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Follow here my journey and stories around the World. 

 

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Louis Caput... when a name says it all!

Ivan Blanco

Para los amigos de Indurain, es por aquí

ka•put
(kɑˈpʊt, -ˈput, kə-)

adj. Slang.

1. ruined; done for; demolished.
2. unable to operate or continue; broken: The TV went kaput.
A German word meaning done for, used to mean broken, destroyed, or out of order.

Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/kaput

 

This is the main adjective that summarizes my latest cycling challenge…the Sportive event organised each year by the cycling club Etoile sportive de Villeneuve Loubet cyclisme (ESVL), in the name of the French legend Louis Caput.

Louis Caput was a French cyclist that competed in the 1940’s and 50’s and had a remarkable track record that goes strongly opposite to his name’s Germanic meaning; French road bike champion, Paris-Tours winner or Sport’s director are just a few of his career’s successes.

With such a background, the last minute sportive I got proposed by a friend the day before sounded interesting at least: 146 km and some 2700 m of elevation gain, in an area of the Provence I didn't ride before; I love to discover new areas. Being used to have done more than that in the past, I accepted willingly… but poor me, optimism pushes me sometimes into a delusional mindset…

As with the Paris-Nice Challenge (read it here), these challenges always seem to have one moment where optimism and easy pace get struck by one unexpected and very hard climb or climbs… and of course, same case happened with my first Louis Caput.

In addition to riding from Nice to Villeneuve Loubet, where the sportive started, Armand, the friend who proposed it to me, is one very strong rider, his latest success was 41st at Cannes’ Triathlon last week, out of 777 participants! So dropping me off with his other Triathlete friend Richard, was very easy after passing the beautiful town of St. Paul de Vence and climb to the Col de Vence.

In my (small) defence, I came from 6 days cycling every day and putting all my power into my 40 km commutes, averaging at some points almost 36 km/h and totalling around 280 km. In any case, this new challenge taught me a lot mentally and physically.

The first part of the parcours brought us from sea level up to 1000 m till the Col de Vence through the mentioned St. Paul and what kind of looked like a Lord of the Rings scenery; see it below.

With or without the Ring to rule them all… my physical condition was of complete exhaustion from my 6 cycling days without rest, knowing this, stubborn as I am, something made me go for it anyway. In addition to this, the mental side was taking over and trying to play tricks with me… thoughts of changing plans and do just the 100 km parcours, thoughts of climbing just the Col de Vence and ride back, thoughts of not even climbing anymore and turn around… with around 150 participants in such a large stretch and no joint departure (1h gap to choose), unless you keep up with your mates, you end up riding alone for some larger stretches and that didn't help in this mental challenge.

150 kms, +2500m and 150 participants: Louis Caput!

Adding to this, my impulsive registration made me neglect a deeper study of an unknown route… which is like a violinist not going through his notes before one big concert. What resulted in some very hard and sufferable first 90 km where the mental game mixed up with some knee pain, the whole experience ended finally with one of the most beautiful and joyful rides I've ever experienced!

All the suffering and sacrifice became secondary when I met a local rider, Gilles, who rides a lot in the area. The flat area before the Col de Bleine allowed us to have one very pleasant conversation to which two other riders from the sportive joined; above the km, endurance, or races… one of the best things in cycling is the fellow companions with whom you share the adventure.

But again, that next Col made me get behind to a point where my knee started, at some points, screaming stronger than my determination… so I did shut it up with some water! Managing to finally get over the Col de Bleine and reach the last feeding stop, I started to chat with Bernard, one of the organizers and we discussed about my action cameras and cycling, to a point that I almost forgot to refuel myself. I also met Michelle and Olivier, who are workmates and were doing this sportive for the second time and we were to pass each other again several times.

With the Broom Wagon suddenly reaching the feeding station, we all rushed to get moving and realized we were doing more socializing and eating than actually pedalling... quick shot of coffee and off we went. Taking a bit of a lead, I soon lost Michelle and Olivier, specially in the descents where I like to go hard. Even so, at some points the sheer natural beauty of this region made me so ecstatic that I started laughing alone and crying out loud of joy with the landscapes and towns I was seeing.

I immediately fell in love with Gourdon as soon as I saw it, perched over its magnificent hill, the road seemed to surround it in the same awe I was, giving me the chance to photograph it from almost every angle… what else could I ask? An Icarus-like paraglider making of this one ‘free as a bird’ experience and making me remember that: the best things in this World are out there as long as we are willing to go that extra mile to reach your goals!

Descending through the meandering roads of Provence, the descent back to Villeneuve Loubet was of utmost pleasure and changed my initial perspective completely, bundling up moments of joy, camaraderie, shared passion and making it one of the most happy cycling moments ever!

In the memory of Louis Caput, you have here one very honorable sportive thanks to the cycling club Etoile sportive de Villeneuve Loubet cyclisme!

Merci beaucoup pour cette merveilleuse aventure !

Paris-Nice Challenge: riding like a Pro!

Ivan Blanco

Español, por aquí

Which keen cycling amateur doesn't dream of riding like a pro…?

803 riders, up to 123 kms, +2000 m elevation gain... it’s the Paris-Nice Challenge!

That opportunity has knocked on the doors of the almost 1000 brave riders that signed up for the 1st ever Paris-Nice cycling Challenge on March 12th. The choice was between 2 routes, one almost identical to the Stage 7 and last for the Pros who had been racing from Paris down to Nice; gruelling 123kms and more than 2000m of elevation gain were to put even the most seasoned (pro) amateur to the test. For less ambitious or sprinters, a shorter 96kms route opened the opportunity for a wider range of cyclists, although not be dismissed as easy either.

A common ritual of most cyclists isn't exactly what the rest of mortals consider Weekend... no enthusiastic rider wakes up at ten, so alarm check the night before, bike wash, lube it, energy bars stocking and one good night sleep are only a few of the ‘rules’ for one big ride day.. The occasion was worth it, we were to ride the same roads that World Cycling Champions were going to race the next day!

Early riser

Safety, food and coffee!

The good things of taking part in a sportive is not only the pleasure of riding with fellow passionate riders, but also the many voluntary locals that are spread over the route to ensure your safety and even block the cars for safe passage in dangerous crossroads or roundabouts. Add to this, several feeding stops that help you ride lighter but still get the so needed energy, a bit of riders’ favourite drink, coffee or even some mechanics for a quick fix, and an honour medal is always a nice finishing treat. However, what would be riding Nice’s most beautiful scenic roads without a beautiful snap, focusing this time on my riding, the option to have photographers catch you is a rare opportunity that I couldn't let go; I do lots of pics, only not of myself. Although you might not appear as good as the pros, it's one nice souvenir:

Paris-Nice Challenge - © Sportograf 2016

It is a magical experience to ride the same roads that pro riders of the caliber of Alberto Contador or Ritchie Porte were to take just 24h later, both former champions of the Paris-Nice Race and strong contenders of the World famous Tour de France. In 2015, the last stage and arrival to Col d’Eze was decisive for the final result, as it would again for this year's edition, making it one of the most exciting race finish.

Quick return to Nice before the decisive Col d'Eze - Team Tinkoff Saxo

When 4 seconds mean a lot...

With the departure and arrival set at the unique Promenade des Anglais, the Col d’Eze became one of the main actors, especially for Alberto Contador who gave it all in this traditional climb. After one week leading with the yellow Jersey, Sky Team rider Geraint Thomas had in front one fierce contender in the Spanish Contador, Team Tinkoff Saxo, who performed one of his most memorable rides. The terrific Grave de Peille ascension and the mentioned Col, were Contador’s allies, increasing his positions exponentially, so much, that the so prestigious victory was at at fingertips reach… unfortunately, his so desired win was not going to happen.

With only 4 seconds difference, Geraint Thomas gave it all in the descent to Nice and managed to keep the yellow jersey and final win of the Paris-Nice; this nail-biting Stage 7 and the amateurs challenge made this weekend one unforgettable cycling experience!

Geraint Thomas, winner of the Paris-Nice: only 4s!

As an appetizer of this year's Grand Tours, the Paris-Nice and the soon to come Paris-Roubaix are the perfect season start for the cycling fans eager to see, touch and feel the exciting World of Pro cycling. Enjoy below a few pictures of this unique opportunity!

Stay tuned for more cycling adventures!

Rendez-Vous with History... the 19th Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique!

Ivan Blanco

Español, por aquí

When history meets Monte-Carlo...

... that's when 2015 World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier wins for a 3rd time in a row at the Monte-Carlo Rally, making his place in the Motorsport history even greater. As long as he kept his pace and car in one piece, the victory was again at arms length for him and his copilot Julien Ingrassia. The Monte-Carlo edition is one of the least forgiving ones in the WRC calendar, which saw several of the top contenders succumb to its treacherous parcour.

Making history... Ogier & Ingrassa’s hattrick: 3rd win in Monte-Carlo.

With a slight change of time and track, this year's climax for the fans was held on the upper part of Monaco's port (where the F1 boxes are during the Grand Prix). After yet another great showcase to everyone's delight, the start of this 84th edition was as usual scheduled that same evening from the famous Casino square:

Making yet again the podium of one of the most prestigious races, Ogier may revalidate his World title a 3rd time in a row, if the Monte-Carlo tradition holds true;  7 out of the last 9 Monte-Carlo Rally winners ended up as World Champs, so, as I said on my last post, you may start betting...

Without giving the racing fans almost time to rest, another unique racing event just started 3 days after, history and tradition will take over Europe and Monaco's streets for the 19th Rally Monte-Carlo Historique

Monte-Carlo Rally Historique Sunset ride

The Historique edition is not just an ode to the unique and beautiful engines that took part in Monte-Carlo's Rally history, it's a version of the Rally that celebrates the pure explorer and traveler spirit that made the Rally Monte-Carlo so special and World famous back in 1911, when it all started. With departure points spreaded all over Europe, the 27th of January marks the starting date for the first contenders to hit the road, Oslo and Glasgow, followed by Bad Homburg, Barcelona and Reims on January 29th.

Oslo, Glasgow, Bad Homburg, Barcelona, Reims... destination: Monaco!

Wishing no mechanical failures nor accidents, the 300 registered participants will gather and showcase their classic beauties on Saturday 30th at the magnificent Gorges du Verdon from where they will start their journey across the Côte d'Azur's awe-inspiring landscapes, reaching at the end Monaco's glamorous streets that same evening. Every car lover and traveler can only feel envious about such a journey, and if you're around the area, admiring cars from all ages is a Rendez-Vous not to miss.

Remember the main dates:

January 27th - Start in Oslo & Glasgow

January 29th - Start in Bad Homburg, Barcelona & Reims

January 30th - Start in Gorges du Verdon & finish in Monaco

February 3rd - Arrival at night in Monaco for the last stage from 1.50am

Click here for more info.

Will you miss this unique opportunity to see the perfect mix of classic beauty, glamour, adventure and travel spirit?

While you mark it in your agendas, have a small appetizer below and admire some of the vintage beauties that will be back on the Riviera's roads!

This post is part of my Racing Series, stay tuned
on Twitter & Instagram for more!