Double jeopardy

Our indian summer is continuing and, despite still not feeling 100%, it was time to get back with my training programme: a 3 hour ride to include 2 x 20 minutes of endurance in specific training zones. My warm up was my climb up to Vence via L’Ara which I achieved in my, wait for it, best time ever!! How shocking is that? I wasn’t even conscious of really making an effort. I must try and subsist on mostly water and rice cakes more often.

I noticed this morning when I weighed myself that I’ve finally managed to shed my surplus kilos of retained water and substantially reduce further my percentage of body fat. My nutritionist is going to be delighted. Maybe the  weight loss is coming home to roost and finally benefiting my power to weight ratio. I certainly hope so. However, now is not the time to become complacent. No, indeed, I need to press on with those final stubborn kilos to be ready for the start of next season.

Training over I returned home by way of La Gaude, a quick descent I know well and where I rarely need to apply the brakes. As I took a series of bends leading to La Gaude I felt my front tyre start to slip from underneath me as it came into contact with a load of sand on the road; frequently a sign of a diesel or oil spill. I find that incidents such as these seem to take place in slow motion. The trick is not to panic and quickly think through your options. I was descending at around 50km/hr so we were looking at probably leaving skin on the road. However, of more pressing concern was the large vehicle right on my tail which had been unable to overtake due to the flow of oncoming traffic. It’s likely, if I’d fallen, that he would have run straight over me. This wouldn’t have been a good option for either me, or my beloved BMC I. In a move I’d like to describe as saganesque, I quickly pulled upwards on the handlebars and righted myself. I wombled alarmingly but both of us remained upright. It was clear that I’d given the driver of the large black SUV behind me a bit of a scare took as he mimed wiping his brow at me through the open window and applauded my bike handling skills. I wish, more a highly developed sense of preservation.

Once safely home, showered and ready for more of those delicious race cakes, I finally got around to reading yesterday’s news paper. I noted that a new race had taken place over the week end: the 1st GP des Commercants (shopkeepers). An ITT held on my favourite Col de Vence. My faithful readers will know that I’ve only recently managed to consistently crack 60 mins for my ascent of this venerable climb. To put this in context, my friends in the professional peloton do it in 22 minutes as part of a training ride! The winner, who comes from Aix and therefore wouldn’t have been too familiar with the climb, did it in 24′ 24″ and won a prize of Euros 800. Not too shabby for a morning’s effort.

Twenty-five of the eighty entrants took less than 30 minutes to complete the ascent. The oldest entrant, a gentleman aged 74 years young, did it in 37’46”, a very impressive time. The fastest lady, a local rider, who is half my age and easily weighs 20kg less than me, did it in 33’23”. So there’s no fear of me beating her when I enter the race next year.  With all these impressive times being recorded you might wonder why I’m even considering taking part next year. It’s quite simple. The slowest person took 67′, so I wouldn’t (for once) be the Lanterne Rouge. I need a challenge for next year and, I’ve decided, this nicely fits the bill. Better pass on the good news to my coach.

Edited Highlights

Thank goodness for rest days: a whole day to catch up with everything I haven’t done over the past week while watching the Tour. And what an interesting week it has been. I’ll just touch on what have been my highlights.

 Tom Boonen concluded the only way he might beat Cav was to get into a break which stayed away. Heinrich Haussler decided to follow Tom’s advice and, in the cold pouring rain, threw caution to the wind to drop his fellow escapees and solo to an impressive victory. Meanwhile, Tom’s gone home with a virus – get well soon.

Christophe Le Mevel, who moved this season to the Cote D’Azur, has delighted the French press by catapulting himself up the GC into the top 10.

Alberto finally showed Lance who was the “Boss” on the road. Pretty impressive when it’s clear the rest of the team are under orders to help Lance who would have lost much more time yesterday if it hadn’t been for Kloeden.  Klodi – what were you thinking? Bert’s now got the yellow jersey and a St Bernard dog – it was the stage prize, non?

However, for me, the performance of Bradley Wiggins has been just superlative. Of course, losing 7kg is not, unlike Wiggo, going to increase my VO2 by 30watts. But it’s a pretty good incentive. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if he made it onto the podium?

Finally, a word for Kenny van Hummel who, having been dropped by the peloton after only 10km, riding all on his own, narrowly avoided the cut off to incontestably cement his position as The Lanterne Rouge – chapeau!

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?