Phil’s the man

Worth the pain!
I’m back from a 4-day trip to Varese and a 4-day enforced internet silence. Yes, we took my beloved’s laptop. Yes, we had WiFi on tap. My beloved forgot to take his charger. Yes, we bought a spare charger in MediaMarkt. No, it didn’t work, but the instructions said they’d sent us the correct Dell connector if we identified it on line. We didn’t bother. It did of course mean that my beloved had a real break from work (no bad thing) and was able to answer the most pressing emails and calls via his Blackberry.

The purpose of our trip was 2-fold: check out our Swiss friend’s new bike shop and afore-mentioned break.  We stayed in the same B&B I stayed in for the 2008 World Championships’s  in Varese. Indeed, we’re now quite regular visitors and the owners (and their cats) treat us like family. They’re very busy with their flower shop over Easter, so generally don’t accept guests during this period. We therefore had the run of the place which feels pretty much like home.

Our friend has opened his shop on a busy stretch of road between Lugano and Mendrisio along which absolutely every cyclist in the area travels. In the three weeks that he’s been open, he’s been exceedingly busy and has sold a complete bike and a set of carbon wheels each week, along with assorted repairs and sundries. More importantly, he’s enjoying himself. I’m sure he’s going to make a success of it.

The riding around Varese is different to the Core d’Azur: not better, just more undulating. On Tuesday, we rode along the lake from Como to Bellagio, up the Ghisallo and back. The route is constantly up and down and therefore it’s difficult to establish any kind of rhythm. Despite it being the run up to Easter, there was little traffic and the roads were peaceful. The weather was gorgeous. Warm enough to encourage me to wear my bib-shorts for the first time this year. The climb up to Ghisallo is brutal, it hits over 18% at one point. My cadence was so low, the legs were barely turning. The view was however worth it.

Wednesday, we opted for a gentler ride around the eastern side of Lake Maggiore which, while still undulating, is much kinder on the legs. Again, there was little traffic. We returned to base after lunch to watch La Fleche Wallone. La Gazzeta dello Sport favoured a Spanish win largely on account of the finish being on the brutal Mur de Huy. They speculated that this would suit either Contador (SaxoBank Sungard) or Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha). But mostly, they bemoaned the lack of an Italian challenge.

The Italians were enjoying better luck in the Giro del Trentino which had started with a 13.4km time trail around Lake Garda the day before. This had been won by Andreas Kloeden (RadioShack), his 4th win of the season. He was a second ahead of Andrea Malori (Lampre-ISD) and a couple ahead of team mate Tiago Machado. Another man in fine early-season form, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), had taken Wednesday’s 184km stage ahead of Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) to record his 6th win of the season. The Italian moved into the lead on GC where he remains going into today’s final stage. Yesterday’s queen stage, which finished atop the cat 1 climb of Fai della Paganella, was won by the latest Columbian climbing sensation, Fabio Duarte (Geox-TMC), former 2008 Varese U23 world champion.

Meanwhile, back in Belgium, the peloton had reeled back in the early escapees and was steeling itself for the final ascent of the Mur. The favourites were pretty much all in contention but who would prove to have the best legs? It was Phil Gil, again. With 300 metres to go, he powered off the front of the peloton leaving himself ample time to celebrate, as he crossed the line ahead of Roaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Sammy Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), his third win in a week and his first in this particular classic. So, there you have it, two of my favourite smiles atop the podium. Who’s going to have the will to beat him this Sunday?

Home alone

Our guests and my beloved have departed leaving me to savour being on my own once more. I probably sound as if I’ve got a touch of the Howard Hughes but there’s something very liberating about not being at anyone’s beck and call. I can do what I want, when I want.

Having luxuriated in a day off the bike, I was eager to clamber back into lycra and profit from the continued warm weather. The silly tan lines are now clearly visible on the legs (sock line above ankle and shorts line across thighs). But,  because my legs don’t tan evenly, the backs of my legs and thighs tan well but sadly my shins don’t, the overall effect is somehow worse. I had already done in excess of today’s 3hr group ride on Monday, so I opted for yesterday’s ride, in a fasted state, followed by some core-strength exercises and stretching. 

This afternoon, having speedily cleaned up all traces of my beloved and guests, I treated myself to watching Circuit de la Sarthe, Scheldeprijs and Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco. I know, cycling in triplicate! By the way, do check out my friend Susi’s excellent pictures from that last race on the cyclingnews website.

Lest you think I’ve spent the afternoon loafing around, I should add that, at the same time as watching the cycling, I demolished a category 3 mountain of my husband’s ironing. It was in severe danger of developing into something larger and less manageable and I’m keep to avoid any further vuelta type situations developing.

In Belgium, with about 37km to go, Tom Boonen became entangled with a couple of riders from Euskatel. Guess who fared worse from that encounter? Yes, if I were a 60kg skinny Spaniard he’d be the last person I’d want to collide with. The Euskis were DNFs but Tom got in the slipstream of his team car and following a very lengthy shoe swop was soon back into the peloton. He launched the sprint, leading out team mate Wouter Weylandt and Tyler Farrar, who won ahead of Rockin’ Robbie McEwan.

They start 'em young in the Basque country

In the Basque country, Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre) beat Oscar Freire in another sprint finish, but the latter now assumes the yellow jersey ahead of tomorrow’s tough mountain stage. While in the Circuit de la Sarthe, Anthony Ravard (AG2R) won stage 2a and Tiago Machado, one of the few surviving Radioshackers,  won the 2b time-trial but Luis Leon Sanchez is still looking good in yellow. Actually, he looks pretty good in most things.