Panacea for post-Tour blues

While the Tour is over and many of it’s protagonists take part in a seemingly endless round of criteriums, the racing rolls on. This week I’ve been watching the Tour of Poland generally an opportunity for the young guns to shine, and shine they have. While fellow Brummie and defending champ Garvelo’s Dan Martin put up a spirited defence of his title and won the queen stage, it’s been pretty much one way traffic at the Pete and Marcel show.  After putting in a highly determined performance to win two stages and, more importantly, the overall, I’m looking forward to see what Liquigas’s Peter Sagan can do in his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta. I appreciate he’ll be riding in support of Vicenzo Nibali, but should the Shark falter…….. The other four stages were won in imperious fashion by Skil Shimano’s Marcel Kittel whom I last saw on the podium of the U23 ITT in Melbourne. He has a turn of speed to match Cavendish, but doesn’t seem to require a train, and he left names such as Tom Boonen, Romain Feillu and John Degenkolb trailing in his wake.

I’ve also been dipping into the Vuelta a Burgos where riders were fine tuning their performances ahead of the Vuelta which starts on 20 August in Benidorm. The first stage stage was won by defending champ, Euskaltel’s Samu, who won’t be riding the Vuelta, ahead of Katusha’s JRod, who will. JRod also took out the 2nd stage and the overall. Samu was undone (again) by the team time trial and tired legs on the final stage where the boys in orange were attempting to rip the field apart and put time into JRod. Sadly, Samu was unable to keep pace and the stage was won by his rookie team mate Mikel Landa, recording his maiden win. Purito is looking in great shape for the upcoming race which, with plenty of mountain top finishes and few time-trialling kms, clearly favours the climbers but Igor Anton and the orange-clad boys are looking equally strong.

Over in the Tour of Denmark, Sky’s Simon Gerrans took his first stage win since the Herald Sun Tour in 2006 and his first win this year thanks to some clever mopping up of intermediate sprint points (and seconds) to remain ahead of Leopard Trek’s Daniele Bennati.  Elsewhere, the diminutive Samuel Dumoulin won Paris-Correze.

The football season commenced this week end in France and Nice were served up a tough opener, home to Lyon, against whom we’ve enjoyed some great results in recent seasons largely thanks to OL’s Champion’s League commitments. No such worries this time for OL, we lost 3-1 and languish one from the bottom of the league. With such a high turnover of players, it’ll take the team a while to gel but there were some promising signs, though we’re still lacking firepower up front. Finally, work has commenced on OGCN’s new stadium which should be finished in time for the 2013/14 season and where we’ll be hosting some matches in Euro 2016. I’m hoping my beloved boys in claret and blue have a better start to their Premiership campaign this week end.

After a few days off the bike last week, I was keen to get back into my training plan. My coach has introduced some new home-trainer based exercises where I have to pedal while holding my breath. Not sure what that’s all about but I’ll get a chance to quiz him when we ride together on Wednesday. It’s only for a short period, but it’s more difficult than you might think. He’s also making me do a series of push ups. Probably trying to firm up the non-areodynamic batwings. He’s also persisting with the swimming to assist my legs to recuperate. But my legs rarely get tired and I never ever, suffer from a build up of lactic acid. My feet, on the other hand, are not faring so well. I spent much time on them while walking around San Sebastián and have been on my feet most of this week preparing for yesterday’s La Ronde and pointage where we usually cater for over 500 cyclists. It was a wash out. The race was cancelled as the course was too dangerous with water lying on the circuit’s corners. Still around 60 people turned up and enjoyed my home baked goodies. Of course, most of the provisions can go back into the club store cupboard to be brought out for the re-scheduled event while I can put my remaining cakes into the freezer, disaster averted.

Not in the script

I have spent an enjoyable week end with my beloved who’s back from his transatlantic jaunt. Yesterday we rose late, as a consequence of his jet lag, and, after a leisurely breakfast,  set off for a ride. We had just exited the domaine when my beloved punctured. I said I would continue on our trajectory and he could catch me up after he’d returned home and swapped bikes.

I rode for an hour and then waited for ten minutes. Surprisingly, still no sign of my beloved. I continued and indulged in some interval training: low gear/high cadence. I was still bouncing around but probably not as much as before. It’s a surprisingly tiring exercise. I stopped by the fountain  to replenish my bidon and along came my beloved. He’d decided to mend his puncture, hence the additional delay. We continued on enjoying the heat of the day and the quietness of the roads. The tourists have gone home.

I spent the afternoon pottering in the kitchen before settling down, after dinner, to watch the opening team time trial of the Vuelta a Espana. This was won by HTC-Columbia, putting Mark Cavendish in the red leader’s  jersey. Surprisingly diffident performances from SaxoBank, Sky and Garmin-Transitions but, as anticipated, no big time differences between the leading contenders.

This morning we rode together, eschewing the club ride. In truth, we’d overslept again. A strong breeze sprang up before midday which seemed to suck some of the heat out of the day, leaving it altogether fresher. Perfect riding weather. Having collected the Sunday newspapers on the way back, after a cold shower and lunch, I settled down on the sofa to read said newspapers and enjoy today’s 173km lumpy stage from Alcala de Guadaira to Marbella. Despite the climbs, the final descent I felt would ensure a bunch sprint finish.

Everything was going according to plan. HTC-Columbia had worked on the front to pull back the escapees before the run in to the finish. The other sprinters teams then shared the work load, the protagonists were all well positioned as they hit Marbella. Tyler Farrar led the sprint with Cavendish in his wheel, leaving the others flailing in their wake. Cavendish overtook Farrar and was poised to cross the line first, when up popped Yauheni Hutarovich on his left hand side. The Belarussian hadn’t read the script and crossed the line a wheel ahead of Cavendish. If you’re wondering Yauheni who? This is the lanterne rouge from 2009’s Tour de France. Off the top of my head, I can’t recall his palmares. He won a stage in the recent Tour of Poland but this is his maiden win in a Grand Tour.

Positively sizzling

Yesterday, I was even busier (is that possible?) than the day before. We were having a BBQ at the club for all the volunteers without whom the club wouldn’t be able to stage any events. Of course, it’s always the same crowd who volunteers and this is one small way of saying “thank you”. My beloved kindly offered to cook the sausages and chicken on the BBQ and his efforts were much appreciated by the assembled throng. Here’s a picture of him looking dashing in my plastic frog apron. 

He wields a mean pair of tongs

Spending the club’s money is not the same as spending one’s own. I confess I never, ever look at the price of goods in the supermarket but the last two days I have done the rounds of the super and hypermarkets snapping up every deal going. Two for the price of one, 3rd item free, 2nd at 50% – that’ll do nicely, thank you. This means I have ventured into places I never normally frequent, such as Lidl. 

Everything is now ready for transporting at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning. My checklist has been ticked off and, as ever, nothing, but nothing has been left to the vagaries of chance. There remains just one thing left to do. I have to break the bad news to my beloved that he’s got to order a taxi for tomorrow morning. He’s now relaxing down by the pool, which I have yet to visit this year, so he should be in a good mood when he returns. 

We rode together this morning, while it was still a little fresh, on one of my favourite Saturday circuits. My beloved remarked that he’d never seen me ride so well up the hills. See, all that training is paying off. 

I managed to catch the highlights of yesterday’s 228.5km Queen stage  from Oswiecim to Terma Bukowina in the Tour of Poland. As I switched on the TV none other than Johnny Hoogerland and Gorka Izaguirre (last seen winning the Ordiziako Klasika) hove into view, remnants of the early breakaway. They were absorbed by the peloton which, led by Garmin, withstood a number of subsequent, well-timed attacks. Finally, Bauke Mollema launched a solo attack on the final ascent of the day to record his first ever Pro-Tour win. He’s now 3rd on GC behind Grega Bole (2nd) and Dan Martin (who grabbed yellow on Thursday). Johnny Hoogerland looks to have sewn up the KOM jersey and the sprint jersey.

Postscript: On today’s final stage, despite the downpour,  the podium remained unchanged. Well done to fellow Brummie, Dan Martin, on his first of, no doubt, many Pro-Tour wins.

Postpostscript: My beloved took the news well. Did he want to leave for the airport with me at 05:30 or with a taxi at 06:30? No brainer really.

Busy as a bee

As per the cycling programme, this week is one of rest, recuperation and rejuvenation. I only have 41/2hrs of cycling spread over three days. Now, as I’m always telling my beloved, there’s no point in having a training programme if you’re not prepared to follow it to the letter.  This rest period fortunately coincides with preparations for the week end’s Ronde du St Laurent du Var and our club’s pointage. I would have liked to have ridden the Ronde, but we’re desperately short of volunteers, so it’s all hands on deck. My aim would have been to avoid being lapped more than once. The training in the Basque country on all those short steep hills would have been perfect preparation for the Ronde, but sadly we’ll never know.

I have something of a logistical problem. While Tom II, my beloved Smart car is surprisingly spacious, I have to drop my beloved husband off at the airport early on Sunday morning. There is room in the car either for all the food for the pointage and the apero after the Ronde, or my beloved. Yes, I think we know who’s going to be getting the boot!

I was rather disappointed with the fare provided at this event last year. You know my motto, “never knowingly under-catered” so I have taken charge of the catering this year. I have already made some of my “famous” pain d’epice and banana bread to enliven the usual pointage spread and plan to make some savoury cake to supplement the other nibbles for the apero. There’s no way we’re going to run short of food this year!

There’s a number of stage races taking place this week (Burgos, Portugal, Denmark, Poland) and yesterday afternoon I finally caught up with the Tour of Poland, which has been moved from September, no doubt on account of the weather. As I switched on the transmission, Johnny Hoogerland was up front in a breakaway. I’ve not seen too much of him this year largely on account of Vacansoleil’s lack of invites to the stellar events. However rumour has it that they’re looking to beef up their roster next year and are after one of my favourite Spaniard’s, Samu Sanchez (pictured below). They obviously feel he will be their ticket into those afore-mentioned stellar events.

Samu

One of Johnny’s team mates probably endured some good natured ribbing over the dinner table yesterday evening. After Johnny had been absorbed back into the peloton, Marco Mercato took off with a rider from Saxo Bank. The race finished with 3 circuits of the finishing town but either Mercato hadn’t looked at his route book or he can’t count. He sprinted away from the Saxo Bank rider,  raising his arms as he crossed the finishing line for only the second time. He realised his error too late to avoid the advancing peloton. The stage was instead won by Mirco Lorenzetto (who also took the leader’s jersey) ahead of Lampre team mate, Grega Bole. Today’s a very lumpy stage so the leader’s jersey will probably end up on someone else’s shoulder’s this evening.