Friday, September 08, 2006

sweet home

well i arrived back thursday afternoon safe and sound with all my belongings. i somehow managed not to pay a cent for taking my bike on four different plans as well, i was happy.

Dont fly thru or to gatwick airport. the place is out of control. be it the liquids issue or whatever there is a line up at least half an hour for anything. i had to line up for 10 mins to use the urinal. passport control took just over an hour. almost missed my flight to vancouver. gatwick gatwick gatwick...

went to bed around 7 last night and apart from a few wake ups i had a decent sleep. up early and came for a swim at ubc. the water seemed so warm compared to what we were swimming in at lausanne. did about 2400m with 16x50 alternating sets of 4 of builds and breakouts. feel good for just arriving yesterday.

Im racing my first xterra tomorrow at buntzen lake. i hear the course is awesome. going to check out the bike today and get some riding on the mtn. bike for the first time in 6 years, we'll see how she goes.

looking forward to some sushi tonight.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Elite Racing

All the world championship elite racing is done and although Canada didnt do as well as predicted we still came away with gold in the juniour women and 4th in the senior women.

The venue was the same as in the university race but the crowds were huge , they estimated 50000 plus were here to watch. The bike course had one steep steep hill were i made sure to run up with the candian flag my sister gave me and yell out the canadians to keep hammering.

On sunday night there was one last party to attend and eat ridiculous amounts of food and drink.

everyone from the team now has left with Paul leaving this morning. ive got a couple more days to see lausanne more and maybe do a ride up to a castle which i hear is a must see.

stage 5 ----Seez to Annecy

Filling up on the last big breakfast i made my way down the D902 to start climbing in the shade up to Cormet de Roseland.

The climb was in a very narrow valley, probably no more than 300 ft wide. felt like i was in a chasm or something. Got out of the chasm (good word by the way) around 11 and got some sun. Peaked the last climb about 12 at 1968m and descended into beaufort sur doron which was just passed the lake of roselend. That lake was very green and if i had time i would have stopped to swim, but i had to get back on the train tonight to lausanne to watch all the elite races on the weekend.

Albertville was originally where i wanted to get the train, but when i got there it was very difficult to get a train. So i rode about 50k more north along the N508 to annecy. that road was a little too busy for me but it had to be done. The trip was almost complete with mcdonalds entering into the picture until about 5k out of Annecy where it was scorching and i needed a milkshake...mmmmm. i tried the mcdrive thru but i wasnt heavy enough for the sensors.

The train ride home from annecy to lausanne was uneventfull except for two things. First was drunk guy french. two drunks got on the train in annecy and i was listening to them talk. well they were talking pretty loud so it was pretty easy to listen. now drunk guy french i found was a good school listen in oral french. see they were talking very very slowly so that i could make out each word. some words where slurred but for the most part i could understand much better than sober guy french.

the other thing that happened was on the train from geneve to lausanne. now on the first train i wasnt told to pay for taking a bike on the train but on this train the ticketeur (ill call him) told me i had to. And not only that but because i didnt buy a ticket for my bike before hand i had pay an extra 10 franc penalty. oooh this didnt go to well, i argued with him for some time before he told me he would call the police. so i gave him his money ended it.

apart from the bike train thing this tour has been awesome. i tested my manhood, rode on the best roads ive ever seen and got a great sense of accomplishment.

here is the break down of the mileage of the stages

Stage 1 70k
Stage 2 140k
Stage 3 110k
Stage 4 80k
Stage 5 97k

Total 497k

told all my teammates about the trip and although only a couple admitted they wished they had come i think even the girlfriends were jealous.

next up is the juniour elites tomorrow and then the big guns on sunday.

stage 4 --- lanslebourg to Seez , the big one

On this trip im pretty much abiding by these 4 food groups:

Yeast products (bread and beer)

its going well with these foods, they are not letting me down on the bike.

Made sure to refill plenty at the hostel breakfast and took some extra nutella for the road.

Now on the map this stage would be the biggest climb with the col d'Iseran towering at 2764m. I think lanslebourg was sitting at 1500m was there was about 4000ft of climbing in store today.

this day was the first day where my legs felt heavy, though once on the bike and riding they came to life. It was a gradual climb from lanslebourg along D902 to bossons where a little detour was made due to road work. Then the tour entered into Voisine national park filled with beautifull glaciers and ridiculous amounts of grasshoppers. The climb picked up about 15k in at Bonneval sur-Arc, where i apparently rolled thru some sort of model shoot happening on the roadside flowers. either way i wasn^'t complaining about the girls.

took a mid morning break at la pertette which was in a litte gully that overlooked a massive glacier. the snack was spiced bread with nutella, classic french cuisine!

The climb starting getting real hard after that as i made my way past the snowline. no sleet this time though only bright sun. The lungs started to get tired and i had to back off near the top. all in all the top of the col was over 8500ft above sea level and it was a pretty spectacular feeling of accomplishment when i got there.

The descent of the col was basically right on the ski slopes of val d'isere where they hold world cup ski races. it was here i really learned how to take the switch backs at high speed and just feather the brakes. When you a hit a corner at 35 and hold that line thru the apex the feeling and g-force on a bike is quite nice. some of the corners were banked as well which added another twist.

down in val d'isere it was quite richy and filled with tourists. i only stopped to looked at the ski lodge and then kept going. couldnt have lunch there cause everything was shut from 1300-1500h.

From Val d'isere it was a gradual downhill thru tignes ski area and over La barrage de tignes, quite an engineering feat.

There were many tunnels on this part of the tour, long too. some as long as 1500m and there wasnt any lighting really. so you basically trust the road and hope there arent any potholes. however i was freaked of these tunnels so when i got in one i would just hammer the pedals hoping i didnt encounter a car. see when i car entered the tunnel you could hear it but you didnt know from which direction it was coming until the lights came into view. im glad those are over with.

the temperature heated up as i descended more and more and the vegetation became more back to normal. i reached seez where i would stay at another hostel.

i rode around the village a bit and into the larger village called bourg st-maurice to have a look as i was too early to check in at 17h.

i thing that is painfull here is dinner isnt served until 730 and by that time my stomach is starting to digest its own walls. anyways tonight dinner was even later, not till 8. partly because at the bar the chef had joined me and the other guests which were mostly kyakers for drinks.

the chef at this place was an indenticle mould of a typical french chef with the big moustache, bald and round. anyways, as where drinkin his sticks his hand down the back of his pants and scratches his ass....dinner had some extra flavour that night. The cheese platter was out of this world though.

tomorrow is the tours final day and the last climb.

Stage 3 Villenueve to Lanslebourg

in the morning it was sunny again and so it should be for a town that says it gets 300days of sun a year.

Francois gave me an alternate route to take to lanslebourg, one with less traffic and riding thru a national park across the border to italia.

he was right, no traffic and the road was spectacular. again more climbing but i was starting to get used to it. I climbed up and over the col d'lechelle and then descended on the most breathtaking descent ive ever riden into bradonecchia Italy. The descent has recently been resurfaced and had a panoramic view of the alps. I rode the whole thing with a smile on my face taking the switchbacks as fast as i could.

once in italy i pumped it down the flats to Oulx where i stopped for a lunch of whatelse? PIZZA! this pizza was killer and was thick crust, were taking like on foccacia bread so mega carbs for fuel. talked with two japanese students who were riding as well and they were headed to Turin. i was more interested in visting smaller towns and as many mountains as i could.

set off after lunch about 1230 to susa, more flats and descending on road S24. in and out of Susa and then started to climb again. Although this wasnt the steepest climb it was the hardest. very long 43k from italy to france with no remorse. It was an epic climb with bright sun. i rolled thru town after town abandoned until the winter when it looked as if they would be bubbling with skiers.

The main point i made on this climb was this:

France and Italy are not seperated by a border. I rode past the border and it was derlict and boarded up. France and Italy are seperated by the Alps and strong winds. They are definitley there and make you work to go from country to country.

after 3 hours of climbing i needed more fuel and stopped for some more pizza. when i started out again i had a burst of energy and attacked the climb, but after only a couple minutes i had suddenly reached the top of the col du mount cenis 2083m.

another great descent past lakes and rivers passing cars on the switch backs and arriving in lanslebourg right at the bottom of the mountain. very nice place with a lot of development going on.

not the warmest place though, as even with the sun out it got below zero at night. hostel had a great dinner with lots to eat.

Stage Deux

After the lashing has subsided sun shone threw the windows into the stinky room accomodated by 6 males in teh grenoble hostel international.

large breakfast as with all stages of the tour consisted of the following staple foods:

Cereal with homo milk
beaucoup de pain avec chocolait chaud
jam honey and nutella
and i even took some coffee just cause it was free+

Set off at 830 and it didnt take long until the tours first detour. though unintended the solo rider was complexed and confused at grenobles highways at its outskirts. 30minutes of idling and i was on the right road headed to Le bourg d'Oisans or as i like to called it THE BOURG OF ASASSIANS. The road was frances D5. the D roads are sorta busy but not too bad. though this one had a lot of glass on it cause of all the truckers, tabernak! so it was only a matter of time till i got my first flat tire. it was then that i discovered that i only had one spare tube and not patch kit. i forgot it! freaking hell, one more flat and it was going to a rough start to the trip.

with relief i made it to Le Bourg without anymore mishaps. It was a gradual climb into the village but nothing stressfull. Had lunch, phoned and left a message with the next hostel and bought some tubes and patch kit at the one of many bike stores in the village. situated at the bottom of the alp du huez the place had a cycling theme to it and was crowded with yanks.

rolled up to alp du huez about 1230 and ditched the bag behind some rocks. was no way i was carry that up this monster. The climb consists of 21 switchbacks with an average grade of 8%. it was inspiring to ride it with all the history and recognizing the corners from watching the tour on tv. there was still lots of writing on the rode one of the best was in german saying Wo biest Ulrich? i think that means where is ulrich.

i rode steady up the climb until a little frenchie came up behind and passed me. ooh it was on after that cause no sooner did he pass me then he gave me the look as if sayzing "whats the matter dont got the plums". bam i got right on his wheel and sat there for some time until i felt i would leave him behind. made the push but he was right on my wheel. again and again i tried to shake him but he stayed there. we were on corner 3 when he attacked and as hard as i tried i couldnt stay with him. ahhh he was too strong for me in the end. there was a guy taking photos on the climb and 2 thirds up. when i find the website and post the link to my photo.

didnt spend long at the top although the frenchie gave me another look when i got up there. descended fast and grabbed my bag on the way. I still had 60k to go to the hostel and it was 2 oclock. shouldnt take to long i thought.

WRONG, welcome to french roads which are fu"*&ing hilly. The map i had had all the roads and mountain passes on it but no contours so i didnt really know what to expect in terms of each stage. well lets just say i climbed continously from the boourg to the top of Col du Lautaret for 2hrs 45 mins, INSANE. i couldnĂ t believe it. The road was in good shape but it just kept climbing and climbing. make matters worse the weather got grey and started to drizzle. then the drizzle turn to rain, rain to down pour to sleet at the top of the pass. i had no waterproof shit and was considering turning back to a little village i had just past to spend the night when i saw on the road THOR THOR THOR THOR THOR...writing from the tour...they must have come up here as well i thought. k, no way am i turning around now. reached the col at 2058m around 5 and descended like a demon pushing the biggest gear i could all out just to try and stay warm. i got to what i thought was villenuve where the hostel was around 530 but when i inquired at the info centre the lady said no, 8 more km. aint nothing worse then thinking your done and then having to get back on a cold seat drenched. i made it to the hostel around 545 and it couldnt have been sooner.

the hostel seemed deserted and i think it is during the summer. villenueve is a ski resort and not much else. Francois the man running the hostel showed me the room and told me there was only two other people stayzing tonight.

one of my roomates had been treking for 5 days and had just come down from the mountains. He laughed when i told him about the days ride and he said in a french voice, "vou know, vat road is always in zee tour. It is where the riders....(searching for the word)...manhood is tested."

well, now i know what im in for and if its manhood im here to test then so be it.

Le Tour et le prologue

I had been planning a cycling trip between my race and the big gun elites before i came over but didnt really think about where to go until sunday night. I pitched my plan to some others on the team but they wussed out with either girlfriends coming over or wanting to relax.

so it was Hans Solo on monday morning when i made the final preparations and booked my first night at a hostel in grenoble. Got on the bike with one bag and rode on the swiss highway #1 from lausanne to geneve. no major climbs to report or sprints. perhaps a few cat 5 climbs but nothing to get excited about. this was the prologue and only the beginning...

i saw a few bike route signs that pointed off the highway and followed one of them but it lead to a dirt trial so i decided to skip on that advice.

The plan for the week was finalized on the train to grenoble. stage 1 (prologue) has just occured and totaled 70k. stage 2 would see the lone rider attack the infamous alp d'huez, known by many as the grandaddy on climbs in the tour. stage 3 and 4 would be mountainous as well finishing up with stage 5 in the picturess 1992 winter olympic village of albertville.

2hrs on the train and i arrived in grenoble around 930. no problems finding the hostel and stopped for a late night giro on the way. much cheaper here in france.

hostel fine, rained like crazy monday night and i just prayed for sun in the morning...

University race report

Im writing all of these entries well after the fact but here is what im remembering. This whole trip here has gone by very quickly and it has been awesome.

lets begin with the race, the real reason i was here.

The start time was for 1230 and the weather was ideal 25 or so and no rain. 80 guys lined up on the pontoon for the gun. i was placed somewhere near the shore side of the pontoon and had a good line to the turnaround bouy. The gun went off and i got a good dive in quick surface and freakin put my head down and took 20 strokes as fast as i could before taking a breath. good start clear from getting beaten. didnt get into the front two packs but was in a group of about 6 the entire loop. Came out in the high 19s, not great but it would do. we ran up a ramp over a wood bridge they had built and into transition. Not a great transition and missed catching the wheel of two others. 4 of us hummed and hawed before the group grew to about 8 or so. The bike course was fun. one steep hill at 11 % , some crazy descents down narrow cobblestone lanes and another long hill. no crashes and once the group got going we made good time. two austrians in the group were being douche bags and yelling half the time at the japanese who werent pulling. My friend ben hoffman caught the group with a smile on his face about half way in and we then caught a teammate of mine, dave clinkard, on the last lap.
hoffman looked strong on the bike leading the group most of the way. Into T2 about 4 mins back of the front group. onto the run i felt felt. not tried but i wasnt running effortlessly and smooth like in july. the races i think and taking an effect and im ready for some rest but in the end i was 48th and ready for the afterparty.