Saturday, 19 March 2011

La Primavera

Spring is sprung,
The grass is riz,
I wonder where the riders is?

Milan San Remo. That's where. The classics season was opened by the longest single day race on the calendar today. Often described as like an opera in 3 acts, it never disappoints. Ozzie Matt Goss got the win with some seriously intelligent riding in a sprint from a small group of riders after the field was split by a seemingly minor shute at about 60k relegated a number of big names to a chase group at more than 2 minutes. My pre race vote was for Phillipe Gilbert who eventually took third after Cancellara, a good indicator for the following classics. Boonen was washed away in the 2k after the Poggio as were a number of the other favourites such as Sagan, Pozzato et al. Rides of the day have to be Scarponi (Leaky Gas), Offredo and Shainel (FDJ) all of whom did more work than was strictly necessary, but who enlived an already exciting race.

Gent Wevelgem next week, then De Ronde, then Roubaix. Holy week is nearly here for the pros.

Tomorrow, though, us mere mortals have the Maldon Hilly TT which is on a new course taking in two ascents of North Hill in particular and avery tricky course in general . Yours truly is off at No.13 and I confess I'll be riding tempo rather than eyes out trying to get fit for objectives later in the year.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Majorca. Been there, done that.

A few statistics. 6 days. 536km. 23hrs 45mins in the saddle. 30,000calories and 30,000m of climbing. OK for a few days relaxing holiday methinks. And I’ve got a tan.

Having hauled two suitcases, two loaded bike bags and hand luggage from home to Palma we were pleasantly surprised to find everything in full working order when we got settled in the hotel. Apartment hotels offer plenty of room and with the bike bags out on the balcony we spread ourselves out like kings. Day 1 was a short shake down ride of about 40km so that the guides, Martin Birney and Alistair Irvine could work out who was strong and who might need a slower group to ride in. Despite it being half term back home there were only 4 clients for the week, myself, Mrs Kipper, Sylvan from Versailles and Cathy (pron Catty) from Paris. It was quickly apparent that the boss was being given special treatment as the two French and myself spent the following week amassing a good bit of condition and the above statistics with Alistair while Mrs. K spent the time one on one with Martin and while doing slightly less distance and time had the benefit of a weeks intensive speed and climbing coaching which already appears to have paid dividends. That with such a small number of riders booked for the week it says something for their organisation that having advertised a welcome for all abilities with no one being left alone or dropped that they actually followed through completely on that promise.

The faster group was an entertainment in itself. Sylvan has been riding for only a year, but having a running background proved a strong rider, especially in the hills. Cathy has 7 Iron Man events behind her but did not appear to be at all able to ride in a group, refusing to follow a wheel, rushing off the front, breaking up the rhythm, yelling everyone’s attention to the slightest twitch of a car moving (in front, behind, to the side or even across the fields, it didn’t seem to matter) and generally talking to herself all day. She was very strong but there’s definitely a screw loose up top somewhere – maybe even several. She wanted to ride over 200km every day and seemed slightly unhappy that we did about half of that, even though she was getting tired towards the end of each days ride. However, every time we stopped for coffee or a snack she immediately started massaging our shoulders and on one occasion legs. A couple of time she even gave the café proprietor or waitress a massage. What the hell they made of it is anyone’s guess!

Having noted that what we as a group all needed was base conditioning the high mountains were taken out of the equation and rolling rides added instead although Tuesday did see us climbing some 600 metres to a café at an average of 7% gradient. Now, 7% may not sound that much, but over 8km it’s pretty taxing. Mrs. Kipper had ridden up about an hour before we got to the bottom of the climb, showing off her new-found climbing ability but I trailed in some 10 minutes behind the rest of the group having only been kept going by dreams of a coffee and something to eat at the top. The way down was a different story and I topped just shy of 70kph on the twisting descent earning the nickname of “Savoldelli” for the week.

The weather for the week held to its promise and despite being rained on Sunday’s ride it improved and we hade 6 more days of faultlessly clear skies and temperatures averaging 17 to 20 degrees, depending upon who you believed at any one time. Appearently the weather for the following week was pretty awful with very few people actually getting out of hotels and onto the roads so we seemed to get the best of the spring so far.

Of the 7 riders (including the guides) there were 7 punctures. Mrs. K had 2, one found on Sunday morning after unpacking and the other during the week while I had the remaining 5, all in the front wheel and apart from the last one which resulted from a displaced rim tape, all from flints, none of which we found! Even putting on a new tyre didn’t make any difference, it was just poor luck I suppose. A full steward’s inquiry will be held once the incriminating equipment is unpacked and checked over.

As to the form books, having spent the winter watching the club run disappear over horizon while they wonder what’s happened to the bloke who normally rips their legs off, all I can say is they’d better not rest on their laurels any more.