je ne sais quoi

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


This will be the third time in the last week that i've sat down and started writing an entry. Each time, something went down, and I couldn't finish it. They were pulp anyway. As this will be, but I hope to get to the finish this time out. And what a perfect gateway that last sentence makes for my race exploits for the month! "I hope to get to the finish" I'm still cruising on that woeful run of poor form. I've had a couple races so far, and have strung together more DNFs in the last month (3) than I have in the previous 3 years combined. All in stride, of course. They've been courses on which I'd have difficulty with even on great form. The mind is well. I fully realize that with the highest highs come the lowest lows. Not quite that dramatic, but yes: you can't have peak form without some kind of relapse in form. It's how it goes. And now, a photo. I've got a nice stash from the past month...

Pretty nice, huh? The contrast between the jagged permanentness of the mountain and the fleeting clouds...and smooth tarmac flowing through it all. It's a really swell road, one of the longer climbs around here at 15k in length. Really reallly fun to come down it, too. As the season winds down, I feel like I'm noticing more things of this nature. I'm enjoying being on a bike, listening to good music, and taking in the surroundings. As for the bike...I've unpacked and packed the thing 500 times in the last month. Each time a bike is unpacked and repacked, things on it change. Measure to your heart's content, but something will feel different. Since I unpacked it (for hopefully the last #$%#%$ time), it changed. It feels amazing. Particularly when going downhill. I finally feel really connected to the bike and take it to its limit and back without worry. And yes, another photo from the vault...

I'll miss that guy when I leave...but you can bet it'll be ridden to the ground for the next couple months. Another important note. Former roommate and teammate Mike Fitzgerald has gone home. He had a battle with a truck, and lost. Inredibly, he is almost completely unscathed. Only broke his arm in a few spots, but he'll be allright, and will be ready to start his 13 month Australian-European season in a few weeks. That's how those guys roll. Pictured below is the only photo I have of Mike. Like most professional hockey players, Mike is a firm believer of the "don't EVER smile in photos" ideology. He told me it gives him an extra 20 watts of power and forces all opposition into submission. If only the truck-guy had a look...AT THIS:

Take it easy, guy. See you around. Allright then, as I mentioned, I went to Paris for a week earlier this month. Before getting into that, a quick word on the big beautiful train systems all over France. Aww...they're so fast, smooth, convenient, yah! But! They're friggggggggin expensive! No one ever mentions that part. So, nearly another month's worth of stipend went to that little trip...and another month will be spent in total struggle mode as I wait and hope that the pattern of continually delaying payment will be a bit more lax this month. Paris!

Okay, look: As cyclists, we share a few common interests, among which are the love of really expensive and cutting-edge bike parts. We love them because they represent the most recent evolution of an already insanely efficient machine. Road bikes represent the most refined type of this machine. We love advancements in road bike technology because they [conceivably] serve to make that machine even faster, even more efficient. This is their purpose and the reason for our fascination. Let's go to the otherside now....what else to cyclists universally enjoy? Scroll up, that first photo in this entry. That's what I'm talking about. We enjoy that. Totally non-cutting edge natural and undisturbed formations and a way in which to access them (the road). The gadget-lust and the setting in which to enjoy them. We love that. The fusion of the two.

Paris is none of these things. It is an old city. Nothing is cutting edge. Old buildings with gold trim on random street corners and statues....statues EVERYWHERE. I don't care for any of these things. There, I said it. Big obsolete buildings with a solitary purpose of bringing in as many tourists as possible...and that's what hurts check out the city, notice these things, and find that there are a billion others swooning over it all. Eh, to each his own. I think in the back of my mind this is what I expected. But in any case, the primary reason for my visit was to hang out with family that lived there.

And that was the best part! The baby-head to the left is Levon. Levon (2) is a fun baby. He speaks Armenian, English, and French equally well. He's a big fan of the Thomas Train series. BIG fan, and occasionally makes them smash into each other and cites "accident" as the reason. Atom (7) is an anomaly. An amazingly interesting anomaly. Some kids (me) like Dinosaurs, sharks, naps, know, that kind of thing. Atom's [current] singular interest and pursuit in life is Paris' public transport system. He enjoys being tested on the subject matter..."Atom, how can I get from Arc d'Triomphe to Gare de Lyon by bus....while only using Buses with odd numbers." After a second or so explaining what "odd numbers" are, he'll come out with a timely response with a tone of disappointment, because that question was not challenging enough. Really, they're both super kids. Can't wait for them to grow up, but definitely want to visit them again before they do! Here's Atom hard at work...

Though I wasn't a fan of the cardinal aspects that define the city, there was lots about Paris that I liked. First, the metro system. There's a metro stop every 500 meters or so, in any direction! Most amazing, is that during daylight hours, the trains come every 4 minutes or faster. No one runs to make trains, as there is no point -another will come shortly. Let's not forget, however, that the city itself isn't that big...perhaps 20k in diameter? So you can get from A-B on a bike much faster and cheaper than the Met with some crafty riding. Still, a cool metro system. Here's a photo:

Le Tour Eiffel. A daisy in every way. For one, it's very easy to find. Just ride around for a bit 'till you see it in the distance, then ride toward it. I used it as a landmark to be able to find my way home. I read up on it on wiki, and turns out it was supposed to be just a temporary thing, to be torn down later. Fascinating that something so massive and expensive could ever be considered "temporary". The entire structure really separates itself from the rest of the city. Massive, undecorated (except for the lights in the evening), a paltry brownish color, and visible from anywhere. A bit of a cycling parallel....the "hollow" frame gives it less surface area so that the wind won't destroy it. At the base of each leg there's some kind of tourist shop or restaurant. Kinda cool. And of course, being the easiest spot in town to find, it has billions of tourists. At all times. And that's cool, but not so much with the bike. C'est ici:

The Arc de Triomphe pretty much sums up what I didn't like about Paris. Ornaments on top of ornaments. Even my $.02 photo shows it. It's overdone beyond belief. BUT! The roundabout that encircles the Arc. Fkkkkkkking amazing. It's hell on earth. Entirely of cobbles. No lanes. No markers. No rules. A little piece of total anarchy in an otherwise [overly] law-abiding country. I made sure to include it at least once in each of my daily rides while out there. Big wide smile on my face the whole time. Made me nostalgic. It's like riding in downtown LA, or anywhere in LA at rush hour. Not nostalgic because of how great it's not. But it's something that's familiar to me, and I just had to beam. The cobbles, man...that's the kicker. The big mean cobbles...One of my favorite parts of Paris.

It's not a great city for riding bikes. One of the worst i've ever been to, actually, but I don't know the city well enough to really judge it properly. Most French riders agree, however. Let me rephrase: Great city for bike riding...with a max of 20 km/h. I think on my first ride out I managed almost 30k in 2 hours of riding!! The day before I got to Paris, the city introduced this program called "Velibre", in which 100s of bike-rental stations are put up all over the city, and you can rent them. Great for putting around town, easy to find parking. I didn't rent one, but it's amazing how quickly they started to get used. After only a couple days people all over town were using them.

I won't lie, after the week, I got a bit attached to the bikes -despite not actually riding one. I like their style, color, and bulletproofness. In Paris, everyone rides, ["regular" riding...not the dork tights and goofy glasses kind] and I'm a huge fan of girls riding bikes. It's always worth a couple extra points in my eyes, and Paris has no shortage of amaaaaaaaazing looking girls riding these bikes, shifting gears, stopping at traffic lights, mashing the pedals. Maybe the drabness of the city makes them look that much better in my eyes? Regrettably, I have no photos of the aforementioned girls on bikes...but the Ditties won't disappoint.

Other enjoyable aspects of the city: The downtown area ("La Defense") was pretty neat. I got lost during one of my rides and ended up there (among other places). The place is deserted compared to the inner part of the city. Zero tourists. Smooth roads, one-way streets, and lots of fast food. Again, eerily similar to downtown LA. Here, I stopped and had a chat with a guy about Le Tour. Here's a quick photo of the Grande Arche...

For me, it's on par in coolness with le Tour Eiffel, and wins outright because it isn't drowning in a sea of tourists. It's made to be in line with the Arche de Triomphe, though locals say it's slightly off. Eh. So this is the most eccentric of the downtown buildings. There are a couple others, too. A nice refuge from the city's madness. I wonder how the night scene is? What else? I found that Parisian bakeries are generally better than their Ardeche/Aubenas counterparts. I think this is because of the general demand for bread in Paris is so high that the turnover rate of baguettes in Paris is very high -meaning they're always fresh. For me, the most important and only criteria for french bread and other baked goods is freshness. Paris has that down pretty good. Only a select few in l'Ardeche adhere to my tastes. Produce in Paris is expensive. Everything is more expensive. I think I saw figs (one of my favorite foods) for 16 euro/kilo! But the selection is prime and colorful.

Finalement!! Done at last. Anytime there's a big gap between entries, it's hard to follow it up properly, but I've done it. More updates coming this week, for sure. And what? The new interpol album came out? AND my apple matches my shirt? Far out!

ps: apologies for lack of any Tour rhetoric....this entry is long enough, I think. I feel the same way big Maggie does.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Quick Report

Today, I leave for Paris. First time! I have a bunch of cousins there that I haven't seen since the 80s, and yep. More travel. It's only a couple hours each way so I'll be allright. I am taking the bike though...and we all know how FUN it is to travel with the bike. Can't wait to pack it up and wander aimlessly through the full train in search of a place to put it. However, before I leave for Paris, I need to ride, clean up the house, and write this blog entry. If I don't write it now, I never will, so let's have at it...

Saturday. Quatorze Julliet (Bastille Day)!!! The French have no shortage of holidays, and saturday was the biggest one of all (though 7-7-7 was pretty grand as well), and a town right next to the Lyon Airport (St. Exupery) was having a bike race party and we were invited. Right-O. All week, team dudes that are in the know said, "Aram, c'est une belle course pour toi...c'est trop plat!! Gagnez!" ['s a great race for you...very flat! win!] This time I felt like they were actually serious. Hmm. The prior week, I was in total recharge mode. I got back from Cape Town on Wednesday, the 4th, and didn't ride again until the following wednesday. It was swell to have that week off. The body is thankful. Anyhow, after a couple decent rides was game time. Wasn't sure how the legs would be, but who knows?

The course: One of my favorites. 8km circuit, 17 laps. 135k 95% flat. One 100 meter climb (and that was just so we could have a feed zone), and that's it. Now, how to describe the course in words? Hmmm...I thought of this metaphor: you know how when you're a kid, and you go to an amusement park for the first time with a bunch of your peers? You're finally tall enough to participate, and all these crazy coasters and rides await -but who will be the first to give it a go? Me? You? "If you do it, I'll do it" is usually thrown out there. And so, the course...i'll try to recreate the first lap: first K was pretty 160 (XL!!!) of us. I couldn't see the front or the back...just a never ending stream of riders, then down a descent into a roundabout. 20 of the 160 bunny hop onto the median before the roundabout, bunny hop onto the island, then back into the peleton. Smooth, too. Then the 3rd-5th kilometer....medians all over, but both sides were open to us. At one junction, half the peleton went left, the other, right. The road at the end of the left side had a gate on it! So allllllll those guys bunny hop the median, and swing into our group. All this is happening at 50+ km/hr!! I'm just laughing, and thinking "I wanna do that, too." After that section, there's yet another roundabout on a really fast downhill tailwind section...but these are prettier to look at from a helicopter's perspective than a riders' yes. It was an insane time. Curbs were used, millions of bunny hops, blazing pace for the first 4-5 laps, and....the kicker......just one crash (on a straightaway)...good times, I was happy to be there.

Oh...a result? I did it, finally....I missed the break. Not because I was unlucky, but the legs weren't ready for that kind of thing. Once I realized it was game over for the peleton, I just putted around, enjoying the [obstacle] course. Unfortunately, the whole team missed the break, missed the chase group, and yeah...bummer. I sincerely hope the french cycling gods will throw a course like this at me again...I promise i'll bring the good legs! And lastly....sorry I've been a bum with the camera lately...I didn't even take it to the race, and the blog suffers. But i'll get back on it, for sure.

Here we go, Vel07...the top bike shop in France!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 Long Last

My first bike race was on January 19, 2002, 8am. Cold. It was the first running of the (now annual) MLK Day Race. Unsanctioned, and with only one category: "Open". Not a big field (8am in January!)...perhaps 50 people...but huge for me! The club I'd started with prepped me well for this day, but looking back, I can't recall any instruction with regards to sprinting. I'd ridden a mountain bike prior to getting on the road, so I felt more comfortable in the tops/hoods area. As I understood it at the time, the drops were for descending, so that you can brake more efficiently.

The race was an odd one. My teammates and I had been talking for weeks about this race, and about what to expect, what to do, etc....but the race found a way to surprise me despite the ample discourse and preparation. I don't remember much else. However, one memory that'll cling to me for a good long while is this: I attacked a couple times, and when I realized it was go time, I put in a sprint -both while in the hoods. " the hoods?!! Are you INSANE?" is the first thing one of my teammates told me after the race. I was confused, and a bit irritated when my nickname (nick-phrase) amongst the team for the rest of the season became "the guy who sprints in the hoods." Swell. Still, I didn't understand what was wrong with it. It felt comfortable to me, and at the time, it was faster as well.

Fast forward to yesterday: Le Tour. Big sprint. Look at the above photo. One guy stands out: Fabian Cancellara. Crushing every sprint superstar out there, in the hoods. Thank you Fabian for freeing me of my supposed wrongdoing.

I do, however, sprint in the drops now...

Friday, July 06, 2007

Le Cap

Up until this point in life, I've loosely abided by the old adage "It's better to regret something you did, than something you didn't do." About 80k into sunday's UCI B World Championship Road Race, I inched toward the front of the peleton, and as I normally do, I went with the first attack that went. It was at this precise moment when I questioned the underlying meaning of the above saying. The legs were mush. The mind, worse. This was the right decision?

"Better to regret something you did than something you didn't." A fine saying, but the cardinal flaw is this: it's impossible. If you do one thing, you'll always end up not doing the thing you would have otherwise done. Pardon the crude attempt at philosophy, but it's the only way to get the thought across. I went to Cape Town with the understanding that i'd be full of regret if I skipped it. At present, it is with great regret that I didn't spend the days from June 25th-July 4th in France, in the Ardeche, at home.

After a daunting 30+ hour travel session, I was back in the northern hemisphere late Wednesday night. I'm glad a few days have passed since the conclusion of the racing. Writing immediately after particularly stressful periods can sometimes result in unnecessarily aggressive writing and harsh tone. Being home again has been therapeutic, to say the least, and i'm settled enough to write a proper entry. Here goes...

I made it to Cape Town late Monday evening. I was greeted by crazy a crazy storm throwing buckets of rain all over the place. "Oh wait -it's WINTER here." I completely overlooked this bit...but no harm done. That monday evening was probably the worst night (weather wise) of the whole trip. I met with the Armenian coach and the rest of the team. Spirits and hopes were high. I was a bit surprised when informed that I'd be doing the 15k scratch race in 12 hours time. Not asked "hey, do you want to?", but simply told that i'd be doing it. I didn't object, and didn't really think much about it afterward.

-15k Scratch Race-

I'm happy to report that despite all the travel and the magnitude of whatever bug I had only 2 days prior, I felt okay. Woke up with decent energy levels and fresh legs. I put the borrowed track bike together and did a final check to make sure everything is in working order. It's a track bike, ain't too complex, not much that can go wrong. First, I did my usual check of the handlebars...SNAP. The stem broke with only a slight twist of the handlebars.

"Why did you break it?"

"Um...apologies, I do this with all my bikes after a make sure they are in proper working order. I've never ever had that happen to one of my bikes...think something might be wrong with it?"

"No, nothing is wrong. That isn't a normal motion for track bikes, and that's why it broke. I've been around track bikes for 40 years."

He had been around track bikes for a long while, and I never doubted his credibility, but I'm a stubborn guy, and sought to figure out what the hell was wrong with it. A quick inspection revealed that one of the stem bolts clamping the handlebars only had 2 threads entering the stem, and the break occurred at this bolt. Scary. Another troubling bit: the fork was a road fork from a smaller bike, and the steer tube only made it half way up the stem. The top bolt on the stem clamped nothing. Also, the fork had no star-nut. Compression was achieved through a piece of metal super-glued to the top of the steer tube cylinder...meaning compression didn't go lower than midway up the stem, instead of well into the head tube. We borrowed a stem bolt from my road bike's stem, and I was given the green light. I did the living room test on the bars again, and though it didn't break, it felt like rubber -at best. Further, and of little concern but worth noting: the bike had road handlebars, stem, cranks and BB (which had some threads peeking out of the frame because it's longer than a track BB), and I had the distinction of being the only participant at the world championships NOT riding a disc wheel and deep V/5 spoke front.

Got to the track. Found a small window in which to ride the bike for the first time. Did 3 laps (750 meters). Got out of the saddle for a little bit and nearly crashed because of perceived wobbliness. I say "perceived" because I hadn't been on a track in 5 months, and perhaps I'd forgotten what track bikes are supposed to feel like? Or maybe my Bianchi is far-and-away the stiffest track bike around? In any case, I returned to our quarters in the infield, and announced that the bike didn't feel right (at all) when I gave it a go out of the saddle. "You don't need to get out of the saddle on the track, and besides, there is nothing wrong with that bike," he said. I pleaded: "Please, give it a go, see for yourself!" I am stubborn, and this time was a bit more vocal about it. I didn't want to be a liability. I didn't want to go to a South African hospital. I didn't want to jeopardize my participation in Sunday's Road Race. I didn't want to discredit the team (the country?) by causing a crash. I was serious but respectful in my tone. I was told that "Like a soldier, a true bike racer does everything his superior tells him to, and asks no questions with regard to consequence."


To avoid losing my cool, I took a time out, and sought to right things on my own. I went to neutral support. They checked the bike out and confirmed my earlier findings. They figured out a way to get proper compression and assured me that although the steertube was dangerously too short, it wouldn't result in catastrophic failure. Allright, thank you Shimano neutral support. Though I didn't get a chance to ride it on the track, it felt noticeably better in my hands. No play, and much more like the Bianchi.

We lined up for the race. 60 laps x 250 meters=15k. No warm up, my first pedal strokes in a track [race] since the 80s were the 1 lap neutral. The bike felt okay! I don't remember what happened. I had one teammate in the field, and even remember launching a couple attacks of my own (mainly because I felt that I wasn't getting a full draft effect in the bunch because of my own rust/ineptitude). My teammate was able to lap the field with 5 others. Solid!!! More than we could have hoped for, as both of us are mainly (entirely) road guys. I spent the last 5k last wheel, barely hanging on, determined to not get dropped and to finish. With 5-6 laps remaining, my teammate dropped back near me. Hm? I figured he was spent as well, after lapping the field and all. He didn't say a word to me while back there. He eventually finished 5th, out of the 5 that lapped, and I finished 12th. Very happy to have finished, and a bonus to not be last! After the race, I was in high spirits, and figured that all the tension would be lifted at this surprise 5th place track result, and that my bike had been solid. I approached the 5th place rider to congratulate him on the result: "Hey man, congratulations!!!" and was met with a stern stare and a cold "Where were you with 5-6 to go?".


A short while later, it was unanimously agreed upon amongst the Armenian contingent that I was the reason we didn't win the 15k scratch race. This is a bummer, man, but these things happen. Me? I was thrilled to have finished, and to have not ended up with bits of my blood on the concrete track. I thought about my olive plant in France and wondered whether Simon watered it this evening. I'd think about that olive plant lots in the days that followed.

-40k Points Race-

I did a couple of training rides in the two days that followed tuesday's Scratch. I desperately wanted to do the rides alone, and i'm glad my teammates understood that. Sometimes a bit of solitude does wonders for the CNS, which in turn, makes the legs work better. But I dunno, the mind was in a different state. An "irregular" state. I'd never faced circumstances like this. In any case. The points race: 160 laps. 160!! Far and away the longest track event I will have ever entered. I wondered how track guys go so hard for so long without hydrating? I ran into Emile Abraham of Priority Health during the warm up. It was comforting to find a familiar face in the bunch. We warmed up together and I got updated on the comings and goings of the NRC peleton. His teammate (Jacques-Maynes) has the NRC lead...crazy when you think of the big guns at Health-Net and Toyota. I asked him for advice regarding our upcoming points race: "don't get dropped!" hahh! Allright, will try!

I got dropped with 61 laps to go. The 80+ laps I stayed in there were among the most difficult of my life. On edge, the whole way, with no reprieve. The constellation of saddle sores were killing me. Does anyone still use a stitched/embroidered saddle? God, they hurt. Again, I found myself in last wheel near the end of my tenure in the race. I got gapped several times, but closed them. Eventually, I'd closed one too many gaps (again, opened because of my own ineptitude and eventually, fatigue) and the elastic broke. Rolled up to where the Armenian coach was standing, and apologetically and with full submission (as I assumed they'd want it) said that I gave it all I had, and was sincerely sorry. I was met with indifference...which was a stark contrast from the aggression/disappointment I was met with previously. But silence speaks volumes. At the team dinner that evening, I was scolded while eating dinner.

[What follows isn't verbatim, obviously. Most of what transpired was in Armenian, but translated, it is along these lines]

"You have the ability to win track races, yet you don't try. We bring you all this way, and..."

I politely interjected his diatribe of ridicule, and submissively (as is expected of me...) said:

"Look, I don't know where you got the idea that i'm some track superstar, but I am not. I'm a road sprinter, born and raised on SoCal crit juice. I have very very limited track time and experience. Please understand this. Prior to these two races, i'd done 3 omniums ever! I thought this was understood?"

"No. I've seen your resume. You've done tons of track races. If you want, I can show you when we go upstairs. You've been in several track races, and have done very well in a number of them. You weren't trying. You don't care enough."


This is the resume [section] he was referring to:

The perception was that the 2 track omiums were actually 8 separate races, and that the "Cat 4/5" column was of no significance. I tried to explain as simply as I could that what he perceived as "track superstarness" was really just 2 days of racing against others who were only just starting to race track as well. My success at those races was not due to tactical supremacy or cunning skill, but through sheer dumb power. I kept attacking until I was free from the bunch, and rode in by myself. I was a road cat 1 against road cat 4/5s. In any case, I was unable to explain that there had been a gross misunderstanding, and I remained ostracized. And that's fine, it's understandable. I dismissed it as the inevitable clash of my stubborn nature and their preconceived notions of what the entire realm of sporting discipline is like in the United States. Internally, I resented the statements concerning the latter, but kept my cool.

-160k Road Race-

Friday. 48 hours from Sunday's Road Race. The points race and the entire track session was both physically and emotionally taxing. It was a great relief to have it all behind me. Also, it was only 3 days 'till I saw France again. Energy levels were sporadic, and I was down. Not about the racing, but about the decision to come here. I gave myself a pep talk, and said, "cmon guy, bring the good legs on sunday, and rationalize this trip to yourself. it was a terribly long flight, and half my monthly stipend went to paying for [80 euro each F-in way] bike transport at the air terminal."

I was told thursday night that I will do a "long hard ride on friday" and that I should "be tired at the end of it." Odd. Normally, under regular circumstances not involving 24 hour travel days, or multiple max-effort track sessions, I take Fridays off (assuming race day on Sunday). I then do openers on Saturday, and race Sunday. It works. After years of trial and error, this is the algorithm that works best for
me. I'm no Rick Crawford or Chris Carmichael, but can say with absolute certainty that I know my body better than either of those two super-coaches. So it goes without saying that this extends to the Armenian coach as well. So I was prescribed the hard ride. The weather was good, and despite the energy levels, I went off. The first 70k were mellow. We rode tempo up the climbs, but it was nowhere near as difficult for me as the track efforts were. After the 70k mark, things picked up. Tempo up the climbs sped up. I kept it at sane levels when I was at the front, but yeah. It spiraled into a hammer fest. East vs West. After an attack at the base of a moderate hill, I didn't even try. This was insanity. I dropped off. The van caught up with me and the coach asked "what's wrong? you're not out of breath." "No coach, i'm okay. I just don't need to go that fast right now." The requisite stern and angry face looked at me, paused for a bit for emphasis, and said "can you get back to the hotel?" "yep, sure can." I was relieved. Disappointed. Eh.

It rained the following day, so we each did roller sessions. This is good. My teammate did his workout in our room, doors/windows closed, and the place was sickening. I was last to use them. I thought i'd use the balcony, as riding a trainer indoors with no wind in stagnant air is a no-no in the western world. "No! You must not! You'll get sick if you open the window," warned my teammate. I shrugged. Didn't care to explain the problem with riding in stagnant (and, because of his workout, rank) air indoors and did the session indoors, doors closed. Okay.

Sunday came. Sadly, the main thought in my head was "hey hey. only two days 'till I go back to France." We started. I ran into former teammate Jock Boyer at the start. He's going well. Coaching and directing the Rwanda team. He's done wonders for them already. Good on them all. Saw Ivan Stevic at the start. Knew that we were racing for 2nd place. I mentioned that he'd win the race to my teammates. At this point I had as much credibility as the asphault we rode on, but eh....two days 'till I go back to France, right?

The race starts. Big nervous peleton. I just sat in, and rolled with it for the first half. 80k in, I went with that aforementioned attack. In hopes of getting the legs going, like a sort of catalyst. In all other circumstances, it would have been a beautiful course for me. No huge hills, very very windy, a gigantic peleton to hide and sag-climb in, and the most beautifully flat wide and straight finishing kilometer i've ever raced on. It just wasn't gonna happen. The attack was caught. I drifted back, out of juice, and justtt clung on to last wheel. I made it over the first of the 2 big climbs -both surprising and a bit reassuring. Some of the confidence came back. I've had some success in races which I've felt this poorly before...though not at this level. Bodies can be pretty amazing and unpredictable sometimes. Up until this point, i'd eaten a good bit, gone through 2 bottles, and was ready for the feed. The feed zone was situated on a climb at the 95k mark. The peleton was down to about 80-100 from the 150+ starters, so still plenty of room to sag-climb and make it over. I started the climb near the front, looking for a feed. The first feed guy said "i'm out! try the next guy." While slowly drifting back, I saw the second guy. "Nope, Coach is just over on the other side of the road. Drifted back further, and looked back to see there was no one left. Right on time, I found the Armenian coach, 2 bottles in hand. I don't know how he could have missed me. No eye contact was made. In any case, I rode by slowly, at this point slightly gapped, and tried to clutch a bottle from his hand. The bottle didn't move! Gah. This. Certainly unintentional, but in every respect, the culmination of the entire week. I was dropped for good on that climb. Didn't get a feed. Hopped from group to group until I was spent, and agonizingly drudged through the final 60k to finish 100th. Easily my worst classified result ever.

If you made it this far in this entry, thank you. I don't expect anyone to read this whole bit. The lack of photos will hopefully deter anyone from even skimming this entry, but I'm content with having written it. In the end, this blog is for me to look back at and entertain myself with in some distant (or not so distant) future when i'm no longer playing the bike racing game. My dismal performance over the last week is no one's fault but my own. Certainly, there were some factors which didn't help my situation, but the Armenian Cycling Federation gave me every opportunity to succeed, and I am thankful for their efforts and concern. It just didn't happen, and for that, I am sorry. I was unable to adapt to the stress properly, unable to stick to the routines I'd established, and allowed petty things to stress me out. C'est la vie. In any case, i'm glad it's behind me, and the one thing that I can salvage from all of this is that i've finally grown out of "It's better to regret something you did than something you didn't do."