Just another week end

The incredibly mild weather is continuing which isn’t great news for those planning on going skiing. This, of course, has meant I have been out and about on the bike since my return from the Big Apple. Yesterday was the Telethon, France’s version of “Children in Need” but I was too busy with my guests to take part in the Club’s ride.

One of my English students is contemplating what to do after leaving school. French schools appear to be no better than English when it comes to dishing out career advice, so we’re lending a helping hand. I had invited around a couple of family friends for dinner. One’s an accountant and the other’s Head of HR at a bank in Monaco so they were both able to impart some words of wisdom and advice to our young friend.

Having guests for dinner’s an excuse to try out some new recipes. I decided on English cooking with a twist as my theme for the evening. I cooked a silky smooth cauliflower soup with black pudding, fish and chips with home-made tomato ketchup and for dessert, apple crumble and custard. Obviously, nothing was quite as it seemed. 

I dusted the monkfish in curry powder and fried it for a few minutes and served it with celeriac chips which had first been confit in goose fat before being fried too. The crumble was perched atop cored apple halves stuffed with rum soaked raisins and served with my home made custard, not a tin of Bird’s in sight. There was also a cheese course and my petit fours to finish. I believe the boys have quite changed their minds about English cooking.

Our young guest stayed over and rode Saturday morning with my beloved and his friends. He returned to collect his stuff and the two of them polished off the remaining crumble doused in custard. Who knew raw crumble tasted so good? Yes, the “spare” crumble hadn’t been cooked. Still both declared it ideal cycling food.  I went for a 3 hour ride after they’d left but returned too late to prevent them eating it. 

Following on from my Garmin malfunction, still waiting to hear from my LBS on that one, the screen went blank on my 7 month old Dell.  Now I’d had the same problem with my old Dell, but only after 7 year’s use. I immediately spoke to their Support Desk but I’ve got to make contact with them again tomorrow morning.

Saturday afternoon, I replaced my Blackberry. The mouse on the old one had given up the ghost. It would only work in two rather than four directions so, sadly, it had to go. Of course, the functionality on the new one is completely different and I’m still grappling with it.

Today was the Departmental pointage at Menton. We lost our crown last year and I don’t expect we’ve recovered it. Nevertheless, as M Le President was working, I was on hand to chivy the boys. After the pointage we continued on in to Italy for a coffee with a few clubmates. The coffee’s good in France but it’s cheaper and better in Italy. This added a few extra kilometers to the ride, just over 100km by the time we got back home.

We collected the papers, showered and then I whipped up a quick lunch before we settled down on the sofa to read the papers and watch the television. It’s allowed, we’ve expended a significant number of calories.

Profiting from the brief respite from live cycling, I’ve been reconnecting with the world of round balls. Football and tennis to be exact, and with mixed fortunes. My beloved boys in claret and blue lost 1-0 at home to the Red Devils, a disappointing result from a strange team selection. OGC Nice were at home to Rennes and frankly I feared the curse of the returning former manager and players. Not a bit,  the boys won 2-0 to keep them connected with those teams sloshing around in the final quarter of the league. A loss would have had unthinkable consequences.

It was the Davis Cup Final this week end, Spain v Argentina. Naturally, the boys playing on home turf were favourites to lift the cup for the 5th time in 11 years. They didn’t disappoint, despite heroic performances from Del Potro and Nalbandian, Nadal wrapped it up today with a thrilling reverse singles which swung first in favour of Argentina and then back again like a pendulum. But no one really doubted the outcome: Spain victorious again.

Winter fare

It seems to me that every time I venture outdoors, I’m wearing more and more layers. We could well be in for a similarly cold, or even colder, winter to last year. That’s not a complaint, merely an observation. However, I’ll probably have to stop saying that the day-time temperature here rarely falls below 10 degrees in the winter.

While yesterday’s weather threatened rain, the sunshine’s back today although I doubt the temperature will exceed or even equal 10 degrees. The snow has been falling not just on the mountains, but also in the hills close to the coast giving the wind a really wintery chill. The ski resorts are opening this week end and further snow falls are forecast. Now, where did I put my cross-country ski gear?  

I have good circulation, or so I’m told. My hands and feet are usually as warm as toast, and I only ever wear gloves when cycling, more to protect my hands should I kiss the tarmac than to ward off the cold. But, while I waited for my cycling coach yesterday, my hands felt as chilled as the rest of me. I love my new 3/4 Rapha bib-shorts but, on my return from New York, may be faced with the prospect of struggling into my full-length Assos tights which are loose everywhere but the calves.

I rode with my beloved on Tuesday, before he left for Paris. En route we met up with a small group of clubmates. I grabbed their wheels and clung on for dear life. Try as they might to dislodge me, I was having none of it. Winning, finally, their respect as we cycled together in a fast pace line along the coast road. I have noticed that I can much more easily close gaps in the peloton thanks to the interval sprint training I’ve done over the past 9 months or so.

I was feeling similarly strong when I rode yesterday. I managed to dissuade my coach from cycling up into the hills, as I now find the descents far too cold. Instead we rode around the Cap and indulged in one of my favourite pastimes (on the bike) – sprint training. Unfortunately, he’s promised (or was that a threat?) next month’s training together will involve assessing the progress I’ve made in improving my pedalling technique. Thank goodness he’s given me a heads up. 

I’m trying to sort out all of my paperwork before I leave tomorrow for New York. As a consequence, next week, I’ll miss club night. While most members have renewed their licences there’s still a few delinquents and each week brings us more new members. I have prepared a detailed file with complete instructions on the entire process, but you know that old saying “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink….”  So whenever I go away, there’s always a few problems to sort out on my return. It also means I’ll miss my English class next week, but the poor souls have been given work to complete in my absence. Slacking is not permitted in my classes.

On my return, the club is hosting the Telethon Cyclosportif which annually raises funds for good causes. The Telethon’s the French equivalent of  the BBC’s “Children in Need”. I have promised a few of my cakes to supplement the shop bought ones. I’ll make these today and then pop them in the freezer for my return. It’s a great way of using up left-overs in the fridge and fruit bowl. I’m going to make a couple of banana cakes, a carrot cake, a trio of savoury cakes and, of course, some of my (in)famous pain d’epices. That should keep the troops happy.

Slim margins

And we're off!

Over 200 local cyclists supported yesterday’s Telethon ride from St Laurent du Var to Mandelieu, and back. As usual, the ride was monitored, marshalled, fed and watered by a large number of volunteers without whom this type of activity would simply not be possible. So, thanks guys, I had a great ride.

My clubmates wisely rode at the head of the peloton, generally a safer place to ride. I managed to hang with them, only sliding back briefly on the Garoupe climb. However, I did bob back and forth trying to say hi to those riders that I know, particularly from other clubs, returning each time to my beloved’s side.

The weather was fine but cold and even I acknowledged that it’s time for full-fingered gloves and thermal leggings. I tend to resist wearing the latter as long as possibly largely because of the time it takes me to get into them. I bought them when I first started riding. I thought I might need XL but they were too large in the beam and so bought L, without trying them on. The difference between XL and L seemed to be largely in the width of the legs and the past two winters I have taken at least 10 minutes to struggle into or out of them. My beloved reckons if he’d filmed the activity for YouTube it would have been one of their funniest and most popular videos.

It was therefore with some trepidation that I took them out of the drawer to wear this morning for the Departmental Championship. Well, all I can say is that the new regime is having some effect. While, they are still snug in the lower leg, I could slip into them with relative ease – whoopee.

Our reign as departmental champions (10 consecutive championships) was going to be under threat today thanks to either the non or late renewal of licences by a large number of members. Thankfully, the young, the old and the ladies (all high points’ scorers) turned out in their droves and I’m now anxiously awaiting the result.

Yesterday afternoon, we listened to my beloved boys in claret and blue win easily at home against lesser opposition, before heading off to watch the OGCN v Marseille derby match. I made the fatal mistake of underestimating how cold it was going to be. My layering of cashmere and down was insufficient: I should have worn old faithful. This is a black, down anorak purchased in the late 80s at half-price, but still nonetheless expensive, and which was my constant companion for football matches in the English Premiership. In fact, I recall wearing it for a whole season one year, even including the matches in July and August. It doesn’t get too many outings in Nice, just the odd match over the winter period.

OGCN, despite losing 1-3, played a blinder (a technical football term) in the first half: equalising not long after OM’s opening goal which was a brilliantly executed counter-attack, against the run of play. Sadly, we lost Apam just before half-time for elbowing Heinze. It was always going to be a struggle to contain OM with just 10 men. We ran out of steam in the last 10 minutes, succumbing to a further two goals, one of them from an OGCN old-boy – the curse of the returning player.

On the road again

The weather the last two days has been bright and sunny, albeit with a  wintery bite. I’ve started wearing  my winter jacket but haven’t yet had to don full-fingered gloves. But it’s only a matter of time before they, and my shoe covers, are required. The mountains behind Nice now have a thick covering of snow and most local ski resorts are opening this week end.

The past two days, I’ve ridden with my beloved around my winter circuit. Yesterday, as I reached Blvd Kennedy after the Garoupe climb, Christophe Le Mevel and Geoffroy Lequatre zoomed past with one of my former clubmates, and the current U23 regional champion, in their slipstream. I chased after them, they were only rolling along at around 30km, so I soon caught them up. It’s good to ride along with people who can maintain an even tempo and, as there were no climbs for a while, I could merrily wheelsuck, and chat to my friend who was on a training ride with them. 

I’m slowly clearing the decks workwise but haven’t yet found time to tackle the ironing mountain. However, my beloved is off on business for 10 days on Monday which will give me sufficient breathing space to get the flat in apple-pie order for Xmas. The Xmas cards arrived today and will be despatched this week end. I have yet to buy any presents, although I do have my list. All of them can be purchased over the internet and delivered to the recipient in time for Xmas – perfect. 

I have made the cake which needs to be fed with copious amounts of alcohol over the next week or so and then marzipanned and iced (both home made) just before Xmas. I’ve also made a second Xmas cake for my clubmates at the recreational afternoons down at the cycling club house. Though there’s going to be precious little recreation for me as the “boys” have decided they’d like to learn English and IT skills. So I have tomorrow’s lesson all prepared and I’ve made a couple of cakes to accompany the tea and coffee.

Saturday, is the Telethon: France’s fundraising for local children’s charities. We’ll be riding, en masse, from St Laurent du Var to Mandelieu La Napoule and back. It’s quite a sight to behold: imagine, if you will, two Tour de France pelotons on the right-hand side of the road. But, I guess it’s not terribly popular with car drivers. The weather forecast is promising. This is followed on Sunday by the departmental championship. My club has held this honour for the past ten years but, largely due to falling membership,  may be hard pressed to hold onto the coveted trophy. Naturally, M Le President has been exhorting everyone to turn out and fortunately, the pointage isn’t too far afield; it’s only at Antibes.

Postscript: Break out my favourite beverage, those boys in claret and blue are through to the semi-finals of the League Cup. Our opponents in the next round will be  Blackburn whom we will also be playing in the 3rd round of the FA Cup.