Sunday Aug 12, 2007

Vacation week one.

Lessons learned in the first week of my holiday:

  1. If a sight you wish to see, the Millau Viaduct, is about 50 miles away as the crow flies then it will be more than 75miles by road. I discovered this fact after 62miles of cycling when I was at the top of a large hill and decided that it would be wise to turn around so that I stood some chance of being “home” before dark.

    I am reminded of the fact I read about rivers that if I recall correctly that Einstein calculated that on average the ratio between the distance from the source of a river to it's outflow into the sea as the crow flies and the length of the river is pi. Since a significant portion of the route was following a river I should have expected the distance to be much more than I could ride (whether that “fact” turns out to be true or not when I can investigate it).

    I think the truth is I just wanted it to be nearer and the route was spectacular so was worth it as a stand alone ride anyway.

  2. If the route you take to the above sight, which you never did get to see, takes you along a road that runs on a disused railway line through tunnels that are both unlit and not straight it is best to have a front light. Either that or be following a French driver. Only a French driver would realise the predicament of a cyclist in this situation and deliberately slow so that you can follow his lights.

    On the return journey the driver I was following, while still French was not quite so thoughtful so I opted for the more drastic approach of putting the hammer down and just trying to keep up. I mostly managed this but briefly I did find myself descending into pitch black wondering how accurately I could ride once the lights of the vehicle disappeared or even could I stop before I ran into the wall. Suddenly going full speed in the dark did not seem like such a bright move if you pardon the pun. Luckily just at that precise moment the light at the end of the tunnel started to have enough effect that I was no longer blind.

  3. 120miles in France in the heat, on your own and with some big hills are a lot harder than 120 miles in Kent, in the cool with hardly any hills. Plus a “mountain” top finish can demoralize you for a large part of the return journey.

  4. Bib shorts do not always come down each leg the same distance. This is easily proven by forgetting to put sun cream on you legs prior to setting off on what turns out to be a 126mile ride to not see the Millau Viaduct. The resulting sun burn is made all the more embarrassing by the very obvious lines on your legs not being at the same level.

  5. French shop keepers get the hump if you buy a bottle of water and a can of coke with the 50euro note you are only carrying for emergencies. Looking exhausted, dehydrated and sunburnt does not make it any better. Luckily they are not spiteful so do not give you all your change using coins so that your final climb is a bit harder.

  6. Cycling in France is a dream. The roads are magnificent and the motorists don't deliberately try to kill you or apparently even mind that you are there. When going up hill they hoot not from annoyance but to give encouragement. (Strictly I did not learn this this week. I already knew this but the point is worth making again.)

  7. If you are sharing a property with people who don't cycle then what you would consider a normal thing to do on holiday, ie leaving the house at 9am without telling anyone anything more than you are going for a bike ride and may head over towards the Millau Viaduct and will be back later, where later is undefined but can be assumed to be “before dark” as you don't have lights, may be construed as slightly odd. So much so that when you are not back at 7pm they will worry so it would be best to call them and tell them when you may be back so they don't think you partner is odd for not being worried.

    Non cyclists have a strange sense of normality.

Thursday Jul 26, 2007

Betrayed but not surprised

I would love to say I can't believe it but I can. Doping scandals on the Tour have become the norm. First this year it was Vino, then Rasmussen withdraws as does Cofidis team taking Bradley Wiggins with them. If any of that team was clean then why do they all withdraw, who wins from that? Not the public, not the clean riders who are forever tainted.

Ultimately I blame those running the Tour and the UCI. The doping controls have been a joke for years. Why does the same lab process both A and B samples? Why do they keep using the same lab that leaks results to L'Equipe before they are official, in breach of the rules? How do they keep messing up the paper work associated with samples? Why don't they test every rider every day?

Either we accept that it is the best chemists who will win and stop testing or put in place a really good testing regime that is transparent and trusted by the teams, riders but above all the public.


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