Sunday, 23 January 2011

Foulee Blanche 2011

More cross country ski race action again today, the Foulee Blanche in the Vercors, close to Grenoble. As you may know, we have had a bit of a dearth of snow of late. However, the organisers over there managed to move the race route about and make a bit of snow with the canons too, leaving us with a great course in the end.

The weather was very cold (-10'C in the morning) but with no wind and a bit of sunshine bursting through.

So far this year, I have done a long race and a hilly race, but I was yet to do a long and hilly race, which this was.

It all turned out great - 7 friends took part and all got round great. It was tough, but manageble and Helyn and Colette provided a mighty post-race feast too!

Bring on the next race!


PS: I hope you don't mind my gratuitous tractor image, but she is a beauty, isn't she? I like to imagine you could drive it to the North Pole if you had enough diesel. It might mean towing an oil tanker across ice of varying thicknesses, but I reckon she'd be game for that.....

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Ski Racing Season

As some of you know, winters here are pretty harsh, with snow descending upon the village in November or December and hanging around until March. This is a good opportunity for us to take a break from the bikes and get ski-ing. Oddly enough, I used to come to the Alps more often to ski downhill when I lived in London than I do now. The new passion is for a different type of ski-ing - one with skinny skis and the same clothes you would wear to ride your bike in winter - cross country ski-ing. This sport changed face slightly in the early nineties from the "classic" / langlauf style to the more modern "skating" style - which just happens to be the perfect crossover sport for an "out of work" cyclist.

The col d'Ornon is a great training area - 25km of pistes just 2km from the door so winter lunch times see us ski-ing round these trails and trying to improve our rusty fitness and scrappy technique. Alpe d'Huez also have good trails but they just take a bit longer to get to.

The logical progression for us was to do a few races. The usual form is a course of between 20 and 42km (marathon distance), over a variety of bumps, lumps and technical sections. We love it.

The first race of the season was a marathon, but over a flat course at the head of the Maurienne valley - the Marathon de Bessans. We headed off early - 5 of us in total - 3 racing and 2 taking in the local pistes at their own pace. It was great - despite warm weather preceding the event, the organisers had prepared a great course and we all got round in reasonable shape. To give you an idea of speed and distance, a flat 42km event is won in jut over 1hr 35. We all got round about an hour slower than that but thoroughly enjoyed it.

Next up was the Traversee de Chartreuse - a shorter but tougher event - only 17km this time but with a 7km climb to finish at Charmant Som - brutal it was, with only myself along for this one. The post-race meal was a particularly welcome crozets (pasta squares) and sausage feast. Yum. The day was warm and the organisers did so well to put a race on at all.

The next event is the Foulee Blanche this weekend in Autrans in the Vercors, with several of us taking part - Matt & Colette Swift, Martin (dark horse) Heusse and Ed Nicoll (local Vercors hero and ex Olympic XC skier) as well as myself. I will report back afterwards - this one is both long and hilly so I am a tiny bit scared....

Thanks for reading.


Monday, 10 January 2011

'Roadie' T-shirts

Take a look at these! A guest and friend of King of the Mountains, Paul Middleton, has come up with an original range of T-shirt designs aimed at road cyclists:
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New year, new(ish) minibus!

Happy new year!

We have started 2011 with the purchase of a new (new to us but second-hand) minibus. It was time for an upgrade.

Our future passengers will be glad to hear that the new Renault boasts a turbo engine as well as air conditioning for those balmy summer trips in the Alps.

In keeping with the fact that the King of the Mountains accommodation is an old village school, we have bought a former school bus! Don't worry, that's where the trend stops - no registers, lines or detentions on holiday here!

Happy riding for 2011,

Helyn & Guy