Lost but not lonely

Thanks to a  48 hour  bug, my week has been sent a bit off kilter. The first warning sign was late Tuesday afternoon, when I couldn’t get warm. My hands and feet, usually so toasty, were freezing cold. I left the boys making merry after the monthly cycling club meeting and returned home for an early night. I didn’t even bother with dinner. I wasn’t hungry: another worrying sign. I woke on Wednesday morning, still feeling weary, cold and rather nauseous. Several hours later, I felt even worse so cancelled my evening English class.

I wisely spent all day Wednesday and Thursday indoors venturing out only late last night to collect my beloved from the airport. While the hands and feet have recovered some of their previous warmth, and my appetite has returned, I felt I was still lacking a bit of power when I rode today. I’ll need to make up the lost hours of training this week end.

Of course, a couple of days not eating can only help my regime. Indeed, my nutritionist is so pleased with my progress, she said I could eat whatever I liked one day a week. Of  course, the unspoken phrase was “within reason”. I’ve now lost almost 8kgs over 4 months and, once I start regularly climbing the hills behind Nice, would hope to maintain that rate of loss until I reach my target weight. Sometime around the end of 2012 – no, only joking!

Inevitably, I have spent the last couple of days getting the club’s administration up to date, particularly anything and everything to do with the forthcoming La Laurentine Andrei Kivilev whose Facebook page has gone live today. I’ve sent invitations to everyone, and I mean everyone.

While I have been enjoying the tussle over the gold jersey in the Tour of Qatar, I was not unsurprised to see it go to one of the in-form Aussies whose season debuts early thanks to the timing of their national championships. It seemed only fitting that Mark Renshaw, generally loyally employed in the service of Mark Cavendish, should prove he can hold his own with the world’s best sprinters. It was also good to see Tom Boonen and Heinrich Haussler coming back into form for the early season Classics after both of their seasons were wreaked when they were taken out in a sprint finish in last year’s Tour of Switzerland.

While there’s been no television coverage, I have also been keeping a check on results in the races in Mallorca and, nearer to home, the Tour of the Mediterranean whose stage tomorrow  finishes just up the road from me. I’ll be there to capture the action and on Sunday on Mont Faron, after the morning’s pointage at Aspremont.

Hot and steamy

The current weather is putting me very much in mind of an old film noire by Laurence Kasdan. Called Body Heat, it was set in  a sultry Miami and  featured Kathleen Turner and William Hurt. I distinctly recall one scene where, thanks to ever-soaring mercury, they both got into an ice cube filled bath to cool down.

Sadly, my beloved and I will not be able to similarly indulge. I have only a small jacuzzi in my bathroom which is (deliberately) far too small for him, lest he ever be tempted to use it. While he has only an all singing, all dancing shower in his bathroom.  The bath in the guest bathroom is also too small for two. Yes, separate bathrooms lead to everlasting marital bliss.

However, after a  hot and sticky ride there’s nothing better than a soak in cold water. I’ve refrained from adding ice cubes. I’ve seen pictures of the Tour riders chilling out after a stage in what at first appears to be children’s paddling pools. In addition, during recent stages, they’ve resorted to ice on their helmets and pouring loads of water over themselves to cool down.

With the peloton looking for a little rest and recuperation after the Alps, and before the Pyrenees, Wednesday was the perfect opportunity for a rider, sitting well back on GC, to get in a breakaway, stay away and win the stage. As it was Bastille Day it should by rights have been a French rider but, with three stage wins, two days in yellow and the spotty jersey, the French aren’t faring too badly.

The early escapees, including a couple of Frenchmen,  built up a commanding lead but 14kms out they attacked one another leaving Sergio Paulinho (Radioshack) and Vasili Kiryienka (Caisse d’Epargne) to fight it out. Fortune, and a successful background in track sprinting, surely favoured the Belorussian, but the wily Portuguese won stage 11 by a whisker.

On the run in to Gap, Wednesday’s stage passed over the same roads where, in 2003, Joseba Beloki (ONCE) in hot pursuit of Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile) fell heavily, thanks to a melting road surface. Beloki was left screaming in agony from his injuries, while Armstrong (US Postal) avoided crashing  by riding across a field to regain the road. This remains one of the worst falls I have ever seen.

Thursday’s stage 11  was one for the sprinters and the escapees, including Stephan Auge, without whom surely no echapee is complete, were pulled back by the sprinters’ teams well before the finish. Riding into cross-winds,  Saxo Bank tried to force a split in the peloton and distance Bert who was riding in the middle of the bunch, seemingly on his lonesome. Cue one Alexandre Vinokourov to the rescue. He led Alberto back to safety near the head of the peloton.

Of course, yesterday’s big talking point was Mark Renshaw’s expulsion from the Tour following a head-butting incident with Julian Dean in the final dash for the line. A hat-trick for Cavendish, while Garmin-Transitions were initially left fuming at Renshaw’s treatment of both Julian Dean and Tyler Farrar. Having viewed the footage, I feel Renshaw was too harshly treated while Dean seems to have gotten off lightly.

A cast of thousands (ok, only 18)  finally escaped  on today’s stage 12 but never built up too commanding a lead. Indeed, most were taken back by the peloton before the final climb of the day, a wicked 3km at an average of 10%.  That man Vinokourov distanced  the other three remaining escapees and seemed to be heading for a stage win but was overhauled before the top of the climb by Joaquim Rodriguez and Alberto Contador. The latter seized an opportunity to put 10 seconds into Andy Schleck but, more importantly, struck a  psychological blow. The former took his maiden win, on his maiden Tour, outsprinting the latter.

Meanwhile, it’s been hard keeping track of the green jersey which has been hopping from the shoulders of Alessandro Petacchi to Thor Hushovd and back again. Thor got into today’s breakaway, grabbed the intermediate sprint points and put some daylight between himself and Ale-jet. Similarly, the spotted jersey has been swapping daily between Jerome Pineau and Antony Charteau. It’s now in the possession of the latter.

The heavens opened after today’s stage so temperatures may be cooler tomorrow, or not.

Spring is sprung

I so totally love this time of year.  The countryside is really green and lush, there are wild flowers in the hedgerows, the fruit trees, wisteria and lilac are blossoming, there’s catkins, pussy willows, plenty of new, lime green foliage and the birds are full of song. The mid-day temperatures are in the early twenties and it’s time to start climbing upwards, onwards and further afield. So, it’s really difficult, particularly when the legs are feeling (if not looking) good , to take a day’s rest as per the programme. But I did as instructed.

What’s made it worse is that I’ve gotten back from my English class to discover my beloved’s home and he’s gone for a ride. Which is great, but I wish I could too. As I look out the window, the sky and sea have merged and there’s this endless vista of azure blue. I could gaze at it all evening, but I must prepare my beloved’s dinner. He’ll be hungry when he gets back from his ride.

I see Cav’s back on song in Romandie. I’m not sure what his two fingered salute at the finish signified: 2nd win of the season or……………… Anyway, I’m pleased to see his season is finally back on track (along with Renshaw’s) and I’m sure he’s going to be racking up wins left, right and centre.