Spot on

So many things in life are about being in the right place, at the right time. You may not even be the best person for the job, but proximity is everything. If you’re the first person someone senior sees soon after they’ve had the thought or idea, then you may well find that an unexpected opportunity falls into your lap.

This has happened to me on several occasions, most notably being put in charge of my previous employer’s search for new premises in which I led the team that ultimately acquired the site, and planning permission, for the iconic Erotic Gherkin. On a more sombre note, my family and I missed the Harrods bomb by mere minutes. So it’s fair to say that, of course, you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Today, as forecast, the rain stopped and the sunshine came out from behind those sombre clouds, bathing the littoral in sunshine. I went out at about 11 o’clock. At about the same time most of the club rides were returning to base. I bumped into my English friends who ride for another club: first, the husband and then, a bit later, my girlfriend. They’ve both been back in the UK for a while so it was good to see them again.

Rather than do battle with the traffic in Cannes, I decided to do my circuit of Cap d’Antibes. After two circumnavigations, one clockwise and one anti, I criss-cross the Cap riding up and down some short steep climbs. Although my lungs are still a bit congested, I feel my strength is returning and I’m finding the larger gear (39 rather than 34) ensures I ride at a better pace.

On the way back home, as I took the roundabout leading  to Antibes, four riders overtook me. The leading rider shouted “Allez” in my ear. Not a good move: I don’t like surprises, and I almost toppled from my bike into their path. With one foul swoop, the early seasons of PhilGil and Pippo Pozzato would have lain in ruins. Luckily for them, I didn’t fall, but I did decide to give chase.

They got tangled up in the market traffic going back through Antibes and I overtook them (2000 points, 1000 apiece for a Pro Tour rider). They then overtook me (again) and I grabbed the last man’s wheel as we rode through Antibes and back along the coast towards Villeneuve Loubet.  So, I had a rather better work out than I had anticipated. How good? I’ve no idea, I still have to go down to my LBS to get the Garmin fitted on the bike.

I’m now hoping the fine weather persists so we can enjoy tomorrow’s club ride with a pointage at Nice Matin (a stone’s throw from the club), before we head to Aspremont. The forecast is for more rain tomorrow afternoon and Monday with the sunshine making a welcome return on Tuesday. Let’s hope it’s right.

Almost home

To kill a bit of time yesterday, and give my weary feet a bit of a rest, I watched “Eat Pray Love”. An undemanding film which will no doubt boost tourism to Rome, Indian Ashrams and Bali. If I was going to “find myself” none of these destinations would be on my list of must see/visit places.

I’m not an adventuresome traveller. When I was younger, my friends inter-railed around Europe, sleeping whenever and wherever. I, meanwhile, found gainful employment and then spent two weeks in a luxury hotel. To me “tent” has always been a 4-lettered word. I will only stay in places that have clean toilets, and hot and cold running water. Hence, certain continents are a definite”no go” as are many countries. Call me chicken, but I know what I like and what I don’t like.

I had to change flights at Doha. On the way out, there was a 2 hour wait, but on the way back it’s 19 hours. Not wishing to spend all that time cooped up in the admittedly swanky Qatar Airways lounge, I decided to venture into downtown Qatar. My only experience of the Middle East has been numerous, largely business, trips to Dubai and a plane change in Muscat. I have however seen bits of Qatar on the television during the Tour of Qatar. This is largely a sprint fest which provides some warm weather training for those not taking part in the Tour down Under, and is followed by the Tour of Oman.

Qatar looks like Dubai did 15 years ago and its oil and gas rich rulers have ambitious plans for the place with a significant amount of construction planned in the hopes of attracting the World Cup in 2022. However, from what I’ve seen, I couldn’t recommend it as a holiday destination.

I can’t wait to get home but while I’m hanging around in Doha I hope to be able to see the Commonwealth Men’s Road Race. I have been watching the Australians hoover up almost all of the track medals at the Commonwealth Games. I had thought that Pom bashing was a bit of a myth and certainly never encountered any of it while in Melbourne and Sydney. However, the press seemed to make a big deal out of Australia whupping Britain in the Commonwealth Games, as if we were the only other team in town. It’s clear that they take the Games far more seriously, having sent their A team in all disciplines: not so the English.

With any luck and a good internet connect, I may also be able to see Paris-Tours. Can PhilGil can make it three in a row ? He’s probably still feeling the effects of jetlag but then so will most of his main competitors: Freire, Pozzato, Breschel, Feillu. However, I think he’ll have a point to prove after the World’s. Tom Boonen who’s still recovering from the after effects of his knee surgery is unlikely to be in contention.

Postscript: That man Oscarito popped up to take it on the line from Angelo Furlan and Gert Steegmans, whose team mate Geoffroy Lequatre, having soloed from 8km out, was swamped 400m from the line.

Postpostscript: Australia make it 14 out of 15 golds on offer in the Commonwealth cycling with Allan Davis winning gold in the Men’s, ahead of Hayden Roulston and David Millar while Rachel Gilmore won the Ladies’.

Postcards from Melbourne II

Today my beloved had a business meeting in Geelong (fortuitous or what!) which gave me an opportunity to check out the course. The ride from Melbourne to Geelong was open and very windy although the forecast for later in the week is for less wind. The circuit around Geelong is on wide, well-maintained roads and the drag up to the finish could well mitigate against a true sprinter, like Cavendish. The two climbs are short and steep but riders like Gilbert and Cancellara will just power up them. Short steep ascents also mean fast ascents which could play into the hands of someone like Fabulous Fabian, enabling him to solo away. On the circuit, the wind may play a part either as a strong head or tailwind. The latter will make it difficult for someone to take a flyer, the latter will assist.

So who are the favourites in the Men’s road race? You cannot discount anyone from those  teams fielding 9 riders. I think Bettini, wily fox that he is, has done his planning and preparation well and chosen a strong squad to support Pozzato who’s obviously in form after the Vuelta and his win in Sunday’s Sun Herald Classic in Ballarat.

I had a chance meeting with the Spanish squad today, who are throwing their weight behind Oscarito, and he certainly fancies that uphill 150m drag to the finish. The boys were wrapped up against the biting cold wind and delayed the start of their practice ride until the squally rain showers had passed. The boys were obviously concerned about the weather and spent sometime checking out the weather forecast for the coming days. Luckily for them (and me) the mercury is set to rise at the week end.

I would categorize it as an Ardennes Classic type of course, although the climbing is concentrated in the latter 2/3rds of the race, so should suit my tip for the top, Gilbert, as well as others who have fared well in these types of races, such as Frank Schleck. That’s why I think it’s a shame that my favourite Kazakh has passed on this race. It would have suited his attacking style and one can always rely on him to enliven any race he enters.

One cannot discount Kolobnev who has performed well in the past (Stuttgart and Mendrisio). Nor can one ignore the home team, the Aussies, who will be keen to not only defend the rainbow jersey but also win on their turf. They should know the course better than anyone.

So am I saying it’s all to play for? No, even assuming that the weather is not a major factor, the stronger, larger teams will seek to put the pure sprinters under pressure and whittle down the peloton to ensure they are not duking it out in the final stretch. It’ll be a fast race and my pick is as follows: Gilbert (1), Pozzatto (2), Oscarito (3).

It’s hard to look beyond Cancellara and Tony Martin for the time trial. This tends to be a much more predictable race. I favour Fabulous Fabian over Tony and I’m going for Lars Boom to place 3rd rather than Edvald Boassen Hagen or Ritchie Porte.

Both women’s races look to be very open with no clear favourites. Though again, I expect riders from the larger teams to hold sway likewise, in the U23 races. In these races I shall be cheering for the French and, in particular, Jeanni Longo who’s old enough to have a grandson riding in the U23 race. That woman is my inspiration.