Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Laurent Fignon

I remember the last stage of the 1989 Tour de France as if it were yesterday.

Greg LeMond trailed by 50 seconds, behind Laurent Fignon. Fignon was a 2-time Tour winner, and the darling of the French press. With his geeky glasses and wispy blond ponytail (hey, this was the late 80's, after all), he was the European crowd favorite. His victory was all over except for Le Marseilles playing in the background as he accepted his trophy on the podium.

The last stage's ride into Paris was an individual time trial, and it's my opinion that the outcome of the 1989 race is why you'll never again see another individual time trial on the last day of the Tour de France.

Greg LeMond, with his controversial TT helmet and aerobars and averaging over 34 mph, made up 58 seconds over Fignon, and won the tour by 8 seconds. 8 SECONDS. Was this the most exciting stage of any Tour de France, ever? Yeah, it was...

I remember the footage of LeMond's wife freaking out on the Champs Elysees, and Greg's wide-eyed farmboy look of shock and amazement when it hit him what had just happened. I remember screaming so loud that the downstairs neighbors started banging on their ceiling with a broom to get me to shut up. Oh yeah, and I remember watching the pain and anguish that had consumed Fignon as he crossed the finish line, dropped his bike, and curled up into a fetal position right there on the road.

It must have been devastating for him. But for me, it sealed my passion for cycling.

In a tour that included a lot of big names like Erik Breukink, Pedro Delgado, and the amazing Miguel Indurain, this was history.

Laurent Fignon died of cancer yesterday, at the age of 50. In a sport that is made up of superhumans, it's almost shocking when the end is so very human. I will always remember him as the guy who made Greg LeMond work impossibly hard to win the most impossible Tour de France victory ever.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's not the destination, it's the journey

The Great Hudson Valley Pedal 2010 is over, and we've all returned to the real world. But I have to say that there's nothing like an agenda that consists entirely of:
Wake up

Aside from the beauty and history of the Hudson River Valley, what I'll remember most about this trip were my fellow travelers.

Here are just a few images from the trip. You can find all of my photos online here.

There's a lot of history in the little villages along the Hudson River, like these old stone houses (c. mid-1600's) in New Paltz.

Tent cities are built at each of the tour overnights, like this one in Nyack Beach State Park.

Jackie and I did the optional out & back up Bear Mountain, over 2 miles of climbing. From the top, you could see the Manhattan skyline. I think this climb was the highlight of my trip.

Honestly, does Dave have a tapeworm or something???

Keith needed some excitement in his day, so he busted a spoke in the middle of nowhere. It sounded like a gunshot. He had the wheel fixed and was back riding the next day.

This is Jamie's bike. Jamie had a brain aneurysm when he was a kid. His dad drove up with him from Florida, and meets him at the overnight stops. Jamie's bike is a recumbent trike. It doubles as a clothesline anchor.

This is the view from the bridge in Poughkeepsie. The bridge is actually a parkway path, for pedestrians and cyclists.

We were told that there was some big shindig here in Rhinebeck a couple of weeks ago.

Of course, I wouldn't trade my Bianchi for anything, but this set of wheels caught my attention. (My first car was a '77 Malibu, in the same color).

Highlights along the way: the Vanderbilt mansion, FDR's home in Hyde Park, Tarrytown, Boscobel, Val-Kill, and too many more to list.

Camping sure does bring out my inner hillbilly!

Susan will be celebrating her 80th birthday in October.

We followed Route 9 almost the entire way from Albany to NYC. There was no shortage of hills. Plenty of traffic most of the time, too.

Hubert's everyday riding kit included taping up his pantlegs so his cuffs wouldn't get caught in his chain.He carried all his stuff in cardboard panniers. Solar panels are mounted to his handlebars, so he can charge his electronic gadgets. When my camera battery died and I was asking around for a charger, he pulled out an old voltmeter - I'm not making this up - to measure the voltage across the dead battery. I found someone else who had the charger I needed.

The average age of our group was 55. This gang of retirees from Bonita Bay, FL, almost certainly were the reason for the skewed average. They were amazing riders, too. I hope I can fly up those hills when I'm their age...

The view from the Rip Van Winkle bridge. We had a total of 5 Hudson River crossings along this route.

No doubt it will, but I kinda prefer non-fiction...

NYC is just a little ways away...

The Runcible Spoon, in Nyack, is a cycling hangout. Any given morning, you'll find the racks packed with all kinds of 2-wheeled transportation.

Those Bonita Bay people are some kind of party animals!

A couple of the younger riders hanging out by their tent after the ride up to Nyack Beach park.

Downtown Nyack has an amazing chocolate shop. We bought some stuff to go, but it didn't last very long.

Peyton was the youngest rider on this tour. He was 4 years old, and the stoker of a tandem (his dad was the captain). He completed the entire 220+ mile trip.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Riding the Hudson River Valley

Today is the 3rd day on our Hudson Valley tour, a rest day.

It's been a while since I did any sort of "bike touring", which just means that you go from one place to another over the course of a week or so with a group of cyclists of varying abilities. You camp out every night, but you don't have to carry your own stuff. There's SAG service all the way, and most of the ovenight locations (college campuses or elementary school grounds, in our case) offer dinner or breakfast in the morning. Kind of like GOBA, but with fewer riders.

The ride goes from Albany to NYC over 6 days, an average of 40-some miles per day. The object, I'm finding, is to take your time with it, ride at a sightseeing pace, linger in the small towns along the way. I admit that it has taken me a few days to embrace that rhythm and learn to ride slow.Dave opted to load panniers onto his Surly for reasons entirely lost to me. As long as someone is hauling my camping gear and driving a SAG, I prefer to ride as unencumbered as possible. In any case, Dave is riding even slower than usual because of this, and I'm trying (I really am) to moderate my pace.

Once I get to upload some photos, I'll be able to better describe our experiences. For now, I'll just mention that we saw some amazing scenery, met a lot of interesting people, and rode some of the coolest roads. More later...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Am I back in the saddle again?

My self-imposed cycling hiatus is officially over.

It wasn't really a 'hiatus' anyway, but just a week of bad luck, crummy weather, and competing commitments.

(Ask Jackie if she thinks 3 flats on 2 bikes in 15 minutes is the least bit funny, or how she thinks she's gonna be able to ride a bike without a saddle... )

So, with one week before we take off for the Great Hudson Valley Pedal, I'm gonna go out and ride some more...
In the meantime, Dave will get all of our camping stuff together, with help from the boys, of course!

Ultra Amazing

What drives someone to travel 100 miles on foot?

What has to be inside a person to start running, knowing that for the next 24 hours or so he'll probably still be running? And how must this person's brain be wired to convince his body to keep doing what it probably isn't made to do?

I wanted to know, and so Dave and I volunteered to help at an aid station along the Burning River 100 Trail Race, which started yesterday at Squire's Castle in North Chagrin, and ended somewhere in Cuyahoga Falls this morning. Our shift was 2:00 AM until the cut-off at 6:22 AM.

Our aid station was situated at Everett covered bridge, at miles 80.8 and 85.5 (the trail here was a 4.7 mile loop, so we checked bib numbers as runners started the loop, and recorded their time when they came back out.)

It was a strange, subcultural kind of event. Family members and supporters in lawn chairs lined the bridge, waiting for the tiny little dot of a headlamp (or two, since many runners had 'pacers' with them) emerge out of the middle-of-the-night blackness. Some appeared strong and fresh, as if they maybe had been running for an hour or so. Many others seemed a bit worse for wear, but persisted at whatever pace they could sustain.

Some dropped out at that point, unable to face the final 15 miles and the prospect of another 3 or 4 hours of this brutality.

I give them ALL credit. They are amazing, incredible, and I would imagine a bit insane.

I for one, could/would never do anything like this, but I can maybe see why someone would. Or can I?

I have other friends who participate in ultrasport events:
- Tim Marks, who will be doing the AdventureCorps Furnace Creek 508 (508 miles of cycling through Death Valley and environs, with a 48 hour time limit) in October.
Tim's wife, Jill, and I rode a century together last February, in Death Valley, which looks like an average club ride in comparison...
- Susan Reed, an addiction counselor and recumbent bike rider who regularly logs 10,000 miles a year.
- Our friends Kari and Larry Newman, and their son Nathan who are riding across America (actually, I DO want to do this at some point in my life)...
- A bunch of Grunt Girls just recently ran the BT50K. I know lots of these gals embrace the ultrasport mentality.

So, what DOES it take to be able to do something like this?
  • What's your motivation? Why do you want to do ultrasport?
  • What keeps you moving when your body wants to stop?
Please submit your comments through this blogsite, if you don't mind.