This is your source for an insider perspective on European six-day racing this winter. I'm still looking for sponsors to help make it all possible (here's my resume). Also feel free to make donations online using the button below; any support is appreciated and I have a list of private contributors on the site throughout the year.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

And for my final trick...

He described it as “the worst experience of his life.” “But,” he continued, “it makes you feel like a warrior.” That is what I’m up against tomorrow morning as my farewell to Nice.

Here’s the pickle: my plane leaves at 7am. The earliest bus leaves at 6am and takes 20min to get to the airport. Cabs charge 50 euros for the trip which is more than I would ever pay for moral reasons. All my friends with cars live 30-40min outside of the city. SO, the way to go is by bike. My plan is to attach my bike case to my backpack (carry-on), then ride my bike along the Promenade des Anglais while pulling my giant rolly-luggage with a free hand. Then I also need to allow time to disassemble my bike in the terminal and repack all my bags. So my day begins at 3am tomorrow morning.

It seems appropriate that such a trip would cap off this week. I’ve ridden a ton, around 27hrs with four days of tempo climbing. Saturday was great, I explored Italy in the mountains north of Ventimiglia and found a climb almost exactly like the Col de Turini but south-facing so I could do the whole thing in shorts and a jersey. 6hrs roundtrip though, with 1:30 of climbing at tempo. The approach is also really nice, you wind through little Italian mountain villages for about an hour going inland from the sea. At one point I came upon a huge funeral procession, maybe 300+ people, all on foot taking up the whole road and walking in complete silence through the little city square. Some people saw me and the group opened up a corridor on the side of the road for me to pass. Then everyone stared at me seemingly expecting something, so I crossed myself and bowed my head and they all did the same and I kept riding. I’m not sure if that was the thing to do but it was the first thing that came to mind and seemed to do the trick.

My going-away outing was a rousing game of pub bingo, which was great for practicing numbers but people kept erupting into song and it was difficult to hear. It was the closest my life has ever come to being a musical and let me say it’s a lot weirder than when they do it on stage. Then yesterday was apparently Australia Day, which of course commemorates the day booze landed shore of the hapless penal colony, so we went to an Irish pub to dance on tables with all the Aussie expats in Nice.

And so concludes my journey. I’m not going to update my blog when I’m at home because that just seems silly to me. BUT, I think I’ll keep it going during the year but only post stuff when I’m traveling or at races. Thanks a lot to everyone for your support this winter, it’s been great.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

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Mmmm, nothing like a nice spinach, chickpea, and lentil salad after a long day in the saddle.
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Summery winter epic

Had another long winter epic today, but now the good weather is back so I headed out the coast on a mission to make it all the way to Saint Tropez. It was a shorts and a jersey day, or at least I made it into one with a wind-proof baselayer. Last night I spent some quality time with my maps to see whether it would be feasible to ride to the aforementioned holiday destination, and determined using a slide ruler and abacus that it would indeed be within “reason.” I set the bar of reason at seven hours roundtrip.

Determined to go the distance I threw on a big gear again (45x16) and rode in the drops and on the stick all day. I also turned an entire loaf of bread into a stack of chestnut-spread sandwiches, which is about as appealing as it sounds. It’s really more of a “food system” than a “meal,” and is gruesomely documented above.

After 3.5hrs of riding I was still about 45min from Saint Tropez, and had been going pretty hard the whole time (listened to Tool for the first 4hrs) so apparently my abacus skills need fine tuning. It was disheartening to turn around goal unachieved, and even more disheartening to find that the still day had turned into a windy day and I now had a headwind to deal with the whole way home. I took out my abacus again and realized I would run out of sammies before getting home, so I stopped at a gas station to top off the tank with a liter of coke and a pack of Nutella cookies, which can have been made only by angels in heaven so good were they.

What followed was not pretty. There was drooling, there was pouting, there was lots of staring at my front hub. After a short while I tied my arm-warmers around the tops of my bars to make little “aero-bars,” where I camped out for most of the 3.5hrs home. Yep, in the end I was able to stay on an even split and finished the 135mi ride in just under 7hrs.

Now let us never speak of it again.
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Friday, January 18, 2008

All I want for Christmas..... is a derailleur

Here's my final video, I promise. It features some rides around town with a camio by my big goofy friend Dan.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

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Our buddies
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Bonne Année! Bonne Anniversaire! Bon Voyage!

New Year’s Eve: the long pending report. This will be the Reader’s Digest version though because my better senses tell me to not disclose all my secrets. It all started at my humble language exchange before Zürich when I asked some French buddies if they had New Year’s plans because there is nothing obvious to do in Nice (no fireworks, street parties, etc). They offered a costume party in the hills outside of Nice, and I tentatively accepted.

Fast forward to New Year’s eve, the day we returned from Zürich after five days of travel and three days of racing. That morning we head to a thrift store in Zürich recommended by our couchsurfing host and buy “costumes.” For the next five hours we walk around Zürich taking in the sites and lots of chocolate milk and Ciabata bread, then catch our flight and get home around seven. We quickly build our bikes, go through a few different costumes eventually settling on some kind of “pirate” theme, then ride 30 minutes up a big hill (in our costumes) to the fête.

That’s when we decided we were something between party angels and party pirates. Angels because we spread the gospel of American parties, aka going nuts and dancing in a very un-French way. Pirates because thrice did we invade a neighboring party filled with very snooty French hipsters dressed entirely in black with a hired DJ, a caterer, etc. They were playing really good music all night so we just bounced back and forth between the two parties, each time livening the place because everyone was just standing around sizing everyone else up. Then we burst in and went crazy dancing wearing pirate clothes and capes and somehow that seemed to lighten the atmosphere. A few times people asked us who we were and maybe even asked us to leave but we could neither hear nor understand them so we just smiled and said “Ouais ouais, nous sommes Suédois! Ouais, Suédois!” and kept dancing. And every time they delivered us glasses of champagne on the dance floor so we figured we weren’t unwelcome.

At the end of the night we made a lot of friends, perhaps some enemies, but both Dan and I agreed it was one of our best experiences out on the town so we were pretty psyched. And at the end of the night we had about four hours of vigorous booty-shaking and an hour bike ride under our belts so if nothing else it was great training.

My birthday: was the following weekend. It has somehow become a tradition to go for an epic solo winter training ride on my birthday and one I decided to continue this year. It was overcast all along the coast but that’s not exactly epic so I headed back to my old friend/foe the Col de Turini. Just to refresh, it’s a loop through the mountains north of town with a one-hour climb to open then a 1:30 feature climb that gains about 5000’ over 18km. The first time I rode there it was nice and sunny and warm and I was all bent out of shape about having to wear leg warmers all day. This time it was snowing the whole time and for about 20km over the top there were several inches of snow on the ground and people skiing on the road. Epic.

It turns out that fixies make great snow bikes because brakes stop working when they’re all frozen and clogged with snow, and descending I wouldn’t want to be jamming hard on my front brake anyway. So for the first half of the switchbacky descent I basically just locked up my rear wheel and skidded the whole way to control speed. The great thing about the fixie though is if the back starts to kick out too much you can just start pedaling again and everything straightens up. I made it down without crashing and thankfully didn’t spin my cog since I’m morally opposed to lockrings. I did have to stop a few times to do calisthenics to get blood flowing to my feet, but otherwise it was a solid 5hrs of birthday fun.

The week between: since my birthday not much has happened. The weather got really nasty and there was lots of rain, some locals say more rain than they’ve seen in the last ten years. Sweet. So I turned my attention to French again, and did lots of yoga (and still rode, just nothing memorable). For those following along at home, this week’s routine includes: forearm stands without using a wall, and walking up and down the wall into wheel. I’ve also been practicing my belly rolls because you never know when you’ll need to throw down.

Yesterday: winter epic part two. Turini again, but colder and way way more snowy. I also rode all the climbs at tempo, which was necessary because the snow was so thick and wet that if I slowed down I’d just start to spin out and fall over then it’s impossible to get going again. Coming down was hairy again but mostly just really cold and I had to stop several times, take my gloves off, and stow my hands in a very warm, very special place for a while to get them moving again.

Today: Saint Rafaël. It was sunny and warm again for the first time in weeks so I headed out along the coast for a long ride. But I felt really good so I threw on a big gear before hand, made another multi-hour playlist, and went for it. Today’s theme was dance-rock and included such bands as Bloc Party, The Rapture, La Tigre, MSTRKRFT, and the Scissor Sisters. I also threw in an hour of Neko Case because as the Björk of alt. country she rocks my world. I felt great the whole day so just stayed on the stick and ended up doing a hundi+ in about 5:30 and tempo on all the climbs. I did stop about halfway though to top off the tank with a giant brownie and a liter of coke. Hey, chubby kids have to eat too.

The highlight of the ride though occurred in Cannes (yes, home of the Cannes Film Festival) in typical weekend-traffic. Drivers here are in general extremely courteous to cyclists (even if they do have a rally streak in them), but every gets super agro on the weekends. So there I was riding in so-so traffic and a car pulls along side on the left lane and rolls down his window to yell some sort of advice at me. Somehow I sensed it wasn’t very kind or loving advice, traffic was slowing down ahead of us, and I happened to be rocking out to dance remix of a Death From Above 1979 song at the time, so as soon as the window was down I grabbed the sill and simultaneously gave myself a huge Madison sling and leaned down and blew him a kiss then rode off through the traffic. And then I found twenty bucks! Ouais!

To come: newest news is that the end is nigh and I’ll be home at the end of the month. The option to race Stuttgart, Berlin, and Copenhagen is there but I don’t have a partner and I don’t fancy jumping in with yet another person. And with a bunch of 20+hr weeks of overgeared tempo climbing under my belt I’m not sure how fresh the legs would be anyway. So it will be more of the same until then. I have a much more consistent social group now as well so life is pretty low-stress and routine… in a good way. OH, and I got accepted to UW Law. There are only a handful of state-schools that are ranked better and it’s by far the cheapest in the country so that’s exciting. One unfortunate thing that occurred to me recently is that law school really just consists of studying laws, which somehow doesn’t sound so compelling as I originally thought. Hmm.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Details to follow in the coming days... stay tuned
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The six days never dissapoint
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