La Kivilev, which is only six weeks off.

I particularly enjoy this ride and we generally choose to ride to and from home to the departure/arrival point adding a further 20km to our route. I’ve only once, disastrously, attempted the 150km route. It’s not that I can’t do 150km, it’s that I can’t do it as fast as the bloke driving the broom wagon would like. Only one of our members has opted for the longer route, the chap who wins all the cups at the club for greatest total distance cycled in a season. He makes a clean sweep every year, a competition no one else really bothers to contest.  He’s won so many cups that he proudly uses to adorn pretty much every surface in his apartment. I haven’t checked, but I’m pretty sure he’s even got them in the smallest room in the house!

It rained for much of yesterday, stopping only briefly at around mid-afternoon. April is generally the wettest month here and, while I would prefer it stayed dry so that I can ride, I do appreciate that our local vintners and vegetable growers, not forgetting the Carros strawberry farms, are probably crying out for water. We set the alarm for an early morning call but, as soon as we woke, could hear that the rain was still falling heavily. It’s forecast for tomorrow too, but then we’re assured of wall-to-wall sunshine.

In anticipation of this calamitous sequence of events, my cycling coach has sent me some exercises to do on the home-trainer, and there’s always the gym. But I’m going to look on this rare Sunday without a ride as a bit of a gift and enjoy the things I don’t normally get to do on a Sunday morning. I’m going to cook my beloved a delicious breakfast, then we’re going out for coffee and the newspapers before settling down to watch Amstel Gold. Did I say settling? What I should have said was that my beloved will be settling while I will be standing, hunched over the ironing board clearing the ironing mountain. I’ve procrastinated long enough.

Choices

Yesterday we went for a quick spin around Cap d’Antibes. It was a more strenuous ride than we’d anticipated thanks to the wind. We just wanted to spin our legs ahead of today’s ride: La Louis Caput. I spent most of yesterday afternoon down at the club discussing the finer points of the detailed planning and staffing for La Kivilev. I have put my foot down firmly over the arrangements for the handing out of dossards and last minute registrations. This is my area of responsibility and no, we will not be following the usual arrangements. I have come up with something much, much better. While I was working, my beloved was going through the final checks before riding away on his new bike (an early birthday present), a Trek Madone 6.9SL with all the bells and whistles. He’s a very happy Easter bunny.

The alarm went off at 6am. I rose to check on the weather. It had rained heavily overnight. Indeed, the handrail on the terrace was still glistening with water. We decided to check on the weather forecast. The outlook was for further rain and storms this afternoon. the likelihood of rain was 70%. An executive decision was required. Given the terrain, and the possibility of encountering a storm on the exposed plateau, we regretfully decided to forego the Louis Caput, and went back to bed.

Of course, it’s not rained, although the sky is heavily overcast, particularly in the hills behind us. We could still do the course but, having taken so long to get over my last cold, I am reluctant to risk another soaking while my beloved does not want to get his new bike dirty. Sadly, the outlook for the rest of the week is not great, only Easter Monday looks to be bathed in sunshine. However, we know it’s unwise to look too far ahead as the weather can change quite quickly. We’re now wondering whether or not we made the correct call. If it does rain, we’ll feel vindicated. If it doesn’t, we’ll be ruing missed opportunities.

This morning I am going to continue the Spring cleaning offensive and attack the terrace. This afternoon, I’ll be baking for both the Kivilev and my guests. Both my sisters are over on holiday and will be coming round for dinner on Monday evening, along with my new brother-in-law, who is a fish eating vegetarian. I am anticipating plenty of grief over the weather. In view of our recent sojourn in Italy, I fancy giving the meal an Italian theme with plenty of anti-pasti followed by something from my River Cafe repertoire, probably a dish involving salt cod and potatoes.  Dessert will be a delicious coffee tart served with home-made vanilla ice cream and/or an sticky lemon and almond cake, served with fresh raspberries.

Postscript: It has rained solidly since late morning, totally vindicating our decision. However, I hope it eases off in time for tomorrow’s club ride.

Triple honours

This morning’s ride allowed my beloved and I to check out the route for today’s 4th stage of 38th Tour Mediterraneen, 155km from La Londe les Maures to Biot by way of St Tropez. The same stage last year was neutralised thanks to adverse climatic conditions. Today the sun shone and Spring was very definitely in the air.

Stage 4

We parked Tom II and strolled to the finish past all the team buses which ranged from the deluxe Pro-Tour team ones to the man and a van Continental team transport.  We rolled up about an hour before the riders which gave me an opportunity to distribute copies of the brochure for the Kivilev to the assembled throng which, unsurprisingly, included a number of my clubmates. The Tour isn’t televised so we had just the dulcet tones of Mr Cycling (Daniel Mangeas) to spark our imagination, made easier by our own intimate knowledge of the route.

Finishing straight in Biot
Appolonio leading out Feillu

I had ridden up the finishing straight a few hours beforehand which features a shortish hill rising in places by 13%. You could tell by the grimaces on their faces that the leading trio were giving it their all as they shot up the hill at a similar speed to that which I might descend. David Appolonio (Sky Procycling) led the charge with the yellow jersey, Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM ProCycling Team) on his wheel, closely tracked by Team Garmin-Cervelo’s Dan Martin.

Feillu took his third consecutive stage, in front of his young family but, with the next 9 riders within 34 seconds, doesn’t expect to conserve the yellow jersey after tomorrow’s stage which finishes atop Mont Faron. Thomas Voekler (Europcar) is only 21secs back while by Dan Martin (nephew of Stephen Roche who’s on the organising committee) lies at 26 seconds. In any event, the management of Vacansoleil will have welcomed the positive news after Riccardo Ricco’s DIY fiasco.

The organising committee had amassed so many former luminaries of French cycling that the podium was in danger of collpasing under their (not inconsidserable) combined weights. 

A handful of heavyweights

While all this was taking place my beloved boys in claret and blue, reduced to 10 men, managed to salvage a point away at Blackpool. OGCN are playing away at Rennes tomorrow afternoon who are managed by a former OGCN manager and feature a number of former players. This has banana skin writ large all over it.

I’m now settling down to watch a local derby on the new big screen: St Etienne v Olympique Lyonnais, the latter featuring (ex-OGCN saviour) Hugo Lloris and my chouchou, Yoan Gourcuff.

(photographs courtesy of my beloved)