Friday 18 July 2008

Cycling Again in Europe: Tour d'Enfer Minus 2

After a brief visit to Berlin, with lots of culture and museums and a bit too much rain, I returned to the sunny Geneva area yesterday and was met again by Will. After an excellent dinner, I unpacked my bicycle case, which had been in his garage for a week, only to discover that a) I had scratched the frame a bit through my amateur packing efforts and b) one of my Speedplay pedals had gone missing, probably when the airport security people would have gone through it in Newark before my flight to Geneva on the 9th. This was alarming; although I figured that I could touch up the scratches on the downtube when I got back to Canada, the loss of the pedal meant that I would not be able to use the bike. There had to be a reasonable solution, and Will put this into train by loaning me a pair of Shimano SPD-SL pedals. However, these are not compatible with my cleats so we considered using his new cleats but it looked to me as if the screws on my cleats were not going to come out anytime soon as they appeared to be worn down.

Barry looking for water

This morning I called the Speedplay distributor for Switzerland and he suggested a shop in Geneva on the Rue du Lyons. My options were to get a new set of pedals (the best solution, although not the cheapest), or to find another pair of shoes and use Will’s SPD cleats. Will also had a set of Look pedals and shoes that happened to fit me pretty well, so I put on the Look pedals and we put the bikes in the car and headed off to the shops. The first two did not have any Speedplay pedals while it was very annoying to discover that the third shop, which Will had tried repeatedly to call, had closed on Friday and Saturday without having the answering machine message changed–clearly any bike shop that closes in summer on no notice doesn’t need any business from us.

Will ended up dropping me off to ride with Barry, a genial Australian who has lived in Geneva for eighteen months, as he headed off to the airport to get Brett, another Tour d’Enfer participant. Barry and I had a very pleasant ride back to Will’s house, with around 300 meters of climbing, and met up with the others. I was pleased that the pedals seemed to work well, athough the shoes were not as comfortable as mine but at least I could ride.

The weather was beautiful as the four of us left for a flattish (for the area) training ride. We rode from France back into Switzerland and enjoyed superb views of the Jura, and the gap where the Rhone River flows through the mountains. Barry left us fairly early to return home and the three of us remaining cruised smoothly through the green landscape. Of course, there was no way that I could resist photographing Brett and Will in front of a field of glorious sunflowers.

We stopped briefly at a local vineyard where a bicycle had been used as an advertising sign. Of course, we had to do the obligatory jokey photo of me pretending to ride the bicycle, which featured a nice flowerbox on the handlebars. The area features a serious number of charming vineyards. We were also highly amused to read a notice on the house next to the winery indicating that the dog living there was “bizarre,” a word that has the same meaning in English as in French. Two dogs did in fact come out to bark at us but they stayed on their property so all was well, albeit noisy.

In front of my first cycling cafe stop of the trip

Cruising through some lovely villages we stopped for a short time to enjoy a “Renversé,” as the locals call their café au lait and then gradually rode up the long climb to Will’s. I had put in 74 kms for the day, and about 800 meters of climbing and my legs felt good. The pedals worked and it looked very positive for the coming days.

Brett’s bicycle was misbehaving so we went back to the local bike shop to get his rear derailleur adjusted, but it turned out that the shifter cable had come loose. I bought a pair of Hutchinson tubeless tires at a very competitive price (they are made in France, after all), as well as a pair of Look cleats with greater play in them than the ones on Will’s shoes. My plan was to install them on a new pair of cheapish shoes that I would use for the trip but in the end I realized that the cleat screws on my own Sidi shoes were just jammed with sand, so I cleaned them out and was able to change the cleats. This means I will be using my own shoes and do not need to buy anything else. As I already am the Imelda Marcos of Unnecessary Cycling Shoes this is a relief.

Will and Brett, putting up with yet another one of my photo stops

After another excellent dinner, we watched the latest stage of the Tour de France and then a rather morose 1972-ish Belgian film, “Le Velo de Ghislain Lambert,” with the saddest actor imaginable playing a not-very-talented pro cyclist. It is perhaps the only comedic film about doping in pro cycling ever made, and probably with good reason. Great atmospheric stuff, though, including scenes filmed on Mt. Ventoux and the Col de Isoard, the latter of which we will be riding next week.

Thanks to Will, who, with his wife Doreen, has been the perfect host, I have an Internet connection. Tomorrow he will load a route for me to ride onto my GPS, which will be my first attempt to use the Garmin for navigation, as I propose to do a 40 km loop, climbing the brutal Cat. 1 Le Saleve, and riding along the ridge about Will’s house before descending. This will be an excellent test for the start of the Tour d’Enfer on Sunday.


Groover said...

Summer in Berlin, hey? Shame about the rain. And sporting a Fat Cyclist jersey ... Have a great time in Europe. Can't wait to hear more about it.

Judi said...

It's really beautiful!