Helwan Ride(counterclockwise): David’s farewell

May 20, 2016

Seven riders took the start: Rick, Fritz, David, Pascal, Marcel, Olivier and I. Ah, and there was also Chris who arrived 10’ late and tried hard to chase down the peloton in vain, even on the wrong route. We got to see him only at the finish line at Greco with new shoes that replaced his 30 year old socks with cleats.

Olivier made a come-back after his last ride in February, where he also struggled. This suggests it might be a good idea to get some training ahead of the big rides (Rule #5). His compatriots also made sure to give him the usual treatment for newcomers in the first leg to Helwan. On top of that, after the first stop at km 34 junction of the Asyout road with the Regional Ring Road,  his bike also paid tribute to the lack of action: the chain went on strike as we headed off up slope for the 37 km long leg. Only Fritz was aware of this and was there to help, so he will get an award for this.

While the peloton wondered what happened to these guys, we learned from the driver that Chris came out of the blue and rode with Olivier on the long leg. Fritz tried to connect, but we were 5 and the wind was coming against us at 19 km/h (according to the prognosis), so he had to talk to himself for 1h45’, but enjoyed very much the landscape.

At about the middle of the leg Marcel punctured, and while he was changing the tube the sag wagon miraculously appeared with Pascal’s repertoire of tools and wheels, so he got a spare wheel within seconds, “a la Tour de France”, and we only lost 4 minutes.

After we restarted things became hairy: David launched his first of several attacks aimed at dropping Pascal. The first one got him a small gap to the peloton, but the head wind was strong and he was reeled in. The second attack was contested by Rick and me, and I thought the others got dropped. I realized how mistaken I was when I saw Pascal and Marcel taking their turns. Then a third attack with the same outcome: nobody got dropped. This must have become frustrating for David, and this on his farewell ride.

We got to the top of the mountain altogether despite further shakes. There, Pascal made his move as the terrain became flatter, making lots of damage. David counterattacked on the hills of the last 5 km and he was definitely determined to take victims, evidently by his zig-zag course and looking behind (he has been watching the Giro obviously). Eventually he got rid of Pascal, and later of Rick, but he had to dispute a photo finish against Marcel and me at the finish line of the Ain Soukhna Bridge, whose winner depends on where you draw the line.

At this second stop, Pascal’s car with water came like fallen from heaven. Fritz rejoined the ride there, and the six of us started the way back on the Ain Soukhna road, now with favorable wind. Shortly before the toll booth, I ran out of legs, so what happened next comes from what I believe are reliable sources.

Pascal and Fritz detached from the others on the descent (true, you can see it in the flybys), but Pascal decided to wait for them for the sprint. It back-fired on him, as Rick surprisingly took him on in the sprint line by half a machine or so. Now it’s clear that his purpose of breaking a record of Mokattam repeats last week was to improve his sprinting skills. In any case, they get a scold for not honoring the tradition of letting the rider on his farewell win the sprint, although he tried hard to get it.

This ride segment ended with Fritz falling down on one of the speed bumps of the bottom of the road, fortunately without consequences. This is where the photo of the participants, except Chris, was taken. The ride ended as usual at the Greco without more incidents, and a superb mood. It was another fantastic ride, well done everybody!

Stage Awards:

Best start, aka the Suspicious Breakfast Award: Pascal

Combativité:  David

Sprinter: Rick

KOM: David

Good Samaritan: Fritz

Regularité: Marcel, all the day in the front pack

Lanterne Rouge: Olivier

Don Quijote against the windmills: Chris

Logistics provided by Pascal, without which the ride would not have been possible, many thanks amigo.

Luis

from left: Rick, Marcel, Luis, Pascal, Fritz David and Olivier

from left: Rick, Marcel, Luis, Pascal, Fritz, David and Olivier

 

at the Regional Ring Road bridge

at the Regional Ring Road bridge

 

 

Porto Sokhna Ride Spring 2016

April 22, 2016

What can be said about the Porto Sokhna ride that hasn’t been said before? Well quite a bit, since you ask, especially because quite a lot happened that’s never happened before. It started normally enough: an early start, a deep sense of foreboding and a small group with full pockets. Luis, David Luna, Sherif, Omar Khairy, Geoff, Fritz and me. We rolled steadily to the AS road where we were joined by a few locals while we stopped for the customary puncture repair. I was shocked to discover it wasn’t Omar! Actually I don’t think Omar punctured all day. So there’s one thing that hasn’t happened before.

 

CCC members among the pilgrimage of cyclists at the Cairo toll booth

CCC members among the pilgrimage of cyclists at the Cairo toll booth

 

Things started to get really different at the first toll gate. A bunch of 40 or so local riders gathered together from the Biscletta team and the Cairo Crit group and others. Amongst this pro-looking crew were Sir Omar, David Gamal and Ibrahim Helal. It seemed like the wind was going to be difficult so I welcomed the prospect of strength in numbers. The CCC group headed out first but we all joined forces a little before the now demolished Jiffy Lube and the pace really lifted. There was a flurry of efforts on the front and we stayed all together for about 20k sitting on something close to 45kph. Eventually things fractured but the mood was positive not least because our fresh legs told us the wind was at our backs. Geoff had to turn back at the Helwan exit and he was later able to confirm the wind direction after copping it head on for the entire solo return journey.

The owner at the restaurant at the 73k mark must have got the shock of his life when 40+ way honed hardmen rolled in and caused an unexpected spike in sales. With all these new and unusual occurrences it was comforting to experience something completely typical for the Porto Sokhna ride: Pascal with his car and driver joining in at the halfway mark. He was accompanied by Chris who achieved his own unique record of having a 30 year age difference between his shoes and the rest of his kit. Chapeau!

Storming the Restaurant at km 70

Storming the Restaurant at km 73

On the stretch to the Sokhna gate I was in a small group with David, Fritz and Luis. We swapped turns at the front and with the generous wind, made short work of a bit of road that usually burns a few matches. Not so with the last section to Porto Sokhna. Pascal made good use of his fresh legs and drove the pace hard and together with Mohamed from the Cairo Crit team got half the bunch onto the Strava leaderboard for this segment.

And then all that was left was the Sky Mall climb. Easy to say, hard to do. Luis dropped his chain at the base, security made a grab for David and I but we busted through with great optimism. I felt good, then OK, then awful, then close to death. Each corner the summit seemed closer yet impossibly higher. David was out of sight now. Only a cyclist knows this agony. Finally at the top we collapsed in the shade and willed the malaise to ease quickly. We watched each arriving rider deal with their suffering. Omar, Omar and David arrived almost together wearing their masks of pain. Two big records fell: Nick’s KOM eclipsed by Sir Omar and over 20 riders making it to the summit finish. Kudos to all.

Rick H.

Here are 21 Sky Mall finishers: absolute record!

Here are the 21 or so Sky Mall finishers: absolute record!

 

Sir Omar Adel landing the KOM at the summit in superb fashion

Sir Omar Adel landing the KOM at the summit in superb fashion

 

Omar Khairy and David Gamal giving everything at the finish line, prior to collapsing

Omar Khairy and David Gamal giving everything at the finish line, prior to collapsing

 

CCC finishers from left: Luis, Rick, Chris, Pascal, David L. & Fritz

CCC finishers from left: Luis, Rick, Chris, Pascal, David L. & Fritz

 

Hell man! ride…

February 19, 2016

6:30am – A group of bicycle riders, that do not seem to have much of night social life, gather at the usual place. Hungry for asphalt like a pack of wolves they get going for what will be the first long ride of the season. Thankfully the bright orange mixed with ochre of their jerseys (ochre? really? thanks for that Mike…) make them look a lot less scary than any wolf.

A records number of 11 riders start the stage. Way too many to name them all. Will they all finish? to early to tell.

7:20am – A group of 4 riders manages to break out on the way to the toll in Sokhna road. They complete the segment and recharge batteries while waiting on the peloton and the grupetto. Hmm…. it seems some of the guys are saving energy for the regional ring road portion. What do they know that the rest don’t? probably nothing, it is an easy downhill section with tail wind, nothing to worry about.

8:30am – After the traditional puncture from Luis, the team gathers at the entrance of the regional ring road. At this point only 8 have made the cut, natural selection is tough when on a bike. Big round of applause for Olivier who is still amongst the living…but not for long I am afraid.

Surprise! who said tail wind? a strong 3/4 head wind is giving us a big welcome hug. Everybody turns to Pascal…you knew! After claiming innocence, Pascal takes the lead and the group decides that a little wind will not stop the pack. Wheel to wheel we start what will be a memorable 36km in the regional ring road.

Long section of fight against unforgiving nature, even going downhill is difficult. Helwan is called? Hell man! some are saying. After a couple of km the first men are lost, there is a good team effort to keep the survivals united. However, strategies start to kick in. The wolves are getting hungrier but nobody makes any move, until…

Until Pascal places one of his mythical attacks! in a climb! mysteriously dropping everybody. Everybody? no! Luis and Rick manage to get the extra watts and stick to Pascal’s wheel. Geoff, David and Jason can only see the attackers escape; there is nothing they can do.

There are 15Km to go, will the three leaders maintain the distance? Will David, Geoff and Jason with his TT bike come back?, is Joe also catching up?, is Olivier alive? suspense is at its peak!

The leaders were the strongest and smartest, and despite the historical French-German animosity, Luis and Pascal managed to work together, with strong contribution from Rick (who is believed to have spent 93% of the time in front, but who is counting) and maintained the distance. However, the “entente cordiale” cannot last forever. Pascal, having as its ultimate objective in life to drop Luis, pushes for the sprint. There is no record, but apparently Pascal did win the sprint and got crowned as king for a day of the regional ring road. Congratulations!

Jason, David and Geoff and not too far behind, but far enough to be bullied by the winners, something about age average that I cannot recall. Joe finishes at an honorable 7th place while there is no sign of Olivier.

When the crew sees a group of Vulture flying in circles, the worst is imagined about Olivier’s fate. But just when a SWAT team is being prepared for rescue mission, he shows up. Apparently not tired at all, “a mechanical problem” he says.

10:00am – After a long 99km ride the team manages to get to the Taca gas station virtually with no water in the bottles and no gas in the tanks, David and Joe get there last, well, not counting Olivier who is again having “mechanical problems”. At this point we observe a suspicious 4×4 vehicle, we recognize it…it is Pascal’s car waiting to get his new bicycle away so he avoids the usual mechanical checks of end of stage. Did he have a motor? maybe electromagnetic wheel? we will never know. What we do know is that a rider that does not finish the stage is immediately disqualified. Pascal loses his king for the day trophy. The judges decide to award to the second place, congratulations Luis! you are the king for a day of the regional ring road.

After the traditional picture of the stage, the team congratulates each other and get back into their bikes for the last 20km to Maadi.

10:45am – 120km and 4:15hrs later, the last survivors manage to get to Greco’s safe heaven. Only two men actually officially finished the stage, Luis and David. It seems the rest could not wait to get quickly back home and tell their wives the great adventure they just went through. Unless somebody was in a hurry to travel to China, but who would believe that excuse!?

So, all in all, we had a bit of everything in this ride: Tail and Head wind, punctures, attacks, sprints, suspicions. But above all, team work, good vibes, carrot cake and coffee!

Helwan Ride 2016, checked!

David L.

 

from left: Geoff, Luis, Pascal, Jason, Rick, David & Joe. absent: Olivier, a km away

from left: Geoff, Luis, Pascal, Jason, Rick, David & Joe. absent: Olivier, a km away

 

at the Regional Ring Road exit

at the Regional Ring Road exit

 

 

 

 

Lake Qarun Ride

Fayoum – 12/4/2015

 

Since arriving in Cairo 2 ½ years ago I’ve grown weary of conversations that contain the phrase “before the revolution”. These tales inevitably refer nostalgically to amazing adventures and experiences but usually finish with that other dreaded phrase – “you can’t do that nowadays”.  But there is always an exception to the rule especially in Egypt and when the French are involved.

 

Pascal, Hisham, David Gamal, Omar Khairy and I set off in 2 cars at 6.15 and quickly left the smog blanket behind us heading towards Qaroun lake.  After some deft cross country trail finding Pascal led us straight to the end of a sealed road seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The skies were crystal clear and pretty cold as we began riding at 7.30. The pace was very casual which suited me fine.

 

Suddenly a pickup appeared from nowhere and in the back were five guys in dark gear with black and white headscarves. Its Daesh! said Omar laughing. It was just a bunch of guys out for a drive or to go fishing or something. We all had a bit of a laugh but even Hisham said he thought something else for a split second.

 

The road was really nice and when the lake came into view the scenery was the best I’ve had on a ride in Egypt. A massive improvement on vacant, half-built apartment blocks! At one point we turned left and descended for about 2 ks towards the lake. Hisham and I were looking for the continuation of the road but there was none. It’s a nice steady climb out  – one for the power climbers but nobody went full gas. An easy KOM for Luis next time…??

 

The big adventure was still ahead of us in the form of large sand drifts. Pascal had warned us but I think it was way more extensive than anyone had anticipated. I don’t think there is any combination less suited than bike shoes and sand. At one point the sand in my shoes threatened to push my feet out. I think we wore out our cleats more than out tyres!

 

Eventually the walking was behind us and we arrived at the end of the lake. David and Omar decided to rev up their engines and hit out along the lake’s southern shore at a cracking pace. I could barely hold their wheel but I found an excuse when David pointed out that my rear brake was hard against the rim! Must’ve bumped it when I was carrying my bike over one of the sand drifts.

 

Soon we were out of time and we piled back into the vehicles and headed home. Big thanks to Pascal for doing all the organizing and to Pascal and Hisham for providing cars and drivers.

 

Rick Harman

from left: Pascal, Rick, David, Omar & Hisham

from left: Pascal, Rick, David, Omar & Hisham

 

Fishermen in the background

Fishermen in the background?

 

where is the road?

where is the road?

 

good mood in the sand

good mood in the sand

 

We found the road !

We found the road !

Porto Soukhna Sky Mall Nov. 2015

November 20, 2015

Gathering in the half-light to the sounds of brake levers clicking and car doors shutting, we greeted each other and made last minute arrangements. The mood was rather business-like. Luis didn’t even wait for the usual V past the hour before our meager group of seven set out on the Queens stage of the season – Porto Sokhna. There were 3 Sky Mall virgins; Olivier, David Luna and myself. Luis and Joe knew enough to be dangerous while Pat and Mike promised to support us to the Jiffy Lube before returning.

 

My hopes for a favorable wind were crushed on the way to the tollbooth. It was blowing steady onto our left shoulders and a moody fog rose out of the Wadi. We settled into our own rhythms and began to discover whether we had brought our good legs today. Mike seemed to have good legs and good spirit but he was crappy domestique. As we approached the Jiffy Lube he played devil’s advocate, tempting us to turn back to Greco for cake and coffee. We ignored him. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

 

We were down to five men and the job was still ahead of us. The fog intensified as we pushed through to the Helwan exit but all agreed that the cold and damp were preferable to full sun. From there we all played the game of the group ride: contribute to pacesetting then sit in the wheels, eat, drink & conserve for your next pull. It was a pretty nice team effort and although we lost Olivier a few K’s before the tollbooth, he showed up soon after and replenished for the final push.

 

At last the wind was at out backs but now the road was against us. It wouldn’t be a CCC ride without encountering a bit of road works but after 110k’s, cranking through 3k’s of gravel did not get a ‘thumbs up’ from anyone. The pace was good, the Red Sea was blue, the legs were on edge in anticipation of the Sky Mall. Olivier took a turn at the front and blew the bunch apart. I wondered what was in that Columbian banana.

 

And then we were below it. The Sky Mall kicks you in the guts right from the get go. David went straight off the front and I went straight into granny gear. My legs were empty but I knew I needed to hold on for just a few more minutes. Each corner I looked up to see David’s yellow jersey still moving impossibly higher. As the Sky Mall came into sight Luis went past me but I had no answer. And then we were there – completely spent but rewarded by an amazing view. It was an incredible ride with fantastic people.

 

Congratulations to David for winning the day and big thanks to Luis and Joe who organized cars, driver and supplies. Massive Kudos to Olivier who suffered the most but never quit and rode with amazing courage up the whole Sky Mall climb.

Rick H.

 

from left: Rick, Joe, Luis, David &Olivier

from left: Rick, Joe, Luis, David & Olivier

 

Olivier finishing the ordeal

Olivier finishing the ordeal

 

The victory ceremony

The victory ceremony

 

Joe capturing the happy finishers

Joe capturing the exhausted but happy finishers

Fall 2015 Rides

Observatory Ride 

October 16th, 2015

Again a very well attended ride with a clear majority for the locals (7 at the top) over the khawagas (4). We enjoyed a lovely weather, moderate wind, new faces at the front of the peloton, no delays due to punctures or mechanicals, and a lot of new or old riders that partially joined the ride. At the end it was under 5 hours moving time for the 141 km distance, 4 km less than before due to the new extension of the El-Zahra road that connects with the Ain Soukhna road.

The highlight, as always, is the ascent to the Observatory, aka Nick’s Hill, as he left the country unbeaten there. On this stage the KOM was taken by Omar Khairy, followed by David Gamal and David Luna. Among other new riders, Sherif finally showed up at the Observatory for the first time after all these years. Mabouk everybody!

The ride back ended up with David and Geoff, who departed from the entrance to the Ain Soukhna highway earlier than the Bescletta & Co. bunch (I wonder what took them that long to take off?) on a breakaway. Pascal and Luis departed later and tried in vain to chase them down. Pascal had to take care of the people who left things in his car, finalizing at the toll booth, while the rest did a straight 57 km non-stop ride all the way to the Greco, unusual for CCC rides.

Many thanks to Saint Pascal for the logistic support; without it this ride would not be possible. For the new guys: he invented the ride back in 2012, and what a great cycling adventure it has been since then.

from left: Hussein, Omar (KOM), Sherif, New Rider (Name?), David G., Luis, David L., Geoff, Pascal & Ibrahim; photo by Karim Abdelrahman

from left: Hussein, Omar (KOM), Sherif, New Rider (Name?), David G., Luis, David L., Geoff, Pascal & Ibrahim; photo by Karim Abdelrahman

at the Ain Soukhna road entrance, getting ready for the long segment

at the Ain Soukhna road entrance, getting ready for the long segment

 

Helwan counter-clockwise Ride

September 16, 2015

This ride is rather new but is on the way to a CCC classic. It has been ridden 5 times since Pascal scouted it (who else?) and we first rode it on February 2014. The highlight has always been the leg from the Soukhna road bridge over the Regional Ring Road to the Helwan crossing, a 36 km segment with a -1% average slope.

There was a front bunch composed of four riders, and eventually David, Pascal and Hussein came in first and broke the legendary record of Nick and Thomas from March 2014. David with his full TT gear attained an average of 50.3 km/h; this is going to be hard to beat with own means. Congratulations! Pascal is still annoyed he was not carrying a GPS to dispute the KOM for a few seconds (depends on who started first).

It was good to have Euan back on the group after a year or so of baby sabbatical. Finishers of the ride in Maadi were Joe, Geoff, David, Hussein and Luis. It took us under 4 hours to complete the 120 km ride at the usual coffee shop. Well done everybody.

Luis

Hussein, Geoff, Luis, David, Pascal, Joe & Euan at the Ataq Gas station in Helwan

Hussein, Geoff, Luis, David, Pascal, Joe & Euan at the Ataq Gas station in Helwan

 

 

CCC Sakara Ride Friday June 5th

This Friday was our (the kiwis) farewell ride.

 

We chose to take everyone on an epic 140km up the Soukhna Road, down the Helwan Road, across the Nile and back past the Dashour and Sakara pyramids to end at the ferry crossing back over to Maadi. Having run and ridden our bikes through the villages previously, we knew what to expect but I think some of the other riders were a little bemused by the rough roads, the mud and the flocks of children that swarmed around us at every stop.

 

Luckily the weather and the wind were in our favour this week, so, apart from tired legs, the ride ended well. A few highlights from the ride include: Daniel’s solo ‘attack’ from the cement works (he wants it mentioned that a) he wasn’t riding a tri-bike and b) he wasn’t wearing a silly helmet); a three man break away including Nick, Omar A and Daniel…until Nick rode the trio into a pothole the size of the Grand Canyon resulting in bent handle bars and a flat tyre (welcome relief for Meg and Adam who could finally catch the group); Luis’s Strava obsession meaning only segment ends can be stopping points; Omar Adel’s herculean pulls; Pascal for riding the entire ride J; and the smile on the little boy’s face when Mike gave him half a bottle of coke (not to mention that Egypt’s statistics on type 2 diabetes have just increased).

 

Omar Adel’s now infamous comment to Daniel also cannot go unmentioned, “We will miss your anger,” and true to form, the rabid dog made a couple of appearances including a tirade of abuse at a tuk tuk driver and some push and shove with a couple of old ladies on the ferry.

 

Daniel and I have enjoyed our time as part of the CCC, often to the point that being able to ride our bikes on a Friday morning has ‘saved our sanity’ when life has become a bit too hectic and crazy.  We will miss all of you – the banter, the competition and the friendship.

 

Daniel wants me to finish with a quote that put things into perspective for him … this time from Nick Cameron: “Riding your bike in Egypt is better than not riding your bike in Egypt.”

 

Meg Wall

Made it to the river! A welcome break for some sore legs at this stage. From left: Omar, Adam, Dan, Nick, Meg, Kareem, Hussein, Mohamed, Luis, Geoff, Olivier, Ibrahim; photo by Pascal

Made it to the river! A welcome break for some sore legs at this stage. From left: Omar, Adam, Dan, Nick, Meg,  Ibrahim, Kareem, Hussein, Mohamed, Luis, Geoff, Olivier, Mike; photo by Pascal

 

people from another planet

people from another planet

 

Water stop in the wop wops!

Water stop in the wop wops!

 

on the Nile valley roads; photo by Pascal (almost fell down for doing this)

on the Sakkara road; photo by Pascal (almost fell down for doing this)

waiting for the ferry

waiting for the ferry…

Olivier at the end of his debut ride, with Meg and Pascal ready for the ambulance

Olivier at the end of his debut ride, with Meg and Pascal ready for the ambulance



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