30 August 2011

Scene of the Crime

Over the past few days, if I've wished it once, I've wished a hundred times that I had gone back and taken a photo of the site where I went off the bike last Thursday morning in Fresnay-sur-Sarthe. 

Did I just get distracted and tired, fall asleep at the switch for a minute, or was it really a treacherous site?

Today, I thought I would try to pinpoint the spot using Google Maps and, surprise, surprise, there is actually a "street view" photo of the very site.

The obstacle that I hit felt like a "low curb" stretching out directly into the street for some unknown reason ... and it was. 

You can see it just past the pedestrian walkway, after the "Renault Agence LaLouette" storefront and before the Funeraires (grave tombs) shop on the right hand side.  There really is no warning, a sudden end to a lane (which is really a series of parking spaces -- marked only by the yellow line that was not visible at night), an odd sharp protrusion that is difficult to see even in daylight.  I really did go over it, blow out both tires, go sliding onto the lighter stone area past the crosswalk that marked the right edge of the street ... and beyond that, to come to rest at one of the set of marble gravestones.  How appropriate a resting place!

View Larger Map

Of course, fatigue and darkness had a role in this, but at least I can stop wondering if I imagined it.

29 August 2011

Bremen Challenge 2012

Der Eingang zum Überseehafen in Bremen.
Today I attended the Bremen Challenge Race in ...surprise, surprise, Bremen. For the benefit of the other participants I know I am writing this post in German. All other readers please enjoy the pics.


Bremen, oder, "Das kleine Hamburg an der Weser", wie es die Einheimischen liebevoll nennen, zeigte sich heute wieder einmal von seiner eratischen Seite. Dunkle Wolken, kurze Schauer, Sonnenschein und vor allem viel Wind. Der Wind wehte teilweise so stark, dass man beim Pinkeln in freier Wildbahn schon gut überlegen musste in welche Richtung man loslegt, um sich nicht selbst zu besudeln und beim Start als unfähiger Idiot aufzutauchen. Ausserdem war es kalt, oder in Anlehnung an Nick Nolte in "48 Stunden": "Der kälteste Winter, den ich je erlebte war der Sommer 2011 in Bremen."
Landschaftsgestaltung im Hafengebiet. Charmantes Nichts.
Ich kam, registrierte mich und bekam einen Beutel mit dem üblichen Schickschnack. Ich finde das ja unpraktisch, da ich, wie es sich gehört mit dem Rad gekommen bin und meine Familie, wie es sich gehört, zuhause geblieben ist, so dass ich keinen Platz für Schnickschnack habe. Es ist auch immer derselbe Schnickschnack. Wasserflaschen, T-Shirts und Papier. Die T-Shirts geben immerhin noch gute Lappen beim Radputzen ab, aber die Wasserflaschen nehmen nur Platz im Küchenschrank weg und schimmeln vor sich hin. Warum werden nicht einmal Sachen verteilt, von denen ich nicht bereits zwanzig im Schrank habe, wie z.B. Küchenscheren, Rasentrimmer oder 5 Zoll Diskettenlaufwerke? Egal, ich versuchte dann das T-Shirt in die Wasserflasche zu stopfen, damit ich es mitnehmen konnte aber es wollte mir nicht zur Gänze gelingen. Also kam das ganze in einen Hohlraum unter den Absperrungen, wo ich es dann am Ende des Rennens abholen konnte.


Ich drehte ein paar Runden auf dem 1,5 km Pro Kurs und sah Muckel und Campa. Vor dem Start hingen Tafeln mit Duchschnittsgeschwindigkeiten und man sollte sich nun in realistischer Selbsteinschätzung am Start aufstellen. Ich suchte vergeblich die Tafel für 36,72 km/hr (realistische Selbsteinschätzung) und stellte dann fest, das eine realistische Selbsteinschätzung durch die Massen von Radfahrern vor mir massiv behindert wurde. Also starteten Enrico und ich von irgendwo aus der unrealistischen Mitte.


Und schon ging es los und auch gleich gut ab. Ist ja immer so, die ersten 300 Meter fährt man noch normal da die Straße einfach zu voll ist, aber danach wird brutal Tempo gemacht und man muß gucken, daß man nach vorne kommt. Die lange Gerade runter wollte ich gerade an einer Gruppe vorbeizischen, als mir siedend heiß einfiel, was ich die ganze Woche einmal abends nach der Arbeit machen wollte: Mein Schaltwerk einstellen. Die beiden höchsten Gänge rasteten überhaupt nicht mehr ein. Also eigentlich fiel mir das zunächst auf und dann wieder ein. So war ich dann gezwungen (Kompaktkurbel für die Berge, nicht Bremen tauglich) irrsinnig schnell zu treten. Jeder Trainer, der hochfrequentes Treten propagiert, weil das ja so viel effektiver und gesünder ist und die Pros das machen wäre von mir begeistert gewesen. Ich bin aber ein Brutalo-Kraft-Treter, so dass meine Maximalgeschwindigkeit nun auf ca. 45 km/hr begrenzt war.


Die erste von 6 x 10km Runden lief gut. Highlight war das kaputte Strassenbahnwartehäuschen mit entgegenkommendem Krankenwagen auf der Strecke. So etwas wünscht man keinem. In der 2. Runde glaubte ich dann, ich könnte in realistischer Selbsteinschätzung alleine die Distanz zur vordereren Gruppe überbrücken. Ich biss die Zähne zusammen und hatte auch einen Mitstreiter auf einem wunderschönen roten Olmo, aber wir hätten skeptisch werden sollen als die Distanz nicht weniger wurde. Danach war ich so ausgepumpt und schwindelig vom hochfrequenten Treten, dass mich die ursprüngliche Gruppe komplett nach hinten durchreichte und ich den Anschluß verlor. Schlecht, vor allem dann das Fahren mit drei, vier anderen Loosern wie mir.
Aber am Ende der zweiten Runden kam das Team der senatorischen Behörden mit einer recht großen Gruppe und dort konnte ich mich wieder gut einreihen. Die senatorischen Behörden haben ja wegen einer absolut stressfreien beruflichen Tätigkeit viel Zeit zur Ausübungen ihrer sportlichen Hobbies und sind daher auch recht flott dabei. 


Danach wurde es geradezu langweilig. Das Tempo war nicht übermäassig schnell, also etwa 34 - 38 km/hr und es war auch keine schnellere Gruppe da, zu der ich hätte aufschliessen können. Also blieb ich, wo ich war und fuhr schön mit. Bloss nicht in den Wind fahren. Es war so langweilig, dass ich für einen Moment überlegte, ob ich nicht einmal ausprobieren sollte wie die Pros auf der Tour vom Rad aus zu pinkeln, ich verwarf diesen Plan aber wegen den völlig unkalkulierbarren Windböen. Dann fing es auch mal an zu nieseln, aber zum Glück hörte DAS auch wieder auf.


Und so ging es dann bis in die letzte Runde. Jetzt wurde das Tempo auch wieder ein wenig schneller und der allgemeine Adrenalinspiegel stieg. Taktisch fuhr ich ganz gut nach vorne. Das sollte sich auch wenige Minuten später auszahlen, denn da hörte ich links hinter mir nur einige kurze Flüche und dann die typischen Geräusche von Carbon und rasierten Unterschenkeln auf Asphalt. Das nach vorne arbeiten klappte ganz gut und in der letzten Doppelkurve war ich innen positioniert. Innen ist besser, denn nach aussen fliegt man.


Auf der Zielgraden fingen dann viele an direkt nach der Kurve bei der 250m Marke den Spurt anzuziehen. Das kann man aber nicht durchhalten, ist einfach zu lange, so dass ich mich schön an ein Hinterrad klemmte, Miss Poco stehen liess, einen orangen Stadtkurier noch abfing und mich freute heil und lebendig ins Ziel gekommen zu sein.
Die Gewinnerinnen in der Frauenwertung. Miss Poco hält die gelben Blumen. Die beiden im kleinen Schwarzen sind leider nicht mitgefahren.
Wiegtrittler nach dem Rennen.
Das Rad des Gewinners in der Jedermann Klasse. Das Pflaster ist eine hübsche Idee, hatte ich aber schon mal gesehen, wo war das nur ....?
Genau hier: "Das verwundete Klavier" von Joseph Beuys im Centre Pompidou, Paris.
Ich traf dann noch ein paar andere Bremer, wie die rote S. , Muckel und Enrico wieder, trank einen Kaffee und schaute mir die Siegerehrung an. Es gibt übrigens Weltmeister für Disziplinen die nicht unbedingt jedem bekannt sind. Weltmeister der Radkuriere kannte ich aus eigener schmerzhafter Erfahrung in Tokyo 2009, als ich nicht mitfahren durfte, da ich Bremsen an meinem Rad hatte. How uncourier-like! Aber was bitte ist denn die beliebteste Hobbysportlerin Deutschlands bitte? Oder sollte das die beleibteste Hobbysportlerin Deutschlands gewesen sein, das wäre wenigstens quantifiziertbar gewesen.

Und siehe da, Miss Poco war zweite bei den Frauen geworden. Das entspricht in etwa meiner Erfahrung in Japan, wo ich mich auch zeitlich in etwa bei den guten Frauen wiederfand. Die Siegerehrung dauerte etwas lang, mir wurde kalt und ausserdem hatte ich ja noch weitaus interesantere Dinge für den Tag geplant: Den Schimmel von den Wänden im Zimmer meines pubertierenden Sohnes zu entfernen! Eine echte Alternative zum Pro-Rennen schauen.

Nach dem Rennen, Silke und Andreas
Dieses Erfinden von neuen Sportarten geht mir ohnehin etwas auf den Keks. "Früher" gab es gutaussehende deutsche Sportler wie Liesel"Diskus" Westermann, Klaus "Speer" Wolfermann oder Dieter "Zahnpasta" Baumann die in Sportarten Siege einfuhren die es seit tausenden von Jahren gibt: Etwas in die Gegend werfen und dann schnell wegrennen. Heute gewinnen Sportler aus Löndern, die weitaus jünger sind als diese Sportarten, oder schnell auftauchen und wieder verschwinden werden (sogenannte Atlantisländer wie Süd-Mikronesien) und die deutschen Sportler gewinnen in diesen uninteressanten Randsportarten wie Biathlon, die dann auch noch in epischer Breite im TV übertragen werden. Da werden diese nun auch verdrängt, so dass wir bald im Fernsehn Übertragungen der WM im "Wassersieden auf dem Sessellift" oder "Nordic Biathlon" (Biathlon im Sommer mit Schiesstöcken) ertragen werden müssen. Gähn. 


Also ging ich erst einmal zum Speicher 108 an der HfK und trank einen Kaffee, wo ich von einer schnöseligen Kunststudentin,  die in Antizipierung ihres zukünftigen Erfolges es nicht nötig hatte mich zu  bedienen, nicht bedient wurde und fuhr dann zurück und schaute mir noch etwas die Pros an. Also, zwischen dem Jedermann Rennen und den Pro Rennen gibt es einige signifikante Unterschiede, die vielleicht nicht jedem bewusst sind. Deshalb sind sie hier noch einmal explizit und in allen Details aufgeführt:
So fahren die Pros! Unglaublich!


1. Die Pros sind dünner als die Jedermänner.
2. Die Pros sind weniger als die Jedermänner und vor allem
3. Die Pros haben weniger Zuschauer als die Jedermänner.


Ein rundum schöner Tag in der Überseestadt. Danke an Alle. Das Entwerfen von Schimmel rundete den Tag ab.
Mein Rad. Carbon. Plastik vor Plastikmüll. Sieht aber jetzt endlich mit zwei weissen Felgen bestückt richtig gut aus.
Optmimierte Lenkerposition nach Windtunneltests.

Paris to Brest to Fresnay-sur-Sarthe -- Lessons from the "Metric Millenium" Ride

As reported earlier, I did not quite make it back to Paris and so DNF'ed from Paris Brest Paris 2011, as I tried to ride over a curb in the darkness of night and then smash my handlebars into some marble stone at the roadside in the town of Fresnay-sur-Sarthe, almost 1040 km into the event.  But I did get to take in almost all of the PBP experience, and wanted to pass along a few thoughts for anyone who might want to try it with me in 2015.  I don't have time to do a proper attempt at an MOB-esque blog post, and I did not take many photos, but at least this should give some ideas.

Actually, I'm not sure many photos are necessary, if you use your imagination.  The landscape looked pretty much like this:


To this "basic template" photograph of a French field you can add (1) corn, (2) cows, (3) sheep, (4) horses or (5) various grains.  Imagine well-fed, healthy looking farm animals, constantly eating the grasses.  Also, there were some forested areas -- just expand the trees in the distance.  To the sky, you can modify the clouds, either make them much darker, lower and more ominous (most of the time), or add more blue and make the clouds small, white and puffy (for a few hours on Wednesday).  Also, you can add some huge wind power generators at a few places, the ones closest to the route after Carhaix, looming out of the mist on the outbound leg and with flashing red warning lights visible even in the near complete darkness on the return trip.

Sometimes, even often, it felt as if the landscape was more like this (riding from right side to left side of the picture):


There were some completely flat sections, but for the most part it was up or down, 1, 2 or 3%.  And there were lots and lots and lots of little 4-5% rollers that went on for less than a kilometer, and also some shorter 6-8% hills.  The section between Villaines-la-Juhel (221km) and Fougeres (310km) seemed elevated a bit -- always up on a ridge with the fields slipping away to both sides, which made it a bit scary during the intense lightning storm that I experienced there on the outbound leg -- though not as scary as the even-more-intense lightning storm later that evening between Fougeres and Tinteniac (364 km). The section between Loudeac (449 km) and Saint-Nicolas-du-Pelem (493 km) also had lots of hills and elevated sections on back country roads with poorer surfaces.  And there was one "mountain" of 350m elevation between Carhaix-Plouguer (525 km) and Brest (618 km), which felt like a long, long climb and was pretty impressive in the storms and mist on the outbound leg, less imposing or impressive in the dry dark on the return leg.

The last night I saw incredible stars -- the milky way, the big and little dipper, cassiopeia, etc. -- though I could not rest for long to enjoy them.

The locals along the route were great in many places -- with tables set up in front of their houses offering water or other drinks, or even food.  At first I thought they might be selling these items, like the restaurants I saw in some of the first control towns, but in fact they were just trying to help out.  Some kids had strips of paper they were handing out -- I did not stop, but later learned that they were handing out their name/address and wanted riders to send them postcards from foreign lands.  In some places, such a commitment was the price of water or coffee.  Some people had mattresses where riders could rest.  But there were long stretches, in the rain and at night, where there were no locals along the road.  And being in the last start group also doubtless meant fewer people along the roadside on the outbound leg.

Kojima-san, of the Japan team, who I rode with at various times.
There were lots of choices for start times -- 5PM Sunday mass start with 80 hour time limit, 6PM Sunday mass start with 90 hour time limit (though the last group from this start time did not actually cross the line until closer to 8PM, I heard, and so spent hours waiting), a 9PM-10PM "free" start with 90 hour time limit, and a 5AM Monday start with 84 hour limit (the "quatre-vingt-quatre heure" group).  I chose the 5AM Monday start on the theory that I could use another night of sleep to get over jet lag, and based on the organizer's promotional materials which suggested much less crowded experience at the control points, and noted that this group had the highest percentage of finishers in 2007.
The 84ers waiting for the 5AM Monday start.

The line grows longer -- but Monday 5AM was still the smallest of the single road bike start groups.

The point about fewer crowds in the controls for riders with my start time was definitely true.  But I am pretty sure what happened in 2007 is that there was awful weather for the earlier starters, and the weather got better before the 84 hour riders passed through.  This time, the 84 hour group had awful weather for the first 36 hours, while I talked with someone who did the 80 hour start at 5PM Sunday and who made it through the entire event (in under 70 hours) without any rain at all.  And I think I would have done better if I could have ridden Sunday night and all day Monday, then rested at Carhaix-Plouguer (525 km).  Even though I was always on track for a sub-80 hour time, I felt really pressed by the intermediate time cut-offs, which required me to get to the Brest control (618 km) in 38 hrs 51 minutes, but left 45 hrs and 9 mins for the (612 km) return trip. 
The Loudeac sleeping accommodations.

The temperature was almost perfect for cycling -- cool enough so as not to sap your energy or require massive extra liquid intake, but not so cold as to cause you to get chilled, at least when it was dry.  The rain became a big problem.  I always assume that I will just put on a light rain jacket, but that the rest of my body will get wet, and that has worked fine for me on most rides, including plenty of Brevets and this summer's Etape stage from Issoire to St. Flour.  But it is not easy to ride wet for several days.  Even with a change of bib shorts at Loudeac, my spare pair got wet within an hour or two of riding.  Even with enough chamois cream for 3 days+ of riding, I was chafing badly and needed to "ration" the application of cream on the return route so as not to run out.  And my palms were getting raw from riding with wet gloves for far too long, though I alternated among 3 pairs, two of which were soaking wet by the end of the first day.

Both ankles and my left knee started to ache within the first 200 km.  I raised my seat a little at the next control stop and that helped for awhile, but then both ankles and both knees started to ache.  I really should not have climbed Mt. Fuji one week before this event.

My palms, chafed groin and an aching lower back also gave me various minor problems along the way. ... but everything felt better by the time I had passed Tinteniac (867 km) and Fougeres (921 km) on the return trip, and I realized that yes, I could make it.  My leg muscles never let me down.

If I were to do it again (and I very well may) in 2015:
  • I would put in a lot more thought in planning the ride, thinking about where and when to sleep, setting time goals, etc.  If I could I would try to ride to Carhaix (525 km) before sleeping, so as to get a large "savings" balance and be well ahead of the clock even when starting off on the next leg.  I would think hard about how to get in and out of the controls more quickly, since these can take a lot of time to get the food, etc.
  • I would arrive on site 2 days earlier, to really resolve jet lag before the start.
  • I would choose one of the 90-hour start time, probably the "free" start from 9 to 10 PM.  Even though this would mean more crowds in the controls, and even though I should be able to ride this easily in under 80 hours (and goodness knows, it does not get easier by spending more time on the bike), I think it would be worth it to get the extra leeway in my schedule for sleep.  And I think it is probably more consistent with getting to Carhaix before sleeping -- though it would require getting a long nap the day of the start.
  • I would carry larger water bottles.  I no longer have my 1 liter bottle, and need a replacement, or to use a hydration pack.  During the longer, daylight, dry sections, I ran low or out of water, or needed to ration it.  
  • Likewise, I would bring more energy bars for my saddle bag and drop bag.  It is nice that they have "real food" in cafeterias at the controls, but the lack of convenience stores means you are otherwise stuck, especially at night.  I really could have used those bars that we brought, and did not need, on Transalp.
  • I would use a larger saddle/rear bag.  I tried to put all my heavy items in my rear bag, to keep my small pack light.  But let's face it, it would be better to ride with no pack.  And you really do want to take more gear on this ride than a shorter Brevet, even with the ability to access re-supplies via a drop bag at Loudeac (449 km and 782 km), and even with summer weather (or something that approximates it).
  • I would either get a dynamo front light (built into my hub) to avoid the need to change batteries, or just stock up on lithium AAA instead of alkaline AAA batteries, since those apparently last several times longer than alkaline batteries or Ni-Mh rechargeables and sustain their full output much longer.  I was rationing batteries and so did not have both my front lights on at times, and was limiting my headlamp to checking directions, etc.  
  • On the other hand, the small lithium polymer "brick" battery/charger I brought for use with my Garmin GPS worked very well.  I did not keep the Garmin on for the full ride, but I could use it when alone and at night with no problem, and replenished the charge twice from the "brick" and once from the wall outlet in the Tinteniac dorrmitory where I slept.
  • I would bring at least a two-week supply of chamois cream, so there is no need to ration this either.
  • I would do it with some friends instead of alone, or at least try to do some Brevets in the U.S. between now and 2015 so that if I stay with the U.S. randonneurs, I will know more of the participants from before the event.  Yes, I met a few somewhat oddball randonneur types at PBP -- people who have done PBP many times, never use a car, look as if they got a bit too much sun while on the bicycle over the years and have difficulty thinking or putting together a sentence in a conversation with a human being, ride incredibly retro equipment just to make things difficult (but who am I to call others eccentric?) -- but most of the participants were very normal, friendly types and would make good cycling buddies.
  • The vibration from the road surface was painful at a few points, including one of the last stretches that I rode.  I went with my bombproof wheels (32/36 spokes, open pro rims) and regular 700/23 Schwalbe tires.  These did fine, but I think I would try a set up with slightly fatter tires, and lower tire pressures (at least when riding these sections) if I did it again, to try to make these stretches less painful.  The Schwalbe Ultremo ZX are great, but they do not quite give the "cadillac ride" that I get from these wheels with Vittoria Open Pro CX's. (My two outside fingers on the right hand still have some numbness 4 days after the event ... not atypical for this kind of really long event).

All in all, PBP is well worth doing, and it is a part of cycling history that I wanted to join -- and I may very well want to join again.  But I think they are right to hold it only once in 4 years.

27 August 2011

A Positivo trip to the Pyrenees

Day 1
I met Stephen at Lyon Airport on August 14th in the evening after he finally decided to join me for several victory Tour de France stages even though he was suffering from kidney stone. Stephen secretly knew about my ability to find efficient cure for him although I have no medical capacities nor could be trusted as a good nutritional specialist. However he decided not listen to his mother (white angel) & follow my Jerome (the red devil)‘ & mountain appeal.
We arrived in Pau after 6h30 long drive (750 km), being obliged to stop several times in emergency & food replenishments. We finally made it @ 1 am



















Day 2
After a long night sleep, we woke up early afternoon & share our first meal with our hosts (Nicole who would become our Medical & Massage Director & her daughter Claire – a dentist student-). Stephen complained about kidney stone suffering while finishing the succulent apple tart (I would discover later an Irish typical (?) but strange habit, Stephen had to mix apples with every meal)
We then assembled our bicycles & decided to go for warm up ride around Pau. We cycled over numerous hills & descent to reach next main village on time for another meal. Stephen could confirm French waiters famous politeness when he was told that at 4pm no sane customer would pretend to order food (everybody should know that all kitchens close after 2pm) not respecting the sacro saint compulsory 35 hours work regulation. We finally found an agreeable solution by ordering some food which would not request using an oven. Once again Stephen asked for a calvados (apple alcohol drinks commonly drank in Normandy) crepe – with no calvados nor whipped cream but only Apple, Once again our nice waiter did not seem to be happy about having to modify the menu. Unfortunate customers from Spain / England also faced the same situation,
After this nice encounter with French customs, we headed back to Pau through the main road. I tried to provoke Stephen on many occasion but vanquished by kidney stones suffering he would not threaten my determination to win all fights,

Day 3 – A miracle trip –
After another late wakening, Stephen & I decided to revisit 2010 killing Etape du Tour (Mourenx / Cold du Tourmalet). We headed towards Col de Marie Blanque at a very record speed & crossed triumphally the pass attacking the descent toward Col de l’Aubisque & Soulor. The ascension to col du Soulor went very smooth while we were well in front of the peloton. However the descent towards the base of Tourmalet was very slow due to Stephen vertigo & heavy traffic. Only when we arrived at the base of Tourmalet we got off (the car) to get a well deserved Panini / salad meal. After this tiring trip we unfortunately decided to give up climbing Tourmalet due to our late start. Instead we decided to pay a visit to Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, a city famous for its miracle. To be frank, as an old previous religious man, I had my own idea & though it would be worth trying to challenge Lourdes & its miracle => A visit to the famous cavern would surely cure Stephen if he sat on the special chairs for disabled people. We braved the hot sun & heavy crowd of visitors (so many Indians…) paid respect to Bernardette, but also drank the miracle water. At 8 pm we headed back to Pau full of hope.


Day 3 Marie Blanque / Col du Soudet


video
Our basic plan was to challenge the famous Marie Blanque Pass as well as Soudet & the deadly Bagargi passes. In the first laces of Col du Soudet (a 18 km climb), Stephen overtook the whole peloton (me) for the final win. It seemed that the miracle had happened (although for Nicole it was more the effect of efficient medicine she gave Stephen from the very first day), As he promised, Stephen will therefore have to visit Lourdes again to pay tribute to his revival. After several rest on route to the pass we finally reached it & decided to ride up to St Martin ski station before sharing a well deserved power lunch under a nice sun. God were with us: even though it was around 4pm & the kitchen supposed to be closed as everybody is supposed to know, we were welcomed by a nice waitress who was ready to cook anything for the 2 heroes of the day. After a couple of drinks & dishes we gave up the idea to challenge the next pass but I just made it a point to climb to the Spanish border while Stephen headed back to the base of the Soudet where we had parked the car.

Day 4 rest day with a visit to Pau festival

Day 5
I successfully flew back to Paris while Stephen miraculously & freshly recovered from his disease decided to head toward Alpes d’Huez – 500 km away – by car for a last challenge. I would heard later however that he decided to drive back direct to Zurich, In fact he had planned a coffee date with a nice young Swiss lady named Beatrice that he dreamt about for the whole stay in Pau.

Before bidding farewell, we planned to organize a bicycle trip next year across the Pyrenees: Stephen had found a nice itinerary over the net www velo peloton.com which we could probably organize ourselves – avoiding being charged 850 euro per participant if we joined the official tour - with the help of our newly appointed Medical / Massage director who also agreed to serve as the broom car driver as well as the re appointed Team Manager (my brother Matthieu – see David L report regarding our Etape du tour journey)

We will keep you informed about this project but would like to know who could be interested by this new Positivo Espresso challenge

25 August 2011

The Blue Olmo

Some photos of the new blue Olmo which will replace the blue Gazelle as my new commuting bike. Come summer, come winter.
In honor of David Litts epic Paris-Brest-Paris adventure that just ended unfortunately, it will get a small sticker reading "Frenay-Sur-Sarthe - 1.039km" on the toptube, overlapping the "San Remo" mark.

This was a tricky built-up. Uwe from Studio Brisant did some repair of the paint work and I had to ask for assistance with Velosport for the headset and the bottom bracket. I am still not happy with the pedals.
The origin of most of the parts is the Peugeot Galibier that I built-up in winter this year. Most of the parts are Shimano Golden Arrow (105 level of the Eighties) but I decided to exchange the brake calipers with Shimano 600 6200type which are much, much better in terms of brake performance. The Peugeot frame is now sold and I know it in good hands.

This bike has a lot of stuff attache to it, like speed meter, bottle cage, saddle bag, pump and some is going to be added additionally: lights and mud guards. This may not be looking good on a classic bike, however this is a commuting bike and I will be in need of all this stuff.
If anyone is interested to buy the Gazelle "en bloc", please let me know.

PBP - next time need stronger handlebars

PBP - next time need stronger handlebars
Well, after a dry start I got to the 140km checkpoint with a 30kph average moving speed (including some ups and downs), ...  the pace then slowed a lot. From late morning we had rain and some incredible thunderstorms, complete with drenching downpours and lightning strikes too close for comfort, the remainder of the first day and overnight into the second morning.  The storms and lingering jet lag set me way back, so I took a first sleep break at Tinteniac for 3 hours instead of going to Loudeac or beyond ...  I somehow went from having 5 hours already "in the bank" and the prospect of more, to a constant game of catch-up to meet the deadlines at each control point.

There were lots of high and low points (figuratively and literally) along the way, but for now, here is the result:  I made it through the 1009 km control point at Villaines-la-Juhel but not to Mortagne-au-Perche at 1090 km.
About 30 km into the leg, at 2am in the dark, zipping through the town of Frenay-Sur-Sarthe, I hit a low curb (that looked like another lane of the street, not a curb, to me) and went down on my right side, hearing the hiss of exploding tires and then the hard clatter and a bang as my bars slammed into some kind of marble, solid memorial stone.  The carbon handlebars gave way to marble.

Anyway, just some minor road rash and bruises, I think, but no way to continue on.

Duell Bikes

Last weekend I had the chance to travel to Den Haag/Netherlands and to visit the bike shop of John van Herwerden, the maker of Duell bikes.
Since last year Hiroshi from C Speed is importing Duell bikes. Duell bikes have quite some racing history in the Netherlands and are made out of steel. Not any steel, but high tensile strength Dedacciai 14.4 and 16.5 steel profiles, TIG welded. We are not speaking about pure retro steel frames but about modern applications. The frame builder Jan van Daale has a good feeling for the design and for the painting design. Almost all frames that Hiroshi has sold so far are customized.

It has been a while since I had been in the Netherlands and I enjoyed the local food such as french fries in buckets with heaps of Mayonnaise, Ketchup and onions on top - Frites special.
John has a nice shop with along tradition not to far away from the city centre of Den Haag. TJ Bruder lived in the area and found about it first before anybody else. The shop is rather big, in particular if compared with the typical Japanese shop. The focus is on modern racing bikes, such as Specialized. The highlight is nevertheless the display of the Duell bikes (for the normal customer) and two old bikes equipped with the most exquisite Campagnolo groupsets (50th years anniversary edition).

I got John to wear the Positivo Espresso jersey and took some photos in his shop. We talked about cycling. Of course, what else? It is nice to meet nice people through a common hobby.

PS There is even a Seven Eleven in Den Haag.

22 August 2011

Paris-Brest-Paris 2011 Day -1 and Day 0

Jerome -- old school, as he visits the Relais de Voisins, my temporary base.
I arrived Friday evening at St. Quentin-en-Yvelines, the “start suburb” for Paris-Brest-Paris.  I’m staying in a hotel about 3 km South of the start/finish area in Voisins-le-Bretonneux, another similar town.  This is a very nice, prosperous looking and highly “planned” area of the Paris region, with lots of greenways, bike lanes, well-marked cross walks, and a mix of low rise multifamily and detached single family housing.  The gardens are neatly kept.  There are flower pots hanging from the street lamp poles.  It is the kind of place that wants so badly to stay clean that they give away the plastic bags for dog walkers to gather their dog’s shit from little dispensers on the street corners.
Voisins-le-Bretonneux

Doggy bags
So far, I’m very happy with the hotel I reserved through the American travel agent (Des Peres Travel) that has dominant market share among the U.S. randonneurs, and also happens to arrange hotels for a large group of the Audax Kanagawa riders.   

The hotel is on a quiet tree-lined street, has nice grounds, basic rooms and is reasonably priced.  There are maybe 50 U.S. riders staying here and a few others (a Taiwanese group was here yesterday, but most seem to have just been stopping by).  At least 3 others here selected the 5AM Monday start, as did I, instead of the more popular Sunday afternoon and evening start times.

Jerome was stopping by his father’s house Friday night/Saturday on the way back from his week in Pau and the Pyrenees (with Stephen Coady).  On Saturday morning, he borrowed an ancient bike with a lugged steel frame (maybe MOB is familiar with the manufacturer – France-Loire Cycles, of St. Etienne?) from his father’s neighbor and came over to my hotel from Gif-sur-Yvettes, his home town.  We took a nice spin, saw where my son stayed with the family of a friend of Jerome in 2009 in Chevreuse, and I now have visited the house where Jerome grew up and his father still lives.  It is a nice area, lots of green, plenty of up and down for cyclists – including a short but steep hill at Chateaufort – and easy access to Paris by RER train.

The street in front of my hotel.
Today, I took another morning spin, riding around and then through Versailles, just to the East of here.
North Entrance of Versailles gardens

Photo op in front of Marie Antoinette's play-peasant village
This afternoon, after a big plate of pasta, I and others who start tomorrow morning cheered the riders who had starts between 4 and 6 PM.  I wore my Audax Japan jersey and waved the Tohoku charity fundraising bandanna that I got yesterday at registration.  Many waved back.  Now I get one more night of sleep, get up very early for a 5AM start, and ride 1230 km.

18 August 2011

Pescarolo sold

Yesterday I sold the Pescarolo bike. No, not to the guy on the photo. This was the first sale of a bike I built up new completely as opposed to single frames and components I have sold before. The Pescarolo isn't a top of the line bike, neither does it fit my size (55 cm), but still I was a little bit sad. This could become a repeated process in the months to come. I am currently building up a blue Olmo bike that will become the replacement for the blue Gazelle I bought last year. And then we will see.

16 August 2011

More Trouble where the Rubber Hits the Road

On Sunday night/Monday morning, I climbed Mt Fuji with my younger son Henry, who is in good hiking shape after a 30 day NOLS trip in the Pacific Northwest.  They say everyone who lives in Japan should climb Mt Fuji once, if only for the experience of being high on a volcano with thousands of others.

Sunrise, from around 3200 meters' elevation on the Subashiri route.
We climbed the "Subashiri guchi" route, much less crowded than the traditional trip up from Fuji Yoshida just as the hill climb cycling event to its base, the 5th stage at the top of the Azamino Line, is much less crowded than the hill climb up the 5th stage on the Subaru Line, at the base of the Fuji Yoshida route.  Of course, the hill climb up the Azamino Line is nearly twice the grade of the climb up the Subaru Line, so that might have something to do with the relative lack of crowds.  Likewise, the Subashiri-guchi route starts climbing from around 1900 meters elevation, whereas the Fuji Yoshida route starts much higher, from around 2350 meters.

Henry and I watch the sunrise.

I highly recommend the Subashiri alternative, since it means that you only join the real mob scene at the very top of the mountain, for the last 400-500 meters elevation of climbing.  Otherwise, best to do the climb in early September, after the end of the "official" season but before all of the mountainside huts close.  Also, the Subashiri route has a sand field for much of the descending route -- you can wade through it in big rolling downward steps, as long as you are careful to avoid the larger rocks.
The collection of huts, souvenir shops, and pay toilets on top of Mt Fuji, at the end of the Fuji Yoshida route
Sand running (suna bashiri) in the clouds, almost sand skiing.  Fun, but tough on the boot soles.

Unfortunately, I had mechanical problems with my "wheels" even though not riding a bicycle. The Vibram rubber soles on my 14 year-old hiking boots started to de-laminate (i.e. come off) during the climb.  With repeated tapings, they did not come off completely until we were over half way down.  Fortunately, the inner soles were tough enough to make it back to the trailhead.  It reminded me of riding half a Brevet with a broken spoke ... or maybe in non-cycling shoes!  Maybe I should not have left the boots in the back of our car, parked in the mid-day sun, for the entire week before the climb?

In any event, I highly recommend climbing Mt. Fuji, once, to any expat living in Japan.

10 August 2011

Around Mt Fuji


I went around Mt. Fuji today on the P-cranks bike -- 110km and plenty of up and down.  The heat was oppressive on the lower stretches of the South side above Fujinomiya and near Gotemba, so I took a brief roadside rest here along Rte 469, at the EPO farm and garden.  Really did the trick!

The nutrition at the EPO farm was much better than the home made crap we had when we visited the dog park tourist trap later in the trip.

09 August 2011

Images of cycling in Belgium


through fyxomatosis from Tommy P. Reconnaissance of the Rhonde.

Leather on the bike

Apart from leather grips as on the Olmo handle bar, there are also various other places where leather can be used to upgrade the functionality of a bike.
This application is in particular handy for people living in the "Viertel" ("The quarter") of Bremen. Sure, it should include Becks (Greenies) bottles instead of Pilsener Urquell. The Viertel is the part of the town where it is considered uncool to walk around without carrying a bottle of beer.

Before leaving one's home, one need to check: Key in the pocket? Spare change? Mobile phone? Bottle of beer? I used to live there in the summer of 2010 close to a supermarket that is opened until midnight. Quite rare in Germany still. But basically not necessary as well: Some crates of Becks placed in front of the cashier would have created the same turnover after 8 PM.