CCC Special – Cairo – Porto Soukhna Sky Mall – Cairo

November 10, 2017

The most recent drainage of CCC Core riders led to the fact that only Luis, Euan, Chris and I lined up for the semi-annual SkyMall ride at 5:45am in front of CAC. Chris, still in recovery mode but fortunately back on the bike would turn again at the Regional Ring Road. Fritz was expected to join us too in the beginning but his new father duties and some last minute nappy changes made him being late but he eventually joined us on the AS highway. JP, a true night ride aficionado, already started earlier as usual and Pascal was expected to join us at the Petrol station at KM69. Euan and I had furthermore the “stupid plan” to ride the way back on our bikes as well.

We took off in a very good mood, enjoying the prime of the day and headed towards the Katameya toll both where a delegation of local riders from the Cairo Crits was supposed to join us as well. We were wondering who of the local young guns actually would complete the peloton and whether they would be on time. We hit the toll both spot on at the agreed time and two pleasant surprises awaited us. Firstly the group of local riders was much bigger than expected and more surprisingly almost everybody was on time. Luis strict regime in the call’s for the ride certainly helped here. More than 10 local riders were joining us, most of them familiar faces since the Soukhna 96 race. The age span of the peloton also increased from 16 to 50+ which basically made this a 3 generations ride. Only David G. was a bit late with his heartrate already through the roof in order to catch up with the rest of the group.

Heading East in the morning

“Gruppo compatto” and the peloton started its journey to Porto Soukhna. The pace was steady, with most of the riders contributing and taking turns but as usual the CCC guys were prominent at the front. Also proud young father Fritz made his appearance and joined us till the regional Ring Road. He was highly motivated and seemingly over the moon to be back on the bike.

No real hostilities were fired until the next stop at KM69 where Pascal & JP were waiting for us. Just shortly before the stop, a quick injection of pace made the peloton a bit nervous and one of the riders almost rode into me with his pedal hitting my front wheel. Luckily no damage here and all kept the rubber on the ground. A short refuel at the petrol station and the journey continued. There was still no urgency what so ever in the peloton to really speed up the pace. It might be that the dreaded Sky Mall climb made the peloton a bit overly cautious. Nevertheless we made good grounds and soon approached the Soukhna toll gate for the next short stop. The very steady pace so far and the slightly bigger group as usual played in Euan’s and my cards as we could save some essential matches for the way back.

Heading south towards Porto Soukhna a nice tailwind and a cooperative peloton made the pretty fast pace of almost 38km/h for that stretch looking comfortably easy. New KOM’s & PR’s were collected on this segment and shortly before the start of the climb it was my turn again on a slight downhill and out of nowhere there was a gap to the group. My legs felt great but I sat up again as I had no clue where the climb started and also did not want to burn unnecessary matches as I still had the way back in my head.

Enjoying the beautiful coastal panorama

 

Approaching the wall, still all thumbs up

 

Arriving at the bottom of the SkyMall climb strange things started to happen. Suddenly the UCI commissars (aka over motivated security guards) stopped the peloton. Euan, Luis, David Gamal and one more of the local drivers did not follow the rules and sneaked through the arms of the very nervous security guards seeking for an unfair advantage in grabbing the infamous SkyMall climb KOM. Karma is a bitch though and at least David Gamal did get an immediate revenge on the climb, more to that later.

In the meanwhile tensions at the security gate increased as the impatient peloton wanted to start the climb and the security kept on holding us back. A slight push here and there and at some point one of the local riders, Medo, was lying on the floor with his bike. This was the sign that a proper mediation was needed which was taken over by the father of one of our local riders who supported the locals during the whole ride in his car and who was in charge of picturing the whole ride.  Thanks to his mediation skills – well, for my sensitive Central European ears the heated discussion level never sounded like mediation in the first place but it obviously did the job – the peloton eventually was given green light to go after a few minutes. Off the guns, and the young local riders blasted away but it seemed that little they knew about how nasty this short but super steep climb is.

Shortly before the climb started I told myself and everybody that I will not fight for the KOM as Euan and I had a bigger goal today but enough was enough. Already upset by the incident at the security gate my cycling pride took the better of me and the hunt begun. I collected one after the other and at the beginning of the short sand/gravel section midway into the climb I overtook the last of the young guns which had to wait at the security gate and he cracked too. Far further up I could see two orange dots zigzagin’ their way to the top, this must have been Euan and Luis battling it out for the day’s honors together with the two locals.

Around the next corner and surprisingly I saw David G. walking with his shoes in his hand. He apparently exploded and cracked big time whilst trying to challenge Luis & Euan (remember, the Karma thing). This gave me some further extra motivation and I kept grinding my way to the top where Luis & Euan were already waiting for us. Euan was first on the top (virtual KOM with a time of 12:02 min), followed by Luis and I completed the podium but it was not clear who eventually grabbed the Strava KOM due to the incident at the gate. Drop by drop the rest of the group arrived on the top and we saw pictures no cyclist wants to see. Riders were taking “Nibalis” and the youngest rider in the rainbow jersey even took a sprint to the finish line after being towed up the mountain 🙂

Luis, Marcel and Euan on the summit

 

Mahmoud finishing at the front of this gruppetto

 

Nevertheless, hats-off to the entire group who made it to the top!

 

The first bunch of finishers got an enthusiastic fan

 

All 15 finishers from both teams (sorry we dont know all the names of the CCs)

A short controversial debate started whether the front group should have been disqualified at all but eventually all was good and the obligatory group pictures were made in the usual harmony with the spectacular view of the Red Sea in the background.

In the matter of the Strava KOM for the Sky Mall Climb rumors say that alternative segments were created on Saturday to eliminate the “military factor” which gives strong indication that Euan’s time for the full climb was actually beaten. However, as per the official segment his time is the one to beat next May, Mabrouk Euan!

The dynamic duo ready for the return voyage, still all smiles

Euan and I kept the break on the top as short as possible and then started the adventure of riding our way home on our trusted steeds instead of sitting in one of the comfortable support cars. Some young local riders looked at us in complete disbelief. We waved goodbye to the group and cautiously navigated our way down on the tricky decent to Porto Soukhna.

Up north along the coast a steady but not overly strong headwind gave us company until we reached Ain Soukhna and we turned left again back on the AS highway heading home to Cairo. On the Coastal road Euan’s and my legs still felt pretty much OK and we switched turns with the precision of a Swiss watch and maintained a reasonably steady pace despite the head wind.

Once we were back on the AS highway and after the first long climb to reach the plateau of the rolling hills back to Cairo the first signs of fatigue became noticeable. The constant headwind on the coastal road, the changing winds (cross or slight head) on the AS highway and the sheer distance of + 200km simply started to take its toll. The usual symbiosis of saddle and chamois did not feel symbiotic at all anymore and the legs also had seen happier and smoother spins.

Euan started to struggle too and we agreed that we would stop for a short break again at the same petrol station where we stopped in the morning. Without speaking much to each other we pedaled steady and knocked of mile after mile. I overcame my crisis and all pain in the “seating area” disappeared again. Nevertheless, we were pretty happy to see the first signs of the petrol station on the horizon. Unfortunately this was the wrong one & still under construction so we had to pedal for about another 5km until we reached the station we were looking for.

Euan in the meantime was really struggling and mumbled something of getting into the car at the meeting point for our safety car. Euan organized a safety net in form of a car in case we would have issues with getting back during daylight.

It took a little extra motivation and I explained Euan that there is absolutely no point in getting into a car at this stage when the sun is bright and the living is easy. Euan happily accepted the clear logic of my convincing argument or he may as well just embraced rule #5 and after a well-deserved break, and some energy refueling we swung us again on our bikes to tackle the remaining 70km.

We still had ample of time to finish within daylight but nevertheless we maintained a solid steady pace over the whole way back from toll station to toll station of nearly 28km/h despite the slight headwind. Once we passed the meeting point where our safety car was supposed to wait Euan just waved to the driver and from there he never looked back. We kept on pedaling and once the regional ring road came in sight we felt back on home soil which made us free up the last energy reserves.

 

Cairo in sight !

Arriving at the Cairo toll both with the sun still shining in our tired faces came close to knockin’ on the door to Paradise. All smiles as we knew that bar disaster we actually made it back home on time and that we were able to complete our “crazy ride”.

Euan mentioned something like “but there is still one climb left” which made me wonder to which climb he was referring to. Ah yes, the usual slight uphill lead-out before the regular CCC sprint decision was still in front of us. On normal rides not really a climb but Euan had a valid point. After some 280+ kms this bubble on the tarmac seemed like a major obstacle.

However, in good faith we cruised towards the Sprint line and in a silent mutual agreement we for once did not contest the sprint. Probably a bad decision from my side, it would have been one of the rare occasions where I actually would have had a chance to truly challenge Euan in a sprint 🙂

The rest is history, back in Maadi we safely navigated through the usual Cairo traffic madness and touched home base before it was even dark.

Maadi in sight, just before sunset !

Strava says the ride was 299.9km long with 1’886m of elevation gain and it took us 10hrs 13 minutes moving time. The CCC crew grabbed furthermore 4 KOM’s on this ride, of which one is very controversial but this will be battled out again next May.

Thanks Euan for the great company on an Epic Ride and Luis & Pascal for the usual perfect organization and the support cars!

Vive le velo!

Marcel B.

Advertisements

Following years of preparation and minutes of planning, CCC was victorious in the inaugural El Sokhna 96 road race

September 29, 2017

With a CCC’s ranks depleted with the recent departures of riders such as Geoff Crawley, Rick Harman, Pat Brennan, and the injury sidelined trio of Chris, JP and Fritz, our race day team consisted of Luis, Joe, Pascal, Euan, and Marcel along with new additions to CCC, Jerome and Yan, both strong riders, and young Hussein along for the ride. We made our way to the rallying point at the Master Express gas station just before the Ain Sukhna Rd. toll gate, some riding others chauffeured, where numbers were affixed and final bike prep was completed in a far corner of the packed parking lot.

To organizers’ credit, the level of inclusion was commendable. A walk/ride around provided an illuminating look at the competition; from the sharply appointed Rapha-wearing crews to the tracksuit panted trainer-wearing enthusiasts, the field was wonderfully diverse. There were a good number of youngsters, and women present whose ranks also represented a good spread from absolute novices to seriously strong riders. With Hussein in his early 20s and Joe in the northern 50s, it’s fair to say that CCC captured the range of ages better than any other team. There were teams from Alexandria and Asyut adding to the national importance of the event. The variety of bikes was equally impressive, with many a Trinx lining up against a variety of high-end brands, a flood of Giants, and other assorted machines – with prices ranging from USD$100 to perhaps USD$10,000.

The published start time of 7.30am came and went with extended warm-up loops, final preparations, and humorous strategic “planning” ensuing. As ½ an hour of waiting turned into 1+, unplanned refueling before the race was necessary, with pre-race nerves beginning to get the better of some of the less experienced.

The support vehicle, manned with Chris providing tech support & driving, JP as a very vocal Director Sportif and Fritz providing encouragement, water, and capturing the event on video, headed for the start line just inside the toll gate and prepared for further waiting. It was pleasing to see a familiar and formal start line – complete with sponsor flags and banners, and an inflatable rainbow arch noting the apparent UCI sanctioning of the event!? Welcome to Egypt.

The course consisted of a stretch down to the second underpass, at the Regional Ring Road, looping back to the Cement Plant underpass and round again to the Regional ring road underpass before heading back to the finish line just inside the Cairo toll gate; all up about 69km. With a staggered start at 5 minute intervals the juniors,  then women went ahead of the 18-35 group, named the ‘Challengers’, with Euan and Hussein, followed a further 5 minutes behind with the Masters bunch containing the bulk of the CCC riders. Among the masters group were a few dark horses, one – Jesus, would figure prominently in the final outcome. While there were familiar faces in the bunch, Omar Mostafa and David Gamal were organizing the event and not riding.

Early efforts by CCC riders to start out at a fast pace with Joe blasting along at about 40kph were not successful with the bunch preferring tempo of around 35kph. As with many of the group rides, CCC riders did much of the work on the front and many others opting to preserve themselves. Jesus also made efforts to lead out and or push the bunch, but as with Joe’s, Marcels, and Luis’s attempts had less affect than desired. Pascal, as always provided a much needed engine in the bunch.The long steady climb toward the first turn started to sort the masters group as it had with the Challengers earlier. It had also decreased the gap between the two groups with the masters already gaining ground on the younger bunch.

Euan and Hussein were riding strongly in the Challengers but were faced with a rather more organized effort supporting one rider in particular. Euan in particular tried to instill a more orderly etiquette amongst the group but it was clear they were outnumbered and it was hard to function together. Many of the Egyptian riders had begun falling off the back during the first loop, and further confusion and splintering of the group occurred at the off ramp to the underpass when one of he race “helpers” wrongly directed at least four riders to continue on straight, missing the turn and losing any feasible chance to get on the podium. This was not the only confusing issue in the event. The support car had to make a long loop just to get back in touch with the race due to unclear turns and a pit stop. Euan and Hussein continued to utilize the other riders the best they could, with Euan making the smart choice to identify his biggest competition and stick to him like glue.

The final loop completed, the Masters’ bunch was now quickly coming up on the thinned out Challengers, and having shed their fair share of riders as well, including the hardworking Joe and Jerome who had both helped propel the Masters to catch the Challengers, burning many boxes of matches along the way, but none the less pushed for the finish just shy of the front group. Hussein had punctured shortly before. The CCC support car got him back on the road with a new rear wheel and towed him back to the nearest bunch and despite a valiant effort; Hussein wasn’t able to bridge from this group of dropped Masters and Challengers back to the main peloton. After heavy preparation in the months prior, and strong performance in the race, this was a bitter disappointment for him. It was made worse as there seemed to be none of the promised support from race officials.

The wind had been a factor from the start with a decent crosswind on the way out, and now, on the way home, it had become more of a headwind coming in from the right and the bunches were forming messy echelons from time to time with support vehicles and spectators getting a little too close. Finally the Master’s group swarmed around the remaining Challengers and began to dictate pace and positioning. Even in the combined group there was still a noticeable tendency to let CCC do the work and several attempts were made to lift the pace, Marcel and Luis both hitting the front only to find few takers. There were also some very half hearted ‘breaks’ by others, notably Mohamed Khalid, the Egyptian triathlon champion (?). This, coincidentally, is who Euan chase to stick to earlier in the race and there was tension in the riders supporting Khalid.

With 4 kms to go there seemed to be no useful organization of the bunch and with all breakaways aborted or caught quickly, it was looking like a bunch sprint would be inevitable. Then with about 2km to go, on the last down hill stretch, Jesus who had ridden a clever race, made a powerful move and pulled away from the peloton. The reaction from the peloton came from Luis, Yan and Marcel, but he managed to keep some 100 meters between himself and the group.  At 1 km to go, it was Mostafa Mahmoud and Mohamed Khaled,  who restarted the chase followed by Euan on the wheel of Mohamed Khalid and several other riders followed, including Pascal who had momentarily missed the break but worked tremendously hard to bridge, and the peloton was split with Marcel, Yan and Luis, who, having worked so hard all day, delivered our sprinters to the front. Pascal had made the jump to the lead riders but unfortunately noticed too late that the wheel he’d caught was done and with 500m to go had to go around the blown rider for another bridging effort.

With about 170 meters to go Euan saw his chance and started a magnificent acceleration away from Mohamed Khalid and Mostafa Mahmoud, quickly passing the now tiring Jesus on the uphill, 130m from the finish line. Head down and legs pumping, Euan continued to pull away to seal a clear and amazing victory well ahead of the 2nd place Khalid. Euan rode a smart race with little support for the majority of the ride.

CCC riders placed well both categories with Euan’s overall win placing him first in the Challengers.  In the Masters Jesus was the well deserved Champion, with Pascal 2nd and Yan 3rd, and  Luis finishing 4thand Marcel 5th. Post race speculation asking whether Euan’s dramatic sprint finish was boosted by his recent foray into interval power sessions at the Power Ride gym. However there was beer involved..

Chris Dermody

CCC Team, from left: Pascal, Luis, Marcel, Euan, Jerome, Yan, Hussein and Joe

 

Challenger Category on the way

 

CCC Masters controlling the race from the very beginning

 

Masters on the way

 

Euan in the Challengers peloton, doing his homework

 

Joe, Luis, Pascal, Marcel and Yan in the Masters peloton

CCC Race finishers, all in one piece

Luis receiving from Race Director Omar Adel the recognition to the CCC

 

 

 

Masters awards go to Yan, Jesus and Pascal

 

Challenger Category go to Mohamed, Euan and Mostafa.

 

Euan breaking a Velominati Rule !

 

Pascal’s customized cassette for the race, but where is the magic gear for the final ?

and the best for the end, the race showdown:

Helwan counter-clockwise, Rick and Geoff’s Farewell

Ridden June 2, 2017

I don’t know who suggested Helwan anticlockwise for my farewell ride. Maybe it was Geoff who was also being farewelled.  I wasn’t opposed to it. After all every Cairo ride has its unique mixture of pleasure and pain. My memories of previous Helwan anticlock rides are dominated by headwinds and false flats followed by frantic paceline activity on the way back through the toll booth to Maadi. Today would echo this and memory.

It was a nice sized group that hit the Autostraad and we made the most of the cooler weather, making pretty quick time through Helwan to the junction with the regional ring road. Nothing out of the ordinary here: just the usual array of locals shouting, donkey carts, pot holes, diesel fumes and spectacular countryside. I’m always fascinated by the sight of the forest of chimneys spouting black smoke in the middle distance. The pace was very solid and I wondered why people were in such a hurry. You never know what obscure segment the secret Strava Hunters might be targeting these days.

from left: Euan, Fritz, JP, Rick, Marcel, Geoff, Luis & Khadiga

this time with Joe leading the white jersey classification

 

After a short regroup and rest we faced we brace yourselves and faced the horror we all knew was awaiting us. The wind was in front, a little bit of left shoulder, but strong enough that more than a minute on the front was distinctly suboptimal. Fortunately I made it into a group of six who cooperated very politely for the bulk of the effort. Luis, Fritz, Ewan, Marcel, Geoff and I took turns in the wind and attempted to recover in the slipstream. I won’t name the Scoundrels who insisted on riding on the white line condemning the rest of us two either abandon the offset or ride in the gravel, but their tactics would have pleased the Belgians.

I was very wary of Geoff who was positioned immediately after me in the rotation and seemed the most likely to attack. And attack he did. When we got him back I called him a bastard and he pretended not to know that he was causing problems. I was behind Luis when he let a gap open up but he somehow managed to follow my wheel when I closed it – his signature move. I employed Bernard Hinault’s favourite tactic of counter-attacking immediately which wasn’t the smartest move but caused a little scramble and made me feel a little Pro. We were close to the AS Road now so It seemed fair to burn a few matches. The sprint to the middle of the bridge was a complete debacle. Everyone went too early, a petrol tanker did a u-turn in the middle of oncoming traffic, we called it off, then we called the back on and then Marcel gifted it to me. What a mess!

 

on the Regional Ring Road Bridge after the “mess”

 

Turning onto the AS road was a giant relief but still didn’t end the hostilities. Geoff and Marcel showed their good form with some spectacular work on the front. The landmarks went by in a blur I don’t even remember seeing the Cement Factory or the Heineken sign or the Jiffy lube. Oh that’s right I’ve never seen the Heineken sign or anything that resembles a Jiffy lube. But that’s what you get when you live in a country where the squares are round and the ring road is more like a horseshoe. At the final sprint it came down to Geoff and I and he was clearly the stronger man. Chapeau!

It was a tough ride. I knew that my promises to be useful in the afternoon would be broken. A mineral farewell ride for me as all the Essential elements came together – hard riding and a healthy mixture of teamwork and competition. Thanks to all involved I will miss it here for some strange reason. Special appreciation to our Capitan, Luis for his consistent, committed efforts to keeping the Cairo Cyclists healthy.

Rick, 08.06.2017

here the Orange team from the final breakaway, plus Pascal who joined at Jiffy

Porto Soukhna-Sky Mall back road

 

As the expat community in Maadi and the CCC consequently shrinks, to gather a number of 5 riders at the CAC for this special was not too bad. We departed today at 5:30 am with nice weather and winds of up to 24 kmh predicted. Weather.com defined the wind as WNW, while Geoff looked into the Norwegian weather site which predicted N wind. The weather channel proved reliable because we had indeed a hell of a tail wind in most of the ride. The temperature hit only 31C, rather benign also, i.e. nearly ideal conditions for most of the ride.

A new rider Euan brought along started the ride with us, a triathlete. He was riding with sneakers and a bike he bought for a short period while he leaves the country. Surprisingly, Fritz joined from CAC after spending the night in Maadi. So off we went to the Ain Soukhna road and met David Gamal and Mostafa in the toll booth. Also in the toll booth a guy called Chris, acquainted with Geoff, showed up and rode with us until the next stop at the km 72 Restaurant. After struggling in the way there with the moderate pace we put, Euan’s buddy realized it was better to change the plan and go for a shorter ride. So the tally was of 7 in this early part of the ride, 6 of them going for the whole distance of 150 km.

on the Ain Soukhna Road. Photo by David G.

On the recently broadened and repaved Ain Soukhna Highway, the pace picked up on the ascent to former Jiffy Lube, and benefiting from the tail wind it became really fast after that. On the descent to the third exit at km 60 the Egyptians initiated a hammerfest. The leg from there to the restaurant at km 72 was the fastest I remember doing there, with up to 65 kmh over several portions. Surprisingly, nobody weakened. However, shortly before the stop David got a puncture, the only way to slow him down.

After the break, there were 3 teams of couples side by side at the front: the America’s team (Geoff and Luis) with the orange jersey, the Brexits (Fritz and Euan) with the red jersey, and the Egyptian team (David and Mostafa). We were again doing 50-55 kmh when Geoff hit a rock and somebody yelled flat tyre seconds later. We rapidly changed the tube of the back wheel, but it couldn’t retain any air. The second tube did, but when he was about to climb on the bike I heard a “what the ….?”  His front wheel was also flat! Bummer. That rock really caused damage. I gave him my contingent tube, but Oh: it has about 5 patches on (times are tough for the industry). Well, it fortunately held all the air. Time loss: 20’.

Where were we? Ah, yes, we were hammering it, let’s retake that. Soon the long descent to the Ain Soukhna toll booth started at a speed of 65 kmh. Then I saw Mostafa passing by like a rocket in Froome style, i.e. pedaling hard sitting on his frame. I had not seen that being done live before, only in TV during last year’s Tour de France by Chris Froome on his epic attack descending on the Pyrenees when he beat everybody. Well, these guys learn very fast. There was no way I was going to attempt to do something like this at this speed.

The usual break at the Ain Soukhna toll booth came. Time to decide which way to attack the Sky Mall ascent, as last November the main road was ripped up and closed. We agreed to go for the back road, only done before by Chris and Euan last year by accident as they both got lost the first time they rode the stage.

The big surprise came on the coastal road, when Euan stirred up the dust passing the police check point and started to give us a hard time. From there on he pulled hard and constantly. I was second wheel for long time and begged him to rotate, but the answer was: “give me 3 more minutes”. Well, he hardly gave us a chance to pull. Here is where we all were stunned and started to suspect something strange.

on the coastal road. Photo by David G.

The coastal road takes you now up into the mountains for 3 km or so and back again to the sea, a newly constructed bypass of a resort area with beaches, which is now closed. This new intermediate climb is going to hamper further Sky Mall records. As expected, the peloton disintegrated here and Mostafa cracked. I was losing some seconds to David and Geoff at the front, but had passed Euan, and thought that was the end of his show. How wrong I was: he came from behind, brought me to the front and continued leading, while we wished we could have had a calmer final approach to Porto Soukhna with the big climb. With this constellation we hit the wall.

The Sky Mall back road: an unwritten, not officially ridden climb, it bestows the cruel pain described so many times before by others for the traditional climb, but worse. It starts steep and gets steeper, unforgiving, with no easy segment to catch some air. Euan and David went to the front (I still couldn’t believe), Geoff stepped on his pedals and tried to follow, and I switched to survival mode and observed the development of the race from behind. The climb’s average is 10.5%, with long stretches of 15% that felt like 20% after the distance and the heat. In the middle of the climb when David and Euan were gone and only Geoff was on sight, something unexpected happened. Geoff hit a HR of 188 bpm and wisely gave himself a break to prevent a collapse. I passed by at 8 kmh, he then followed and we both climbed in zig-zag to make the inclination ride able.

After an endless ordeal the road connected to the traditional one and I suddenly recognized the familiar Sky Mall sign with the last very steep slope. I could finish the ride after David and Euan, later Geoff and Fritz appeared, but Mostafa gave up in the middle when we were descending, after the usual pictures at the top.

finishers from left: Fritz, Euan, Luis, David & Geoff

 

at the finish line in the shade

 

This was my ninth ride out of nine official rides to this place, and I don’t remember to have struggled so much in any of them on the Sky Mall climb. A new segment is defined for the back road and David Gamal is the K.O.M, Mabrouk my friend. Euan’s performance explosion has not been seen before. This reminded me of Tobin and Timo on the coastal road, but also climbing like Jun in the famous September 2012 maiden ride.

The way back was a pleasure to share with Fritz, Euan and Geoff our recollections of this memorable ride. Euan was put on trial but we couldn’t make him reveal his secret. We are still wondering what that sandwich he ate at the toll booth really contained…

Luis, 05/19/2017

Observatory Ride Spring 2017: Pat’s Farewell

Ridden April 7, 2017

We assembled at CAC with Observatory novices in our midst. Joined by two CCC pillars, Pat and JP, we paused for the ubiquitous ‘Classic Ride’ photo – flexing quads and sucking in bellies.

 

At once the Maadi riders rolled out to tackle the dogs on the industrial road before climbing the stairway to Horus, picking up Fritz on the Soukhna Road. The pace was good and we were rewarded by the comedy stylings of Pascal’s driver at the toll booth who managed to discourage some soldiers from shooting a short Scottish rider who had jumped on the back wheel of a truck in order to bypass the fence en route to the ‘café’.

Whilst we refueled we were joined by our Egyptian friends led by old favourite David Gamal. The peloton had bulged to 11 or so by the time we left the Toll Booth. For the first couple of Ks, and before our first flat, Pat sashayed through the group exchanging memories and farewells – we are all honored to have ridden with the Gentle Giant of Cairo cycling and to share this ride with him. Not far from our thoughts were absent friends, in particular our Presidente: Viva Vergara.

CCC Legend Pat Brennan leading the new generation for the last time

After the pleasantries, the pace took a firm turn up a notch as between the toll booth and the beginning of the climb the average did not dip below 30km/h. Everyone took their turn, nose to the wind, as the group was reduced to 9 riders in pursuit of the mythical observatory climb. As we left the Soukhna Road, veteran of the Observatory ride Pascal took charge leading the rookies on a winding road into the valley beyond the traces of civilization behind. We all stuck closely together under instruction to look out for the black at which point we ducked right and the KOM race was on. David set the early pace with an immediate attack and his silhouette would be a familiar sight for the remainder of the climb. Fritz did his best to put pressure on David and Marcel on Fritz in turn. However, that’s how the KOM podium finished: David, Fritz, Marcel followed by the rest of us. David gave a good go but Nick Cameron rests easy atop of the leaderboard – at time of going to press.

 

After taking in some excellent views and the glorious decent, it was time to pull back to the Soukhna road where we were met by the broom vehicle and more jokes from Pascal’s driver – at this point there was no sign of an argument between him and Le Mecanicien. At this point, the Aussie legs were strong and the Scottish legs gone so it was a long hard struggle back to Cairo. Fritz, Rick, David et al raced into the distance as Chris generously dropped back to drag the Scotsman’s bonking backside back to familiar surroundings. We ‘soon’ picked up Rick who was halted by the second flat of the day and made our way steadily back to the total for chipsy and pop.

 

 

It was then we felt the depth of Pascal’s generosity as he drove his broom wagon back up the Soukhna Road in search of the Lanterne Rouge. Although we were too proud to accept the offer we were all inspired by the gesture to finish the ride on the bike. We even managed to regroup with Fritz beyond the toll booth after he had stopped for what must’ve been a mammoth break, one he really didn’t need as his legs were too strong on this day.

As we rolled beyond Horus we could reflect on a great ride perfectly planned by Pascal even though we were all too traumatized for coffee at Greco. We could also look back at the great sense of comradery and achievement as well as great rides with Pat who will be missed. Thanks for miles and memories as many have extolled the virtue of sitting on your back wheel.

Euan Macaulay, 04/30/17

Lake Qarun Ride 2016

Fayoum, Dec. 9, 2016

Three CCC Musketeers set off out into the desert

Today was the long awaited Fayoum Special, meticulously planned by Pascal.

Three resolute adventurers left Maadi at the crack of dawn, bikes on top of Pascal’s 4x 4. We saw the sun rise as we passed the Pyramids. At around 8:00 we arrived at Kasr Al Saga and left the comfort of the car. A cold wind was cutting across the desert from the east. We rode in a westerly direction above the northern coast of lake Quaroun. I told you Pascal’s planning was meticulous. We had a tail wind for most of the ride.

We set off at a cracking pace winding our way through the hills. Spectacular views were offered either side, to the right the mountains, to the left down onto the lake. The cracking pace was compromised by several stops for photo opportunities. We were in a beautiful landscape. It was quiet, apart from Issam the driver following us in Pascal’s car there was not another vehicle in sight and the air was clean. All in all a real treat for a Cairo Cyclist.

Magic lake

Magic lake

About half way down the length of the lake we turned left and raced downhill towards it’s shores. Suddenly  we had to slam on the brakes. The road ended abruptly. Another opportunity for a photo shoot. We turned round and climbed back up to the main road. At the top I turned round to see where the others were and had the shock of my life.

I saw Pascal was allowing himself to be pulled up the hill by his car. I didn’t think he was capable of such a horrifically unsportsmanly act. I rubbed my eyes. The phantom didn’t go away, however before I could whip out my camera to document the deed we were united and on the road again. Pascal will be able to claim it was some kind of desert mirage. Soon we began to hit sand dunes that had drifted across the road. We practiced our skills at navigating these. The trick is to go at than fast, shift down a couple of gears and pedal hard. This requires some nerve because of course none of us wants to lose control of our trusted steed. I saw Marcel keel over. Pascal, reckless rider as he is, was most definitely King of the Dunes.

athos-aramis-and-porthos

Athos, Aramis and Porthos

king-of-the-dunes

King of the Dunes

The wind was beginning to whip up and we could feel our faces beginning to get sand blasted. Plumes of sand drifting across the road created an eerie atmosphere. Marcel’s chain needed a clean having been plunged into the sand during his fall.

At the end of the lake we doubled back along the south coast into a cross wind. We worked in rotation and made good progress. After what felt like around 20 KM we turned off the main road and headed towards the Wadi Rayan Nature Reserve. After a few noisy villages we got to a kind of toll booth. Each rider had to pay 40 EGP to enter. The Car 5 EGP. Maybe because it was being driven by an Egyptian. I didn’t get the logic of this and tried haggling with the ticket salesman but without success.

Pascal announced that he was going to take it easy and he would see us at the mountain on the lakeside after about 20 km should we want to stretch our legs. Marcel took him by his word. The wind was in our favour. Marcel hammered it all the way and I was glad to be able to stick to his rear wheel. It was an exhilarating ride, flying through an eerie, empty, shimmering, desert landscape, peaking 65 KMH on a gentle downhill slope.

fritz-and-marcel-scan-horizon-for-pascal

Fritz and Marcel scan the horizon for Pascal

We got to Jebal Madawara at around 11:00 am in good spirits. Pascal arrived a few minutes later. There was a lot of regret that this is not a strava section. I am sure we would have set a new record.

After packing up our bikes Pascal demonstrated his skills at rally driving and took as across a series of dunes at breakneak speed down to the “Magic Lake” where we had our picnic in an icy wind. Like a true boy scout Pascal was well prepared and pulled out a couple of cold stellas from the back of his car. I think I can forget about that earlier incident.

A great ride in great company. We hope the riders employed in the oil business will be able to join us next time and we can form more of a peleton.

“All for one and one for all.”

Fritz Best

pascal

Pascal

marcel

Marcel

Hammerfest to the Sea

by Geoff Crawley

Porto Soukhna, December 2, 2016

Due to circumstances beyond CCC’s control, our semi-annual “Ride to the Sea” was delayed a few weeks due to certain situations in Egypt that didn’t actually occur.  To put a positive spin on this, it allowed me and my fellow Lycra enthusiasts to fester over the weather forecasts for the next several weeks, intricately watching the prevailing wind patterns, and sneak in an extra session on Mokattam hill repeats to prepare for the suffering that was to ensue (unless you were sitting on the beach like me the weekend of said hill repeats).  Unfortunately due to the delay, our Swiss “suffer-master” Marcel, was unable to join, after representing the CCC in Dubai at the Sea to Sea ride in preparation for this epic journey.

Geoff at the top

Geoff at the top with Golf of Suez in the background

Nevertheless, the day arrived and an eager bunch assembled at the front of CAC, clad in long sleeves and extra layers, and hoping that additional riders would greet us on the way to help keep the pace unpleasantly fast.  Luis, Euan, Joe and myself began the journey together.  Cold weather and pollution greeted us on our exit from Maadi, but as the small group of riders made their way onto the Tollway, the clouds broke, a pleasant morning of sunlight appeared, and the temperatures got even colder.  As the Tollbooth appeared, so too did the realization that the winds might actually be in our favor on this day.  A few minutes were spent at the Tollbooth preparing for the next leg and allowing all riders to regroup, and suddenly up came Fritz, a welcome addition to the team, though he and Joe were only going to do a part of the ride.  At least Fritz gave us some extra horsepower for the next section.  And then, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but David Gamal and his band of Egyptian Cairo Crit friends.  Smiles spread across everyone’s faces and we were ready for the show.

I will say the problem with a larger group is the inevitable flat ties that tend to plague certain choices of rubber (Continental 4-Season 25-28mm tires are the recommended choice of the CCC).  Since we were now such a large group, it did allow those of us who were executing the full distance to break away while said flat tire/half way members repaired their poor choice of tire/ego.  At the Regional Ring Road, we said farewell to Joe/Fritz, and continued on to the “Corona” pit stop at 73km (though my odometer only said ~70).  At this point we picked up Chris and Pascal, whom we believed would power us to the end, but yet we found napping.  With a bit of heckling from those of us who started in the wee hours, Pascal and Chris finally mounted their steeds and rode off for the rest of us to catch.  At this point the famous JP showed up, catching up with us and then making his way back to Cairo with a few of the Crit riders that weren’t going the full distance.  Once back in the saddle, it didn’t take long for us to see Pascal and Chris on the side of the road repairing additional flat tires.  Much to our surprise was that Euan had snuck out with them, and was well up the road.  Time to put the hammer down!

JP is back, here is the proof !

JP is back! Here at the Restaurant at km 70.

With wind at our back and the excitement of the long downhill stretch to the 2nd Tollbooth coming up, our pace quickened.  We could see Euan in the distance and each member took turns smashing the pace.  A quick downhill and a last uphill section saw us climbing at 40 kph, where we said goodbye to Euan and crested the top.  Pandemonium ensured as most of us realized our compact crank set up was good for climbing, but bombing downhill at 70 kph with the wind at our backs was not sustainable in a 50×11.  As the road leveled out, we took a break and allowed the scattering of riders that remained to regroup.

The last section of road prior to the final km’s of fireworks is fast, flat and ferocious as the coastal road from Ain Soukhna to the Porto turnoff is narrow, can have crosswinds, and most of the team already had 110 kms under their belt.  But this was not meant to be a joyride, and members again put out watts of power that mere mortals could not think of displaying.  With the fresh legs of Pascal and Chris, the pace was kept high, and certain members decided it was time to hang in the back and rest prior to the final.  Those of us who felt the pace was lagging moved to the front and made everyone suffer, burning matches that would not re-light once on the final climb.  After 34 minutes at 37 kph, the group saw the looming Sky Mall perched high above, the pace slowed and everyone tried to get a quick drink before the final turnoff.

I’m not really sure how to describe the final 2 kms of this ride.  Hell?  I’ve ridden Flanders and Roubaix, but those experiences did not prepare me for this.  My 34×25 gearing? Useless. My legs? Plugs of Jell-O.  My heartrate? In Defibrillation. Up and Up and Up we climbed.  And then some more.  Around a corner and a switchback, then up some more.   I watched David ride away from me as I thought I was actually moving backwards.  I saw Luis suddenly muster some courage as he told his legs to shut up and begin catching up to me.  Where were Euan, Pascal, Chris?  The others? Another bend and a fire station appeared.  Then a blockade!  The final section was blocked off!  What the hell?

The highest point of the day

The highest point of the day

 

descent-with-sky-mall

Descending next to the Sky Mall, in the background

Not to be denied, we began working our way up a golf cart path, across the fairway, and then up a final steep pitch.  We were on level with the Sky Mall, but were unable to get there.  Then the phone call came.  Euan had made it!  How you might ask? Because he was dropped somewhere along the coastal road and turned up the wrong climb, the shorter, steeper climb.  In the end, I guess we were the ones who turned wrong as we never made it to the Sky Mall.  Well done Euan, well done.

First end of a ride at a Golf court

First end of a ride on a Golf court !

Porto Soukhna finishers, behind the Hotel.

Porto Soukhna finishers behind the Hotel

Awards:

KOM: Euan being the only CCC member to reach the Sky Mall

Fastest Descent: Geoff at 69.5 km per hour to the 2nd Toll Booth

Most Flats: Chris (lost count at 2)

Sleeping Beauty: Pascal (because he is French)

Most Elevation Gain: Luis for doing an extra repeat in the search for the top  (1180m gain)

Longest Distance: David Gamal because he rode from Heliopolis (160.1 km)