Archive for the 'Cycling' Category

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

 

 

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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.

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


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