Gear Change Up

Friday, June 30, 2006

Operation Puerto

Calling all cyclists! Now is your chance!

This is the story as I have come to understand it. Everyone was working with the same cycling doctor / trainer that helped them dope. Now, the director for the Spanish team Communidad Valenciana was caught and arrested by Spanish Police for picking up blood for his riders. Entire team withdraws from tour, all are under investigation. This leads the Spanish police all to this one doctor, who has been helping all these riders and other riders who were already caught for doping. We're talking they got everything, they got paper saying "So and so owes this many euros for this blood treatment." Busted.

Hardcore busted.

Rather than wait for Tour organizers of the UCI or WADA to rule, the coaches voted to kick anyone off their teams that were implicated in the scandal. This takes out Liberty Seguros even though not all of them were involved...they lose too many riders, and the coaches decided not to replace riders kicked off. So that team goes home. T-Mobil is down to 8. CSC is down to 8. Biggest riders in the tour are down. Isn't it ironic that it's turning out that everyone except Lance Armstrong was doping?

This is huge. Kind of the cycling social equivalent of manager Sam Perlozzo announcing he had kicked Rafael Palmero off his team and the Orioles are forefeiting the rest of the season for being associated with a player on steroids.

Fun day to hang around with the media at any rate.

So yeah. Grab your bike and come on down. They're running out of riders. Its a free-for-all now.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

"Get out of my dreams...

...get into my car..."


You know you're going the right way to the prologue of the Tour de France if a giant shopping cart passes you on the freeway.

I spent months trying to figure out the best way to follow the Tour de France, and in the end decided just to forget all, throw a tent in the back of a car and make do from there. So I said my goodbyes to Nevy and hit the road driving on the right side for the first time in 9 months. Yeah, I was a little rusty, the roads were a little windy, a little narrow, and a little one-directional. But as a crappy driver you fit right in in France.

An exciting tour it will be. Lance left a vacuum, and there's about 7-8 riders strong enough to be on top. The reason for this is it looks like there is simply no team as strong as Discovery Channel was. So, pedal hard, don't fall, and don't get caught up in a doping scandal.

The last one may be hard.

But it all starts Saturday. It will be a sport's fan's dream in France with the tour all day and France playing Brazil in the World Cup at night.

But...Friday first. A day to scout out the scene and hopefully meet up with my contacts at OLN.


Friday, June 23, 2006


Lunch in France is a six hour affair. I may never understand fast food, but now at least I know why it was invented.

For lunch in France, Pierre and I arrived at Jacques and Colette's house at 11:30 AM, where I was greeted and introduced to Dan's cousins. In Le Jura, everybody is Dan's cousin. We started with a toast of champagne for

Glass of Wine #1.

Not really my custom to start drinking before noon, but I am with Pierre, and this is what Pierre specializes in (drinking). After our champange we had to open a bottle of white wine from Domaine Guiet, where I am staying. Got to try the local brew for

Glass of Wine #2.

And as it turns out finish the bottle for the group for

Glass of Wine #3

to go along with some snacks. And I'm thinking I need to stay focused here because my french sucks and their english is not the best, communication is a battle, so ignore the slight spinning sensations.

We move on to the cantelope course, and a bottle of red wine is opened to start off

Glass of Wine #4.

We laugh and enjoy stories, and Colette invites me to go with her and Jacques and Pierre to Bourg en Bresse the following week. Sounds like fun.

Our glasses are refilled with

Glass of Wine #5,

and the main course of chicken is served. We eat that with rice and take the bread to mop up all the drippings and finish off the bottle for

Glass of Wine #6,

and at this point I recall accepting an invitation to a random french town with people I don't really know except for the fact that they are Dan's cousins, which at this point could include anybody.


We finish up lunch and bust out a bottle of Chateau Chalon, which is a good wine. I know because Pierre taught me how to test a wine:

First you swirl it in the glass because the whirling action is really fun to watch, especially when it preceeds Glass of Wine #7.

Then you smell it.

It smells like wine.


Then you taste it. It tastes like wine.

Sweet, that was educational, and all tests have been passed. And I knew this was especially good wine because even I could tell it didnt come out of a box.

Glass of Wine #7

goes with the Cheese Course. In France, after a meal, a piece of cheese is always served.



I don't know. No crackers, no nothing, you just kind of sit there with this random piece of cheese. The cheese of choice was also the local...well...brew I guess. Comte cheese is a native cheese to the Jura. Very good. It tastes like cheese.

Finally, we finish up with a peach pie kind of thing, which of course would not be complete without

Glass of Wine #8.

Upon completion, Colette suggests we go for a walk. "Good idea!" I say. Bad bad idea, I think.

Just don't fall.

We walk to Monique's antique store where we look at old bicycles and pictures from when the Tour de France came through last year. We hang out and then say our goodbyes, because by then it is 5:00, and I need to get home for dinner.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

I HATE the French

Gare du Nord

I arrived at the Paris deployment center for all travelers to and from The North. Backpack, bike, and I struggle down the platform to the terminal to seek out luggage storage, where my bike will spend the next few days.


That is, at least, how I had it worked out in my head. I make my way over to the detectors; where I am confronted by a small middle eastern man; one finger pointed to the bike box and the other waving in a symbolic gesture of, ¨¨

¨No bike?¨

The gesture continues.

Point taken.

Line 5: Gare Du Nord ---> Bastille.

I get in the ticket line that goes out the door; and soon realize that's because there is only one person selling tickets to the metro.

Helpful. Thanks dicks. I mean French. I wait and eventually collect a batch of tickets before heading off up and down multple stairs, backpack and bike en tow, and eventually find The Metro.

On to Bastile. Where, as Robin Williams said, Marie Antionette gave the ultimate head. Where I am to make my first move on the Paris metro backpack and bike en tow.

Game on.

Line 1: Bastille ---> Gare du Lyon

I had to go here anyway. To catch Tuesday's train to The Jura. So no biggie if I just store the bike here. Saves me a morning trip when I have to leave. I get to the station, and look for luggage storage, located conveniently at the complete other side of the station.

I set off. Backpack and bike en tow. I reach luggage storage and I swear I am greeted by the exact same guy. With the exact same message.

No bike.

What the hell is it with the French? They love cycling, they love cyclists, they host the biggest cycling event in the history of the world. Why does the entire system shut down the minute someone wants to travel with a bike? All of a sudden when a bike ends up in a train station they are mystified as to why anyone would engage in any activity with such a contraption.

But now is not the time, as it's time to figure out What To Do. I cut my losses and throw a couple things into my daypack and store my backpack in a locker. Now I take up about the same amount of space, but I'm more agile and light on my feet.

Relatively speaking.

Line 1: Gare du Lyon ---> Champs Elysees Ciemenceau

Back all the way to the other side of the station. Back down the tunnel. Back to Line 1. Only this time it's crowded. I angle myself and the bike into the car. More and more people get on. I place the bike in Super Stealth Vertical Position, and pray that they all need to get off before me. Because as it stands there is no way I am moving from this spot. And I still have to change trains.

They pack in as Champs Elysees approaches. And we stop.

Stop means Go Time.

¨Perdon, perdon...perdon.¨ But there is not enough space, and there are not enough French people in this world who listen to others. I take my bike, still in Super Stealth Vertical Position, angle it forward, and just as soon as there is enough space and enough small children removed from harm's way...


I lower the bike, clear space to the door, push off bobsled style, accelerate out of the train, pick up the bike and run.

Remember I'm light on my feet now, so yes I can run.

Line 13: Champs ---> Place du Clichy

Wait a second. This hostel sheet says my stop is Marie de Clichy.

Where the hell is that?

Line 13: Place du Clichy ---> Marie de Clichy.

Looking back in the background of my life, trying to figure out how the I ended up here.

Marie de Clichy ---> Youth Hostel.

Still not sure where I went wrong in life.

But I do the best I can with what I got to work with.

I LOVE the French

I get to compartment 12, seat 41, sit down, and frown. I turn to look at my fellow passengers, but for some reason they don't sense anything amiss. I face forward. I get up, check the seat number again, and sit back down. I stand back up, check the compartment to the rear. Yeah...that's definitely compartment 13. I sit back down. I look around. I get back up and look at the compartment ahead. Yeah...that's definitely compartment 11. I fidget. Now my fellow passengers sense my unease, and make occasional nervous glances in my direction.

A stewardess enters with the drink tray. She makes her way up the asile and eventually reaches me and seat 41.
¨Can I get you anything?¨
¨Um...yeah actually I think I'm in the wrong seat. Could you tell me where I'm supposed to be?¨
She looks at my ticket. ¨Zis ees your seat.¨
¨That's not possible. Are you sure?¨
She smiles. ¨Why ees dat not possible?¨
¨Because I have a student ticket and this is first class.¨
She looks at my ticket again, shrugs, and hands it back to me. ¨Vould you like something to drink?¨
¨Uh...yeah, Coke light. Thanks.¨
¨Some cake as well vith dat?¨

Why not.

Lots of people rode first class on a train today. But there is not a person out there who enjoyed it more than me.