It’s been a busy week end for me what with trying to keep track of football, cycling, rugby and the Winter Olympics from Vancouver. Midweek, my beloved boys in claret and blue drew at home against Manchester United whom they will play in the League Cup final at the end of the month. Unfortunately, United were reduced to 10 men fairly early on in the game making them even more difficult to break down. Still AVFC have picked up 4 points out of a possible 6 in the Premiership which augurs well for the League Cup Final. Sadly, however, they drew against a very spirited Crystal Palace yesterday in the FA Cup meaning a mid-week replay before their date at Wembley – not ideal preparation. OGCN sadly lost away at Valenciennes in the dying minutes of the match and are now staking their claim on 17th place in the French League. I fear for the manager. I’m just waiting for that death knell “support from the Board” and it’ll all be over.
Having got into gold, Wouter Mol stayed there to win the GC in the Tour of Qatar. Last year’s winner, Tom Boonen, had to be content with two stage wins. The boys now move on to Oman where Jimmy Casper of Saur-Sojasun (another team looking to impress ASO) wrapped up the opening evening criterium, beating Edvald Boassen Hagen into second place. Meanwhile, the Tour of the Med, having had stage 4 neutralised thanks to the weather, finished yesterday on Mont Faron with a stage win for Aqua & Sapone and an overall win for Alejandro Valverde. Astana were 3rd and 5th with respectively Max Iglinsky and Alexandre Vinokourov.
The French are justifiably cockahoop after beating Ireland in Paris. They’re also currently leading the medal table in Vancouver having picked up two golds: one with Jason Lamy-Chappuis (current World Cup Leader) in the nordic combined and the other with Vincent Jay in the 10km biathlon sprint. The former was anticipated, but not the latter.
What you might ask of my own sporting endeavours. Well I have at last received my training plan. Indeed, today is Day 1 of the plan and it’ll be interesting to see how I progress over the next 6 months. The trainer guarantees at least a 5% improvement but, quite frankly, I’m hoping for a lot, lot more.
The sunshine returned yesterday as forecast, although it was very windy. The crews were still clearing up the coastal road, so we decided to head over to Sophia Antipolis and return by way of Valbonne and Biot. Riding the same roads that I suspect the peloton may cover in the forthcoming Tour of the Med, the Saturday stage of which will finish in Biot.
The wind was pretty fierce (British understatement) and at times it felt as if I was cycling in treacle. It was not a day for showing how my “look no hands” was progressing. I therefore had to make regular snot stops (my beloved’s terminology, not mine). Yes, the cold is lingering on.
Today was even colder and a quick check on the temperature this morning sent us scampering back under the bedclothes rather than going on the club ride. Instead we set off at 10:30 and I made it as far as the coffee shop! My beloved rode off while I huddled in the warmth and read the Sunday papers before returning to prepare lunch which was served as soon as my beloved emerged from his post-ride shower. Just the way he likes it.
When it’s cold like this there’s only one thing for it – comfort food! Soups, casseroles and hot toddies are essential to put the warmth back into chilly bodies.
I’ve spent the afternoon curled up on the sofa watching the ski-jumping from Innsbruck, where there’s a paucity of snow. It’s hill 3 of the 4 Hills Tournament, held for the past 50 or so year’s over the New Year to Epiphany period. In year’s past, we’ve watched it in Obersdorf, Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Innsbruck, but have never visited the 4th hill: Bishofshofen, in Salzburgerland. I have fond memories of huddling in warm clothing, drinking a glass of gluehwein and watching those boys soar off the in-run: rather them than me.
Today is the last day of my beloved’s vacation and it’s back to the grindstone for both of us tomorrow. The paperwork has been piling up and we’ve a major technological challenge to overcome. Our newish printer/scanner/fax which has never, ever been able to receive faxes threw a wobbly two days ago and now won’t print. Instead, it gobbles up the paper. Also, the paper feeder keeps jamming and it scans only when it feels like it. I think we’ve the printer equivalent of the rogue supermarket trolley. To be fair, the manufacturer is offering us a replacement machine, I just hope we don’t have to wait too long.
Spring has arrived and with it much balmier temperatures. I seem to have spent months muffled up like Michelin man but now I’m back into my ¾ bib tights with just a long sleeved shirt and gilet.
The last few week ends, thanks to the Tours of the Med and Haut Var, and Paris-Nice, I have been able to combine training with watching live cycling. Generally, I like to ride to watch the riders sign-on and depart, then catch them en-route, preferably on an incline that I have just laboured up. On Saturday, the penultimate stage of Paris-Nice passed twice through Fayence. So, having cycled around the undulating countryside, we wound our way up to the centre of town, to enjoy lunch and the final kms of the race.
On its first pass, the peloton was pretty much together but it split up over the subsequent Col de Bourigaille. I did note that with 40kms to go Contador was without team mates but didn’t realise that he was also without fuel. He should have said something; I had a couple of gels and an energy bar in my pocket. He would have been welcome to them.
We drifted up towards the finish to listen to race radio and heard the attacks unfold. All too soon LL Sanchez was racing towards the finish at a speed I could only hope to emulate cycling hard in the opposite direction (ie downhill). While Contador, who had quite clearly bonked, ascended the gentle climb at more my pace, with riders passing him in disbelief.
I can still recall seeing Contador take off on the Col du Tanneron in Paris-Nice 2007, on the penultimate stage of a race he went on to win the following day. He had come to my notice at the previous Paris-Nice when, at the start of the final stage, he offered me his Liberty Seguros cap and I directed him towards the small boy on my right who was only too delighted to receive this “trophy”. I wonder if he’s still got it, the former cap of a now multiple Grand Tour winner.