Sunday, January 12, 2014

You Know You fit in when the Crazy Marseille Driver in the Cote d'Azur is You

Fall and early winter riding is starting to become one of my favorite times for cycling during the year.  The pace is relaxed, the roads less crowded, and the stress of racing and competition, though fun and motivating, is in the distant future.  We bike through the change of seasons, slowly putting on more and more layers of clothing as the temperature drops.  We are lucky enough to live in Provence, where it only snows a few times during the year.  It is cold, but we like riding bikes too much to be able to bear hanging them up in the garage in neglected winter hibernation. 

Long Shadows of the Provence Winter Sun
Fall is also a time for mountain biking and cyclocross racing.   These are two disciplines in cycling that I am not great at.  I am constantly thinking about what will happen if I fall off on the gnarly descents. Liam, on the other hand, has a natural ability and agility, and he is fearless.  He effortlessly flies down the radical, rocky, single-track trails of the mountains behind our house.  It is fun to watch, but not so easy to follow. 

Nothing like Cyclocross to keep you sharp through the Fall

Both the winter cyclocross and mountain biking [called (VTT) Vélo Tout Terrain here in France] are greatly enhancing Liam’s ability and evolution as a cyclist.   These, along with the long easy rides on the road, form a training base from which to transition into late winter speed work and eventually into spring racing.

Riding in The New Year

For the last two years in a row we have used a Strava challenge called the Festive 500 as the apex of our winter base training. The challenge is to ride 500 kilometers in the 8 days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.  We literally ride in the New Year and it is a blast.  This year we completed the challenge in 6 days by riding 506 kilometers.  We included Liam’s brothers Aidan and Roan on a few of the rides. And for the “queen stage” of the challenge we headed to Nice the day after Christmas with our friend Sofiane for 106k with 6000 feet of climbing.  We rode over the Col d’Eze, through Monaco, to the Italian Border, and then up over the Col de La Madone and back to Nice through the mountains. It was epic!

Sofiane and Liam at the top of the Col de La Madone
There was a moment during the queen stage that Sofiane said something to me that put a smile on my face and made me start to think that we are really starting to fit in in France.  The comment wasn’t made on the bike, it was actually made as we were pulling into this very chic shopping center on the outside of Nice in Saint Laurent du Var.  The Cote D’Azur is only about 90 minutes from our house, but it is a world apart. The shopping mall is right on the sea with a great parking lot that adjoins a cycle path leading into the Nice beachfront promenade.  There is a certain way that I usually get into the parking lot, but it was closed and re-routed for Christmas traffic.  I didn’t see an easy solution, so I went up on a curb against traffic and then back into the flow to get to the part of the lot we wanted to be in.  Sofiane shouted out in French “ watch out here come the people from Marseille you better give them some room.”  It was really funny. We drive a large van that is fairly beaten up from our years in France.  It has a “13” on the license plate which is the number of the region around Marseille.  Marseille is famous for crazy drivers.  The joke in France is, that if you see a “13” on the license plate of a vehicle you get way out of their way.   So I guess that after 4 years in France I have officially turned into a crazy Marseille driver!

After a six month hiatus from blogging, we are back with a very exciting 2014 planned. Liam and I are fresh off a road trip to Northern France and Belgium which was for the new Trek Factory Racing  professional cycling team launch. It was awesome! We will have a video and report from the weekend up soon.

Happy New Year to all. May it be filled with love, joy and lots of cycling.

And watch out for those crazy Marseille drivers!

Live Strong, Train Safe, and Live Well!!!

This is Bill and Liam signing out.

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