Friday, May 9, 2014

Pre season trip to Majorca has a sting in the tail.

This year we decided to take a break in Majorca after the Ski Hame winter season. It is an ideal time for us to get away with Aiden on school holidays and we can get back to France in good time to prepare for the Summer cycle season. It also means I can get in a few kilometres on the bike, that is nearly impossible to do at all in the main part of the ski season.

 This year we decided to stay in Alcudia on the Northern end of the island. 2 years earlier we had stayed in s'Arenal and I really enjoyed that, I was not sure if the Northern end would have the same appeal. The island delivered however, it was just as nice and to be honest I have decided I would be happy in most of the coastal resorts in Majorca.

 On the day we arrived it was raining and when the coach pulled into Alcudia the roads were flooded. WTF? It didn't do this last time we were here! Fortunately it did start to clear in the late afternoon and the rest of the holiday the weather was fine, some days had mixed cloud and at times we were looking for a bit of shelter from the wind but generally it was somewhere between very good and excellent. The roads were as I remembered them, mostly fantastic and cycle friendly. I think I am lucky to live in an amazing cycling area but I rate Majorca just as highly, certainly at this time of the year. In the Winter I will assume it is far superior to the French Alps , you can ride outside at least, I am not sure how they compare in the height of Summer, I guess the island must get very busy.

 I did not spend a great deal of time in the hills, I don't really feel a need to bother on Majorca, there are no shortage of climbs where we are based in the Alps. Most days I would cycle through the middle of the island, a couple of times ending up in s'Arenal for a coffee before making my way back. Other days I would end up in the East of the island. I would set off quite early so I could be back to spend the afternoon with Anne, Aiden and her mum. I did venture up into the hills a few times, twice up to the tunnel on Puig Major, that is a nice ride. The mountains are a World heritage site, and it is easy to see why when you are riding up them. I would be on the road before the crowds but faced them on the way down. I swear that road is busier than Alpe d'Huez in July!

On the last day I decided to do the climb from Pollenca, carry on over Puig Major to Soller and back over the coll de Soller before heading back to the hotel. It should be a great ride to finish on but I really wish I hadn't bothered. Making my way down the Col de Soller I was descending relatively slowly, people that have ridden the col will tell you that there are a lot of hairpins with short straights and a shallow descent. I was in no mood to put in any real effort but of course I still came off the bike. There was water across the road, I had even backed off for that but all of a sudden the wheels were off the road and I was on it - what a tit. The fall winded me pretty bad but I managed to stand up, pick the bike up and a few other bits scattered about before moving to the side of the road. I could see a bit of grazing on my right leg but felt quite lucky that I had got away without too much damage, I had landed on my side but was certain no ribs had been broken - lucky. I felt a bit dizzy but recovered. When I walked back to collect the water bottle lying in the middle of the road I put my hand to my collarbone and realized that it had completely snapped - unlucky! Now I felt really dizzy and was sure I was going to faint. It passed and I managed to sit down against a rock with not a clue what to do next. A number of people cycled by, some were asking if I was okay, most rode by. I was trying to contact Anne with my phone but she did not have hers with her. Thankfully the sun was warm, so as much as could be expected I was surprisingly comfortable. In the end I dialled 112 and an ambulance was sent to collect me. The last few days of my stay on the island were spent in a private hospital in Palma. I was fortunate to have a very good surgeon, he is a competitive triathlete and will be taking part in the Majorca ironman this weekend. As a cyclist I felt he gave me special attention. It turns out the bone was completely broken in 2 places, so it was in 3 parts. It meant it had to be reconstructed and pinned together, and he is telling me I should be able to ride the bike in 2-3 weeks. Get in you beauty, collarbone completely broken in 2 places and right now I feel like the luckiest person alive!

The accident happened on Monday and by Thursday I was back at home looking forward to the Summer season.

A final thanks to the people from Pro Cycle Hire for making the trip to the hospital to collect the bike I had used, there was no fuss and it was nice to have in a friendly face in a foreign place.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cycle Hame Tour de France Alps week 2013

I mentioned in the last blog post a week ago that Anne, Aiden and I would be coming back to Scotland. Well that is exactly what we did arriving here last Wednesday evening. We were met at Edinburgh airport by Anne's parents, the weather was excellent with mild temperatures and clear skies. Since then however it has not been great, and for various reasons including the weather I have only managed to get out on the bike once. I did get kitted up to ride this afternoon but changed my mind as I watched the weather close in just as I was about to set off. No cycling does of course mean that we are managing to get a few jobs done, a good thing as our Winter season gets closer. We are also managing to gain about a kilo a day in weight, not such a good thing as our Winter season gets closer.  

The big news at the start of last week was all about drug use in the peleton and the fall from grace of Lance Armstrong, and unfortunately that stole some of the glamour from the 2013 Tour de France presentation. This week there is a bit of a shift as the TdF route for next year is analysed, it does look as though it could be a good course. Some people are complaining about the omission of the Col du Galibier and Col du Tourmalet from the centenary of the Tour de France, 2 classic climbs of the race. 

Personally I like the course, it seems well balanced and it might be difficult to choose a clear favourite for this one. I think the highlights for me are 
-The first 3 stages to be held on Corsica, the first time the Tour has been held there
-A time trial finishing on Mont St Michel is very cool
-A stage finish on Mt Ventoux, always a spectacle
-A stage that ends with a double ascent of Alpe d'Huez, slightly bonkers but we plan to be there
-Stage 19 is a long mountain stage taking in some of our own regular climbs
-Stage 20 will start in Annecy and finish on a climb not far from Annecy
-The final stage into Paris will be a night finish.

We plan to visit 3 stages on our Tour de France Alps Week including the stage that finishes on Alpe d'Huez, stage 19 when it comes over the Col de la Madeleine, and the Annecy stage. 

Here is a picture taken this year of some of the riders climbing the Col de la Madeleine, next year the race we be going in the opposite direction.

So I think this is a course we will look forward to, and to think there are only another 9 months to wait ...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The official presentation of the 2013 Tour de France will take place tomorrow in Paris but at the moment most pro cycling chatter appears to be focused on yesterday's decision by UCI (International Cycling Union) confirming that Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his 7 Tour de France victories. 

Seriously, all his titles from 1998 to now have been removed, as if he had not competed at all during that period. Lance who? 

It is difficult to say what impact this will have on the sport, many speculate that professional cycling will be able to move on and put an end to a crazy period of performance enhancing drug use. Of course there are still plenty of people convinced that this will never happen and that many of the competitors, or their doctors, will continue to cheat the system. Personally I prefer to adopt the "stick my head in the sand and hope it all goes away"  approach. This method works for most situations of this nature, in time people will move from this to discussing the TdF course for next year. 

Today Anne and I are not thinking about either the Tour course or the drugs charges as we have to concentrate on getting back to Scotland. We are scheduled to fly out of Geneva tomorrow afternoon but will be using an early morning train from Moutiers to get there. I am expecting a long day with luggage, a bike bag and a three year old in tow. By the time we get to Edinburgh airport it will be getting dark and I may be forced to cycle the 20 miles or so back to Anne's parents house as their car is too small for all of us and the road bike. The news gets even better as the forecast is for Baltic temperatures. Ooh I can't wait.

At least when we finally get there I can look forward to discovering the actual route of the 2013 Tour. As it will be the centenary of the worlds largest sporting event I am hoping for an interesting course, and looking at the current rumours it certainly shows some promise.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tour de France 2013 - the rumours

At this time of year I start to spend too much time on the internet trying to follow the rumours surrounding the course of the Tour de France for the following year. I try to convince Anne it is important for us to know what direction the Tour is likely to take but I am not sure she buys into that. She does have a point as, in reality, we always have to wait for the official course to be announced before we can finalise our itinerary for the Cycle Hame Tour de France Alps week anyway.

The 2013 TdF course will be announced on October 24th, a little over 2 weeks from now and the rumour mill has gone into overdrive. It appears they now have a good idea for most of the course but there are a handful of stages they are struggling to work out, particularly in the final week when the race is expected to be in the Alps. The latest rumour is that the race will finish on Alpe d'Huez rather than the usual finish in Paris - ooh la la.

It is known that the race will start on Saturday 29 June with the first 3 stages taking place on Corsica and stage 4, a team time trial in Nice. This part has already been announced by ASO, the organisers of the Tour. From there it is expected to head West with 1 or 2 stages in the Pyrenees. The second week should start in Brittany and it is widely expected that one of the stages will be a time trial up Mont St Michel, I love that place and it should make a great stage setting. From there it will head back East through the centre of France, and on to Lyon by the end of the second week.

July 14 falls on a Sunday next year and it looks as though there will be a finish on Mt Ventoux for Bastille day. It all looks like a decent race so far.

Then we move into the final week and as I mentioned earlier the amateur detectives seem to be having the difficulty in deciding where it will go, here is what it looks like at the moment:

Monday - rest day
Tuesday - finish in Gap
Wednesday - not sure, possibly a time trial around Lac Serre Poncon
Thursday - the rumour is that the riders will finish the stage by climbing Alpe d'Huez ...twice!
Friday - finish in Savoie/Haute Savoie
Saturday - no idea but plenty of rumours including a stage around Annecy, a time trial from Annecy up to     Semnoz, and a stage from Annemasse to Dole
Sunday - traditionally this is the finish at the Champs Elysée but the latest rumours are for a stage finish on Alpe d'Huez.

Something will need to change, it is unimaginable that the race will climb Alpe d'Huez 3 times! At the same time we are expecting some sort of surprise as 2013 will be the 100th Tour de France.

You can take a look at the velowire website if you want to follow the rumours, most of the forum discussion is in French.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Autumn in the French Alps - between the road bike and ski seasons

As I mentioned in my previous post, our final guests for 2012 road bike season left last weekend and it is amazing how quickly the Autumn has taken a hold since then. Some of our guests may recognise the road between La Tania and Meribel in the picture below, the photo was taken by Anne in the middle of the week. Over the last couple of days we have seen an even bigger change in the landscape and Autumn colours.

This is now our interseason and we will be trying to get the Cycle Hame 2013 Summer season programme completed and onto the website. Some of the planned trips are already on the site and we do have a few weeks booked already. It does look as though the Marmotte week and the Tour de France week are going to be popular, and will book up quickly, so if either of these are of interest let us know soon.

On top of getting the Summer programme completed we are also preparing for the 2012-2013 Ski Hame season and as the Winter approaches it really does keep us busy.This year we expect our preparation to be a little easier to get organised than the last couple of years. Aiden will be 3 in a couple of weeks and in France that means he has started school already. Anne and I were anxious about this to begin with, we have now accepted that it will be good for him socially, and in reality it is just like pre-school but takes place in the local school. Now I think it is the teachers I worry about more, he has recently adopted a new imaginary persona named Tom and thinks he is magic - he is not Tom and he is not magic. To make it even more difficult, he rabbits on all day long in English and the poor French teachers don't have a clue what he is talking about. Still, it helps us to get on with our work here and I am sure they will all work it out in the end.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

2012 road bike season done

The last of our 2012 Summer cyclists left on the weekend.

In the end there were only 2 guests for the final trip of the season but we had a great week. There was rain on 2 mornings otherwise we enjoyed superb weather, the mornings were cool and daytime temperatures in the mid 20's.

Simon arrived on the Saturday and we were able to ride up to the Valmorel ski area then back up to Meribel. This is not a road we would normally use but Simon stayed with us in 2011 and it was nice to show him a route he hasn't been on before. In the afternoon I picked up Andrew from Geneva airport.

We got to ride a number of our classic climbs including Col de la Madeleine, Cormet de Roselend and Col du Petit St Bernard.

Ben and Simon climbing the Madeline with Mont Blanc in the background.

'Due caffee machiatto per favore'. Coffee stop in Italy at the top of the Petit St Bernard. The cans of coke are a different shape, why is that? 

The highlight of the week for Simon and Andrew was the ride from the Maurienne Valley  over the Col de Telegraph, Col du Galibier before the final climb up Alpe d'Huez. Despite it being less than 100km in distance this is a big day on a bike with over 3000m height gain across the 3 climbs. Both Andrew and Simon were able to ride well for the whole day and finished strong on Alpe d'Huez. I also had local rider Ben helping us for the day and he had a ride managing the climb up the Alpe in under 56mins. On Alpe d'Huez you can choose between the Tourist arrival or continue on the established Tour de France finish, Ben's time was to the TdF finish, not bad after having climbed the Galibier already
Is that Bradley Wiggins at the top of the Galibier?

Tour de France finish on Alpe d'Huez
Top of Alpe d'Huez - chapeau.

So that is the 2012 season over for Cycle Hame. We are working on our 2013 trips, we have posted details for the Tour de France Alps week and the Marmotte sportive week and have already taken bookings for both of these trips. Keep an eye on our 2013 Calendar as we will be adding more dates over the next few weeks.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

New Zealand road bike team for Worlds

The 2012 mens road race World Championships will take place in Holland later this month and this evening I was looking at the line-up for the team to represent New Zealand .

I noted that, George Bennett, a reserve rider for the team is from Nelson and Jack Bauer, a rider in the actual team, is from just up the road in Takaka. This was of particular interest to me, not because I thought a special agent for the Counter Terrorist Unit was riding for New Zealand but because Nelson is where my mother lives these days. And so does my sister, brother-in-law and 2 nieces. I love the place.

It is not the town we lived when I was growing up, it was years after I left home before they all made the move down to Nelson. So I cannot tell you what it is like to ride a road bike in that part of the world. Pity really, I imagine it must be fantastic. The roads are quiet, wide, good surfaces and a good variety of flats and climbs. Looking at the selections for the national road bike team it would appear to be a good place to learn the trade.

It is our aim to get back there within the next couple of years, to visit the family and friends and to explore that part of the country on the bike, possibly looking to organise a road bike holiday for our Cycle Hame clients in the future. How much fun would that be?