Trip to La Turbie

We decided to pop over into Italy on Saturday for a spot of food shopping and lunch. We left  later than we intended and just after the St Isidore exit we ground to a halt. There had been a major incident on the motorway  – a car had burst into flames. We didn’t move for over an hour. We then crawled along for a bit as the traffic was down to a single lane. As soon as we got moving again, we took an executive decision to annul our trip to Italy, we’d go next weekend.

This is the first time we’ve been caught up in this type of incident and our thoughts went out to those who may have been injured in the incident. I then had a lightbulb moment. We weren’t too far from a restaurant which I have adjudged to be the perfect neighbourhood restaurant.

Sadly, it’s not nearby, it’s in La Turbie, a charming historic village overlooking the Principality of Monaco, which stands on a remarkable natural site offering one of the most splendid panoramas on the French Riviera. Though not yesterday when there was low-lying cloud.

We got to know the village many years ago as it’s a favourite with cyclists. There’s a water fountain on the main road on the way back from rides to Monaco/Menton and just down the road from Eze. We found the restaurant, which is next to the fountain, while we were cycling back from a particularly arduous ride where my tank was empty. The restaurant was offering a very keenly priced set lunch which included lobster salad as a starter. Sold to the female cyclist!


It’s a restaurant where you need either to have booked or arrive as soon as service starts. It’s owned by the chef from the nearby Michelin starred Hostellerie Jerome, which is in a 13th century former Cistercian monastery. The restaurant looks unprepossessing, no starched white linen tablecloths but the food is excellent – menu short and seasonal – and the small selection of wines is keenly priced. On Saturday we snagged the only remaining table for two!

I had wild mushrooms to start followed by salmon with ratatouille. Sadly, there was no room for the home-made fig sorbet and figs. My beloved had home-made ravioli followed by a tip-top steak and chips with béarnaise sauce. Replete, we had a quick wander round the town picking up some bread from the excellent bakery and patisserie a couple of doors down, before driving back over Col d’Eze.

La Turbie has an interesting history, largely on account of its geographical position. The ancient Romans built a monumental Trophy there to honour the conquests of the Emperor Augustus which originally consisted of a round tower, surrounded by Doric columns, built on a square platform bearing the names of the 44 people subdued in the Ligurian campaign. It stood 49 metres high and was topped by a giant statue of the Emperor.


It was used as a fortress in the 12th century, dismantled by Louis XIV, and was then transformed into a … stone quarry. It was subsequently restored by a generous American donor called Edward Tuck. Today all that remains is a fraction of the tower with its columns and niches which housed the statues. That said, it’s still worth a visit, as is the village itself with its charming houses, meandering walkways and spectacular views back down to the coast.

Forewarned

The sun was shining, my bike was calling but my programme said “rest”. I couldn’t do it. Having missed yesterday’s ride, my beloved and I sought to replicate it today. We made good time, despite heavy traffic. It took us two hours to ride to Menton where we took the left hand turn up to Ste Agnes, a 9km, 9% climb with stunning views. It took me exactly an hour to climb the Col de la Madone. 

I have only done this once before and that was two years ago. I arrived at the pointage at 11:10am to discover it was closed. Nul points, no refreshments; I almost wept. My girlfriend nearly suffered a similar fate yesterday. But I’d told her that VC Menton had said the pointage would be open until 11:30am. She made them go and get their papers to record the points and licences for her and her clubmates.

As I wound my way up the climb, I realised I had forgotten how tricky it is in parts. Amael Moinard overhauled me with about 6km to go. He’s shortly off to the Tour of Turkey where I’m sure he’ll do well. About 2km from the top, I felt my energy ebbing and, to keep going,  promised myself a cold coke (and a sugar rush) as soon as I reached the village. Sadly, all I got was a top up at the fountain. As we headed off in the direction of Peille, my legs felt like jelly and I was feeling light-headed. Yes, I was bonking and had absolutely nothing with me. (Memo to self: never, ever go out without something to eat). But I struggled on and having crested the hill, it was downhill all the way to La Turbie, and a late lunch.

Which restaurant to choose? In these instances, my preference is to go for the one with tablecloths and napkins but none of them had these. I then had a quick look at the diners and their plates. I chose the restaurant next to the fountain which turned out to be an excellent choice. The lobster and asparagus salad was delicious, as was my strawberry and violet dessert. Much fortified, we set off in the direction of Col d’Eze and descended back into Nice on the Grande Corniche.

The traffic was backed up all the way round the port and we had to resort to using the cycling path alongside the Promenade. It’s a bit of an obstacle course requiring nerves of steel, good eyesight and eyes in the back of one’s head (or at least helmet). There’s pedestrians, cyclists, joggers, in-line skaters, dogs, other cyclists one or two abreast and kids on scooters, trikes and bikes unable to control their trajectory. We fled back to the road only to meet an Austrian who was cycling from Graz to Santiago di Compostela. We wished him good luck and God speed.

Swopsies

This week’s training programme has 14 1/2hrs on the bike, on the road. However, I have something of a dilemma. I’m planning on spending all day Saturday in San Remo so, no riding. Yes, I could take my bike and go for a ride around the Poggio and Cipressa but I’m then literally left holding the bike to watch the finish. Not a great idea, as it’s always a bit of a squeeze near the finish. And no, I can’t put the beloved bike back on the car. If I do, it most definitely won’t be there when I get back.

I was planning on doing my one-legged interval training on the home trainer on Saturday evening and doing Saturday’s ride today. In preparation, I did today’s ride yesterday. Please note, yesterday’s ride should have been the one-legged interval training.

Sadly, the weather forecast for Sunday, and indeed Monday, indicates rain. On the programme for Sunday is a 4hr ride while Monday’s a rest day. As a consequence, I have decided to go for a longer ride today so that, if it does indeed rain on Sunday, I won’t have to spend too long on the home trainer. 

Prior to embarking on this rigorous training regime, Friday was the day on which I did my shopping, housework and cooking. You can see where I’m going with this. Fortunately, my beloved is not back from his trip until late tomorrow evening so, if it does indeed rain on Sunday, that’s when I’ll be doing the afore-mentioned chores.

Of course, if it doesn’t rain, I’ll be out on the bike (so no housework, cooking or shopping) either for the club ride or I may go over to Menton and return via La Turbie and Eze. In fact, thinking about it, the latter’s a better option since I’d like to time myself for the ride over to Menton. The concentration at Ste Agnes is on Sunday 4 April. You may recall, last year it was cancelled due to the rain. But I’ve been looking forward to doing this one ever since the “nul points” incident in 2008, which still rather rankles.

One of the small advantages of being club secretary is that I receive all the notices about all the concentrations giving full details of location and timing. I have already noted with interest that the pointage at Ste Agnes, via the Col de la Madone, now closes at 11:30hr. Woe betide them if I arrive once more at 11:10 to find they’ve packed up and gone home!

The Sky’s the limit

My guests have departed after a very enjoyable few days. The boys arrived Thursday evening in time for a light dinner. It was very windy that evening and I had hoped it might blow away the rain clouds. But no, we awoke to torrential rain. After a hearty breakfast we went to one of the larger bike shops for a browse and then collected my beloved from the airport.

After lunch, the weather cleared, the sun came up and started drying the roads. We walked down to my LBS for a browse and a chat, returning in time for me to prepare dinner.

Me and the boys

Saturday dawned bright and warm so we set off around 10:00am and headed towards Monte Carlo where we stopped for coffee and the boys admired the local attractions (all female). We decided to return via La Turbie which afforded them plenty of photo opportunities while waiting for me to catch up. Thereafter, it was a swift descent past Eze village to Nice and home.

After lunch the boys had a wee cat nap and then fortified themselves with some of my fruit cake. Saturday evening we dined at a local restaurant which has recently changed hands. We were delighted to find that the cuisine had further improved and the new owners were resting neither on their laurels nor on the reputation of the previous owner.  

Today’s pointage was at Valbonne and it took me longer to warm up this morning so that I was soon distanced by the rest of my clubmates on the climb out of Biot. Resigned to riding on my own, I was shortly joined by a rag bag of riders from other clubs and merrily rode with them. They expressed horror on arriving in Valbonne to discover an Antiques Fair on the spot where the pointage is normally held. I was able to direct them to the correct location on the other side of the village.

I arrived just after my club had departed the pointage so I rode back, as is my wont, with riders from another club, cutting a good 20km off the proposed route so that I could return home in time to prepare lunch for the ravening hordes, all three of them. The boys departed after lunch while my beloved went to meet a business contact in Nice. I rewarded myself with a lazy afternoon on the sofa in my fleecy track suit (what else) catching up on the sports news. Both my football teams recorded draws: Spurs 0-0 AVFC and OGCN 1 – 1 Lille. AVFC take a point from one of their closest rivals for 4th place, while OGCN steadies the ship.

First up, my heart was gladdened by the number of wins recorded by the more mature members of the peloton: Rocket Robbie (Katusha) in the Trofeo Palma de Mallorca, Nico Eeckhout (An-Post Sean Kelly) on the final stage of Etoile de Besseges and Ale-jet in GP Costa degli Etruschi. Sky romped home 8 seconds ahead of the rest in the TTT at the Tour of Qatar putting Edvald Boassen Hagan in the leader’s jersey where he’s going to be difficult to dislodge. Quick Step’s Tom Boonen is 20 seconds down after his team finished 5th. Cervelo initially finished second but were penalized when an eagle eyed Chinese judge saw Barbie Barbie Haussler push a colleague. Cervelo claimed he was just steadying him, but the commissars remained unconvinced.

On a more sombre note, I was saddened to read of the untimely death of the maestro of the Italian road racing team whom I was fortunate to meet in Varese. My condolences go to Franco Ballerini’s family and friends.

Guilty pleasures

The alarm went off at 07:00 and we went through our usual Sunday morning routine, leaving the flat an hour later. The sky was overcast, the air was chilly but rain wasn’t forecast.

As we cycled into Nice I remarked on the lack of cyclists. Indeed, we’d only passed joggers, no doubt preparing for next Sunday’s Nice-Cannes marathon. My husband then fessed up that he’d not thought to put any of the clocks forward an hour last week end. Yes, that’s right, we’d gotten up at 06:00 am.

It was more humid and even more overcast as we rode through Monaco towards, Menton. Not knowing the location of the pointage, we headed for the beach road eventually turning off it into the town. My husband, as is his wont, disappeared up ahead. While I, unafraid to ask for directions, did just that and easily located the pointage. My husband, along with a host of other cyclists, forged on ahead to the border with Italy only to return 20 minutes later!

We returned by way of La Turbie which, this week, afforded us very little in the way of scenic views thanks to the low lying mist. We stopped off at our usual feedzone for coffee and newspapers before heading home for a hot shower and lunch. I had no plans to go out later even though OGC Nice were playing at home against Le Mans, a fixture I fully expected them to win. 

After lunch, wearing my night attire, I like to put my feet up on my sofa (yes, we have one each), read the Sunday newspapers, do the Sudoku in The Sunday Times and watch whatever sport there’s on TV. Today we were able to watch the Brits rack up another impressive array of medals in the first track cycling World Cup of the season in Manchester. 

Now, you may be wondering why I don’t  get dressed. My logic is that I’m not going anywhere, so why bother. I apply the same reasoning in the morning. If I’m going cycling around 11:00am, I’ll lounge in my nightwear before donning my lycra.  Countless courier companies and the postman, who all tend to deliver early in the morning, often catch me in my all enveloping, white, waffle dressing gown.

Postscript: OGC Nice beat Le Mans 1-0

Four in a row

From last week to this, we’ve gone from an Indian summer to autumn. Today I wore my long sleeved club jersey and gilet, teamed with ¾ bib shorts for what might well be my last assault this year on the Col de Vence. It was a chilly descent back home and I was forced to don my windproof.

After my 100km ride I was back home in time to watch the Tour of Lombardy on Rai Tre. I prefer, if at all possible, to watch racing on the host broadcaster’s channel.  Of course, I should have been tackling the Vuelta and post Vuelta ironing mountains, but what the heck!

I see the weather around Como was a little chillier than here and the sky somewhat greyer, but at least it was dry. Obviously the Italian commentators were hoping for and even anticipating a 4th Cunego victory.

Philippe “Pants on Fire” Gilbert had other ideas. Going for his 4th consecutive win in 10 days, he took off in the last 6km and only Sammy Sanchez was able to bridge up to him. Vino tried too but dropped back to the chasing group.

Both riders worked together until the final few hundred metres. Sammy gave it his best shot but he was never going to beat Gilbert in a sprint. Let’s not forget this is the man who bested Tom Boonen in a sprint at Paris-Tours last week end. The Italians had to settle for Cunego’s team mate, Santambrogio, winning the “most combative”.

Podium Boys
Podium Boys

So, two of my favourite riders finishing 1st and 2nd; a highly satisfactory result which could  have been bettered only if Vino, rather than Kolobnev, had also finished on the podium. This wasn’t the only good bit of sporting news. Villa beat Chelsea 2-1 at home. Let’s see if OGCN can make it three in a row tomorrow evening.

Tomorrow we’re off to Beausoleil, followed by a climb up Mont des Mules to La Turbie, weather permitting. Yes, there’s a storm brewing with spectacular flashes of lightening illuminating the shoreline. With any luck it’ll have cleared up by tomorrow morning.

Postscript: Chilly, but sunny and very enjoyable ride today; Vino won the Chrono des Nations (3rd in a row) but OGC Nice failed to give me 4 in a row by losing 4-1 away at Lorient.