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.


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.)


I’m now boyless until my beloved returns from a quick day trip to Geneva. The boys’ mother pulled a bit of a blinder. She said her boys came as a package. If I wanted them I’d have to take their Dad too. Okay, he’s younger than my beloved, more domesticated and spends about the same amount of time away from home. But, he too is seriously high maintenance. Indeed, I spent quite a few hours this week sorting out his recent employment issues. You see, I’m his helper of last resort and, if I were to take him on, would become his helper of first resort too. So, on balance, there seems little point in exchanging one high maintenance man for another despite his gorgeous appendages. I’ll just borrow them from time to time.

I had promised to return them to their mother in an exhausted state. I’m a woman who delivers on her promises. The younger one could barely keep his eyes open yesterday afternoon after we’d raced around the circuit for the forthcominfg La Ronde and practised some interval sprinting. I’ve had him out on the bike almost every day, plus we’ve had trips to the pool and energetic games of boules, ping-pong, basket-ball and table-football.  Is it any wonder he’s worn out? The other one, still recovering from the stress of his exams, was already snoozing round the pool. The boys are not going to let on how I did it. After all who wants to admit they’ve been worn out by a woman old enough to be their grandmother. Exactly!

I’ve really enjoyed looking after them and will happily do it again to ensure their mother’s peace of mind. Mind you she’s probably none too pleased that I’ve indulged the younger one by lending him my spare road bike  –  the Orbea –  and an old pair of my cycling shoes. He’s desperate to start racing and, though he’s not been riding long, I’d put money on him to win his age group in the upcoming La Ronde. He’s going to be a fantastic little cyclist and maybe he’ll follow his father into the profession. Yes, it’s in his DNA.