Alps vs West Old LaHonda? Grenoble Patisserie vs Donut King?

wolh_post_franceSome obvious questions, but the answers, not quite so obvious! Kevin and I returned home from France late Monday night, too late to make it to the Tuesday-morning ride. In fact, I suffered pretty badly from jet lag all the way through Wednesday, with this morning (Thursday) being the first I’ve felt normal since, well, since watching the ‘Tour finale on the Champs Elyssee in Paris last Sunday.

But it felt good getting back on my normal bike, it felt good riding up over Jefferson, it even felt good riding up through the steeper sections of Huddart Park, where I rarely feel good. Keep in mind there’s a difference between feeling good and being fast though. I don’t even know if I could have been fast, because I had to hold up a bit for Kevin, who was adapting to another change in his meds. Maybe that was why I felt good, because I could out-ride Kevin this morning. This too shall pass.

It was inevitable that I’d be making comparisons between the riding in France and what we have here at home. Heading up Kings, less than a quarter of the way up, where you might normally be thinking, yikes, I feel like this and I have that much further to go… well, in France that would be 6k (kilometers) from the top, and it would feel like you’re almost there because it was an 18k or so climb. So is that a point in favor of our shorter local climbs, or the much-longer French climbs?

How about the temperatures? It was mid-60s this morning on Kings. In fact, it was mid-60s the entire ride, things kept cool by the coastal fog trying to make inroads. In France, the first 6 days of riding were in the low-90s to 102 degrees. OK, 101.8 was the highest I saw. Oh, and that 101.8 degree day was heading into a strong headwind too.

Road quality? Variable here, variable in the Alps. I’ve generally been very impressed with the roads used by the Tour de France, but maybe not so much this year. Seems like they tried to introduce a certain grittiness to the ‘Tour this year, maybe a bit of that throwback quality that’s defined the Giro.

Regarding food, well, there’s no Donut King in France. The local Patisseries are pretty good, and because the pastries really are French their decadence somehow comes with less judgment than a chocolate old fashioned donut. Something to be said for that.

But there’s something special about France and bicycles. When you’re cycling on the roads in France, you’re a normal part of the traffic. People act like you belong there (unless it’s someone from the US in a rental car). There’s a rail system that goes off in all directions and there’s always room for bikes on-board. The French idea of fast food is way better than what we have here, with Kebabs cheap & plentiful. And the weather? You get used to absurdly-hot temps after a few days, and there’s this strange thing called rain the frequently comes in the evenings, often accompanied rather dramatically by thunder & lightning. Interesting stuff.

The comparisons would tilt far more favorably towards France if we were talking about the Pyrenees instead of the Alps. More on that later. For now, it’s time to ride. Wherever you are, wherever you’re going. There’s no better way to experience life than on a bike. –Mike–

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It’s over, it’s time to come home

IMG_3171sky_partyThere was never much doubt that Froome and Team Sky were going to pull it off this year; it wasn’t until the penultimate stage (Alpe d’Huez, when Quintana attacked) that looked like it was even possible to put a dent in their machine. So if you were looking for drama, not much there. But even with the conclusion not too much in doubt, there are so many side stories, battles for other podium spots and jerseys, that keep it interesting. In fact, watching some of the coverage, you had two entirely separate races going on, so who do you give airtime to?

Lotto Soudal's invincible leadout train that helped Greipel win the final stage.
Lotto Soudal’s invincible leadout train that helped Greipel win the final stage.
But for us, that being myself and my son Kevin, it was 8 solid days of riding in a row, plus Paris at the end. The funny thing about Paris, a non-riding day, is that it is a lot more tiring than any of the others! Oh sure, you’re not drenched in sweat, your pee isn’t bright orange and the consistency of jello (mostly kidding…mostly), your legs aren’t talking to you about that extra 20 pounds of gear you’re lugging up the hills. But figuring out where you need to be, and when, and how to get through a city that’s had most of its access shut down… that’s not so easy. But eventually we got were we were supposed to be. Well, not quite. We really need to be home, and that’s still a day and a half away.

Planes, trains & automobiles. Nothing about bikes! But for now the bikes and the trains and the cars are finished for this trip; it’s just a couple of planes back home. Finally get to see my daughter Becky and my wife Karen again, and the crazy psycho Corgi and our new killer kitty. I’m ready. I think Kevin is too. –Mike–

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