Wednesday, July 28, 2010

La belle province, bacon and home-grown coaching advice

I'll tell you one thing; I've been racking the miles in recently. Not just on the bike either; two trips to la belle province to officiate at triathlons. One trip was heroically completed by the Deer Killer (sensu strictu the "deer-maimer-and-let-it-run-off-into-the-woods-to-die-of-shock" but that doesn't trip off the tongue as nicely) and one in the Smart car. The Smart is the way to go; even loaded with bags for two, a tent and two bikes hanging off the rack, I don't think we spent more than $100 in diesel to get to Magog and back, a round trip of more than 2500 km. She does hold her own on the highway, even she gets an inferiority complex at gas-stations.

Perhaps to counter such inferior feelings, her shadow does have something of the Dalek about it; separated at birth? We need to know.


The fuel-tank on the Smart is only ca. 15L and gets you about 350kms further down the road. Now I know that some cars are sold on the basis of being able to go long distances between fuelling stops but think about it. You stop and fill up with fuel and coffee and hit the road. There's now an inverse relationship between fuel-tank and bladder volume; the further you travel the emptier the tank and the fuller the bladder. After about three hours both need attention so you might as well stop. Who needs a 70L fuel tank? The human body can't possibly drive that long!

It took about 14 hrs to get to Magog; 12 hours on the road and two hours of stops. At least the Pig enjoyed it.

We used the car Garmin because as good type-A triathletes we know that if a run/bike/road-trip isn't on the Garmin then it never happened. Of course, waking up on Thursday morning in a totally French environment was pretty good evidence that I had in fact travelled 1200kms by car the day before but I clearly needed the Garmin to validate the reality in front of my own eyes (and ears).

We camped the first night before transfering to the semi-official hotel of Trimephremagog, the Fleur de Lys. One couldn't help but notice that a reasonably spacious three-person tent could also double as a garage for Smarty; good to know for the future.

Once we hit race-site it was pretty much 10-12 hrs a day action. The days before a triathlon can be a strange mix of activities as you all work together to make the race-site happen. As always, it was slightly surreal to go from fairly high-level triathlon stuff to slinging racks within five minutes.

They had a finish line gantry and a shed-load of racks trucked over from the Esprit Tri in Montreal. It was nice to have a gantry to hang signs off but to be honest I much preferred Paul Shaw's bike-racks (Oh yes, I'm now also "Bike Rack Snob", I think I need to get out more). I did get pylon envy though!

Not getting out for a ride didn't really matter as la belle and I both got extensive upper body workouts carrying barricades and racks. I asked what the barricades were called in Quebec; in English Canada we call them French Barricades - what are they called in French Canada? Les barricades Anglaises? No, apparently Barricade anti-emeute, or riot barrier. Given the reputation of English soccer fans, very much the same thing. Anyway, I got the guy in charge of building TZ calling them English Barricades by Thursday evening.

They also had some awesome signage which was in both official languages. This was the dismount sign.

RD Rene Pomerleau is shown to scale, and the guy is 6ft tall. It will not surprise you in the least that many triathletes still managed to ride through this sign!

Between racks, carpet, les barricades anglaises and stringing up 144 m of Tri Can scrim, we still got a chance to get out and see a little of Magog itself, if only to get food or hang out in bike shops. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose then. There was a nice bakery/charcuterie....

Hmm, bacon.

Of course, one couldn't eat in fancy charcuteries all week, that would be like eating exclusively at Pete's Frootique so it was off to Metro Plouffe. They were also one of the event's big sponsors so all the staff were wearing the race volunteer T-shirts. Perhaps bizarrely, they had this display, meant in all seriousness;

Waters of the word? I couldn't help but feel slightly skeptical.

I was on more familar ground in the produce section where another sponsor, Ski Velo, had a huge bike display above the fruits and veggies.

Is it just me, or is this $3000 Specialized Tarmac on sale for 99c?

To be honest, I wasn't impressed by that bike, price-tag of $3000 or not. It was hung with 105 throughout, but on a nice frame. If you were going for a Pro-Tour-ish frame, surely you'd want better than 105? It would be like putting a 2-stroke in a Jaguar. I'd take it for 99c though.

Undeterred, I pressed on to Ski-Velo. We may have been putting in 12 hour days but with up to 1200 triathletes passing through Magog, Ski-Velo were working even longer hours. Plus, they had one of my favorite words in the French language after fromagerie; solde.

There was some serious, hard-core bike-porn on offer in here. There was a road section, a cross section, an MTB section, a hybrid section not to mention all the goodies. I tried to take photos but my hands were shaking too much. It's not too far from the truth that I had to be carried from here kicking and screaming like a 5 year-old in a candy store. Several times.

There was this one from Time, 20% off I think. Looks like my size but (in her wisdom) la belle didn't let me throw my leg over it. Just in case, you understand.

Then there was this frame and forks from Time...

No danger of trying it on for size, missing wheels and all that, but it was on serious sale. It was also gone by Sunday night. Natch.

This perhaps?

None of this changing the sprocket on my fixie so we're riding the same gear so she can keep up (who says chivalry is dead?). She'll never get dropped on a tandem!

Unless I mean it!

If you couldn't afford the bike, how about a nice Campy wheel-bag?

Now all I need are Campy wheels.

As always with life, Velo-Ski also had it's share of skanks. As you would have guessed, I'm all about old-school and Italian bikes. So how about a Fondriest 'cross bike for the off-season. Sweet.

Sure, there's no room in/on/around the Smart Car but hey, I could get it now and pick it up before the Tri Can AGM in Quebec City just in time for the 'cross series. Makes sense to me.

Then I saw the Harry Potter themed art-work.

Perhaps not then. Obscuro! Obliviate!

Ahh, the fixies. What could possibly go wrong? Well, quite a bit. Take a look at the Specialized Langster Tokyo. At first sight, the art-work is a bit flowery, but I'm in touch with my feminine side so that's OK. Plus you never really know what that kanji script means. You think it's something Zen like "to know the road ahead, ask those coming back" when in reality it says "my other bike is a Huffy".

But then I saw the chain...

Faux gold-plated 1/8" chain? Arghh, my eyes!

Maybe an open letter to Specialized about these city-themed fixies; perhaps there's a reason Cyclesmith still have the Specialized Langster Monaco edition after two years whilst the Kona Paddy Wagons are flying off the shelf? It's nothing to do with "white frames after Labour Day"! And in a related open letter to Paul and Mark; I'll take that Langster off your hands, you need the space for Paddy Wagons, or maybe another Cervelo. Make me an offer!

I was feeling slightly soiled after the Ski-Velo skanks, but all was restored on race morning. One of the many and varied jobs I got for the day was bike-check, especially for Long Course and the Junior Nationals.

A lot of nice carbon passed under my hands. I had to pretty much condition myself to stop seeing bikes and just see handlebar configurations, handlebar plugs and wheel-depth. One Junior Elite had some home-made inspirational top-tube art that made me smile;

This advice is on a par with Bob Hobbs telling me at a Club 10 in 1989 to just "pedal harder". So much can be said for coaches, on-line coaching, fine-tuning your TT position in a wind-tunnel but sometimes the simplest advice is often the best....


Thursday, July 8, 2010

This is me

I was just told that I should do a triathlon. No, this isn't from one of you wondering when, exactly was the last time you saw me swim (assumimg that I can actually swim of course). This was from a waitress (waitperson? I'm so hopellessly out of date on my PC gender-neutral job descriptions) on finding out various people around the table were cyclists or runners. Apparently her Mum does them, like, all the time and thinks they're, like, awesome.

This seems to be par for my course at the moment, being told to do what I'm already doing.

Of course this is just one up from my all time favorite, that of my opinion being less valid than than that of someone elses. You don't have to see the validity in my argument of course, but if I don't recognise the validity of yours then I'm a narrow-minded bigot. Nothing brings these feelings into such sharp relief as the Tour de France. There are other bike races you know, and ones with significantly less hype and more action. There is that feelinf of it being overly hyped, and to the extent that ASO are starting to believe their own press. If this is the world's biggest bike race and we own the world's biggest bike race, then who are the UCI and why do we need them? Rules that benefit only them? Sure. No problem. After all, we are the Tour.

So yes, all in all, I do feel slightly jaded come Tour time. This is a cycling heresy, especially in North America. How much of a heresy? Not liking the Tour means you like cancer.

You know, I thought long and hard about writing that last sentance and had originally decided not to put it in. Way too inflammatory, way too obviously about one person and one issue. However I really did see that line; if you don't like Lance then you like cancer, in a forum thread the other day on Talk about being blown away! People are stooping this low now? This retort doesn't have a coherent argument or even try to address the issue, it's just first-grade play-ground name calling yet it's passing for debate now! Who says logic is dead? I'm not a Lance-hater, but I have a healthy dose of skepticism. Put it this way, as a cycling fan I don't think Phil and Paul speak for me.

So, no. I don't think there isn't enough cancer in the world, I just think the Tour, and to a point, stage-race riders (all of them) are overhyped and accorded way too much precedence in the sport. Where-else will the World Champion, the Olympic Champion, fer goodness sakes, take a back-seat to the winner of a single race? Where-else will these champions be relegated to the back of the bus, have their acheivements downplayed 'cos like, it's not the Tour man.

So..... sure, I will allow myself some frisson of excitement about it, but in the proper time (late June) not when some cycling websites think I should be (October onwards). I'll follow the stages and debate you all night about minutae, but I'll also do that about the Giro and the Vuelta. For that matter, what do you think of the ladies' Giro, you think Abbott can hold on, do you think Pooley got screwed? The inclusion of the Stelvio for the first time should make tomorrow's stage interesting. No?

To be honest, if i was given the option to spend three weeks in Europe being a bike junkie, I'd choose April not July. See the Classics and semi-classics; the Ronde, Paris-Roubaix, Ghent-Wavelgem, La Doyenne, Amstel. Plenty of cobbles, plenty of sharp, steep bergs and cotes, and all raced in dead earnest. There's no sitting-in during the Classics, no waiting for a favorable, sunny moment to make a descive attack. This is all or nothing racing, and I'll take it over a Grand Tour any day.

Or maybe 'cross; there's Duvel, frites and mayonnaise at the 'cross.....

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Displacement Activity?

I do have photos from Coteau du Lac, which was a scream, and I promise I'll upload them sooner or later.

For now, I have to say I'm feeling a little displaced. It's the first Saturday night at home for a month (I think), and furthermore, I didn't have to be anywhere in a hurry this morning, and neither do I have to be anywhere in a hurry tomorrow either.

Maybe I could have some of those beer and chips I was talking about the other day.

Feels weird.