Lazy Sundays

When doing a sportif I haven’t done before I like to be as well prepared as possible. Ahead of todays’ L’Etape du Tour du Haut Var, my beloved and I visited Montauroux yesterday afternoon to pick up our numbers and check out some of the parcours. I’m reasonably familiar with the roads around there but I wanted to revisit the first few kilometres to check the gradient. If it was as steep as I remembered, I would need to warm up beforehand.

According to the event brochure, we could collect our numbers from the Salle des Fetes between 14:00 and 18:00. We arrived around 15:00 and our first problem was actually locating the afore-mentioned Salle des Fetes. It’s a bit off the beaten track, not in the centre of the village. I commented to my beloved that the organisers should have helpfully sign-posted the route. We do it for the Kivilev despite my club mates assertions that everyone knows the way.

Disturbingly, there seemed to be absolutely no preparations whatsoever underway for the following day’s race: nothing, nada. We finally located the Salle des Fetes. It was closed without so much as a notice on the door to indicate why it was not a veritable hive of activity. In the absence of anything to confirm our suspicions, we realized that something was not quite right. On reaching home, I checked the website and the race had been cancelled because  the organisers had not obtained the relevant approvals to effect necessary road closures!

All very tiresome  and while this may well have been known only at the last moment, you’d have thought the organisers would have emailed participants advising them of this sad state of affairs. I wonder how many turned up this morning to start the race?

This meant we could ride with the club this morning to the pointage in Beausoleil, just above Monaco. It wasn’t “beau soleil” when we set off. It was humid and overcast but I had every confidence that the sun would burn through the layer of cloud. My confidence was not misplaced and by 11 o’clock it had turned into a gorgeously sunny day. I love riding this route in the winter months. The lack of leaves on the trees ensures uninterrupted views across the bays.

En route there was the usual meet and greet with riders from other clubs as they either overtook us or passed by us on the opposite side of the road. As they merrily greet me by name, my beloved always asks who they are. To be honest I know hardly any of them by name but they all know me, and my cakes. I think that makes me infamous, rather than famous.

After the pointage we decided to make our regular pilgrimage into Italy for a cup of coffee. However, the roads were closed in Menton on account of its Citrus Festival so, rather than navigate our way over the border on unfamiliar roads,  we settled for a coffee on the sea front before heading back home. We had another stop en route to refuel with a coke as I was rapidly running low on energy.

Once home, I quickly prepared lunch before settling back on the sofa (yes, in my jimjams) for a veritable smorgasbord of sporting action: football, cycling, rugby. What more could a girl ask for?

Monday Postascript: A letter arrived today in the post from the organiser of the cancelled sportif, returning our cheque. Insufficient participants was cited as the cause of the “postponement”. This rings much truer than lack of authorisation but whatever excuse they’re using, they should be consistent.

The French are hugely price sensitive as we learned to our cost last year at the Kivilev when we charged the same price as the earlier sportif, La Charly Berard. The main difference was that we were giving away a cheap T-shirt while the organisers of the Charly Berard had sufficient sponsorship for a cycling shirt! We’ve halved our price this year and done away with the t-shirt.

Down but not out

Clearly, I had bitten off more than I could chew! I blew out on Sunday in the l’Antiboise. I had set off at 07:30am feeling in fine form with my beloved for company. The weather was ideal, I’d had a good breakfast and plenty of food in my back pockets (didn’t want a repeat of the Ste Agnes bonk). I rode well, and within myself, to the first feed zone. There it became evident I was the only female attempting the longer course. This should have rung warning bells but, no, I blithely carried on.

At the feed zone, I’d been looking forward to a coke sugar rush. Sadly, the club organising the randonnee was providing only a cheap, own brand coke – this should be outlawed by UFOLEP. I shall be making representations to the Chairman. 

After refuelling we set off  under heavy skies in the direction of Lac St Cassien. I must be honest, I really don’t like cycling around here. In theory, it should be the perfect spot but, in practice, the road’s too narrow and there’s too much traffic, none of whom are willing to crawl along behind a bunch of cyclists.

The climb up to Montauroux was an unpleasant surprise – far steeper than I’d anticipated. The legs were beginning to ache. A novel experience as it’s usually the lungs which give out first. I gratefully refilled my bidon at the fountain in the square, had a quick breather and we set off again. We were evidently the lanterne rouges of the longer parcours but we knew there were  a few riders just up ahead. There followed a long descent (never good news as I knew we’d just have to climb back up again) on rather gravelly, twisting roads which did little to boost my average speed or my mood. On the climb back up to St Cezaire sur Siagne, I promised myself a cold coke if I got to the top. This promise kept  me going but unbelievably we took a sharp left just before the village and set off up the Col de la Leque towards St Vallier. Only 9km uphill  but it was the straw which finally broke the camel’s back. My legs stopped functioning after 109km.

My beloved rode the final couple of kilometers to the next feed zone to alert the broom wagon which kindly returned to pick me up. At the feed zone I gratefully gulped down several glasses of the dreaded cheap coke – better than nothing. I was truly spent, a somewhat discouraging experience. I proceeded to the finish in the broom wagon while my beloved rode back. Once home, we showered, changed and drove to Alassio stopping en route for a much needed, belated lunch.

We decided not to take the bikes with us. A wise decision, as we both have leaden bodies, never mind leaden legs. After a good night’s sleep, I feel more sanguine and more determined that next year I’ll achieve my objective. The weather’s fantastic here and I’ve enjoyed pottering around Alassio which is emerging from hibernation. The beach is a hive of activity with hoteliers erecting their beach huts and levelling the sand outside their hotels ready for the invading hordes. As expected, at this time of year, the clientele is largely retired and wrinkly.

I’ve sent an email to my cycling coach, admitting that he was correct and I should have attempted to do a better time on the shorter course. As a consequence, I may well opt for the shorter parcours on the next two randonnees. Never let it be said that I don’t learn from my mistakes.

Postscript: It appears that we were the only two from the club to attempt the longer parcours.