The Giant

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By early afternoon, the day before Bastille Day, I was on the twisting country roads, riding to Mont Ventoux.

Just the day before, I had flown into Paris from Boston, a last minute trip to visit a friend that had turned into a surgical strike to see stage 12 of the Tour de France. Just that morning, I was on the TGV to Avignon. Just an hour before I was in the Renault navigating my way through Provence to the bike shop where I had rented a bike.

I was happy just to be on a bike after the shop in Beaume-de-Venisses had screwed up my reservation, first telling me that daily rentals didn’t start until 6:30 in the evening and then that I had reserved the wrong size. It took me and two Danes to get it sorted out with the French shopkeeper. It was France, so I expected nothing less. The Bianchi Integro I had rented was nothing in comparison to my Look 695, but it would do for the day next few days, especially with its compact, ultra-low gearing.

I had been a fan of the Tour and of Mont Ventoux in particular since 1985. It was CBS Sports schmaltzy, high-pathos account of Le Ventoux in 1987 that made we want to ride it and it to suffer like those riders I saw. Suffer for glory and greatness. Continue reading

Ventoux


The Giant of Provence. It is the Mecca of French cycling. Iconic. Brutal. Unforgiving. 

And I finally climbed it today. 21km in 1:36. Once I was past tree line, the wind was blowing me backward — when it wasn’t threatening to blow me off the mountain. 

It really feels like climbing to the moon. The terrain changes. The temperature drops. The air becomes thin. The summit is surreal with the bleached rock fields and all of Provence spread before you. 

In the end, it reaffirmed my faith in the bike. And in my ability to ride it. 

Rest Day


Ahh. The first rest day. 

I’m racing Le Tour…from my couch. 

But also riding for real this summer. 

My mileage is up. My weight is down. 

And I’m not a guy who needs to lose weight. 

Next stop: Mont Ventoux. 

Stay tuned. 

Longsjo, Or Why I Can’t Stop Doing This


Longsjo didn’t even seem like a good idea at the time I registered:

  • Three races in three days–more back-to-back racing than I’ve done in years and only my second bike race of the season.
  • Pro 1/2 category, the longest distances with the fastest riders–didn’t want the risk of crashing in the Masters races.
  • $60-plus entry fees (per day!) and pretty much guaranteed not to make it back–but still cheaper than therapy.

But I had been training intensively on the bike and feeling progress so it seemed like the best way to test myself. And when presented with the options of doing something hard, or doing something harder, I’ll invariably choose the harder path.

The Ritual

I’ve always loved the preparation for a bicycle race, from when I was young. Wash and lube the bike. Pack the gear bag with everything you’ll need for race day, plus extra for every conceivable weather conditions. Fill the bottles. Load the car. Pin the numbers on the jersey in the hallowed 7-pin manner. Pump up the tires. Warm-up while listening to music. I did a textbook trainer warm-up all three days because I knew the racing would be fast. One final piss, then swap out the bottles, chug some Mountain Dew, and line up to race. Wait on the line while they call up the better riders. Have a clean start.

I’ve done this, with minor variations, for every race for 30-plus years now and, it’s safe to say, I’m still perfecting it.

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Time Machine

In the early afternoon, the rains came and left the roads slick and covered with leaf debris. I rolled across shattered pavement, over potholes filled with water, past tumbledown stone walls, farm fields and through thick groves of trees. The tires of my bicycle kicked the grit of the road up onto my legs and the brown leafy bits stuck to them.

I was on familiar terrain — roads I had ridden for the years of my youth but had not ridden in the last twenty, not since I was a full-time racer, not since I was fitter and faster. Roads that had etched into my memory long summer days of riding, of steep climbs and even steeper descents, of freshly tarred road surfaces and small chunks of gravel that kicked up and clinked against the downtube and chain stays of the bicycle. Days of freedom and exploring, the feeling of being the first person on a bicycle ever to ride these roads, of rising to the challenge of improbable climbs, of promises to never dismount and walk. Days that became years, of fitness found and then strength and power…

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Rollerski fail


This is what my left elbow looks like after taking a superman on a fast downhill.

The skis did not want to track straight and with increased speed, became unstable. The right ski cut inside and sent me flying. 

I was at least able to land clean on my hands, with the pole grips taking most of the impact and skid. But the rest of the body followed thereafter. Knee. Hip. Elbow. That was the worst mostly because it looks like it went clear through the skin to whatever is beneath it. 

I got up and finished the roll. 

Two Off, One On


I took off the two weeks following the Marathon. It was the first real break in training I’ve had since last year. I didn’t feel particularly tired after Boston, but I knew I needed a rest. My feet certainly told a hard story.

After two weeks of recovery — some easy bike rides to and from work and a couple of short runs to clear out the legs — I started training again for the cycling season (primarily) and nordic (secondarily) with core strength, on-the-bike intervals, easy recovery rides, and roller skiing.

I was itching to ride miles, but the weather wasn’t cooperating. Rainy, dreary, cold wet — perfect marathon weather, ironically.

But now the sun is back and the days are warming and if it weren’t for these nasty allergies, it would be pretty nice. But it will be all good from the saddle of the bike.