One catch-22 of professional cycling is the unwritten rule by which you’re supposed to exert yourself as little as possible while off the bike. Don’t stand when you can sit, don’t sit when you can lie down. Sage advice, that is, but not the best for one’s head, which is perhaps why cycling is as much a mental battle as it is a physical one. This is by far an easier task for the professional cycling demographic thanks to the continuous circle of staff surrounding us, than the rest of the cycling world. Take my friend Tom for example; he’s a successful emergency room doctor, for goodness sakes! How on earth he can work seemingly endless hours morning, noon, and (all) night, in addition to logging any sort of hours on the bicycle is simply amazing. I classify a busy week as reading a half dozen pages of a book in addition to training the normal hours. Se la vi.
This week some I find myself in the Ardennes region of Belgium for the “hilly” Belgian classics – namely, Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallonne, and Liege Bastogne Liege. This whole week is pretty incredible since I was only supposed to get on the road for two small semi-classics last week, but now I’m taking part in this monumentally historic week of racing. But I’m definitely not going to complain since these are some of the biggest, most important races in the world. My first experience with European racing back in 2005 was in this area with the US Espoir National Team. We rented a house for two weeks, training a heck of a lot, and participated in some super tough races about this time of year. In fact, yesterday as we reconned the final 90km of Liege, I really thought I every time we rounded a turn I would stumble upon that house again. The entire region looks exactly the same – super hilly, green, and full of trees, fields, and immaculate houses.
But between doing that sort of thing, there is plenty of down time which we’ve encountered this week. So whaaaaat toooooo dooooo?
First and foremost, we check the information superhighway. Perhaps something has occurred on the world wide web that we really need to know about, but we’re often in some foreign country and thereby isolated from our native language’s television’s news, so we check the internet. For that, I frequently go to www.FailBlog.org (click it for the link).
You want to laugh out loud? Go there. If it’s not striking your fancy and you’re not laughing, then keep scrolling down or scanning through the pages. Trust me, you’ll laugh.
I also urge you to visit my friend Amy’s site HERE. She’s nobly raising money to support a bike trek across the country building and teaching those she stumbles upon about affordable housing. Once again, bikes + very worthy causes = The world a better place.
For further entertainment there are coffee shop rides. These are mandatory during a week like this because the actual racing is so darn tough, you need to spin an hour or two on the easy days. If nothing else, it gets your out and about and is good for the head. Coffee + me = me happy. As I’ve mentioned in the past, European coffee – albeit very tasty – is way to small and delicate for my big bold American palate. So while my nerves are quelled with the ingestion of a quarter ounce of rich black coffee, they’re counterbalanced by my annoyance that I’m left hankering for more. Again… se la vi.
There was some famous cyclist (who’s name I have fittingly forgotten), who said that his biggest regret was not taking enough pictures during his career. I’m making sure I don’t fall victim to that misfortune, so I’m taking my camera everywhere. For goodness sakes, this IS the time of my life! I’m traveling the world racing my bike. This is incredible. So for the first time ever, I took my nice camera on my coffee shop spin, rather than simply a Blackberry with a camera. Ladies and gentlemen, we are trained professionals, so do NOT try this at home.
And searching for last resorts for ways to enrich the mind and body, we break rule numero uno and exert ourselves with a car ride into town followed by the world’s slowest ever walk through town. Dear American readers, note the historic architecture, super narrow cobbled streets, outdoor cafes, the buildings’ incredible proximity to one another… it’s all very enlightening and a stark contrast to ‘merica.
Oh look! Three (or four with the photographer) nearly identically dressed young men. They’re either cyclists, football, or rugby players. Although maybe they’re too slight and wee to be football or rugby players.
… and the forbidden fruit. Bountiful chocolate everywhere. 99% of the time these shops along the street are shoe stores, cell phone stores, boutique clothing stores, or chocolate shops.
Again, hey North America: look at the bikes! Everywhere. No need to wonder why the Netherlands – where this pic was taken – is so fit. They have the infrastructure to ride their bikes to work, the bar, a coffee, their friend’s house, etc.
Liege tomorrow. Yow!