23 July 2011

Rest Days - Annecy

Annecy -- bicycles, dogs, canals, flowers and tourists
After my suffering on the Galibier and Alpe d'Huez on July 11, my tour operator's group doing both days of this year's Etape (the "Twin" program), moved to Annecy, a beautiful city in the Alps, just a bit south of Geneva and on the shores of Lac Annecy.  Annecy is sometimes called "little Venice" because of the canals that extend from the lake throughout the old city.  I thought that not only the canals, but the old city's well-preserved almost Disney-like setting full of restaurants, shops and tourists, also resembled Venice -- the main difference being that if you walk a block or two outside of the old city you are in a modern, mid-sized European city, whereas the real Venice stretches on and on.

First on my agenda was a second spoke repair of this European trip, so my rear wheel would again be rideable on Sunday the 17th.

Annecy - Alps, canal intake from lake, and tourists
When I used to take longer business trips internationally, I would sometimes try to find a barber shop and get a haircut.  Since my hairstyle does not present much challenge, even for a barber or stylist of modest talents, the risk is low.  And I find that this experience once in awhile gives me insight into the place I am visiting, as well as a comparison of the cost of a service that is not directed at tourists or business travelers.  I thought I might try the same this trip with spoke repairs.


I asked at the hotel desk for a bike shop that might handle a repair.  Just as in Ravenna, I was directed to a shop nearby -- in this case only a 5-minute walk away, just down the street from the entrance to the SNCF train station.  I had my first doubts when I found the shop, but saw only motorcycles in the window.  I almost headed back to the hotel before realizing that, indeed, if I kept walking, there was another smaller window with bicycles, and a separate entrance.  There was a long line of customers waiting for service at the motorbike cash register, while the bicycle area was very quiet.  But there were road bikes on display as well as hybrids and VTTs (the French term for mountain bikes), and while no English was spoken, the mechanic was friendly, he seemed to understand right away what was needed and accepted my spare spokes, spoke nipples and wrench.  Just as in Ravenna, he asked me to return at 5PM, and told me the shop closed at 7.

When I returned, the mechanic charged me 20 Euros for the repair (4 times the Ravenna cost) and then took me out to the back of the shop to deliver my bicycle.  To be completely fair, he did need to take the wheel off the bike and return it when done, and to remove and restore rim tape, tire and tube, whereas in Ravenna I had shown up with only the wheel, so that certainly involved a few extra minutes of work.  But the cost was steep--maybe the kind of money that people expect to pay for even the simplest motorcycle repairs?  He also explained to me, with gestures while talking in French, that while he had been able to get the wheel "true" laterally he had not been able to make it "round" vertically -- it looked to me as if he had not tightened the new pair of spokes enough and so there was a vertical bump at that part of the rim, but he said (if I understood correctly) that it had just not been possible.  I was just glad to get my bike back and to have the new spokes installed.  As soon as I got back to the hotel garage/bike storage, I took the wheel off and did my best with the spoke nipple wrench to make the wheel both "round" and laterally "true".  In 15 minutes or so, working without a wheel truing stand, I got it much, much closer than he had.

Annecy is a beautiful city in a spectacular Alpine location, near some of the best ski resorts in the world.  Somehow, only a week before my visit, it lost the 2018 Winter Olympics bid to not-so-world famous Pyeongchang, South Korea.  Jerome told me that the South Korean bid was "perfect", whereas Annecy was resting on its laurels and its bid was flawed.  I think I can perhaps understand the result, after my bike repair.

Blue sky = time for a quick ride?
The next day (July 13), we had heavy rain most of the day, but the sky finally started to clear in late afternoon.  At about 5:30PM, as soon as I saw some blue sky and dry pavement outside, I got my bicycle out of the garage and headed for a 40km ride around the lake (the 2009 Tour de France individual time trial course).  If I had been as fast as Alberto Contador that day, I might have made it back before the rain started.  But I was not.  I was in recovery mode, and riding at a more leisurely pace even than usual, so I was just approaching the far end of the lake as the skies really darkened and the rain started.  On the return leg, the heavens really opened and I was riding in standing water, getting well-sprayed by passing cars.  Still, at least my wheel repair seemed to be holding, and little did I realize that the ride in the rain was perfect preparation for Sunday, July 17.


Looking back at Annecy.
Need to ride faster.
Not fast enough!


David and Didier
The next day, Jerome and Didier stopped by to pick me up for the visit to Jerome's brother's house outside Grenoble.  Before leaving, we had lunch with Michel, one of Jerome's business contacts who had returned to France post-earthquake (or should I say "post-Fukushima"), together with Michel's wife, daughter, and their English cocker spaniel, Max.  They were accompanied by another friend and his dog (some kind of terrier).  Walking around the old city eating ice cream, we greeted many other dogs (and their owners), which seemed to be a kind of national pastime.  With my return to the guidance of Jerome and Didier (or "J.J." and "Didi" as these old friends call one another), the quality of food I was eating and wine I was drinking, not to mention the quality of my interactions with the French, improved dramatically.

Hello dogs of France!
Au revoir, Annecy!

French version of the sign  -- one way except bicycles

1 comment:

TOM said...

I think I can perhaps understand the result, after my bike repair...

delightfull reading...thank you so much David for the Europe reports! Looking forward to some leisurely autumn rides together...it has been too long!