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Look Mum No Hands

Greetings from LMNH. After an awesome morning of watching the Olympic women’s indoor volleyball (China v. Turkey & Serbia v. S. Korea), Ged and I made our way down to the famous Look Mum No Hands cafe. We shared a lovely pumpkin & lentil soup, as well as a quiche with salad.

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I never thought I’d say this (because I was always opposed to the wastefulness of cities), but I love this city.

There’s always something to see or do that just inspires you or challenges you to think differently. I’ve been to London before but never stayed for longer than a few days. Now that I have a few weeks to walk around and catch people doing cartwheels in the park or stumble a free concert, I’m realizing how full of life a large city can be. I’d always thought of cities as dark and depressing (and there are certainly less inspiring parts of the city), and at one point in my life I was morally opposed to cities because they suck up so much energy and are not good for the environment, but but I can’t constantly fixate on my “carbon footprint.” Yes, I try to live my life in a way that I believe is kind to the Earth and myself, however, I do believe the purpose of life is to fin happiness, and, well, I’m happy right now!

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london

Hello from London! We got here yesterday after a short flight from Milan. After a day filled with yoga at a place nearby called the Life Centre (and some Olympic volunteer training for Ged), we’re both relaxing on the couch and watching the Tour time trial. Go, Tejay!

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Stages 10 and 11

On Tuesday, Ged and I made our way slowly to the Grand Colombier (the HC climb for stage 10). We had no plans of where to camp. We just thought there would be space on the side of the mountain. Well, there weren’t really any spots.

All of the camper vans had taken what little space there was. As we kept ascending in the car, I noticed a nice flattish spot atop a wall of rock on the inside of a hairpin. I checked it out and decided it was tent-worthy. I’ve found that most often times the best camping spots are the impromptu/free ones.

The view from our tent.

Wednesday morning we were awakened by blaring Dutch techno music. The fans had arrived! That music didn’t stop until the last rider came by later that day…

After walking up and down the mountain to check out the profile, it was time for the caravan. Oh, the caravan. We got tons of free stuff that I have no use for.

Once the lead group came by, the mountainside ignited. The French went nuts when they saw Voeckler was in the break away.

Not long after, we saw Wiggins with Cadel right alongside him. Then, several minutes later, we finally saw Cav. He didn’t look like he was enjoying the climb very much.


Once all the riders went past, the spectators took off and we had the hairpin to ourselves again. We quickly packed up our things and headed to the valley to catch the rest of the stage on the big screen in town.

Once the sun went down, we made our way to La Toussuire (the stage 11 finish town). We found a patch of grass on the side of the mountain to pitch the tent and promptly fell asleep.

Thursday morning was full of pain au chocolate, bio yogurt and free hats. When the TV coverage started, we found a spot on some grass and watched the big screen for a long time.

Before we knew it, it was time to watch the finish. Once again, another happy day for the French.



Now I’m back in Florence and trying to figure out how to fix my bike. I have no clue where to start. The only thing I know is that I have an English BB.

Take care!

5

L’etape 2012

Several months ago my boyfriend signed me up for the Etape without telling me. That’s a lot of climbing for this Florida girl.

Then, in February, I got in a serious bike accident. As I started to recover, I got in another stupid, self-imposed bike accident in May. My fitness had declined exponentially. When Ged told me he signed us up for the Etape, I was excited, then I looked at the route and my excitement faded.

The Etape was on Sunday. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to dark skies and a light rain. I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish because I wasn’t in form. I told Ged I wasn’t doing it and wished him good luck. He insisted I at least try, so I put on my big-girl pants and kitted up.

Once we rode the 10k from our campsite to the start, we waited 20 minutes before it was our corral’s turn to go.

I loved the first 18km. I was checking out people’s bikes and chatting to everyone. It was lovely. I did have one water bottle fall out when I crossed over some train tracks, but I couldn’t turn around as there was a sea of cyclists all around me.

Once the Madeleine climb started, I stopped talking. I’ve never been a climber and Sunday was no exception. The climb is about 24-25km long, and I only stopped once to shove some food in my mouth. I hated the 11% parts, but then again, who doesn’t. For me, I felt like I was doing really well.

Once I reached the top, I topped up my one bidon and put on my wind jacket. The sun had finally come out and the once wet roads were now dry.

The descent was fast. I haven’t looked at my stats yet, but I’m sure it was the fastest I’ve ever gone on a bike.

Once I got to the bottom (the 65km mark), I grabbed some more food at a rest stop and headed toward the base of the Glandon. I knew I was pretty close to the cut-off time (about one hour in front of it), but I thought I’d just keep going and make the most of the day.

As I rode away from the rest stop, I heard a loud noise coming from my bike. It sounded like rocks in a dryer. I got off the bike and turned the crank slowly and heard the noise again. I had a sinking feeling that my bottom bracket was toast (my old Bianchi has taken some abuse as a former rental bike).

I headed back to the rest station and a French mechanic confirmed my suspicion and said he didn’t have the tool to open it up and try to compress the bearings. By this point, the sweep car was making its way toward me.

The mechanic motioned for me to just go before I get disqualified, so I hopped on and rode away. The noise seemed louder.

I think sometimes I tend to be overly cautious about my bike, especially if there’s a noise coming from it. Maybe I should learn to just suck it up and let go of my paranoia, but I didn’t feel that way on Sunday. I felt that I was making the right decision to not attempt any more climbs. Plus, I was going to be cut off soon.

I decided to just ride the flat 9km to the town below the last climb (St. Jean de Maurienne), where we had left the car. I put my bike in the car, changed clothes and headed to the start of the last climb. I stuck around for a couple of hours and finally saw Ged. He looked so happy to see me but I didn’t want him to lose momentum, so I gave him a push and sent him on his way. He managed to finish in 10.5 hours, not too much in front of the cut-off time himself.

I almost didn’t want to post this because I thought it might make me look like a $hitty rider, but I know that some people would enjoy the report and pictures.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a pain au chocolate to attend to.

Stage 9: Arc-et-Senans to Besançon

Hello from beautiful France.

Today was a great day, especially because I got to watch some amazing talent fly by on TT bikes.

We stopped in Abbans-Dessus, a town along today’s route, and watched the riders climb past.

We didn’t take a lot of pictures as we were cheering most of the time, but we did manage to get a couple of good ones of Chris Froome, Chris Horner and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Froome


Horner



Boasson Hagen

The atmosphere was incredible–“Allez, allez, allez” was all you could hear as TT bikes zoomed past. “Allez Les Rosbifs!” came out once it was Froome’s and Wiggin’s turn to come past.

After a long day of spectating, I had an amazing dinner of snail casserole, chicken in cream sauce and chocolate mousse. No pictures of that, unfortunately.

I hope to be back with more pictures after Wednesday’s and Thursday’s stages.

Au revoir.
Amanda

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Off to France

We’re headed to the French Alps today for some incredible cycling–both to watch and to do ourselves.

But before we go, I thought it would be nice to show a few things (mostly non-cycling related) I’ve been up to lately.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been living and working on a farm north of Florence (via WWOOF).  They make all sorts of jams and juices from fruits that are grown in the area (raspberries, apricots, figs, blueberries).

Some of the work I had to do was strenuous, such as weeding raspberry plants in the sun for several hours, but I also had a lot of downtime to make cakes and teach myself Italian.

Wicked lampone (raspberry) plants with loads of weeds.

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Strawberry cake made with berries from the garden.

The food was delicious. The hosts were fantastic cooks who never failed to impress for both lunch and dinner.

Truffles for dinner.

I even had a chance to clean my bike really well.

After a beautiful time in the countryside, I returned to Florence and found a yoga studio I really like. I’ve been practicing almost every day and hoping that my shoulder/elbow injury will finally heal fully. There are still some poses that I can’t do without feeling pain — chaturanga & side plank on the left arm — but my left arm feels much better than it did a month or two ago.

Goodbye, Florence! See you in a week.