Aram Chronicles: Cultured Edition
Hi. This blog entry was typed up on the laptop at home, and after driving around town with a teammate for quite a while looking for an open WiFi connection, it was finally uploaded to where you see it now. That's the idea, anyhow. We'll see how it goes...
So i've been in this place for a week exactly now. Where to begin? We'll start with the present, and move back from there. This morning I woke up with my sheets stuck to my left side. I expected this much, as I crashed yesterday. Yep. Story goes: It was 3 of us doing a recon-ride of the stage race that's coming up this weekend. I felt great, and even took the first KOM from our little group. The region is littered with little 3-4k [max] hills, which suit me really nicely when i'm going well, and on this day, I felt super. Anyhow, we cruise down this beat-up little farm road. It's paved, but with gravel pockets here and there. While traveling a brisk 30k/hr while drafting the team car through a fairly easy and wide bend...boom...rear wheel decides it wants to get to know that patch of gravel better, and Aram's on the ground pissed off at having crashed for the first time in more than 2 years. Eh. It's bike racing, huh? Anything can happen...Injuries aren't bad, except for the usual soreness and weird hip-flexor spasms. I'll be able to race this weekend. I did wreck my favorite retro PDM long-sleeve jersey, however. I have photos! But won't be able to upload them until I find an electronics shop that had a SD memory card reader! None to be found here!
So that's the present. I can type for miles and miles about the degree of culture shock that i'm experiencing. To all of you who said "oh, don't worry, i'm sure you'll find someone who speaks english out there." Nope. This is not true at all. My 18 (!!!) year old Australian housemate/teammate speaks English, obviously, but with that really thick accent that's synonymous with fast bike racing. Outside of that, I use lots of pointing, sign language, guessing, and yes......my exponentially improving broken french!!! I'm learning it at a nice clip, and it's a beautiful language. Knowing Armenian and Spanish definitely isn't hurting me, and helps with the pronounciation quite a bit. Moving on: The team. I'm still meeting more and more teammates. I've met 5 of them so far, my housemate included, and there are more that i'll meet in a few days. I can't help but laugh each time I speak to these guys in the cliche french phrases that i've mastered. "Hello, how do you go?" "very good, very good." "i speak a little french. little little." OUI. Michael (Friggin 18...and he's a great housemate) and I live in a guest house of the team's masseur, Jaque. Super nice guy, and i'm very thankful to have such an amazing little house to live in. It's on this big plot of land, in the hills adjacent to the town of Aubenas. Hills...there isn't a flat spot around. Everything is up or down. The "Ville Centre" [center of town] is awesome. Straight out of that vintage import film you've never seen. The team's staff! Mon Dieu! The other day, Michael had a bit of a cough...and the team president, DS, assistant DS, bike shop guy, and more...all lined up to check him out and make sure he's well. He had a blood test done, and everything checked out. They had all kinds of stuff lined up for me because of the road rash, but ehhh....we like the pain...so i'll just neosporin it for a few days and hopefully it'll at least dry out soon. And just a quick note...I was wearing my Voler shorts from last year...these things are friggin amazing...it's the second time i've crashed them, and again! my skin was destroyed, but no damage to the shorts! how does this happen??? Terrific.
This is all a bit thrown together, I realize, but better than no blog entry! We should have internet at the house on friday...then the blog game will be full-go. No promises, as i've heard the France-Telecom people are flakey, but hey...fingers crossed. My bike...that i crashed up yesterday...it's a Giant. Carbon rear end, Alu front. Feels similar to the Cannondale, which I like...and i've never been able to adjust so quickly to a new bike. It handles really well and feels very secure. The components are a bit of a mix between record, centaur, and veloce...sigh...with some mid-range campag wheels which are TNT and descend and corner real nice (except on the team car's draft through gravel-ridden backroads). I WILL find a set of tubulars eventually. If anyone hears of a set of old Campy Nucleon/Neutron tubs, let me know! I've got the SRM, but am still waiting on hopefully being able to exchange it for a set that'll fit my bike (the SRM I have is for Cannondale's Si BB cranks). So yep. I actually need to go to the mechanic to pick up my bike...he was going to cut the steer tube a bit, and check it out to make sure it isn't f-ed from yesterday's spill. I'm sure it's fine. TNT. oh, and i'll be getting a matching giant TT bike soon. Michael's is real nice, with Ultegra, Record, Chorus, Centaur, Veloce, hahahhh...everything! but it looks nice and is really light and aero-looking. Hopefully i'll have a test ride on my machine before saturday's TT.
Let me drive this to a close by saying that things are well. I'm learning french. I'm getting a feel for the culture. Assimilating, in some ways. Every single calorie i've ingested so far has been terrific...the food standards are much much higher out here...and YES...Nutella here doesn't have hydrogenated oils, and i'm yet to see ANY product that has high fructose corn syrup. I'll definitely devote a blog entry to a food-shopping trip. And there is no peanut butter! Oh...right...i'm driving this to a close. First race is this weekend...we'll be staying somewhere other than Aubenas for a couple days, and really...I think i might miss the place. But it'll be nice to meet and ride with the full team. Oh...and the course for this race's stage 1...........INSANELY difficult....but it isn't a french cup race, so i'm told the "big teams" won't be there. The legs were good up until the crash, but at least this way i'm forced to rest (i've ridden every day so far) and i'll be fresh and ready for the weekend.