Archive for June, 2009

Random Cambridge Stuff

Posted in 1 on June 23, 2009 by bencycles

I rode the Chain-Gang long route tonight. Almost 50 miles, counting to and fro, of fast echelon riding through narrow village roads. Damn fine, I say, damn fine. And now I just had a huge plate of pasta with 3 slices of bread, each slathered in a thick coating of nutela. Heaven. It stays light so long out here, we don’t start the ride until almost 7pm, do 50 miles, and I still have 2 hr daylight. Then it gets light again at 4am.

I’ve been waking up around 4:30 am because I have a hard time sleeping if I know there’s daylight. I go ride 30 miles and by that time, the rest of the fam is up and i can play with the baybay for a bit before I go to work. My coworkers think I’m kind of a nut. I just tell them that’s how we roll in Cali. They also comment near daily about my constant consumption of food. But with all the cakes and cookies that seem to flow through our break room, how can I not? Speaking of sweets, there is a lot to be had over here, geez, every aisle seems to have cookies, biscuits, kitkats, and tasty bready bits. that would all be fine if I had self control…

Let’s see, what else…

  • If someone wants to get you a snakebite and black, think first man, think first. And maybe you should just take a pass on going to “The Regal”.
  • I’ve found that it’s much more fun to use a thick Texas accent when talking to British people. They seem to get a kick out of it and it’s easier than my bad British accent.
  • If you try to call chips anything other than chips, you’re going to lose all your street cred. So get with the programme.
    Bring your own bike tools so you can work on your bike yourself. Getting work done at a shop around here can be kind of a pain sometimes (I knew I should have brought my own cassette lockring tool…).
  • The rail system in the UK is not cheap.
  • The beer is.
  • I have figured out that wearing a hooded sweatshirt over here has different and fairly negative connotations compared to SoCal. Some places won’t even let you in and people watch you out of the corner of their eye but won’t talk to you. I brought three of them…
  • The fruits and vegetables over here are very good. Even the cheap stuff from Asda often tastes better then what we get at Whole Foods. Yay for less gargantuan commercial agriculture!
  • Always bring a rain jacket. always.
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Chamrousse loop

Posted in Race/Ride reports on June 5, 2009 by bencycles

If my memory is correct (which is dubious), this is a pretty accurate rendition of the loop I did on my 2nd day riding in France. this was my “recovery ride” after my 85 mile round trip to Alpe d’Huez the day before. Not much recovery to be found in those hills but it was a really fun loop. My route to Vizille was actually much less direct and required a significant amount of dirt roads… but I’m not even going to try and re-create that on google maps and my satnav is being aloof. The first part of the climb from Sechilienne to D111 is a narrow little road through a beautiful village and wooded area with zero traffic, a welcome change from Huez. the clouds of flies, on the other hand… there is a nice picnic grounds just before you get onto D111 and the road flattens out, giving you false hope that your at the top. Your not. Keep climbing, sucka, ’cause Chamrousse is still ahead, though on a bigger road with a bit more traffic. Get to the fire station at the top, pat yourself on the back, put your helmet on, and get ready for fun. I’m not the boldest descender in the world but the road going down was wide open and the turns were very flowing, allowing one the chance for some nice speed, save for one or two hairpins. There is a nice little village at the bottom where a grumpy Frenchman kicked me out of the shade for eating a pastry from the “other” deli. Better to buy your pastry and go eat it in the park, anyway. It’s a nice spin back into town where you can enjoy some wine or $6 beers, mmm. If you are a glutton for overdoing things, you should walk up to Fort de la Bastille in the sun without water after doing this ride (preferably before eating), just to make sure you are properly wrecked and sunburnt when you go to work the next day.

Six Croissants a Day

Posted in 1 on June 1, 2009 by bencycles

You want pics?

I’d inbed them, but I’m paying for internet by the megabyte over here and pictures use a good bit of it, so just click the link : )

It was finally time to ride the Alps. I’ve explored a bit of this corner of the world on my little weekend excursions since I’ve been here, but I still hadn’t “done” the first thing that came to mind when the opportunity to come here arose.

It was time to score some hills. And those suckas didn’t disappoint. I was ready to be jaded, having lived in Colorado for 9 years, and California even longer, I have seen a lot of mountains. The Alps are damn amazing, though. Really beautiful and very impressive.

My hotel was much nicer than Milan, but it took a while to find. The address came from a French website. Turns out the address was for an “area” and not a “specific place”… such as my hotel. Google maps was happy to pinpoint my “address” for me and I blissfully went on my way, walking towards the little bubble on my map. Dragging a 25kg bike box through southern France when it’s 30 degrees, sunny, and humid is not that much fun. My hands were starting to get blisters (get your mind out of the gutter) with the sharp strap of the bike box digging in to my wrists as I tugged it along the rocky trail that was a road on my GPS.

Already feeling dirty from the 5 hours of flight/bus/tram and out of water, I stopped in the shade to scour my three different maps and one GPS for some clue I may have overlooked. Nothing.
“Maybe that old lady walking by knows…”
We each fumbled around with our own languages on one another for a while until she directed me down a narrow street.
“Sweet, she knows where it’s at and she’s gonna take me there.”
We walk for a while until we get to a big house with a family having a picnic, she calls to them in French and they start chatting.
“Hmmm, maybe she knows the people who own the hotel and she’s called for them to let me in…”

The whole family is outside now, looking at their own map.
“Ooh, this is about to get complicated”
After carefully examing the curves of the river from my website map like a set of tea leaves and comparing them to the river on their own street map for 15 minutes and significant discussion within the clan, it was decided.

I had just dragged my bike and all my gear three miles in the opposite direction of where my hotel “probably was”…

“hmmm, don’t think I’ll be spinning the legs out today…”

The French lady I’d originally talked to had left by now and I’m standing with the family, trying to listen for any key words I might recognize, flipping through my phrase book, trying to find the concoction of words I could assemble which would magically get me to my hotel. No luck. But just then the women I’d first met drives back up in her little car and motions for me to put my stuff in.
“Oh yeah!” Nothing I like better than movement. It has the guise of progress even when it’s futile.
In the car we talk about the one thing that both of us seemed to understand, how beautiful the mountains were. We each took turns pointing to them, saying “mountain”, and then talking about how beautiful they were in our respective language. I don’t know exactly what she said and I’m sure my description was just as foreign to her, but it was kind of a cool moment, nonetheless.

She drove me back to the exact tram station where this little scenario started, gave me her tram pass that still had 5 rides on it, kissed my cheeks, and pointed that I should go in the opposite direction from before. I never saw her again, but feel all warm and fuzzy just knowing she’s out there somewhere.

The hotel? Well, funny thing, that. Turns out they were right. It was three blocks from the train station, in the exact opposite direction.

France is an interesting place. The nice people I met were some of the nicest I have ever met. But then the rude French people I met were some of the least friendly people I’d ever met. It was almost like hanging out with someone who has a personality disorder (no I don’t!), ahem. Like being laughed at by the restaurant owners who came over to talk in French about the “American” in their restaurant compared to the incredibly friendly woman I chatted with using my broken French in the bakery that morning. Or the grumpy little Frenchman that kicked me out of the shade of the patio because my pastry was from the “other” deli compared to the helpful people I’d met the day before. It was the dichotomy of jaded and angry at the foreigners (Im sure being American with poor language skills was part of the polarizing factor) compared to the sincerity and openness of the other people I met that started to leave me guessing what response I might get each time I wanted to initiate any communication. But hey, it’s France. I think you pay extra for that in France. come to think of it, I think everything costs more in France.

That all seems vastly more interesting then telling you what you might have already heard –  the roads through the alps are absolutely amazing to ride. Alpe d’Huez was harder than I expected (and I expected it to be fucking hard) and really crowded with huge organized groups of riders all attempting to make the 21 switchbacks to the top. It was a bit hectic near the base and I road pretty hard to get in front of as many of the other riders as I could. Once climbing though, we were all spread out. The only thing getting in the way now were the voices in my head telling me it hurt. And hurt it did. Got to the top and found a little grocery store above the finish where I could get some snacks, thus avoiding the crowded restaurants and overpriced souvenir shops. 85 miles round trip and the realization I’d just ridden what is probably the most iconic mountain stage of any of the three tours. I was cooked.

Looks like I can check that off my “life list”. Sweet

Best of all, there are miles of amazing roads in the area without the reputation of Alpe d’Huez but all the bite and excite. Just less traffic. hmmm, that’s not half bad. Ooh, and the descents…