When I first moved to France I made a point of watching French TV, reading the French press and listening to French radio in order to improve and update my vocabulary.  As a consequence, my car radio is automatically tuned into RMC, a sports and news programme not dissimilar to BBC Radio 5 Live. I listen to it, almost subconsciously, whenever I am in the car.

One afternoon, I found myself listening to a lively, very matter of fact, discussion about “threesomes”. I checked that I hadn’t accidentally knocked the dial on the radio, no it was still RMC. The programme host, Brigitte, was discussing some extremely intimate details with her listeners who had rung in to talk about their experiences with “threesomes”. Now I’m sure there are similar phone-ins in the UK, but definitely not at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

Given that I was going to be spending four days  in Varese with two of my favourite men, my beloved and my Swiss friend, I thought maybe it was time to try a threesome. Well, what can I say? It was long, hard and I worked up a considerable sweat. My Swiss friend, being more familiar with this terrain,  set a consistent pace on the front, I sat on his wheel, and my beloved followed.

Yes, we were on our bikes. What were you thinking? Remember I’m training for London-Paris and need to log plenty of kilometers. The weather was much hotter than anticipated, early 30s, and there was very little breeze to cool us, as we rode around the various lakes near Varese. Fortunately the pace allowed me to admire the many palatial lake side residences, including that of Mr Clooney. Sadly, gorgeous George wasn’t home, so we couldn’t pop in for a nespresso.

Lake Maggiore

In this temperature, it’s all too easy to become dehydrated and, on Saturday, I bonked on the final hill back into Varese. I was rescued by my Swiss friend who gallantly rode to the nearest village for a bottle of cold coke: cyclists’ viagra. All in all, it was a very pleasurable experience and one I’ll be happy to repeat. Though I doubt it’ll be of much interest to Brigitte and her listeners.

Postcards from Mendrisio I

I arrived in Lugano on Tuesday evening after a 5 hour drive from Nice. No sooner had I arrived than we were out on our bikes enjoying the warm summer evening. We cycled around the lake and then headed towards Mendrisio to check out the parcours. It’s a tough course, particularly one of the hills which, while not long, reaches gradients of 12% and which is bound to be leg sapping in the road race. It was dark by the time we got back home, my first nightime ride.

Wednesday morning, I was up bright and early ready to head down to the finish area to watch the U23 and Elite Women’s TTs. I found an excellent spot to watch the races, just in front of the podium, to the right of the large TV screen and about 50 metres from the finish line.

The two Tribunes opposite, particularly the VIP one, were largely empty. In fact, the volunteers outnumbered guests 3:1. Gradually, folk trickled in but you could still count them on the fingers of one hand. The winners of both races were predictable but I enjoy watching emerging talent in the U23s and seeing the ladies race since both feature so infrequently on the TV.

My Swiss friend was helping out on the Santini stand where I indulged my husband with a pair of their latest shorts and a transparent windproof top – much cheaper than Assos. Their ladies line however was not at all to my taste, so it’s not about to wean me off my Rapha and Assos habit.

After a long day standing in the sunshine, I was looking forward to dinner and an early night. One of the problems with watching races on one’s own is that, having secured a good spot, one has to stay put for the duration. The trick is to drink enough to stay hydrated but not so much that you need a comfort break.

I caught up with one of the girls with whom I worked as a volunteer last year in Varese. She was working in the VIP stand but  was kinda bored as there were hardly any VIPs to look after. Ah yes, one of the perils of being a volunteer is periods of terminal boredom.

Thursday morning, I took the train into Mendrisio with my friend’s mother, herself a keen cyclist and extremely spritely for her age. I stood in the same spot as the day before. The Men’s Elite TT comprised 3 laps of the circuit and, with Cancellara in the line-up, the stands soon filled up. The organizers had shipped in a load of schoolchildren who obligingly raised the roof everytime a cyclist passed adding an encouraging cacophony of sound.

Fabulous Fabian
Fabulous Fabian

What can I say that hasn’t already been said by those more eloquent and articulate than me about Fabian Cancellara’s performance? It was truly out of this world. I kept checking his bike on the big screen to spot the jet propulsion engine, but it was just his heart, lungs and legs. He was always going to win on home soil but it was the manner of his victory. He quickly overhauled Larsson, his minute man. Next up was  Bradley Wiggins, who was subsequently undone by a mechanical and a missing in action support vehicle. Cancellara then overtook Sebastien Rosseler who shook his head in disbelief, checking his speed on his monitor and ultimately finishing well down the pack.

The roar from the spectators was amazing as they watched Fabian on the big screen. It’s the first time I have ever seen someone celebrate a TT win 100 metres from the line, but he had time to spare. Larsson, who also overtook Wiggins, was 2nd and Tony Martin 3rd. Martin was later pictured slumped on the ground totally exhausted by his efforts. My man Vino finished a hugely creditable 8th, beating the gold and silver medallists from last year, in a very strong field.

The World Championships gives those emerging cycling nations an opportunity to compete with the best. There were two competitors from St Kitts & Nevis and, while they finished well down on the rest of the field, this will have been a huge learning experience for them. I feel I should also mention the performance of one Edvard Novak, from Romania, who beat his two-legged team mate. That’s right, Edvald is a below the knee amputee – chapeau!