je ne sais quoi

Sunday, June 24, 2007

We got a man down, dude

Strange how things work out sometimes...

My roommate, Simon, got terribly sick really quick. Wednesday before going to sleep he was fine and swell. A short while later I was awakened by sounds of him hurling his insides all over the house. Really weird. So fast! We suspected food poisoning, but really, everything was pretty sound. The same things we'd been eating, prepared in the same manner.

Fast forward to friday night. I got up for my usual 2am bathroom visit, and this crazy nausea came out of nowhere. I thought nothing of it. I slept fine....but...didn't wake up 'till 1pm -a first. When I did get up, I could not walk, could not eat, and only wanted to throw up. And it just kept getting exponentially worse. Normally, I'd be allright with this, but much travel and racing awaits...and olympic qualifiers don't happen every week....gah. So my saturday was a rough one. Luckily, my mom made me pack some "alka seltzer plus" tablets before I left the US so long ago, and those things really helped me 4 hour intervals, anyway. So I went off to sleep. Beat up, pissed, malnourished (must have been a 500 calorie day).

And this morning! Popped out of bed, almost at full strength!!! How??? So weird. A daisy of an immune system. But whatever that bug's no joke. Destroys all will and sense so quickly, easily. I'm hoping tomorrow morning will be even better. At least I can type now. In any case, better then than now, no? And the legs probably could do with the mini-break. Points race is on wednesday. I'm not looking forward to that. On a borrowed $2 track bike (which I have to someone pack and take with me...and hopefully NOT have to pay double for bike transport), on a track i've never been on, in an event i've only ever raced once before. Wow. But the big picture is that road race, and my mind is slowly slipping into the right state of mind.

South Africa. I'll miss the ardeche...dearly...perhaps more than I miss Los Angeles, but it's only 8 days. Maybe i'll miss Cape Town after all this is over? I don't have photos for this entry. Apologies, these things happen. Rush-time. My train leaves soon...and i'm completely dismantling the bike (fork, handlebars, etc etc) to try to get it all to fit. Procrastination nation. Just my game.

Be good, blog people. Win races. Have fun. And don't stress out. Please. Summer's here.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

An Entry In Four Parts

I've been uncharacteristically busy this last week, and there's isn't relief in sight for at least another two weeks. After which i'll go on a little break and see Paris. Realllly stoked for that. I'll start off with the present, and then just go with whatever I can remember.


Geez. Right now, i'm tired. Blacked. 190k today. A couple weeks ago, the team president gave word that we'd be doing a "century style" ride (called a "cyclosportif" in France) that our main sponsor, Super-U, was putting on. I'd never done one of these things before. Does everyone just parade around for the whole distance and drink beers and eat cupcakes? At first, team staff jokingly (my perception, anyway) said, "hey, win this thing! 1st 2nd and 3rd, ok?" Ok! But it isn't a race, right? Me and a couple teammates were to do the 135k race/ride/?. My roommate and I rode the 26k to the start, and we had plenty of time to check out the parking lot scene. I'll confess, I was a bit giddy at the prospect of doing something different. For entertainment, if anything. Also, I totally discounted the fact that there might actually be some quality riders in the field. I figured after 20k or after the first hill, the field would explode, and the 4 UCA riders would TTT off the front. In the parking lot, there were loads of people all about...some on rollers getting warmed up! What?! I pinned my number with 3 pins -a first.

We line up, then take off. As expected, slow. However, there were some lean looking fellas in the field. Cool. Course profile was representative of our region: No flat roads, lots of big ring-able climbs, and a couple harder small-ring efforts. Allright...i'm not seriously going to do a race report on this. In short, the team didn't win. We were wusses, and wouldn't apply the pressure when we should have. I tried to teach them this, by setting an example, but they're just not used to it. Instead of "making the race" it became an attrition battle. I tried...I'm cognizant of the fact that with strength like our team's, in a field like this (despite a few super-rec riders), WE need to MAKE the race...but I can't counter attack my own attacks...not yet. I must have made 10 blasts in the first 60k, one stuck for nearly 20k. In short, hard course, impressive super-rec riders, and a good time. Would have been a great GREAT way to practice some team tactics, but we've still got lots to learn. Gah. Rule #1, Don't be a tool....ATTACK. It's a friggin club ride. The team staff was perplexed afterward at not getting the was I, for different reasons, but hey.

Two-Yesterday's Ride

Did a mellow 2 hour spin yesterday. While riding, this little hatchback rolled by and squirted me with a toy water gun from the passenger window. First reaction was anger...but seconds later, I started laughing....and clicked the gears in hard pursuit. Caught them a few minutes later through one of the towns (speed limit 30k/h) and blasted half a bottle's worth all over the passenger who, while laughing hysterically as well, was trying in vain to roll up her manual window as quick as possible to avoid getting soaked. Nope! I win. Well...I guess we're tied...but in terms of volume? I win, hands down. A grand sequence...and i'm blogging it to ensure that I won't forget it.

Three-Even-More-Super Fred Festival

Last week, the team psyched us all out by giving us a green light to check out the Ventoux Stage of the Dauphine Libere. The stage was on Thursday. I rode to Avignon (50k from the base of Ventoux) on wednesday, and on thursday rode to Ventoux to meet up with the rest of the team somewhere on the mountain. "We'll be 1km before the summit. See you there." "When??" "Whenever. We'll be there." I love how loose the logistical situations are sometimes...and it always works out. I met them exactly there...and exactly whenever.

Ventoux. What about it? It's insane. Parts of me didn't enjoy climbing it. I did though, immensely. I don't have to explain that, the masochistic relationship we all have with brutal climbs can't always transpose well to words. If any of you get a chance, go. Climb this thing. Preferably on a day when a race will go up. Thousands of people...all over the road. Some getting smashed on local wines, some playing Belote, lots having a picnic. Others taking advantage of a perfect opportunity to be exhibitionists. If the climb wasn't so damn steep I would have had more pictures of the scene. So.......homely. Like one big back yard party. And........everyone on the roadside cheered loudly as we rode by. Touching.

The last 5k were no party. It is as steep than the middle 10k, but the trees disappear, and all that remains are jagged white stones littered about. no soil. no animals. nothing. The wind suddenly gets strong, and the temperature drops several degrees. Humbling. On so many levels.

Now: the race. Whoah man. The hysteria. You can be the biggest "cycling is dead" cynic in the world, but you look at these guys' faces....and completely forget any problem or issue or blemish or Bjarne Riis. It's beyond captivating. You just think, "F. I just climbed that as gently as possible, and it was rough...and never-ending...what about this guy? He's just done 150k...". Christophe Moreau won the stage....and if you see the photos of him crossing the line he looks jubilant and strong. But you HAD to see him riding up the last K. Completely wasted. Terrible form. Agonizingly slow. Total despair. Yet he's leading the race. Captivated-Immersed-Drunk. I understand cycling fans now. I didn't before Thurday's ventoux visit.

Four-Goin South

I should have announced this a long time ago, but had some unlucky sponsorship issues, and was never really sure if I'd be able to go. On June 25th I leave Lyon to go to Cape Town, South Africa for 8 days. Why? UCI B World Championships. I got an invite from the Armenian Cycling Federation to attend and ride for the team in the points race ("but aram, you've done ONE track session all year!" I know...I know...) and the road race. It'll be a swell time. I really have no idea what to expect. At all. "B" means there won't be and "A" countries there...all the little nations that don't have the big Pro Tour guns. And Cape Town! Africa! Bikes! And one little twist....the points race...the top 2 qualify for the '08 Olympics in Beijing. Top 10 in the road race also become Olympians. It's an interesting course, and the form ain't bad at all. I'm excited, but apprehensive of course.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Pas Trop Mal

Another bike soiree on sunday. 126k, 17 laps. Divide the two, and you'll get the length of the course. It was absolutely flat. No gradients greater than 2%. The biggest "hill" was the finale: a 100 meter uphill kick. This would also serve as the launching point for attacks, and the place to battle for the primes that were up for grabs. Other than that, just flat-town, all around. Lots of twists and turns and narrow roads, and plenty of rain. I knew after the warm-up lap that positioning was key here (when isn't it? But here more than usual). Splits tend to happen frequently on the narrow twisty courses like this where 10 seconds can get you out of sight.

We start. No surprises here: this was the hardest and fastest part of the race. I'm getting used to it, however. You just need to convince the bod not to panic, and that "it'll all be over soon." Once we make the break. First lap I went with a couple moves. 4 guys, 6 guys. Nothing. But, it isn't a wasted effort by any means. It keeps me up front, seeing the action, and if anything gets more than a couple meters, I go. No questions, no "oh, i'll go with the next one." No. After going with every single move in the first two laps, the most unlikely one stuck....17 guys sneaked off. Me among them. End of the 2nd lap, we had 10 seconds. End of the 3rd, 30, then 45, then 1:00+, etc etc. Gone. The sad part is, I find out these "stats" after the race. If I knew we had friggin 5 minutes (!!!) at the end, I wouldn't have gone to the front at all, and saved some juice for a nice solo move or two. Anyhow, yes. We were gone. UCA had 1 in 17 odds in this break, while every other team had at least 2 (one team, the winning team, had 5 riders in this move). I know if C-Walk was here he'd have been in the move with me. Sigh.

Normally, the 1 in 17 odds would be fine with me. I can sprint with any of these guys, and on a course like this, should be able to go with anything. However, the sprint legs weren't with me today. Perhaps it was the rain, or the wayyyyyy stiffer feel of the new wheels that I'm not fully used to yet, but the snap. I forgot it at home. I was cognizant of this, and sought to attack a couple times to split the group. The group eventually shrank from 17 to 14 by the last lap. I took special note of who had been resting, who had been working, when to attack, where to attack, etc etc. All for naught. As is always the case, a little half-attack containing 5 riders went midway through the last lap. The team with 5 riders sat with the remaining 9-man chase group, and it was game over. I finished 2nd in the remaining group of 9 to end up 7th on the day. My best result of the year.

It's nice to be able to get a result despite the shite week last week, and equally reassuring to pull out a result despite mediocre legs. The new wheels were fantastic...not so much the deep section rims, but the tires. Tubulars.'d been too long. So smooth, even at 130psi (though with the surprise rain, 110-120 would have been even more amazing). Again, I went home with 2 envelopes. One check, and some cash from a prime. Purchasing items with race winnings is always a symbolic undertaking. For instance, the laptop this blog is typed on was bought on last year's superweek winnings. Yesterday, I bought (among other, less symbolic things) a baby olive tree. Something tangible, something to remember the day by. It sits on my windowsill, lookin' all nice, generating oxygen, being green.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Ca Va Tous?

It's been a joyous rest week. Culminating with today's acquisition of the pretty piece of machinery up above. Ahhhh! Tres amusement, mon mobilete! It's rad, retro, and very very red. It's been in the Paris-Bordeaux race from who knows how long ago. Yes! I'd been lobbying for a few weeks to finally get this guy, and today we have it! My roommate and I are ecstatic...though most locals cannot understand the reasons for our elation. Mopeds (mobilete as it's called in french) here are synonymous with dorkness and are reason for ridicule if used by anyone over the age of 13. I foresee some blazing motorpace sessions and further good times...

Ah. My friend came on tuesday. With him, the aforementioned bike stuff. The main change is the Carbone SL tubulars. Tubs! I haven't ridden or raced on tubs since Manhattan Beach last year. Too long. I happily re-glued the tires and man, I even missed the whole gluing process. I was a bit rusty, but they mounted real nice. It's amazing how much better tires adhere to an aluminum rim instead of a carbon one. I'll finally get to ride them tomorrow for about an hour and a half. Stoked! Never ridden these wheels, and have only heard good things. Thank you Kevin! Shiny black Conti Competition 22s...also a first. They should last 'till the end of the season...we hope. The bike is nearly complete. Just waiting on the SRM crankarms. I remain hopeful, but really, it's just a waiting game at this point...with a bit of uncertainty. Ah well!

Well, that's it. Tomorrow the rest week ends. A short 90 minute opener session on the new wheels, and a race on sunday. Not sure where, but it's a circuit, 120k, and I should go well. The body really enjoyed itself this week. Big big hours in the next two weeks in an effort to taper for the end of the month. I'll explain why in a later entry. 'Till then........

Au Revoir!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Pas Aujourd'ui


For today's entry, I'll write about bike racing. A novel, fresh approach to whatever mundane and dull topics i've written about in the past year and a half. This weekend had a mini-stage race scheduled for sunday. 4.2k morning TT, 120k afternoon RR. Swell. It had been a while since i'd raced. Also, the race was about half as far from Aubenas as most races, a great relief. However, departure time was 5am to make it (500 hours early) for the morning TT start. But aram abides, man. I don't have many photos from the day, but I have HR files. Here's one of the TT...can you guess what kind of course it is?

The official course profile showed a course that's 1.5 kilometers flat, and an even-grade 3km climb to the finish. This course profile was clearly made with windows paint software from the 80s and had little relevance to the actual course, but hey! The effort is always appreciated, even if misleading. I even brought the Mavic tri-spoke (also from the 80s) in anticipation of a mellow uphill drag. It can also be used as a front wheel (pictured) to complete the rare prototype 180 (10x2x9) speed drivetrain. However, race officials would not allow me to use it. They said its weight was simply too much for the roads to handle, and it would cause irreparable damage to the tarmac if used.

Well, I started the entry off in jest, but in actuality, It was a pretty crummy race day for me. I simply didn't have it. No excuses, no "oh but if I...". No. I was mid-pack in the uphill TT with a time of 10:20 (winner had 8:57), and got my first DNF of the year in the road race only an hour in. No, it isn't fun to write about a shite weekend, but it's a tool. It's a reminder of how it feels to do poorly. I remember being in the groupetto for a bit and thinking, "geez. it sucks here." After mixing it up off the front the last few races, it's a stark contrast to be well off the back "working" with some guys in shit weather just to make it to the finish. I normally never pull out of races, but the body convincingly said "do it, pull out. at this point, finishing will do more harm than good." I didn't have my usual post-race pizza when I got home. Muesli (dry) instead...though I probably deserved something even more bland, sawdust, maybe.

Lots to look forward to, however. A friend from SoCal is coming to visit tomorrow. Stoked. He's bringing some much-needed stuff , among it all, a new set of wheels!!! Very very excited for that. Also, the weather looks to be improving after an uncharacteristic week where I unwillingly slipped on the knicks and jacket. Wintery conditions in friggin' June disgust and annoy me. Lastly...I have a new roommate and a new room! My old roommate moved out, I moved into his room, and an IRISHMAN moved into my old room [Simon, if you read this, please, guy, let's keep the common areas clean]. The new room has a bigger bed, so my feet don't hang off the edge any longer and I sleep better. Here's today's view from the new bedroom window...