First, a warning to regular readers of this blog – this ‘wrap-up’ will have non-cycling content. Next, a bigger warning to family and friends who usually don’t read my blog – this ‘wrap-up’ will have mostly cycling content because that’s pretty much all I’ve been doing this year!
It Was Twenty Years Ago Today
But I’ll start off with a stroll (with backpack) down memory lane, while I can still remember this long ago. It was around this time of year, in 1992, that I first travelled to Asia, innocently thinking it was going to be ‘just a vacation’. What this 5-week trip in Thailand ended up being, it eventually unraveled, was the first of life’s little detours that have taken me from Canada to France, via all sorts of odd places. Before I made that trip I had no idea that people ‘travelled’, having previously only ever been overseas on a school trip, then a week of all-inclusive debauchery in The Domincan Republic (thankfully no photo evidence of that trip exists..).
What I learned – somewhere near Krabi – was that ‘travelling’ was not only possible, but highly desirable and even cheap (the California couple who first explained this wonderful new activity to me were travelling on $5 a day – even 20 years that wasn’t much). I spent the next two years saving money (I still wonder how, on my meager salary from Esso) and more than that amount time again travelling and working in Asia and Australia till I landed in Japan, broke but ambitious.
And I never went back. I’m not travelling anymore, at least in the way I used to, but I am still in a foreign place, feeling like a foreigner, which I kind of like, I suppose. There’s no moral to this little story, other than ‘be careful who you talk to in Thailand’. I just wanted to get that out of my system, and wonder out loud where I’ll be typing this in another 20 years.
The Bike Takes Over
I have never considered myself the obsessive type, but I seem to be making an exception when it comes to the bicycle. It could be the realization that age is creeping up on me, or that I live in the south of France (a pretty nice place to ride), or just the fact that cycling makes you awesome, but there hasn’t been much I’ve done in 2012 that didn’t involve La Petite Reine.
In 2012, like all the years before in France, I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to ride in some pretty incredible places. See for yourself.
Beer break: The Alps are a dream for cycling, and they also have plenty of ‘the good carbs’.
In the last 2 years my riding has totally transformed and I no longer get on my bike for fun much (although I do get this as a byproduct…sometimes). I am now riding most of the year (now called a ‘season’) to ‘train’. I have a ‘training program’ which I must follow or I will have to leave the new fraternity of ‘serious cyclists’ I pretend I belong to. How serious was I in 2012? Not as serious as I will be in 2013, but here are some statistics. Be impressed, especially by the climbing stats – they took me 30 minutes to add up!
No. of Rides: 218
Total Mileage: 11,378 km (7070 miles)
Hours in the Saddle: 462
Total Ascent: 93,382 meters (306,371 feet)
And all this with…
No. of arthritic knees: 1 (still, better than 2)
My main objectives for the ‘season’ were the two Etapes du Tour; the first in the Alps and the other in the Pyrenees. The Etape du Tour, for the uneducated, is an annual event run by the same folks who do the Tour de France. It is a race that any bozo can ride (and plenty do!), but it is not to be taken lightly, since it is an exact replica of an actual high mountain stage of the Tour de France (and usually one of the hardest).
I managed top 20% finishes in both these races, which is a far cry from the bottom 20% of my first race two years ago. Obviously my ‘training programs’ are working. Thanks ‘Coach’!
Here is the rest of Team 2012 (Erik, Anne and John) at the traditional lunch after our first race in February.
Wine at bike races – and people ask me why I live in France…
At the race ‘village’ – Etape du Tour Act One – July. Albertville
Somewhere on the horrible ascent of Col du Glandon – Act One.
At the end of our suffering. The skinny guys on the left both came in top 500. I’m shaving my head next year…
The Kenyan Riders, a nice bunch of guys who came to France to prove that Kenyans aren’t just awesome runners.
One of the only pictures of me from Act Two because my coach thought I took too many photos in Act One. He might have something there – top 15% in this 8-hour suffer-fête.
But I wasn’t alone at this one. Peter, a fellow Canadian, also rode this madness. Check out the ‘before and after’ of this guy (one year apart, I might add). If you’d like the secret of his success, see my stats above. His are around the same.
For the Rent!
A couple of years ago I decided that I’d try to make my hobby work for me and, over the past 2 seasons, I’ve made a (very) humble success out of it. What started off in 2010 as a few scattered guided rides for people visiting the south of France, has – as of a couple weeks ago, officially – turned into a proper business of the same guided rides, as well as week-long tours, both fully supported and guided, and self-guided. I even have a partner, John, who is a strong rider, fluent French speaker AND a master of spreadsheets. In short, a keeper.
Here are a few clients who found their way to France this year and helped make ‘work’ not all that tough at all.
Shoko and I started our year cat-sitting in Paris, which is about as good as cat-sitting can get, I imagine. Our friends’ apartment is steps from Notre Dame, the bum of which you can see in the background below. Mats, may you never use up all your 9 lives!
In March, for my birthday, we went to Nice to see the final stages of Paris-Nice, a major early-season pro race. Here is eventual Tour de France winner, Olympic champion and all-round cycling God this year, Bradley Wiggins (yes, winning this race, too).
I like this photo of me, striking a masculine pose on the Promenade des Anglais. The reality, however, is that I am suffering from what turned out to be one of my famous 2-day hangovers. I have my leg up on the railing to stop myself from falling over.
Sprinters on the Promenade.
In June we flew to Istanbul for a few days and had a most excellent time of it, I have to say. The city was very vegetarian friendly for one, so Shoko immediately felt at home. It’s also a city of immense history and, unlike most of Europe, you can see stuff from very early Christianity. I found it fascinating to visit churches from the 5th century because the oldest we have where we live are 500 years newer. The building below is a bit newer than that, but no less interesting, being the terminus of the original Orient Express.
Beer Break: Istanbul also has beer, which always helps a place endear itself to me.
In October I made a trip back to Canada to learn how to fix bikes and visit my family. This might have been even more stressful than my big races, since I’m not the most mechanically minded person out there and I knew there was a test to pass. In the end it wasn’t too terrible and I even learned a few things I might actually remember (e.g. there is not such thing as too much grease).
Our final getaway for the year was just last week. We’ve had a motorcycle for nearly 4 years now an I’d been hoping to take a Christmas trip every year. Finally the weather cooperated and I quickly checked the meteo to see where the warmest place was in a 400 km radius of home. The winner – Barcelona.
As has been the case every year we’ve been in France, visitors graced us with their presence (I won’t ask if it’s us or the Mediterranean, but I think I know the answer…).
First up were Greg and Mariette, my older brother and belle soeur Québecoise. Other than a Canada-cold day at the Viaduc de Millau, they had decent weather.
Next we had an all-too-short visit from our old Norwegian neighbors, Chris and Seema. They are wine importers, so they’ll be back again. Next time, let’s do lunch!
It’s Contemporary. It’s Complicated.
Shoko is in her 3rd year at the Ecole des Beaux Arts now and starting to work on her own projects a little more. She’s been experimenting with ‘space’ mostly, I think, but trying her hand at a bunch of things I won’t pretend to understand. Here are a few examples of what she has gotten her hands dirty doing this school year.
In Next Year’s Episode…
2013 will see me hit 45 years old, which is as good a time as any to ride the ‘Highest and Toughest Cyclosportive in the World‘. Training has already begun for this week-long giant of a race and I’m more than a little excited/apprehensive about it. Luckily, I’ve got a team – ‘Team Vicious Cycle‘ – to share in my suffering, including my 56 year old (or is it 57 yet, Rob..?) coach and step-brother. If I only write about the Haute Route in next year’s wrap-up, you’ll know it was epic.
Cycling Languedoc already has two tours booked for 2013, which I’ll have to find a way to fit into my training schedule.
Finally, Shoko tells me we are going to Venice for an art extravaganza of some sort. I hope they have beer…
For those of you who made it this far, I commend you on your endurance. Happy New Year and may you all have a (sorry in advance for the ‘corn’ which is coming) purrrfect 2013!