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Hell man! ride…

February 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helwan Ride 2016, checked!

David L.

 

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

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

 

at the Regional Ring Road exit

at the Regional Ring Road exit

 

 

 

 

Lake Qarun Ride

Fayoum – 12/4/2015

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rick Harman

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

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

 

Fishermen in the background

Fishermen in the background?

 

where is the road?

where is the road?

 

good mood in the sand

good mood in the sand

 

We found the road !

We found the road !

Porto Soukhna Sky Mall Nov. 2015

November 20, 2015

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Rick H.

 

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

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

 

Olivier finishing the ordeal

Olivier finishing the ordeal

 

The victory ceremony

The victory ceremony

 

Joe capturing the happy finishers

Joe capturing the exhausted but happy finishers

Fall 2015 Rides

Observatory Ride 

October 16th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Helwan counter-clockwise Ride

September 16, 2015

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

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

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

Luis

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

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

 

 

CCC Sakara Ride Friday June 5th

This Friday was our (the kiwis) farewell ride.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Meg Wall

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

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

 

people from another planet

people from another planet

 

Water stop in the wop wops!

Water stop in the wop wops!

 

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

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

waiting for the ferry

waiting for the ferry…

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

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

Porto Sokhna Sky Mall May 2015

May 22, 2015

 

Finally: the queen stage of the season. The stage we were longing for since November when it had to be cancelled due to the Ain Sokhna road cycling ban.

 

We departed this time at 5:30 am, with the usual routine. The long approach to the Gulf of Suez was done with a relatively swift but not hard pace, so that there was a “gruppo compatto” (it’s Giro d’Italia times) in the first two legs. We had not been as early as 8 am in the restaurant at km 75 before. The following leg saw a puncture and a break-away of 4 who arrived at the Ain Sokhna toll booth at 9:30 am, also record. The weather developed relatively favorable, neither awfully hot (at least not the official temperature) nor very windy. In the coastal road things always become very tough (anybody remembers Tobin and Timo pulling, or Sami in need of a break?). Another puncture, everybody waited. Eventually the front bunch was selected to 7 riders coming into Porto Sokhna at km 150.

 

And then the 2,7 km beast, where everybody goes to the limit. Heartbeat of 198 bpm and Power up to 321 Watts were recorded, don’t know about the so called “suffering factor”, but it has to be brutal. And the showdown unfolded like this:

Meg W. is again the Queen of the Mountain, Congratulations!

David Gamal is the new King of the Mountain, the first national to beat all the Khawagas. Mabrouk!

Nick C. takes second place in the mountain only 11″ behind, and also gets an Award of Appreciation for the traditional cold beers and beverages when you most needed them.

Thomas H. completes the podium, after being most of the day in the front with his characteristic “tunnel view”.

Lanterne rouge: Pascal, always attentive to assist riders in need of repairs or transportation.

 

We were in the Sky Mall already at 11 am, not only due to the earlier start but also due to the averages in the range of 31.5-33.5 km/h, from Maadi.  Kudos to everybody, it has been yet again an honor to complete this challenge with this constellation group of riders for the last time, as several of them will be leaving the country soon, too bad. Here are the pictures:

 

Luis

 

Sky Mall finishers, from left: Dan, Nick, Meg, Luis, Pascal, Thomas, Ibrahim, Mohamed Said,  David G.; below: Omar Khairy, Omar Adel.

Sky Mall finishers, above from left: Dan, Nick, Meg, Luis, Pascal, Thomas, Ibrahim, Mohamed Said & David Gamal; below: Omar Khairy & Omar Adel.

 

Koll mabsouteen awy

Koll mabsouteen awy

 

Who said it was hard?

Who said it was hard?

 

Observatory Ride Spring 2015

March 20th, 2015

It has been a year since we last did the Observatory ride, and they are always special. Today there was a solar eclipse and Egypt was shortly on the penumbra while we were riding back. However, we did not abort the ride this time due to natural phenomena, as it was the case 2 years ago during a khamseen. For the first time we saw tourists at the Observatory, evidently hoping to see the eclipse in a telescope. Neither them nor us were granted access, though.

Attendance was great with a tally of 12. The weather was of a lovely Egyptian Spring (15°C) and the wind was moderate (~4 kmh NE).  The mood was superb, and this time nobody lost it when it came to climbing. The round trip from Maadi was of 147 km. Level of difficulty was high as always, especially the brutal pace of the 34 km leg from the Observatory exit to the toll booth took a toll on many.

 

from left: Luis, David, Omar I, Mohamed, Pascal, Tarek, Ashraf, Joe, Omar II, Nick, Rick and Geoff.

from left: Luis, David, Omar I, Mohamed, Pascal, Tarek, Ashraf, Joe, Omar II, Nick, Rick and Geoff.

 

Refueling

 

There are some awards to confer for today’s performances:

Highest award for vehicle support, fluids and Good Samaritan of the ride goes to Pascal

KOM at Observatory: Photo-finish between Omar Khairy and Nick, closely followed by Omar Adel

Heineken Sprint: Photo-finish between Omar I and Omar II (pick any of them, both are great guys)

Short cut of the day: Tarek, on the descent of the Observatory

Freshmen to this ride: David G., Rick, Geoff, Tarek and Ashraf

KOP (King of Punctures): Omar Khairy with 4

Longest distance: Omar Khairy, 171 km

Never surrender award (aka Lanterne Rouge): Geoff

Well done everybody!

Luis

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