Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pluk de Dag!--Ned Flanders Style

Kinetic just released this great video of Team TIBCO, talking about us off the bike and our goals for the season. Honestly, it's the most genuine, uncanned (is that a word?) video I've seen in cycling in my three LONG years on the bike. Isn't it great to have sponsors who are so cool and into your team's success? It makes it really easy to be a fan and promote them. So, thanks, Kinetic.
I have a few segments in the video. I had just crashed (imagine that?) and have a huge lesion on my forehead, and if you look closely on my hand, there's a spot there, too. Basically, Pam from Kinetic took me out the hospital (my bedroom) to get my take on the team, but hey! At least you know, I didn't have time to prep and what I'm saying is from the heart. Awwww... (And she threw in a Michael Jackson "Thriller" saddle cover, so I really had no choice :))

Check it out and give Kinetic and Team TIBCO some likes on Facebook for the hard work they put in here.

On a side note, I sometimes wonder why I get press, in the sense that I haven't done anything spectacular on the bike. I mean, in essence, I'm like the drummer from Def Leppard who is popular because he has one arm, not necessarily because he is an exceptional drummer. But whatever, I'll take what I can get. No complaints here.

Oh by the way, did I mention that I'm riding Flanders tomorrow? Every time I get on the bike here during this trip, I just am awe-stricken that I'm in Holland or Belgium or wherever I'll be in the next couple of weeks and am about to have the opportunity to ride the Super Bowl or World Series of bike racing--to use an American analogy. And to tie in more American culture, is it wrong for me to think of Ned Flanders when I hear someone mention Flanders?

Anyway, sure, I'm nervous and having just recovered from a pulled calf muscle and sitting out of Redlands doesn't boost my confidence, but honestly, all I can do is give my best effort and my teammates and director (and myself) know that my best effort is 110%. I ride hard and I will turn myself inside out to help my teammates the best I can, and that's all I can do. So, I lie. I'm not really that nervous because I'm confident in my strategy and my ability.

But if I can be honest here...because I'm usually just full of jokes and lies...ever since I hurt my calf and had to sit out of a race, my attitude and motivation has changed for the better. Before the "incident," I was a little tired and not in the best of moods after getting back from my first Europe trip.

I left Tucson at the end of February to get Lasik from Asheville Eye Associates in North Carolina--my doctor is a cyclist so I put my full trust in him. (I now have 20/15 vision, which means I can actually see THROUGH people. It's awesome.) and then I left for Europe March 2 and I won't be home until April 19. That's not a long trip compared to some people (like the women on the US National team) but for me, it's the longest I've had. It's exciting, but also fatiguing. And the worst part is that I get tired of only having 4 underwear options. GAWD!

Anyway, there were definitely moments where I had trouble pumping myself up before a sufferfest and questioning if this is what I want to do for the next several years (and maybe some girl tears and some teammate hugs--yeah, I'm sometimes a real sissy), but as soon as I had to ride in the team car behind my team in the leader's jersey, I missed it so badly. I kept myself positive through Redlands--I was so happy for our team--but inside I wanted to be on the road with my team so badly, helping in any way I could. When you take something away, even if it's only for a few days-=-or an hour in the team car, it makes you realize and appreciate the great opportunities you have, the opportunities you have made for yourself which you shouldn't just shit away because you're in a bad mood for a day, or a week, or a month, etc.

In other words, during the past week, I've gotten my head out of my ass and am embracing this once in a lifetime chance to race in Europe, and compete in Flanders and Fleche Wallone (which I hear is a big race, too! Big like say um...the NBA Championships!) I'm so excited about tomorrow. It's going to be the hardest race of my life, but also the most beautiful, unreal, and craziest race ever. I hear the Belgian fans aren't super drunk until the men's race, but I'm sure they'll still be obnoxious--just my style.

Anyway, here's to seizing the day now and way back in my first race, the Ballard Crit in summer of 2009. Who knew that racing Sequim or Mason Lake in Washington would lead me to Belgium just two years later. Thank you, Team TIBCO, friends, coaches, etc., and thanks to my readers for tolerating this sentimental post. I promise less Queen "We are the Champions!" and more Ramstein "Du Hast Mich" next time.

Pluk de Dag!!!

Oh and to continue the Corn Nuts theme, here's Kevin Bacon, doing what he does best to get pumped. Expect a performance like this in my hotel tomorrow morning--uh minus the whiskey and cigarettes, basically just the dancing and steering wheel pounding and maybe the white tank if I can find one... But first where's my cassette player?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wiener Melange

I’m back in Holland. I made the cut after the last World Cup trip, as I improved with each race. Pat on the back.

After an eventful San Dimas and Redlands, (Redlands—We won the overall, had the yellow from day and kept it. I unfortunately pulled my calf muscle before the second stage and had to cheer from the sidelines.) our team headed back to Europe to ride Flanders, Gelderland, and a handful of other races, some which include a team time trial and individual time trial, which will be fun. But travelling at the airport with 11 bikes on an international flight, not so fun, but thank god I’m on a team who supports me because I can’t imagine footing the bill for all this myself.

Anyway, back to Holland. We are in Ter Aar right now and it’s really laid back here. We are staying at a Bed and Breakfast in the countryside. The d├ęcor consists of 1940’s artwork mixed with a dusty U2 clock and Marlboro Man poster—probably to help us feel more at home as Americans. Oh and all of these wooden owl creatures…everywhere. I keep seeing a new one every day. It’s sort of like Where’s Waldo. They remind me of the Log Lady on Twin Peaks or something. Maybe the owl sales didn’t quite take off like the carved bear statues did in America.
One of the many owls

And the kitchen is stocked with bread, apple bread, glazed rolls, regular rolls and greasy meats and cheese. They like Ham and Cheese here for breakfast. Pancakes for lunch or dinner, I suppose. They also have Wiener Melange coffee—the best part of waking up is a wiener in your cup.  (Shall we dance to that, my dear, as the package suggests? Innuendo not intentional.) Oh and Choca, which are chocolate, sugary flecks that go on bread, usually white bread.
Best Part of Waking Up...

Despite all the processed foods for breakfast, the rest of Holland is pretty simple here and quite laid back. I’ve seen every type of animal so far: horses, cows, hogs (big black ones with pink bellies—I thought they were oversize boars at first. Do what you want with that innuendo but it wasn’t intentional.), goats, dogs, cats, sheep, and little baby lambs—everywhere. They’re so cute. I almost want to pull a Clarice Starling and snatch one at night. And there’s no fences. The people just have trenches filled with water around their farms. And amputee trees (I guess they cut off all the branches of the trees in the winter so they bloom again in the Spring, but in the meantime they look like Fight the Power fists, lining the roads.)
Amputee Trees
Back to the farms, I swear these moats have to have the Loch Nest Monster or imported crocodiles in them because I don’t know how these animals aren’t escaping. Maybe they’re just like meh, I like it here.  There are no stop signs (I saw one in 50k and I saw one traffic light. Just roundabouts, speed bumps (that say Let op!), and yield signs. People make room for each other on the alley size two way roads and there are so many bike paths where all these people from age 3-80 ride these big crusier bikes.

But, of course, I have to disrupt the flow, right? So, I decided to ride by myself today because I wasn’t sure how the calf would be feeling (It was good. My first 2 hour ride at a normal pace since Thursday.) I got tired of riding on the bike paths and then I finally found this road that had a white line in the middle of it and a tiny shoulder. But it worked for me. So, I’m riding along and a few cars honk. I think oh, maybe I swerved or maybe they just like cyclists. I do look pretty pro. Then I see a guy in a big truck from the other lane make a hand gesture at me. I think he is flipping me off, but on second thought maybe he is giving me like a thumbs up or a hang loose gesture. Whatever. Then this big concrete-type looking truck pulls into a pullout/shoulder type area and gets out of the truck and starts walking toward me as I ride closer. I thought, uh oh. The guy is pretty good looking—as most of the Dutch are (It’s the blue jeans. They have good taste in jeans. Seriously, and loads of white t-shirts.)
Anyway, this is how our conversation went:

Guy: Blah blah blah
Me: What?
Guy: (mockingly) What.
Me: I don’t understand.
Guy: You can’t "ritt" here.
Me: Ride? Like my bicycle.
Guy: Yes, you can’t ride here. People go up to 80 on this road. If you make it to the end, you’ll be dead.
Me: (Imagining my corpse being pushed along the and then over the end of the road, like Where the Sidewalk Ends.) I didn’t know. Well, where should I ride?
Guy: Go that way. Right times two. You’ll see. (Walks away)
Me: Thank you. You saved my life, I guess.
Guy: (smiles) Yes, be happy about it!!!

Then I figure out that the bike/scooter/tractor sign in red circles means “No”. There were no lines through it or anything. But universally Red means no, I guess, which is kind of weird because the speed limit signs are red circles and say 60 in the middle. And the “yes” signs are just blue. So in my defense, really? I was supposed to know this. And like I said before, the highways don’t look like highways. They look like country roads, which a pleasant white line in the middle. And I found it quite endearing that someone would stop their truck, get out and warn me to get off the road. I think in America, they might just hit you or throw a coke bottle at you. Or maybe it was so bizarre that the guy must have thought I had escaped from a mental institution…or that I was American and didn’t know any better.
This means no bikes. Seems sorta obvious on a second glance...hmmm

Even so, my re-route was much more pleasant and even more pleasant because my calf didn’t hurt and I found some brick paths and cobbles to ride on. So I made it to about 20km outside of Utrecht, which is where one of our Dutch friends on our first trip’s flight over lives. I was thinking about riding there to say Hallo! but didn’t think my calf would want the extra 40km and it’s not like I could find him anyway—it’s like trying to find Jennifer in Tucson. On the way home, I’d see signs next to the roundabouts that sayd Ter Aar 6km, and Amsterdam 31km. I thought about how fun that would be to just cruise on into Amsterdam, but then thought maybe that wasn’t a good idea either. Besides, it was already 4:30 p.m. because well, my whole house slept 15 hours last night and we got up at 1:00 p.m. Unbelievable. Oh look it’s 10:06 p.m. I guess I’ve been up for 9 hours. Might be time to go to bed…

Friday, March 9, 2012

Big Boys Don't Cry at Drenste 8

As I'm writing this blog, 10cc's "I'm not in love" is playing in the background. It's appropriate for two reasons.

I'm in Holland in a little town called Schoonoord, which is not pronounced Shoe-Nord, I found out. There are at least 3 to 4 guttural sounds before you even get to the first "n."
Our home in Schoonoord

Lazy Tuesdays in Schoonoord with Stiffy, my hot Specialized bike 
Anyway, it seems that they like to play American/English music from the 80's and 90's wherever you go. In fact the Dutch's smash hit (according to my Dutch director) was "Radar Love," by Golden Earring. My friend, Tyler, from high school used to lift weights to that song. He was a massive fellow with a shaved head, but I digress. But yeah, last night as we sat comatose after our first race, we silently ate dinner to "Tootsie Roll" (To the left, to the right, now slide, baby, slide.)

The other reason the 10cc song is appropriate is because it contains a whispering reminder that "Big boys don't cry." Luckily, I didn't cry yesterday after my first European race. I just exclaimed "F my life" repeatedly. Here is a preview of the race so you can get a better idea of what I'm talking about.

Yes, I realize that this is a chance of a lifetime and I am in Europe racing my bike, but when you're in the peleton with 180 angry girls (well, they sound angry!) slamming on your brakes, literally every 45 to 50 seconds for 140k (I said "k" instead of miles! Progress.), your inner cheerleader quickly transforms from being badass like those chicks in that movie, Bring It On, into the bee girl in that Blind Melon video. Here is a visual in case you don't know what I'm talking about.
We started the race already to go and then about 13k into the race, we experienced the first traffic jam when we all had to squeeze into a one-car width lane (like the width of an electric car). I toppled very slowly over a wobbly backwheel and then quickly got up but that was my ticket to the back of the pack. And from there my life was hell. I would try to move up on the secret cobble "HOV" lane or on the grass or through the middle or wherever, but the peleton is structured such as there is a "washing machine" effect in the front and then a wall and then the stragglers. And well, my balls are just growing in so I couldn't break through. The group kept breaking up with the crosswinds, with the main peleton echeloning and the back of the group in a straight line, praying someone would guard their right side and here I come time trialing to the main group as people are getting spit out. Thank god for my fitness because this happened over and over and over again. Just to give you an idea of how hard I made the race for myself, you can check out the ride on Strava. My director said in her Dutch accent, "When I saw you, I thought if there was a time trial today, you'd place in the top 3." My takeaway--in a fake time trial with fake riders, I would have been on the fake podium! Well, alright! That's progress!

No, no. I'm not really down on myself. Seriously, it's a new day and yesterday doesn't seem as daunting. It reminds me of my first NRC race, Nature Valley--that's a hell of a one to throw yourself into as your first go. Well, the same thing for this race. I survived. I'm happy. 140k, 180 riders, first experience with crosswinds and cobbles. And here I am blogging.

By the way, in Europe if you are more than 5 minutes back or something, they act like you don't exist and don't even give you a DNF. And they don't have corner marshalls or cars telling you where to go. You're on your own. Luckily, my group wasn't 5 back because my sense of direction is HORRIBLE. That's where a Garmin 800 would come in handy because I'm not going to internationally roam on my phone. I was warned against that $900 phone bill. Oh and I think a finisher's foil cape like they give out at marathons is mandatory if you make it on the results. Maybe a medal. I like presents.

It would be even better than my bell, which my director made me take off. She calls it a "ting ting." She said everyone will laugh at you. I said, "I know, that's the point." But all jokes aside, ultimately, I need her to keep me classy, and she'll make a professional out of me yet--she is amazing and it would take an amazing person to put the class in Wheeler because well, it's tough logistically: Wheeclasser?

Ok. I have to go do a recovery ride. And now the cafe is now playing Abba and I can only take so much.