Monthly Archives: January 2011

Come on Mother Nature

It’s not that we’ve had too much snow.  It’s just that we have it, period.  I work from my home office a couple of days a week, and it’s a treat to be able to do so.  I don’t take that privilege for granted and I have to say I really enjoy being able to meander upstairs and grab a decent coffee, and better still, have lunch with Marie.  I don’t, therefore, hate the snow because it makes driving to the office an intolerable chore.  I dislike the snow because it means I have to drive!

I miss the commute by bike.  When you’ve been riding to work for eight months, it truly is a shock to be back in a car in the traffic with the rest of the suckers who crawl like drones to the high-rise madness of downtown.  I have never understood the physics of traffic, nor am I about to get into it here, but as I drive through the dreaded rail yards, about half way to work, I can look to my right and see the bike path.  Empty of course, as it never gets ploughed, but see I can it nonetheless.

This is about the time of year when winter is definitely starting to get old and yet spring is still a long way off.  I’m usually back outside on the roads by the second or third week of March, so a quick calculation tells me that I still have six weeks of this.  Not to worry, I still have plenty of mountains to climb and time trials to beat on the simulator in the basement, but it’s just not the same, and I am really starting to itch to get out.

The 'Paddy Wagon" belongs outside on the road, not in my office

I think staring at the Kona all day in my office is making this worse.  It’s like dangling the ‘Duck Breast Tenders’ that the dog so loves right in front of his salivating chops, but then holding him just out of reach.  The smell of the dried, sinewy scraps of meat torturing his every fibre to the point of certain insanity.  Luckily the bike does not smell like jerky’d duck breast, but I did take ten minutes this afternoon to swish the dust off it and put a little oil on the chain, and then I took this picture as it was looking fine and shiny and ready for the open road.  That left me feeling the same as Alfie.  My duck jerky is a Kona fixed gear bike.

Six weeks is not that long.  I can do it.  Hey, I might even get lucky like last year and dress up like an Arctic explorer to brave the freezing but dry roads of early March.  You see the cold does not bother me at all.  You can dress for it.  It’s the ice and salty slush that I can’t stand.  The former because it is just plain dangerous and the latter because it’ll wreck the bike in no time.

So come on Mother Nature.  Do me a solid and turn this winter into spring.

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Another champion bites the dust?

There are not many riders that I dislike.  In fact I’d be hard pressed to actually name a rider that I don’t like.  I mean, I don’t know these people personally so it would be a little arrogant of me to pass judgement on their character.  Sure, some of them bother me with their über-arrogance during interviews, but then one has to remember that you rarely get to the top of your game by acting like a shrinking violet.  That being said, I still find myself looking up to the pro riders, as athletes that is, and so when one of them wins a grand tour that may be, just may be, he should not have won, that bothers me.

The latest professional to fall foul of the ultra tight doping controls is 2010 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador.  He wasn’t the only rider last year to be busted for ingesting a performance enhancing drug, but he was certainly the highest profile fail of the year.  The cycling world was only just starting to recover from that other ‘stripped’ champ, Floyd Landis, who a few years ago gambled on an evening cocktail of beer with a testosterone chaser and then promptly rode an unbelievable stage.  Well, it was unbelievable as it turned out, and there were elements of the same in some of Contador’s riding last year as well.

I don’t profess to be an expert.  I am not a professional commentator à la Paul Sherwen or Phil Liggett, but I have done a lot of riding.  That qualifies me, to a certain degree, to know when a rider is truly in ‘the zone’ as they’re climbing a 14% grade in temperatures exceeding 35c, or whether they look as if they’d seem just as comfortable lounging in a Lazy-Boy with a brandy snifter in one hand and a copy of ProCycling with their picture on the cover in the other!  I couldn’t help but think, more than once I might add, that this was the aura that ‘Il Pistole’ exuded as he climbed.  He just looked lighter than the others.  Less stressed.  Not as hot.  More bouncy.  More smiley.  If there’s one thing you don’t feel like doing when you’re forty minutes into a steep climb, its smile.  Grimace, yes.  Smile, not so much.

So if the media reports are accurate, (why wouldn’t they be?), then we will have  to wait a couple of weeks before we hear from the champion himself.  He has allegedly been informed that he will receive a one year ban from the sport, thus ruining his chances of defending his Tour de France crown, and this same trophy is also the subject of speculation that basically points to it having to be returned.  This would promote Andy Schleck, last year’s runner up for the second year in a row, to tour champ, but I highly doubt this will give him any satisfaction.  Whether you’re a chemically aided rider or not, no-one wants to win a grand tour because the guy that beat them on the road on the day was disqualified.  There’s no satisfaction in that for these guys at all.  May be that’s because second and third place were just lucky they were not caught (I am not insinuating anything), or may be its just down to the simple fact that sports men and women want to win, and while many want to win at any cost, they all want to win because they crossed the line first.

Alberto, I will listen to what you have to say in a couple of weeks, but I have to tell you, it’d better be good.

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Watch out David Bailey!

I live about a kilometre from a lake called Lac St. Louis.  Back in the early 1900s the lake presented the opportunity for the wealthy in Montreal to create a “cottage country” community that was probably about a ninety minute horse and buggy ride from the bustle and smoke and pollution of the growing city.  Now called Dorval, this suburb of our great city houses the airport for one thing, but more importantly it still maintains a lot of the charm that must have been part of its original draw back in the day.  The streets are not all on a perfect grid, and every house is different from the other.  You’re not in a pre-fab suburban development where you could easily mix your house up with the next door neighbour’s were it not for the unkempt lawn that sets your abode apart.  Our streets have no concrete sidewalks, no borders de-marking the lawn from the street, no ginormous power stations smack in the middle of the development.  We come from a time before all these things.

6.00 a.m. on the lake

Which brings me to the theme of today’s entry.  I have long been trying to capture the essence of this part of town and I like to think I’ve taken some memorable pictures on my rides in and around Montreal.  I was gobsmacked, however, by the pics Andy has been taking the past few weeks, and I asked him to send me a few because I simply had to share them with everyone.  We so often take for granted where we live and it is easy to forget the natural beauty that we have right on our doorstep.  These photos remind me that our planet offers so many beautiful images and you can find them just about anywhere.  Even at the end of my street.

 

The lonely tracks of the lake skier
“You are cleared for landing, Tango”
Moon at dawn
Self-portrait of our photog

*All images have been used with the express permission of the photographer and he has waived all rights to any future royalties handing them over without reserve to the author of this blog!

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Night riders

Riding in the snow is one thing.  It takes some balls and studs on your tyres, as well as nerves of steel to deal with that sudden sliding sensation as your back wheel slides out from under you with no warning.  I suppose when you get to a point where you feel you have conquered the snow and ice and all associated perils, you have to ask yourself “Where do we go from here?

What light in yonder distance breaks?

Apparently we turn the lights out and go snow riding at night.  At least this is the answer according to my intrepid friends, Andy & Paul.  Not satisfied with the brightly lit pitfalls that hide beneath the crisp layer of icy snow in broad daylight, they have decided to tweak the nose of terror and roll the dice with the Grim Reaper himself in an environment best suited to the nocturnal ramblings of the suburban racoon.

I’m not knocking this new practice of theirs.  Actually I even considered attaching some tie wraps to my wheels to act as temporary ‘studs’ to improve the grip on the ice so that I could join them.  I was eventually dissuaded from attempting this when I recalled the experience recently documented by my blogging friend Bruce, currently residing in Japan and working out ways to snow ride using the best technology that the Far East has to offer.  In that day’s entry (you can read the complete article here and it is well worth it) he says of his experience with the tie wraps “The first thing that happened as I left our apartments was I applied the front brake and promptly stripped all the cable ties.”  I saw no reason why any attempt made by me would end any differently, so I wheeled the bike back into my office.

Bars in the snow

One of the major attractions of cycling to me is the fact that you’re outside and sharing in nature.  Sounds twee when I read it back to myself but there is no other way of saying it really.  The fact is it’ll sound trite any way I put it.  You’ve all heard me complain about the trials of indoor training during the winter, namely the constant threat of boredom as you pedal within the confines of one room.  You don’t get to see the great and fresh wintery outdoors when you’re spinning at 110 rpm on the trainer, but then you don’t have to worry about landing on your arse after losing a negotiation with a hidden patch of black ice either.  I am perfectly capable of doing that without the snow and ice (fell dramatically last September whilst overtaking a couple of slow plodders taking up my space on the bike path.  I am sure their initial terror and alarm as I screamed my way past them turned into a broad grin as I went crashing to the ground not ten yards in front of them.  Who’s the cool guy now?  Prat!).

So for now, Paul, Andy and Bruce, I continue to follow your adventures from my arm chair in front of the fire here.  Perhaps I shall join you as soon as Bruce works out the best way to prevent the brakes from stripping the tie wraps off the wheel at the first application of pressure.  I could try and work it out myself, but this fire is just so cosy and warm, and it’s making me sleepy….zzzz.

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Happy Birthday Soph

Today is my sister’s 37th birthday.

I can’t call her.  I can’t send her a card.  I can’t even send her an email.  Where she is she cannot get them.  What I can do is talk to her, not in the way you and I talk to one another, but I can talk to her nonetheless.  So today I wished her Happy Birthday, out loud, while sitting in my office.  I hope she heard me.

Today will always be her birthday.  No-one can take that away from her or from me.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Cat Stevens lately.  I wanted to share this particular song with you.

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time?
You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while
And though your dreams may toss and turn you now
They will vanish away like your daddys best jeans
Denim Blue fading up to the sky
And though you want him to last forever
You know he never will
(You know he never will )
And the patches make the goodbye harder still

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time?
There’ll never be a better chance to change your mind
And if you want this world to see a better day
Will you carry the words of love with you?
Will you ride the great white bird into heaven?
And though you want to last forever
You know you never will
(You know you never will )
And the goodbye makes the journey harder still

Oh very young
What will you leave us this time?
You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while
Oh very young
What will you leave us this time?

You can listen to the song here.

I don’t think of you every day, Soph, but I am thinking of you all day today.  When I look at Emma and Ollie playing beautifully one minute and arguing the next, I see you and me.  I know we lived thousands of miles apart for many years, but I will always have a little sister, you.  I miss you.

Your bro.

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