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

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.