Observatory Loop (144 km), 29 March 2019

The CCC riders eventually made it to the observatory, despite all odds against them.

by Harry O.

Riders Present (L-R) : Dan, Hesham, Luis, Harry, Hugh, Euan, Joe and Luke. 

March 29, 2019

From Whatsapp : 28 March 2019

Greta : “There will be heavy winds tomorrow late morning, but we shouldn’t catch too much of it”

Joe : “It will hit us on return. Rule #5”

Greta : “What is rule 5 if I may ask?”

Joe : “Ask Luis, our President”

Luis : “Harden the f*** up”

Greta : “Ah”

 

I also hadn’t yet figured out what Rule #5 was. I’d heard it mentioned numerous times during the post-ride coffee shop chit-chat and knew it would become clear when the time was right. This ‘special ride’ to the Kottamia Observatory would be only my third ride with the CCC club, and it turned out to be the ride where Rule #5 was most fitting… Joe’s accurate weather prediction was no coincidence, he’s been cycling on Egyptian desert roads for over a decade.

It started calmly as we rode out through the bumpy streets of Maadi, watching the hazy sun rise over the Wadi Degla desert hills. As usual our wise club president Luis hit the front on the first ‘climb’ of the day, the ramp up onto the Ain Sokhna freeway, reminding us that “it’s going to be a long day, keep that in mind”.

Interestingly for a city with no cycling culture, the freeway (which is mostly free of traffic on Friday mornings anyway) has a continuous bike lane wide enough for riding two abreast all the way from Cairo to the Red Sea (130km). With this peace of mind we settled into our 2-minute-turns rhythm, except for Euan of course, who’s sense of time seems to change with wind in his face and any comments questioning his premature peel off the front are quickly silenced with witty excuses, maintaining the groups sense of humour. Nonetheless the pace remained steady and we made good progress East, so it seemed then that the day ahead would be another ‘normal’ day in the saddle, with the typical ups and downs of pace and energy, plus the usual suffering by everyone in the last 20km, but this one was to be different, truly special.

The ominous signs appeared as soon as we approached our first stop at ‘The Gates’ for a quick top-up of food and water, since the observatory route offers no further opportunities for refuelling before returning to The Gates some 100km later. Road works are not common sight in Egypt, so insufficient attention was paid to the traffic cones which should have signalled us off freshly painted road markings. Alas, a few wheels rolled over the white lines, covering the tires with sticky paint that soon picked up sand to form a crusty new look to the normally smooth road tires, making for some grumpy riders and good laughs.

Before long we had our first sighting of the observatory, a distant nipple silhouetted on the horizon, which would provide the ride’s only serious elevation gain, which we awaited eagerly as it offered some variation to the otherwise monotonous riding through barren flat landscapes. Cyclists living in mountainous areas may not understand how far Cairo cyclists are willing to go to find inclining roads. I was warned that as we turn off the highway the road would become very bumpy and sandy, and that I should have brought my mountain bike rather than borrowing a fancy Pinarello road bike for this ride. The irony of that warning was to show itself in many ways over in the next 5km.

Little did we know as we rode enthusiastically into the valley towards the observatory hills, that the already sandy road was about to become a lot sandier. In fact, as Euan and I sped ahead around a blind corner, we saw something bizarre… the road was gone, buried beneath a ginormous mound of sand and rock. This must have been dumped into the valley by during the construction of the nearby New Capital City, for reasons unknown.

There is usually a defining moment when the real adventure within an adventure begins, when a decision must be made whether to continue or turn back, splitting the group by opinion, with the final decision determined by the motivation levels of each group. Luke is clearly a pioneer at heart with no fear of the unknown and promptly shouldered his bike and began hiking up the steep loose slopes of the artificial mountain despite totally inappropriate footwear. Euan is a brave man who believes his road bike has special powers off-road and ended up in the dust twice as a result, once flipping completely upside down and then a second time taking unsuspecting Luis to ground as well. Hesham was beyond reluctant to see what lay beyond this peculiar obstacle, suggesting he would wait there for us to return, but since most of the group were curious to find a way through the mess and conquer the mountain, the group decided to stay together and push on.

We shouldered our bikes, disregarded the thought of sand in our shoes for the remaining 80km and followed Luke up and over the mound, relieved to see that the road continued again on the other side. Feeling proud we took a moment to rest, hydrate and regain our composure before the final push to the observatory summit. But it wasn’t to be, because a few moments later as I took my hands off the handlebars to stretch my back, I lost control and came crashing down onto the rough tarmac, luckily avoiding major damage to the fancy bike by sacrificing my body instead.

I was a bit shaken up but nonetheless realised the common goal of summiting the mountain was the primary objective and clearly nothing would stop us, so we soon turned off onto the short but tough climb to the abandoned observatory, rumoured to have once had Guinness beer for sale. The view was extensive and desolate, beautiful too, but we couldn’t linger since it was clear that the road home would be a long and arduous one into the ‘khamsun’, the desert wind known for generating fierce sand storms.

Thankfully we all survived the treacherous descent off the mountain without casualty and were blessed with a precious few kilometres of tail wind, hurtling us along the brand-new but unopened freeways leading to the New Capital. But the moment we turned left towards Cairo; reality struck with vengeance for which we could do nothing but shelter behind the rider ahead for some respite from the block headwind. With about 100km done we were very tired and for Hugh it was already his longest ride ever, still with 45km of this torture to go!

Luckily, we had the power of Dan and Luke to maintain a decent pace which brought us to the largest Coptic cathedral in Egypt, freshly built for the New Capital, only outdone in size by the equally new and impressive mega-Mosque constructed nearby. The New Capital in the ‘middle of nowhere’ is the most curious concept that even Egyptians don’t understand, but we had not the energy to contemplate the government’s motives, only enough to focus on the bubble of space around us to prevent crashing into each other or exposing ourselves unnecessarily to the wind.

Suffering in silence, even as a group, is something endurance sports people are very familiar with, and learn to enjoy, because it forces the mind to narrow and go deep within itself without distraction, an unconventional type of meditation perhaps.

Not all of us joined for the post ride coffee chit-chat that day, but we all made it back to Cairo feeling physically and mentally depleted. However, as it goes in life, soon enough the vivid feelings of pain and suffering would fade, leaving the proud memories of adventure and triumph, that draw us back out to discover what lies beyond the horizon.

 

Advertisements

Marcel’s Long Farewell…and Ride

 

The Ride (December 14, 2018)

 

It’s 5.30 in the dark of Maadi. As the faint vision of a rider fades in and out of the dull light spots of CAC, fears of another Swiss clock incident are allayed as the man of the moment dismounts the alloy pothole eater: Marcel’s alarm went off.

 

As resident mechanic Chris dismantles a range of bikes and lovingly straps them in place on his elegant 4×4, two lazy Celts hand over their bikes in full to Hesham who ties them to the rear of his low riding chick magnet. We are on the road.

 

Gathered, huddling for warmth outside Circle K we are shivering shadows of ourselves with lots of long-sleeve action in sight. After a lot of circling in the sun, the dizzied mass is called to action by El Presidente and the hammer falls.  A good pace is set as we initiate a much needed warm up with the peloton pulling in unison in pursuit of the first bite of the Galala loop – the Long drag.

 

As we hit the climb, some are happy to continue with the warm up and the bunch splits as the drag begins to pinch. As the group further splinters, the tete de la course is 4 riders strong all pushing for a shot at the KOM: Dan, Euan Luke and Marcel. Not feeling he’s getting enough attention on his big day (or possibly worried at the ease of Dan’s early pedal dancing), Marcel manages to separate tyre from rim at the rear. The 4 riders are momentarily paused before the inevitable explosion and the ensuing repair job. Dan and Luke are encouraged to push forward and keep El Presidente at bay; they gladly oblige.

 

Whilst the repair job is challenging even the best of Luis’ attempts, rider after rider pass grimacing in pursuit of the summit. Dan and Luke keep their distance, finishing with a healthy lead on Luis followed by Khadiga and Omar, Pascal and Osama, Marcel and Euan, and Hugh. Oh and Ansary, who was recovering from something called a triathlon – never heard of them.

 

Our reward for our efforts was some beautiful downhill riding as the sun presented itself and framed the mountains perfectly. Omar even got to adopt the superman whilst Khadiga was giving hell at the front and forming a slight short breakaway of 4 that was bridged by Pascal before being consumed by the chasing bunch. The peloton was one as Galala delivered a short but sharp shock to the legs. Quite accidentally, Euan unaware of the small gap that’s developed is joined by Dan shouting the ‘breakaway is on’ and it is. The gap widens and the poursuivants (Luke, Luis and Marcel) are distanced before the worst Scottish navigation disaster since Darien.

On the Galala Plateau towards the Hills

As the bunch turn towards the coast, the pace calms to allow for a regroup and we hit the coast buoyed in number. Pascal takes on the role of chief whip, ramping up the pace as we confront head on the wind that was so helpful on the descent. Survival mode is the key as the bluster builds and the road busies. That is why we will forgive Pascal from taking a breather behind a truck in a flagrant two fingered salute to the rules. At this point the gruelling green sign for Galala (or Ga La La as Dan sings when referencing the climb) are a relief even just for the calmness of the cruelty to follow.

 

The excitement of anticipation gets the better of Luke and as we approach the first ramp he has to stop to relieve himself as nature intended – de-bibbing at the roadside. When presented with the second instalment of Galala, the group falls silent and cracks begin to appear immediately. Dan eases into a harsh pace that establishes an unbridgeable gap despite Marcel’s best efforts. The rest of us are clinging to the bars in an attempt to drag ourselves to the summit as Khadiga must be ruing the TT bike choice.

 

After the podium is settled (Dan, Marcel, Euan) the finishers roll in in hot pursuit. Luke reeled in Luis to finish strongly after his ‘break’. Luis, Fritz, Khadiga and Osama also conquered all the challenges set by Galala in style. We propped one another up just long enough to capture the ceremonial photo before a bit of deliberation over whether to ride the last section which promised a long winding descent after a bit of punchy climbing.

 

With the discussions settled Khadiga set about hammering the final nails in our collective coffins, sitting in that TT position unmoved by the swirling headwind. As we all pulled hard, we managed to deliver a beautifully timed KOM for our resident segment definer and El Presidente. Ruined but delighted, we disassembled the bikes and jumped in the cars and back to Maadi. The ride, the company and conditions were a fitting farewell to a beloved punisher such is Marcel Bachmann.

 

KOM 1st place – Dan

Green Jersey – Khadiga

Most Combative – Fritz

Rule Breaker – Pascal

Strava KOM – Luis

 

Dan heading towards the Galala KOM

Marcel going for the second place

Euan completing the podium

from left: Chris, Hisham, Euan, Omar, Luke, Pascal, Osama, Marcel, Dan, Luis, Khadiga, Hugh and Fritz

 

The Rider

 

What can we say about our Swiss time piece? Not since the time of the suffragettes has any one person done so much for confounding stereotypes as Marcel. Swiss alarm clock sales have plummeted since his arrival in Cairo and the cuckoo clock is so taboo there’s a movement to palm it of onto the Austrians.

 

Beyond the bike, Marcel knows how to the throw a party and mix a cocktail. I personally thank him for introducing me to the Moscow Mule whose debilitating effects include completely striking from memory the time El Presidente cornered you, Shawerma in hand, to request the prompt writing of this article. Of equal use for nightlife are Marcel’s loose hips and Pascal will attest that ’the hips don’t lie’ so lower your seat post. A blatant attempt by the French to undermine Swiss confidence as the resultant knee pain was clearly an attempt to slow down Bachmann the beast – perhaps the French can revel in comparative economic stability or not as the Gilet Jaune may argue.

 

Back to the bike, Marcel has a tendency to bore others with mid ride small talk, just ask Fritz. One morning he was chatting away on the ring road, ignoring all Fritz’s attempts to close down the conversation, as they lead the peloton towards JP, only to turn his head to find Fritz MIA. So perturbed by this chit chat, Fritz had thrown himself to ground taking half the bunch with him in an oily heap.

 

This kind of kamikaze approach to bike etiquette is synonymous with Marcel. When tackling famous peaks like Mont Ventoux, it’s not enough to do it once but 3 times is his minimum before pushing himself to the limit during his TorTour. Only at midnight after a bout of illness, in terrible conditions, with no lights did someone manage to convince him to relinquish the bike during his 24hr Alps epic. This is what CCC will love and miss about Marcel Bachmann. He pushed and improved every rider mad enough to try and match his wheel. When visiting Oman, Marcel is the kind of guy who just has to complete a 1000km ride in 4days, self-supported.  CCC are taking credit for taking from Marcel the ‘pouch’ that he arrived in Egypt with – this is a direct Presidential quote and apparently a consequence of the Dubai flats. I can thank him for pushing me to ride 300km – I’m sorry, 299km – something I would never have done if not for his inspiring and withering words at Chill Out Oasis when I wanted to quit: “No, you don’t.” I’m sure Yann would also like to thank him for sitting on his PowerRide wheel before putting him to the sword before the end of the indoor races. Indeed, Marcel was the originator of the PowerRide double.

 

Legendary status has been reserved for this very special rider who took CCC to a different level at a crucial time having lost legends like Nick Cameron and Rick Harmann.

Marcel receiving Honors as legendary CCC Alumni

However, this goodbye is getting ridiculous. Marcel Bachmann is the Ross to the CCC Rachel – he will not quit already! As the longest goodbye in history continues, even this article has been finished more punctually. The bike remains in Egypt and there is a promise of yet another ride with this most accomplished of CCC legends. We will miss him when he finally goes and all look forward to a timely Swiss training retreat.

 

All the best Marcel. You will be missed…when you leave.

 

Euan Macaulay

 

Appendix: Luke’s incredible video

 

CCC Revenge on Col du Galala

November 9, 2018

I had barely stepped out of the shower after the ride when El Presidente called to tell me the news that I had been unanimously voted by his entourage to write this ‘Special Ride’ report. Truly, an honour I take very seriously.

The ride started with an early 5:25 meet at ‘La Casa Blanca’ to put our things in the presidential vehicle. Dan had arrived early as well as myself and Marcel, even Euan arrived on the dot but was the first of the day to get into trouble as he said ‘Good Morning’ too loudly while the First Lady was still sleeping.

Hesham was the second of the day to receive a reprimand for arriving two minutes late and was promptly left behind but soon caught us despite being attacked by some dogs. Mo Hefni was waiting for us when we arrived at CAC and we got going straight away, eager to meet the Crits at the Toll Booth at 6:30.

We set off at a steady pace keen not to burn all of our matches before the final climb of the day. That was until we hit the Horus climb up to the AS Highway. Hefni attacked early and Hesham was heard saying, “I told you he was a competitive guy.” No sooner had he said this, Dan ‘power’ Power came flying past out of his seat looking like a madman. The rest of us sat back and discussed whether he would get the highly coveted KOM, official results say that he was one second off the record held by David Luna in January 2016 but El Presidente has threatened to flag his ride for ‘burning his matches’ too early. I am sure Dan will be back to attempt this one!

Red Sunrise on the Ain Soukhna Road

We were only on the AS road for a short stint, before the Crits pulled up behind us and were then met by a beautiful red sunrise as we rode east. We headed to the Toll Booth for a quick stop of water and early toilet breaks. Mohamed ‘PowerRide’ Ansary also joined us at the gates, proudly sporting the new CCC jersey (sponsored by PowerRide). We headed off down the AS road with El Presidente giving early orders of two minute turns on the front. This was followed very well (by most) and we continued at a good steady pace towards the Oasis at KM70.

The usual police check near the Total Station was not there, however, we soon realised why. They were further down and for the first time waved us down, amid much confusion we just carried on but soon realised why they were telling us to slow down as we hit a wall of mist. With visibility down to twenty-five metres we slowed down, turned on our rear lights and discussed how this was the most difficult conditions most of us had ever seen in Egypt. Somewhere around this point Marcel cracked a great joke about the possibility of adding some more stops on the route, although we later discovered that perhaps it was not a joke.

Into the mist

The pace picked up after the Power Station down towards the Observatory turn then we were flying down towards the Chill Out Oasis at KM70 when Euan had an emergency. Luke and Euan were on the front hammering in order to get to get to the bathroom when Euan explained that he was close to urinating in his bib shorts. He then shared a number of different times he had previously done this, usually before going on to win a race. It is still not clear if the emergency was bathroom related or actually a mechanical as he claimed.

We arrived at the Chill out for a short stop to meet Pascal, relative newcomer Hugh (pronounced ‘who’) and our support vehicles. After a quick toilet break, espressos, mechanical support and some photos we jumped back on the bikes starting at a relatively slow pace for 30 seconds. As soon as Dan got on the front he put the hammer down, eager to get to the coast and fight for the Guinness at the top of Galala he had imagining all week. Unfortunately for Hugh his first turn on the front was alongside Dan, although he did very well to hold his own. This may or may not have been his only turn on the front. As soon as we hit a hill I heard someone behind me telling Hugh to sit on the back of the peleton. This was the last we ever saw of Hugh.

LORQ7787

Half way there: Pascal and Hugh joining, others still shopping

The mist cleared for a beautiful blue sky

He dropped back after two or three long steady climbs then punctured. The support vehicles were in front and he was left in the desert. This was the ‘usual treatment’ that El presidente has talked about for so long. As soon as we realised this, Marcel told me he was going to pull over at the garage to do a ‘’Dumoulin.’ there is no evidence as to whether he did this on the side of the road or used the bathroom but he pulled up at the AS toll booth claiming that he certainly had a more-than-marginal gain. After some further discussion on nutrition, how much water we would need to get to the top of the climb and how tubeless tyres worked, we continued. After a few short KMs we turned south and hit the coast. The KMs to the bottom of the climb were covered relatively quickly and Euan took the KOM on the short tenderiser after becoming frustrated with the width and speed of the peleton, some say it was a protest of sorts but the jury is still out.

After turning off the coastal road there was a short dip to get some speed up before hitting the bottom of the final climb of the day. The 10km with just under 500m, averages 5% and is categorised on Strava as a Category 2 climb, but this is deceptive. There are two short flat sections that offer some respite but these are in the second half of the climb. The first section is in a canyon with high walls and despite being a relatively cool day, as soon as we hit the foot of the climb, intense heat was being reflected from the road surface. This helped to split the peloton and quickly a group of 8 pushed on. From CCC this was Marcel, Euan, Dan and Luke from the Crits it was Mo Hefni, Mo Kamal, Omar and Ahmed Ezz. Omar pushed ahead for a solo break in a similar style to how he started the Observatory climb last month but could not sustain this and was soon caught and dropped. Shortly after this Dan dropped back 200m but kept in touch with the group. Then it was Ahmed and Mo Kamal who took the lead while Euan and Luke continued climbing steadily with Dan and Marcel just behind. As we made the first turn Luke and Marcel dropped behind the main group consisting of Ahmed, Mo Kamal and Euan while Dan came past in similar style to the Observatory finish last month however this time it was only a few km into the climb as opposed to the last few hundred metres. Luke complained ‘not again’ having thought that Dan had burned all his matches at the Horus KOM attempt. Clearly the previous 120km Dan had been in recovery mode. Dan’s response was that Luke should jump on his wheel and follow rule no. 5. Dan soon caught the main group and the gap back to Luke and Marcel soon grew to 500m.

Cramp took hold of the legs of most and despite many HTFUs and Voigt-eske ‘shut up legs’ the pain was unrelenting and after each turn the gap to the main group lengthened. As Marcel and Luke hit the summit of the KOM together they had almost caught Ahmed Ezz and decided to team up to catch the Crits in view before the finish line. They soon passed Ahmed before flying down towards the last short climb to the finish line. As we hit the Galala road back to Cairo they met the three triumphant finishers; Dan, Mo Kamal and Euan.

When asking Dan who had won he responded, modest as ever, that CCC had won. Euan then explained that Dan had finished first with Mo Kamal 2nd and Euan a very close 3rd. A very strong finish from Mo Kamal, who sadly will be leaving for Washington State in a few weeks. We hope to see him again soon. Mo Kamal will from now on be nicknamed Nairo Quintana for his size, stature and mountain climbing ability.

SEGI9279

from left Mostafa, Ahmed Hadidy, Omar Mosbah, Luke, Marcel, Euan, Luis, Mohamed El Ansary, Dan, Mohammed Hefni, Ahmed Ezz, Wael, and Mohamed Kamel; still chasing: Pascal

Soon after, Marcel and Luke came in followed by Ahmed Ezz. Then el Presidente arrived at the finish line closely followed by Mohamed ‘PowerRide’ Ansary on his tri bike. A few minutes later came Omar, who had started with an early breakaway but seemed to burn his matches too early.

Special mentions go to Pascal who we think made it to the top of the climb but arrived on the wrong road and after checking on Strava it seems he did not ride at all. Despite ‘not riding,’ he offered beers to everyone and insisted during the ride that we would not get them if CCC did not finish first. Pascal also got the KOM on the drive home getting us back in record time and getting Marcel back for 1:13pm, the thirteen-minute delay caused by Pascal’s delay to the top of Galala. Also, a mention to Hugh who despite being totally unprepared, continued from the top of the climb the mainly downhill section and ended up waiting at the end for El Presidente et al. who having collected 30 ‘free’ KMs, had jumped in the sweeping wagon on a ‘tough’ downhill section where there was a breezy head wind.

If Carlsberg did bike rides…

Luke

IMG_9086

a well earned beer

Galala KOM

1st Dan Power

2nd Mo Kamal

3rd Euan Macaulay

 

THE OBSERVATORY RIDE : ROUND TWO “Clean Sweep for CCC”

Friday the 12th October brought the opening race of the season up the Observatory.  Having so many core riders unavailable it would prove to be a difficult one for CCC…on paper.

With Yan having recently competed his transfer to Dubai Roadsters and Pascal currently serving a 2 week suspension for breaking too many bikes at PowerRide, the situation was hindered further with Joes injury woes, Euans untimely illness and Luis (El President) personal commitments.   But alas, “the show must go on” as they say and the battle lines were drawn with our friends the Cairo Crits (CC).

Each team had declared that up to 6 riders each would be in attendance and a start time of 06:45 at the Toll Booth was agreed.  Sir Omar of the Cairo Crits made sure to inform all that it was unlikely he was going to ride all the way to the Observatory.  A comment which, in hindsight, should never have never been taken too seriously given what was to come and a rider of his caliber, injury or no injury.

And so the day of reckoning arrived and a small, but strong team of CCC riders including Marcel, Fritz, Luke, Khadiga and Dan assembled (on time) at the CAC gates. With Khadiga unable to commit 100% to the ride with final race preparation for Greece taking priority, Marcel, Frtiz, Luke and Dan set off with a slow easy pace ready to embark upon our challenge to right the wrongs of the 23rd March 2018 when the Cairo Crits took 1st & 2nd in the previous Observatory Ride.

The initial plan of a nice slow ride up to the toll booth quickly evaporated when Khadiga executed her revenge for “puncture gate” perfectly.  Rather like her Wednesday morning classes, Khadiga made sure to get the blood flowing and left the men clambering on top of their pedals to keep up with her.  Thankfully, having climbed the stair way to Horus, the riders were met with a welcome distraction when on the horizon appeared Chris who, on his return from injury, had already ventured further than his doctor had permitted him to do so.  Doing the responsible thing, Marcel convinced Chris to continue cycling at least to the toll booth as Marcels next mystery tour is not too far away and attendance is mandatory.

02_Khadigas Revenge

Khadiga’s revenge

Arriving at the toll both with 10 minutes to spare there was a silent acknowledgement amongst the group that, with El President on vacation and Marcel in charge, there would be no stops until the Total Station on the return. Make no mistake,  now was the time to fuel, and fuel well.

As we waited patiently for the Crits to arrive, over indulging in fig bars and brainstorming excuses for Chris to explain his additional Kms to his wife (sorry doctor),  it was hard not to notice the sheer volume of new riders, in particular women, whom were starting off on their rides.  A wonderful sight to witness and one which is testament to the local clubs, including Maadi Athletes and PowerRide, whose encouragement to new athletes and riders alike is unwavering.  Long may this continue.

As time ticked on, it soon became apparent that unbeknownst to CCC, Sir Omar had called CCC’s bluff.  Evidently, the tactics of competition had already started and whilst the CCC riders waited for their “6” challengers to arrive, Sir Omar crested the hill at the Toll Booth at 07:20 with his army of young riders in a scene reminiscent of one of the battles in Lord of the Rings.  The only thing missing was Gandalf himself.

05_Peoloton

Peloton

Alas, with the morning pleasantries exchanged and belly’s full, the two teams merged into a common peloton of up to 30 riders and we set off along Sokhna Road.  Marcel and Sir Omar leading from the front, Dan and Luke taking the role of photographers and Chris making his best efforts to hide within the peloton to ensure any evidence of his own mini adventure would never come to fruition.  All jokes aside, it was great to have Chris back and may his road to full recovery continue with positive progress.

03_Inconspicuous Chris

Inconspicuous Chris

The first 20-25km were all completed at a moderate pace but with CCC still significantly outnumbered Luke, flanked by Dan, began to launch attacks off the front to split the peloton and reduce numbers.  Attacks which to the large part proved futile.  It was only when Sir Omar took control on the approach to the turn for the climb that the real damage was done.  In taking charge of the pace at the front, Sir Omar made sure to remind all riders that, although he may be injured, if you want to take his wheel you are going to have to work for it.  By the time the peloton had reached the foot of the climb Sir Omar had dismantled the peloton and reduced numbers to less than 50%.  The peloton took the right hand turn as riders awkwardly shifted between their gears, a young Crit got a rush of blood and launched an attack of his own, quickly establishing a decent break between him and the chasing pack.

Having spent numerous evenings sweating it out in PowerRide in the months prior to the race the men of CCC where more than capable to handle this break.  With Luke leading the charge (as usual) followed by the ever present Marcel chasing in 3rd and Dan getting redder and redder with every minute in 4th, the CCC men remained quietly confident of reeling in the young buck. Sure enough with more than 1km of climbing to go the young man’s race was done.  The jury remains out as to the real reason for his demise.  Some say puncture.  Some say it was just a good old bonk.  But in the end, this is bike racing. When the going gets tough there is no time for sympathy during the race.  Many competitors will have their excuses but there are never any excuses from the winners and with CCC now sure of assuming the top 3 podium places it is was only the order to be decided.

With Dan all but out of the race for top spot, Luke and Marcel set about their battle “mano a mano” and no more than 5m separating the two.  However, unfortunately for Luke and Marcel, both men had been concentrating too much on each other and failed to notice the sign at the side of the road offering “free Guinness at the top”.  Now, as anyone knows, every Irish man is quite partial for a pint of Guinness and, having been deprived of his pint for over 3 months now, once Dan saw this sign there was no stopping him.  Launching his attack to near perfection and fooling all of his fellow riders, Dan quickly closed the gap up to Marcel before continuing on to overtake Luke who exclaimed “where the F**K” did you come from?!”.  Dan continued to extend his lead and crossed the finish line 10 seconds ahead of Luke with Marcel rounding off the top 3 a further 9 seconds behind Luke.

Having congratulated one another, attentions quickly turned to cheering on the rest of the peloton as one by one we all reached the top exhausted but smiling as ever.  Adding to the occasion it was a real treat when Mr. & Mrs. PowerRide themselves (Ansary & Maha) who, having finished their social ride, continued on with other members of the PowerRide/Maadi Athletes team and joined the Peloton at the top.  With all riders having reached the top the atmosphere was one of mutual appreciation for what everyone had achieved.  At that point, the positions did not matter. We had all climbed the same climb and we had reached the top together.

07_Group Photo

Group Photo at the Observatory

After some refueling and rehydrating the group set about returning home.  Thankfully this time round the descent did not claim any victims and all riders were able to safely navigate their way back onto the main road where we re-grouped and began to look forward to our well-deserved break at the Total Station, thankfully, with the approval of Marcel.

A special mention at this stage must go to Fritz who summed up the spirit of these rides by remaining with a CC rider who had punctured.  Despite the availability of a support car and the main group riding on, Fritz stayed with the rider changed his tube, pumped it up again and pulled at the front all the way back to Total into a nasty headwind.  Apart from riding the young man’s bike for him, there is not much more Fritz could have done to assist.  Unfortunately for Fritz, by the time he had arrived at the garage and got himself a well-deserved coffee, according to Marcel’s stopwatch the allocated time for stoppage had elapsed and the Peloton was called to return to the road.

Full of sugar and renewed gusto the bunch worked closely together on the approach to the sprint.  This was the race that many of the CC riders wanted but unfortunately for them Marcel had more power left than anyone and took the win again for CCC.

06_Return Leg

Return leg

 

04_Peloton Stringing Out

Towards the final sprint

 

With the ride now all but over it was time for the riders to say their goodbyes and go their separate ways. A great, great, day out for all involved and one which surely must happen again soon.

Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring

Dan

14.10.2018

(still waiting for my Guinness)

The Epic One: CCC Inaugural Galala ride with our friends of Cairo Crit

 Friday 11th May saw the Queen stage of the 2018 CCC season, our Alpe d’Huez. A lot of anticipation could be felt, and actually it all started even before it even started.

The CCC group WhatsApp was nearly in flames for nearly a week before the event, with questions on logistics flying, some of them essential, such as which car would be following us? What would be the exact route? Or where and when would we stop?

But of course there were also the more futile questions or comments for instance on the bike cleaning protocol (or non-cleaning rather) Euan was following? How to carry a cooler on a bike?  Etc… All these comments were mixed also with CCC riders’ views on who would win the upcoming Giro stage.

Somehow, in this communication chaos, all managed to understand they had to be there at 5 am precise at our meeting point in Maadi: Luis (Le President), and the CCC cohort (Marcel, Fritz, Joe, Adam, Yan) all turned up on time, German/Colombian precision GMT (+- 2min).

The plan was to rejoin a group of Cairo Crit riders, led by Omar, at the toll booth, and from there go in a common peloton for the rest of the ride. The Cairo Crit group was made of Wael, Ahmed, Mahmoud, the 2 Kareem, Mostafa and Ibrahim.

This first warm up leg to the toll was done in an unusually slow pace. No conscious decision was made, however all knew that this would be the longest day of the year and that the presence of the Cairo Crit would mean that defending our status was on the cards for the day… Stay slow for now, you might need speed later! …This was the motto.

 

On the AS Highway

 

After a nicely cool ride (temperature at 22C), we reached the toll and gathered with the Cairo Crits.

The start of the group ride could be made and the early km were done at a good pace, in two lines; a sort of well-orchestrated  in taking turns, sometimes triggered the odd shout from Le President, who was unusually eager to be at the front.

After 30k or so the pace started to pick up, the turns became slightly shorter and the work at the front more intense. Talking was becoming scarcer, replaced by the nice and smooth chain friction noise of the group’s bikes. Any proper rider equally loves both.

A first firework was lunched around KM 75 after one of the Cairo Crit rider (Kareem) was going at the front and accelerating, escaping, quickly chased by Marcel, Omar and myself. This move actually did not turn out to be an attack, as the rider looked at us with surprise and then turned right to return home, leaving the three think about our mistake for a bit, figuring out whether to continue or abort the operation, especially given what was coming up later.

My decision was to abort, given my partners in crime were of another caliber. Marcel and Omar carried on with their suicidal tendencies for a bit until the next stop and bragged gently as the group approached.

We all regrouped in this stop, and the plan was not to stay too long .The temperatures still relatively fresh (24-25°C) up to that point (Km 90).

The group resumed together after the stop in a good mood until the Sokhna toll.

 

At the Ain Soukhna Toll Booth

At that point temperatures were starting to rise quickly and within 30min gained 4 degrees, flirting with the 30C. Luckily the sea breeze from the red sea was starting to be felt. Once the group reached the coastal road, the train became longer, one lined, and riders were wary of taking long turns as we were approaching the long awaited, and even more so, feared, Galala climb.

Coastal road

 

Traffic was more dense on this 2 lanes section and about 5k from the start of the climb Marcel hit a large stone on the road and managed, Swiss gods only knows how, to avoid falling…. but the hit had a nasty domino effect to Le President and Ibrahim. The first had his wheel hit Marcel’s bottle and quickly fell heavily on the road, immediately followed by Le President himself who, as a courageous captain, would not leave any rider to suffer alone. Somehow the rest of the group at the back managed to avoid a pile-up.

Unlucky, Ibrahim would not return to his bike due to the crash, and pain in the ribs. Le president would quickly launch an investigation about the cause of the crash, and remind Marcel of the odd fact that his bottle would fall here, and remain on the bike during the hardest of decent on MTB in the Wadi. The jury is still out on the final decision on Marcel’s responsibility in any of this. (NB: A message came shortly after the ride announcing a BBQ at Marcel’s in June, so there are assumptions about this being the sentence, unconfirmed at this stage still).

Fall scene investigation

After this forced stop, the group resumed their procession to the bottom of the climb.

The Galala climb came, long awaited. Early into the first gradient, riders started to unleash whatever energy was left in them. The more experienced were settling in an affordable pace while some younger ones started to borrow at high interest rate.

The climb was a steady solid 10k-12K, with a 4-5% gradient, without any wind on that day and now under scorching heat. The humidity also added to the overall difficulty.

 

The spearhead onto the first km of the Galala climb

 

The second half of the peloton on the first km of the Galala climb

 

In these conditions three riders quickly made a large gap, Omar, Marcel and Kareem (former Egypt National Team Coach), followed by Wael, Euan, and Yan who had to let the train go and quickly,  like the rest of the pack, lost hundreds of meters to the lead. A few hundred meters of ascent were covered, and soon the lines stretched and riders had to work on their own or at best within pairs. Mostafa Mahmoud and Luis were in contention, Luis managed to drop Mostafa in the middle of the climb, but Mahmoud as a phénix would rise towards the end and rejoin the group in front in an impressive fashion. Luis punctured to end a complicated last part of the ride on his side (fall and puncture within the last 20 k).

The race to the top would be decided between the three riders, and after Marcel responded to one and then to a second attack from the Crit riders, he had to accept defeat to Omar and Kareem, and get the consolation prize – of first CCC place and third in the overall stage!

It is still being discussed who between Omar and Kareem came first, a case the CCC decided to leave to the Crit Riders to agree on.

At the top the whole group was awaited by cold drinks and a cheerful JP who had arrived earlier.

After a nice pause a few riders from the Cairo Crit mainly, accompanied by Yan and Marcel, decided to finish the job and ride until the bottom of the Galala toll booth side, while the rest enjoyed an already well deserved rest, driving back to Cairo.

This was the epilogue to a great day out! All CCC riders want to thank the Cairo Crit riders for their friendship and great attitude, as well as to the whole support crew who enabled faultless logistics and great moral support to all cyclists.

 Keep riding!

 Yan Bechet

14May18

Finishers, from left: Wael, Ahmed El Hadidy, Mahmoud Usama, Kareem Bassyouni, Mostafa Mahmoud, Luis, Marcel, JP, Euan, Omar, Yan and Joe. Not in the picture: Adam, Fritz, Ibrahim and Kareem

The best for the end: Yan’s finest hour as Cameraman and Producer

 

 

Observatory Ride March 23, 2018

We gathered at 6.15 with thoughts of 38 degress and the Khamseen belying our outwardly projected enthusiasm. All of us were considering whether DSD (Dermody Standard Time) would have been the safer, if not a little more painful, option. The group was light, particularly on official CCC jerseys, but thankfully bolstered by a good friend from PowerRide: Luis, Fritz, Euan and Ansary.

The ride to the toll was fairly standard, procession like. We chatted and laughed about ‘matches’ on the stairway before being confronted by an oddly comforting headwind at the peak channeling down the Soukhna Road. I, and others I’m sure, were dreaming of a glorious tail wind carrying us back to Maadi at great speed, challenging those strava segments and delivering to Greco before Midday – oh, how wrong we were.

As we arrived at the toll booth, we saw the Crits and Sharks cracked by Sir Omar’s whip speed off as we were greeted by the beaming smile and infectious laugh of our old Cairo Crits friend, Abbas. There was some confusion about refueling, or taking on liquids and getting rid of some, so whilst Fritz was caught with his bib shorts around his ankles and Euan was buying some dust covered in chocolate from his favourite purveyor of cycling fuel, the group left in pursuit of the peloton some 5 – 10 minutes down.

The poursuivants were now bolstered by 2/3 of our French contingent as Jerome continued his return from injury after his impressive Missile Base exploits from the previous week and the Father of ride Pascal was ready and willing to have his classic special rides dispute with his driver. We were a group of 9 or so riders as CCC, PowerRide and Cairo Crits bolstered to close the gap.

Arriving at the tunnel, we were met by the impressive sight of an amassed peloton of 26 riders. After, few pleasantries the old heads of the CCC set the pace on the front, El Presidente ensuring we would take advantage of the favourable conditions and avoid any trouble on the ground below. The approach to the turn for the climb was the quickest in living memory with nobody wanting to miss the opportunity to put down an attack. At the right turn the race was on, 3 riders quickly distancing the pack and establishing and unassailable gap. Omar, Euan and Karim (former national team coach) worked together early on but it was clear that Karim was very strong and this climb under control. He established a gap of about 20 – 30 metres by the last KM and neither rider could mount a serious counter as he shot through the open gates and climbed the final bend to the observatory – still in sight but in complete control. Omar and Euan finished within 10 seconds of one another but perhaps 30+ down on Karim.

As the rest of the peloton arrived, there developed a great atmosphere of comradery at the observatory peak. 26 riders in total, an all-time finishing record, sat along the wall with the sprawling new capital construction in the background. After some refueling and hydrating, it was the treacherous descent that claimed another 2 victims who overshot on cornering: causalities of inexperience. If the approach to climb was the fastest ever, then the return to the highway was the slowest. Rebuffed by a fierce head wind, and with the crashes curbing our enthusiasm, it was a long unenjoyable slog that was soon forgotten about whence the highway provided us with some gentle support in the loving guise of the always allusive tail wind. Pascal, having secured his free ticket to the PowerRide race on 28th, clambered aboard his steed and fully embraced the role of broom wagon.

 

Finishers from CCC, CairoCrits and PowerRide teams, record by far!

 

Riding back towards the AS Highway, into the wind

 

Still all smiles

 

For what seemed a very brief moment, the remaining huddled riders enjoyed the protection of the peloton and support of the breeze blissfully unaware of the hell that was to come. Soon, the wind had turned on us, attacking our left shoulders and stringing us out across the highway and at times perilously close to the right-hand barrier – shouts of ‘Shemal! Shemal!’ made little impact form the back of the group. One by one riders dropped off as the cross wind battered and bruised our bodies and egos. The group did well and stayed disciplined in difficult circumstances. The 2 sole CCC survivors the Total station were in presidential style Luis and Euan. Thankful for others’ need for water, the 2 CCC riders applauded one another probably thinking they could have continued to Maadi but secretly delighted for the break and the viewing gallery to witness Jerome’s salacious drafting behind Pascal.

Those remaining riders left the Total station and headed for home and further punishment at the hands of the wind. Jerome was sadly overcome with cramp, proving he was true to his mantra of “empty the tank!” The bunch worked together on the approach to the sprint with Omar attacking about 500m out. Sadly, CCC missed the attack despite Luis valiantly attempting to close the gap. Omar hadn’t given away all his secrets as he was able to hold of his protégées to take the sprint.

After a brutal experience on the highway, the remaining CCC riders returned slowly past the church via Dunkin’ Donuts and back to Maadi, too shell-shocked to face the CSA and civilization. It was a classic to end all classics.

The Stats:

KOM:

1.       Karim

2.       Omar

3.       Euan

Most Combative:

Jerome

Green jersey:

Sir Omar Lord

Special Thanks:

Pascal – Broom Wagon

 

Euan, 27.03.18

 

 

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.


Categories

Advertisements