Hands off

I’m picking my husband up from the airport in an hour or so, around 23:15. He’s been in UK and Poland for the past 10 days. I’d like to be able to tell you that while he’s been away I’ve demolished the Vuelta and post-Vuelta ironing mountain, but I haven’t; maybe, next week.

No, while the weather’s fine, I’ve been out on my bike. Plus, let’s not forget, I’ve been baking biscuits for the dental students at Nice University where my beloved in lecturing tomorrow. I’ve made American-style squidgy raisin and oatmeal cookies (my fave), classic chocolate chip cookies and some elegant lemon thins.  In addition, I’ve been toiling with my translations and chasing up those members of the cycling club who have yet to pay their subs.

One of the (few) advantages of being club secretary is that I’m now on the mailing list for the details of each week’s pointage. So, no need to rely on the instructions on the club’s website or check the location on a map, I’ve got my own directions. The pointage is typically held in a car park. This week’s is in Stade Charpin in Les Semboules, which is behind Decathlon in Antibes.  

Lloris looms large

Of course, today’s big story has been Thierry Henry’s “hand of God” goal-assist which has prompted the Irish to ask FIFA for a replay (no chance). My estimate of six pages of commentary and two of adverts in today’s L’Equipe was a page shy of the mark. Man of the match, once again, was home-boy, Hugo Lloris. I can’t help thinking that he’ll be off to pastures new (and better paid) next season – Arsenal peut-etre? I do hope OGCN put a sell-on clause in the contract when they sold Hugo to Olympique Lyonnais. If so, they’ll be quids in. If not, they’ll be kicking themselves.

Viva la Vuelta

Well, the last three days have been both exciting and decisive. Valverde’s still in gold, and has put time into his opponents, despite having a dodgy moment on the steepest bit of the last ascent of yesterday’s stage. Assuming he doesn’t have either an accident, a mechanical (like Evans) or a bad day, the gold jersey is his to take home.

Other points of interest: we saw Cadel Evans attack, albeit not for long; Johnny Hoogerland, the supreme escape artist of la Vuelta, is in 12th place;  Amael Moinard is the best placed Frenchman in 15th. 

Sammy Sanchez
Sammy Sanchez

One of my faves, Sammy Sanchez, had to grit his teeth on two occasions, when others have attacked and left him distanced, to work his way back, and now lies 3rd, up from 6th. I’ve looked at the remaining stages and while there’s downhill finishes to both stages 15 and 19, I don’t think they’re decisive enough to allow him to take back enough time on Valverde, but maybe on Gesink. We’ll have to see. Likewise, I see little opportunity for Basso and Evans to get on the podium, unless bad karma is visited on those above. 

The peloton is much diminished, down to 154 riders, by the departures of those who have their sights set on Mendrisio.

Postscript: As I suspected, Sammy did have a go on the final descent today but it was neither steep enough nor technical enough to distance anyone.

Weapon of choice

I would have liked to be able to report that during the Vuelta my hors categorie ironing mountain has been much reduced; but that would be a lie. If anything it’s grown and having sorted it into various piles, in an effort to make it look as if I’ve done something, it now closely resembles a Vuelta

Stage 12 Almeira - Velefique or piles of ironing. You choose
Stage 12 Almeira - Velefique or piles of ironing. You choose

parcours, not dissmilar to this.  The small 3rd category climb is my pile of ironing while the remaining peaks are my husband’s. I have yet to figure out how this man generates so much ironing. I can only give thanks that his favoured sport of the moment (cycling) has kit which does not need ironing. A major improvement on tennis and golf where both kits have to be ironed. In addition, it requires some ingenuity to restore the snowy whiteness of tennis attire after he’s played on clay courts. It’s probably no different to dealing with the cycling attire of teams Francaise des Jeux, Columbia-HTC and Cervelo after a day riding in the rain. I wonder what they use? My weapon of choice is low temperature Ariel, plus Vanish (for whites), on a long, cool wash-cycle.

The boss is back

I sat down yesterday afternoon to watch the Vuelta Prologue from the Moto GP track in Assen. What a great idea, it put me in mind of a lot of the old photos in my cycling books where races often finished in stadia. The place was packed and the wall of sound was amazing everytime a Dutch rider or a rider on a Dutch team took to the track.

It was a real shame about the weather although most of the favourites benefitted from similar climatic conditions, a drying course, except David Millar who took to the track during the deluge. Probably just as well that bike handling maestro Denis Menchov had passed on the Vuelta this year, otherwise the bookies would have been taking bets on how long he would stay on his bike. I felt particularly sorry for Carlos Barredo whose bike slid down the start ramp ignominiously dumping him on his rump. Thereafter, the ramp was cloaked in what I assume was some sort of artificial grass to give the wheels some traction.

Heading for the gold jersey
Heading for the gold jersey

It was no great surprise that this man won yet another Prologue, it’s his forte. Next on GC were a whole host of sprinters. Again, no real shock on a short flat course. Then, there were a whole load of GC contenders, headed by Roman Kreuziger.

Personally, I was delighted to see this man in 7th place. Just look at the absolute

He's back!
He's back!

concentration on his face and doesn’t he look lean and mean? According to Nice Matin he was booed by some of the crowd. Why? Like Basso (and Millar), he’s done his time and is entitled to ride once again. He was the highest placed Astana man on GC and that’s where I expect him to remain. Don’t bet on him not getting on the podium.