Life On Two Wheels

Along the river and toward the mountains a morning shadow shimmers across the road. The rays of the first light jet through the trees and across a figure gliding upon the road. His breath trails in short spurts, petrified as it hits the icy air. All is quiet except the slight sound of the athlete as he summons himself for yet another days work. Soon the rest of the world will bustle with life as well and the brief simplicity of cyclist and nature will disappear into the everyday struggle of life in full motion; the errands and intervals, the appointments and intersections, and the deadlines and finish lines OutPaceTheRace

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Final day of work in Gerona

Gerona, ESP
Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I think today has set a new record for walking ‘round the town. I went to two different clinics two different times for the surgery consultations. The X-ray was actually a bit comical. I had no idea what she was saying so we did more sign language and useless talking than X-raying. Then I walked to the store and back a couple times. The worst part of leaving the apartment is the journey back up the stairs to the apartment. It’s quite an adventure, and definitely one you don’t want to make on legs unaccustomed to the effort involved. The first week here is the worst just because of the walking.
Tomorrow morning at 6:50 the flight leaves from Gerona. I’m actually kind of excited to be flying on Ryanair again, they make the whole process so much easier. The big airlines like United and Lufthansa make travel so difficult. With them the whole day is wasted, but with Ryanair you can wake up at 5:15, catch the taxi and be at the terminal by 6:15. You get to your destination by 9:00 with the whole day ahead of you… plus the flight only costs like 25 dollars…

In bad company

Gerona, ESP
Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The flat below ours is that of the traveling vagabond. It’s a hostel. So you get all sorts of dudes drifting in from the streets. Of late, is some fellow who plays the guitar ‘n sings all hours of the night. You’d think that the owner of the hostel would be a bit disturbed, but I guess not… I was gonna yell at him, but Ian and Dan got to it before I could. I guess he got the drift, but normally you can say anything you want to people and they don’t have the slightest clue what you’re saying. It’s quite amusing until you need to ask someone something, then you’re just screwed. Yesterday something hilarious happened regarding one Pension Perez, but you’re gonna have to hear it via the grapevine, cause it’s a bit too over the top to appear here.
This morning we woke up a bit early so that we could get out on a ride before taking the bikes down to the “sprinter” for their journey over to the God awful place called Belgium. Steve ‘n I went out over Els Angels and then I went out towards Saint Gregori for a total of two and a half easy hours. It’s quite nice in the morning, but they spray the cobbles so they’re a bit slippery.
My return has officially been delayed for the fourth time. At the moment I’m not aware of the date, but I presume that it’s not more than 4 days. So October 6th or so from October 2nd. I’m consulting with a Spanish nose specialist to get the nasal passages enlarged after Franco Belge.
By the way, it doesn’t sound cool to use profanity in your comments. It’s really rather juvenile.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Traveling the day away

Salzburg, AUS to Gerona, ESP
Sunday, September 24, 2006

We had an “early flight” out of Austria this morning. It wasn’t really early, but with the drive from Salzburg to Munich and the international airport wait you’ve gotta tack on an extra 2.5 – 3 hours… Which by the way is absolutely ridiculous. They’ve got the easy check computerized system, but then you’ve got to wait in the check baggage line to check your baggage. And if you have a bike then you go to the fee line to pay for the bike. It’s all totally nuts, I thought the Germans’d be more foxy than that. We drove on the Autobahn on the way over too, nothing special there. Sure people go fast, but it’s pretty much the same as any three lane freeway. I’d say the max speed I saw was 180 kph, but speeding like that is commonplace on any European highway. The sign on the side of the road reads “fairplay…autobahn.” I don’t get it. Maybe it means they don’t want you to race or something.
It ended up being a classic airport day though. Tons of standing around and waiting, wasting your day ‘n stuff. We left at 7:00am for the airport and got into Gerona at 6:30pm… the flight was an hour and twenty-five minutes… What gives?
FrancoBelge starts this Thursday and ends Sunday.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Quelling the anger...

I've never done a race where so much stupid stuff happened. I guess the main problem was that the course wasn't hard enough so you were always fighting with the pack fodder to maintain position at the front. But this was fine, no big deal... It becomes a sprinters race. But that's not what really got under my skin... Let's just say that sitting in all day and following no moves is never going to get us a win, and I largely attribute this to the general attitude on the national team of let's just finish the race. Enough said.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Cows 'n stuff

I've got some 12 hours before the start of the worlds now. To say that I'm a tad nervous is abit of an understatement... I took a look at the start list and there are 178 riders, previously 180 before two of the Brazilians were caught doping. I presume that the whole race is going to be exceptionally nervous with the wide variety of fitness and experience within the peloton. You've got guys from Africa to Korea to Indonesia who you could guess and probably be right that this is their first race of the year... Then you've got the euro bunch who'll be racing like everyone's been racing in europe their whole life. So it'll definately be a wicked little ride.
On an entirely different note, I've noticed that this place is totally covered in flys. At any given moment at least 5 "house flies" can be spotted in a room, and they'll probably all be on your arm. I presume that this is due to the over abundance of cattle in the area. Whatever, I guess... It's just that I seem to have got the one room by the boiler room so it's quite hot and I prefer to open the window to allow for the cooling effect to go into action... of course the flies come in... so it's a lose, lose situation...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

World rundfahrt

It's been several days since arriving in Austria. We flew into Munich from Barcelona & drove from there to Salzburg. Salzburg is right up against the Alps. The area is just about the most beautiful that I've ever seen, there are grassy rolling hills with big mountains rising up behind them. Austria is a perfect representation of a stereotypical Bovarian town. There are all these little roads that are perfectly paved, the kind that in the US would come to a dead end after a quarter of a mile. If your not familiar with Austria they speak German. & the weird Bovarian cloth that you see that you think is kaput... is for real in Austria. Either the're really traditional or they actually like the stuff...
The course is quite interesting, I would compare it to the circuit race at Redlands with a little less climbing. We do eight laps on a 22km circuit. The loop has several little climbs with one at 18 percent for 500 meters. Our race is Saturday.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

World turning

Girona, ESP
Sunday, September 17, 2006

It’s hard to believe that it’s already mid-September. I can remember arriving here the first time (end of January) and thinking wow, I can’t believe I’m actually in Spain. Then it snowed, and rained, and I missed the first race because I was sick. Now the mystic feeling of the place is gone, it’s funny, just like anything else… you think that it’s going to be an extraordinary experience that you’ll never forget, but you get there and do it and it all becomes just a part of daily life. It passes by, the seasons change, and you make the most of the moment that once was the beginning of the year but now’s the end of the year. Crazy huh? Life goes by so quick.
Anyway, we did La tour de Somme over the weekend. It was an interesting race; two days, one road race the first day and two road races the second day. The stage races with double days of road races are kinda brutal. I’m not sure why, they were super short but the second one felt like we rode for 5 hours. I’m quite pleased with my performance though, La Somme is known as quite the cross wind “strong guy” race, but I finished somewhere near the top ten… which isn’t extraordinary, but for me is pretty good. So I’d venture that my form is pretty good at the moment. I leave Tuesday for the u23 world championships in Austria (I’ve finally officially been selected with Craig and john devine) which take place on, I think, Friday.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Come 'n go

Girona, ESP
Tuesday, September 12, 2006

It seems like I’ve just returned to Girona… nonetheless as soon as I’m all ready to get my stuff unpacked were getting it ready again… I guess that’s racing though. You’ve always gotta be on your toes, ready to attack- or get off the couch ‘n go…
Anyway, today was a nice easy little spin. It was kinda cloudy ‘n rainy this morning so I opted to do the 1.5 hours on the trainer instead. In the morning after the 3rd cup of coffee I decided to stroll down to the store to pick up some food supplies. There’d been a light sprinkling on the cobbles so there was plenty of loose water on the ground. For the first time I realized that I needed to replace my sandals; turns out that the sole is cracking underneath allowing for aqua to slip in and emit a squeaking noise upon impact… I’m not sure if I’m down with replacing them though, ‘cause I reckon that the quality of this here Spanish clothing could be over rated, and I’m not especially eager to lay down my good euro for the Spanish brand name… or whatever the reason is that it’s expensive. I’ll probably just end up donning the Reeboks in the rain for the rest of the trip. Sandals are kaput come mid September anyway.
I’ve gotta note that yesterday they were partying in the streets… At first I thought it was in respect to 9/11, but then I saw all the flags and realized it was like Catalan day or something. Ya know- “we’re not France and we’re not Spain… free the people of Catalunya!” Good stuff huh!, I was tempted to roll down the US flag over our balcony… there’d of been mass riots and murder though, not even Steve’s “guns” could hold off the team of hooligans that’d have come…

Monday, September 11, 2006

Euro HC

Fourmies, FRA- Grand Prix de Fourmies La Voix de Nord… 1.HC
Sunday, September 10, 2006

We flew into the Borvaix airport near Paris on Saturday from Girona. Kevin and the bikes had been held up on the road over so we ended up riding later that day around 5pm. The food was great but the housing was the fairly simple bed and bathroom that we’ve come to expect in France. The strange thing was that we we’re in the same hotel complex that last year’s former winning team was at… Lotto and Robbie Mc Ewen. The food was good for a change though, so we were satisfied at the end.
This was my first euro HC race, so I was a bit nervous coming into it. But it turned out to be quite similar to the 1.1/2.1 races, there are just a lot more of the big pro tour guys here. The attacks are significantly harder than what I’m used to then its full throttle from there. So you’ve got to be careful about which ones you follow, otherwise you blow too quickly. In the end Frank and Cozza got in the early break, then that group got caught and Frank attacked and went away with another guy. Together they were able to claim the KOM jersey and the sprint jersey, Frank the KOM one. Everyone sat up when they went and Lotto and Unibet chased them down. They were finally caught on the last finishing circuit lap. I tried desperately to get in a break on the second to last lap, but it was totally nuts. The selection group stayed together for the final lap and I was left with no choice but to not contest the sprint. There was a mass swarming and the current swiftly placed me in the back… Not that it would have made much of a difference ‘cause my sprint legs aren’t up to the task of sprinting against the likes of these guys, or anyone else for that matter… Anyway, I finished up in 37th again… If you recall that was also my finish in Georgia and California…

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Hide 'n go seek

Girona, ESP
Thursday, September 07, 2006

Today Steve, Danny, and I went out on the “sun-flower loop.” Unfortunately the loop’s name doesn’t hold year round and at the moment is a bit gloomy with the blackened state of the flower heads… The whole loop ended up being 3.5 hours, quite nice, finishing with the Hincapie Climb and the St. Andreau loop. On the St. Andreau part we bummed some pares from the trees on the side of the road and started playing this game… it goes like this: You attack each other until someone sits up or gets enough time that they get out of sight, then they hide on the side as you go by. Each time that they effectively hide without being seen they get a point. Of course when you’re hiding the guy that was behind you is going to be going full throttle to catch you, so you’ve gotta jump out of hiding and catch them lest they continue under the false notion that you’re still ahead just around the bend. This is when they’ll probably attack you, with the gap and your previous effort, quite the little game… I wonder if Lance played it in preparation for the tour? Pate did for uspro…

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

World Champ material?

Girona, ESP
Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Today Dan and I did a ride through Olot and into some fairly hilly country. The riding and scenery is exceptional over there, seems every road is void of cars. The high mountains jut up in the distance and every sign points to Andorra. The loop from Girona ended up taking 6 hours, with a total distance somewhere in the range of 190 km.
The other news on the day is that I may be selected to compete for the US in the world championships over in Austria come mid October. If the team can get the politics sorted out then the possibility is quite real. The course is great, and with the quality of my other compatriots I reckon we’ll have a good chance of winning.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Just flat and windy...

Landry, FRA to Vallandry, FRA Stage 6 of Valle d’Aosta & brooding
Sunday, September 03, 2006

The last stage was a 10 km time trial effort up to Vallandry. I think it averaged something like 9%, not so much, but definitely a climb not to be reckoned with. For some reason time trials and I don’t correspond. I could be the fastest guy on the climbs during the race, but then I get to the time trial and it’s like I’m going backwards, I’m sure that in normal flat time trials its not this aerodynamic set back that I have it’s something mental that’s not clicking. This is why I’ve done some really good time trials and then some really bad ones too… I think it’ll come with time though, the more of ‘em that I do the more chances I’ll have to mull over what went wrong where and how to fix it. During this one, my legs fell fast asleep with 5 km to go, I fought it pretty good and laid waste in the last ~3km. But in the end it was only good enough for 17th place, the Irish guy from La Pomme who I put a minute into in the last 4km the day before on the climb to the finish won… 2 minutes ahead of me! I ended up moving into 12th from 32nd on the 2nd day.
Now I’m back in Girona. The next race is in 4 days somewhere in France. It’s on a circuit I guess with a couple little kickers, it’s 2HC, so it’s going to be one evil little puppy. It’ll probably start raining too, I guess I'm over due for that though. At the moment Girona weather yields 32 C days.

10.09.2006 - 10.09.2006 GP de Fourmies / La Voix du Nord
15.09.2006 - 16.09.2006 Prix du Conseil Général - Tour de la Somme
28.09.2006 - 01.10.2006 Circuit Franco-Belge

Monday, September 04, 2006

And the beat goes on...

Sallanches, FRA to Peisey-Nancroix, FRA Stage 5 of Valle d’Aosta
Saturday, September 02, 2006

Today had 4 significant climbs; one in the beginning then two very large ones with a brief period of descending amid and finally a six km jaunt up to the finish. It started somewhere in France that required a 1.45 hour transfer from the race hotel, leaving most of us a bit queasy upon our arrival. The plan was for me to sit in with the leaders until they blew themselves Italian style. On the way up the largest climb (the one before the final climb); a group of ~8 guys took off up the road. Second in GC (blue jersey) attacked after them leaving the yellow jersey to cover him. When he went I hesitated a second and then chased him down. There remained a gap of some 25 seconds between the blue jersey and the yellow jersey and I, so his team mate dropped from the 8 guys up the road to help the yellow jersey chase down the blue guy. Unfortunately his team mate tried for a bit and promptly blew up in his face. So once again all the pressure was on the yellow jersey to catch the blue jersey, who on GC was just 11 seconds back. I however am ~4:11 back… He looked at me and said “if you’ve got anything left I’ll compensate you to pace me up to him…” I didn’t say anything, just went and caught the dude in 30 seconds… “Gracie.” I figured that I had to catch him either way, and at the moment we were in the boat together.
On the climb up to the finish, there was still a Belgian dude up the road at 1:50 (the previous race leader) and one remnant from his break dropped slightly behind him, so I set a tempo up the hill intending to drop as many people off my wheel as possible before the finish. On the line the two guys were still up the road, the Belgian at 1 minute and his dropped partner behind him and then two guys sprinted so I got 5th again. Now I’m in 13th… from 32nd….. What happened those first two days? It’s a “sunk cost” at this point though eh?

Monthey, SUI to Chatel, FRA Stage 4 of Valle d’Aosta
Friday, September 01, 2006

Bad news… we’re in France now. Of the countries we’ve been in France is somewhere near the bottom. The country isn’t so bad, but the people’ve got some issues. Italy, Switzerland & even Spain have some respect for people (especially Italy), but you get to France and it’s all about their “holidays” ‘n stuff- “oh, you paid to stay in this hotel and you want something more than pasta boiled over night? Are you crazy? I’ve gotta feed the dog it’s cheese ‘n wine… you schmuck.” Anyway, turns out that the Swiss Alps aren’t any better looking than the French or Italian ones. There’s absolutely no difference. You look at the French side and you could easily be on the Swiss side. If you ask me, the Alps look no better than the Rockies, Cascades or Pyrenees. Nonetheless, despite being in France, I expect that the place we’re staying will be a bit above traditional French par. When it’s up in the mountains at a ski area surrounded by BMWs and Audis I suspect that they’ll be serving up a bit more than the usual shredded carrot and overcooked pasta dish.
The race today was a snappy 107 km. It started out as what was to be a nice easy race; unfortunately the race leader’s team knew not how to ride a race as the race leader. So it was an all out effort that certainly could shake the GC up tomorrow. At 35 km there was a short ~8km climb, then another one at 70km up to the circuit. The circuit consisted of 4 laps with a climb of ~4-5 km each lap (each of like 10km). The mistake that the leader’s team made was not allowing a break to go, forcing them to ride flat out the entire race. I swear, give ‘em 20 km more and the team’d be out the back wondering where they went wrong. The first time up the climb the GC contenders went romp on the race leader, but he was quite strong at the moment and managed to chase them down quickly. The next several times though he relied on his team which was already pretty much cracked. The top 15 or so GC contenders and I got up the road. On the flat section approaching the climb the final time we were caught by him and the rest of the peloton. The last 5km were totally nuts with people pushing and shoving yet generally accomplishing nothing. One Italian moron grabbed my hip to push me back, so I reached to push his hand off and incidentally landed an elbow in his eye. I guess it got the point across- it just makes no sense why they get all loony like that, makes me want to hit him in the other eye too. I saw at least 12 other people do the hip push. According to our director they get even crazier when they get dropped back into the caravan.
On a different note, I wanted to mention something else about Switzerland that some people seem to have missed. In a culture that demands cleanliness and absolute obedience to the laws, one must consider that the people do not share the common desire to build a mountainous “utopia,” perhaps it is instead their way of keeping each other out of trouble… In a land that has too many laws, the people begin to look out for each other in an effort to release themselves from the stranglehold that the government has placed on them. This can be seen when someone points out that riding a bike on the walking path is reason for prosecution Consider that abhorrently high taxes and strict laws are the beginning of a socialist/communist society.

Friday, September 01, 2006

C'mon feel the noise...

Saxon, SUI to Saxon, SUI Stage 3 of Valle d’Aosta
Thursday, August 31, 2006

This morning we transferred from the Italian side of the Alps to the Swiss side. We took some tunnel that went under the higher mountains and across into Switzerland. The first thing we see in Switzerland is their great “neutral” army. I guess they’ve gotta defend their banks or something. Anyway the Swiss side looks the same as the Italian side- personally I prefer the Italian side to the Swiss side. The Swiss towns are not as they are portrayed on TV ‘n stuff. It looks more like Marseilles surrounded by mountains or something, but with more Mercedes and Volvos. Indeed, the Swiss seem to be swimming in money. I must’ve mistaken the Swiss villages for the Bovarian ones, for some reason I thought that’s how they’d look, but I guess they prefer a clean version of the Marseilles architecture.
Anyway, the name of the game today was the change of the game… My climbing legs returned today. Debatably the hardest day, it had 3 significant hills- one with a section of 18%. It didn’t seem to make much of a difference though ‘cause I just kept on spinning until there were like 15 guys left. We descended off the 18% one and headed up the longest one of the day (~12km with a section of dirt in the last km). As planned, I attacked at the bottom of the climb, and by the time I got to the top we had a minute on the 6 or so guys left in the field! One guy from La Pomme came with me and one guy from an earlier break got on our wheel near the top. On the descent the La Pomme guy pulled an Ullrich and ended up taking a dive off the side. On the flat 20 km to the finish a group of 6 guys caught us making our group 8. On the finish I got 5th… So we’re all pretty stoked and hopefully I continue to climb well in the next couple days!

Aosta, ITA to Valgrisenche, ITA Stage 2 of Valle d’Aosta
Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It didn’t quite work out today. My 31st position overall is pretty much cemented at the moment… Unless a miracle occurs where I jump the 5 minute gap or something, I’m pretty well worked for GC. As is the case when were screwed overall, the situation changes and we start shooting for results on the stage. In general this means getting in the break and making it over the various mountains on the way to the finish without being caught. Tomorrow should be ideal for such a setting to occur. It’s got three large climbs (one with a section of 1 km at 18%) and one small one. The finish is flat so everyone’ll probably stay kinda calm on the way over the mountains- but since this is an Italian race calm isn’t saying much, ‘cause the bunch’s got a knack of goin haywire over the smallest things.
Today’s race had a nice long climb at the finish and I simply didn’t have the legs to hang with them all the way. I finished three minutes down wondering why the hell I can’t hang with a bunch of lame Italians in the midst of what I’ve been able to do in the last couple months. I swear that I’ll race until January if I don’t get a result in a climbing race this year. When you set out to have a successful season and you finish with your hat in your hand, you’ve got to wonder what’s going on. At the beginning of the year I was sure the season’d yield something of worth, yet I’m finishing the year with nothing & it feels like dog-crap. To begin next year with an unproductive season this year will feel like I’m just going to recycle this one. Hopefully something grand’ll happen in the next few days.