Choices

After yesterday’s disappointing ride, I went for a quick spin this morning, as per the programme. I am now mulling over whether to do tomorrow’s 150km Audax or whether to ride one of my favourite routes which includes a trip up Col de Vence again. For various reasons, I’m inclined to favour the latter.

  • Firstly, the Audax starts in Mandelieu La Napoule at 07:30 tomorrow morning, so I’ll have to get up at 05:30. Not an attractive proposition, particularly when I’ll be having a late night this evening thanks to the racers’ monthly meeting and I’ll  have to collect my beloved from the airport at midnight tomorrow evening.
  • I like the route of the Audax, although I’ll be riding a very similar route for the l’Antiboise on 17 April.
  • The pace of the Audax is fine, not at all taxing. However,  I find the frequent comfort breaks and lengthy lunch stop rather tiresome. As a consequence of these, it’s unlikely I’ll be back in time to watch E3 Prijs and the Criterium International.
  • There’s a crowd of around 50 who ride the Audax. I really prefer the freedom of riding on my own. I can go where I want, when I want. I can stop when and where I want.

Excellent, decision made. That really wasn’t too difficult. The Audax will depart without me and I’ll head off up the Col de Vence again, hopefully quicker than yesterday.

While I didn’t manage to catch Nick Nuyens win in Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday, nor any of the proceedings in the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya where Contador, having won Wednesday’s queen stage, is leading the GC, I have been dipping into the UCI Track World Championships in Apeldoorn. Generally, the favourites have prevailed, although there have been a couple of upsets where riders have failed to appreciate that the track doesn’t allow for a slingshot finish.  

GB raised the bar a few years back with a very dominant performance going into the Beijing Olympics.  Other nations have now responded, although GB and Australia appear to have an embarrassment of talent. Given that, for London 2012, nations are restricted to one competitor per event, it’s making track cycling even more highly competitive.

I’m not sure what was the IOC’s rational for this change. After all, countries are not restricted to one competitor per event in swimming or athletics. Nor do they need the cycle track back to stage other events. While I applaud the decision to have a similar number of Olympic events for both men and women, this decision strikes me as unnecessarily harsh because a number of track events have already been banished from the Olympic agenda.

On a lighter note, Santini have the licence for the World Championship jerseys. Being Italian, their sizing errs on the small size. However, watching Gregory Bauge don the rainbow jersey this evening after winning gold in  the Men’s Sprint, I’m willing to bet his jersey was an XXL.

Postcards from Mendrisio I

I arrived in Lugano on Tuesday evening after a 5 hour drive from Nice. No sooner had I arrived than we were out on our bikes enjoying the warm summer evening. We cycled around the lake and then headed towards Mendrisio to check out the parcours. It’s a tough course, particularly one of the hills which, while not long, reaches gradients of 12% and which is bound to be leg sapping in the road race. It was dark by the time we got back home, my first nightime ride.

Wednesday morning, I was up bright and early ready to head down to the finish area to watch the U23 and Elite Women’s TTs. I found an excellent spot to watch the races, just in front of the podium, to the right of the large TV screen and about 50 metres from the finish line.

The two Tribunes opposite, particularly the VIP one, were largely empty. In fact, the volunteers outnumbered guests 3:1. Gradually, folk trickled in but you could still count them on the fingers of one hand. The winners of both races were predictable but I enjoy watching emerging talent in the U23s and seeing the ladies race since both feature so infrequently on the TV.

My Swiss friend was helping out on the Santini stand where I indulged my husband with a pair of their latest shorts and a transparent windproof top – much cheaper than Assos. Their ladies line however was not at all to my taste, so it’s not about to wean me off my Rapha and Assos habit.

After a long day standing in the sunshine, I was looking forward to dinner and an early night. One of the problems with watching races on one’s own is that, having secured a good spot, one has to stay put for the duration. The trick is to drink enough to stay hydrated but not so much that you need a comfort break.

I caught up with one of the girls with whom I worked as a volunteer last year in Varese. She was working in the VIP stand but  was kinda bored as there were hardly any VIPs to look after. Ah yes, one of the perils of being a volunteer is periods of terminal boredom.

Thursday morning, I took the train into Mendrisio with my friend’s mother, herself a keen cyclist and extremely spritely for her age. I stood in the same spot as the day before. The Men’s Elite TT comprised 3 laps of the circuit and, with Cancellara in the line-up, the stands soon filled up. The organizers had shipped in a load of schoolchildren who obligingly raised the roof everytime a cyclist passed adding an encouraging cacophony of sound.

Fabulous Fabian
Fabulous Fabian

What can I say that hasn’t already been said by those more eloquent and articulate than me about Fabian Cancellara’s performance? It was truly out of this world. I kept checking his bike on the big screen to spot the jet propulsion engine, but it was just his heart, lungs and legs. He was always going to win on home soil but it was the manner of his victory. He quickly overhauled Larsson, his minute man. Next up was  Bradley Wiggins, who was subsequently undone by a mechanical and a missing in action support vehicle. Cancellara then overtook Sebastien Rosseler who shook his head in disbelief, checking his speed on his monitor and ultimately finishing well down the pack.

The roar from the spectators was amazing as they watched Fabian on the big screen. It’s the first time I have ever seen someone celebrate a TT win 100 metres from the line, but he had time to spare. Larsson, who also overtook Wiggins, was 2nd and Tony Martin 3rd. Martin was later pictured slumped on the ground totally exhausted by his efforts. My man Vino finished a hugely creditable 8th, beating the gold and silver medallists from last year, in a very strong field.

The World Championships gives those emerging cycling nations an opportunity to compete with the best. There were two competitors from St Kitts & Nevis and, while they finished well down on the rest of the field, this will have been a huge learning experience for them. I feel I should also mention the performance of one Edvard Novak, from Romania, who beat his two-legged team mate. That’s right, Edvald is a below the knee amputee – chapeau!