Of pelotons, echelons and musettes

pont du gard

Stage 16 of the Tour today went over the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct built in around 60AD.  AGMA was there in May as part of the Grand Tour of France!

It’s the time of year that all AGMA followers (with a few exceptions..) dread.

It’s TOUR DE FRANCE baby!!

Once again I’ve been transformed from a graying, dignified village elder to a giggling tweeter.  And I have 5, count ’em, 5 Tour de France fantasy teams.

AGMA loves her men in spandex!

It’s all Son#2’s fault.

My son really got into watching Le Tour in the mid 2000’s.  It actually inspired him to become a serious cyclist, health nut and nature enthusiast.  Waaaayyyy better than sitting in his bedroom playing video games…

He was a pretty good cyclist and considered going semi-pro until a “series of unfortunate events” occurred.   A shattered wrist here, a broken femur there…it all convinced him that maybe this was not a wise career choice.

He still cycles, but for fun now.

And he sort of dragged me along for the ride as far as watching the Tour de France goes.

(Get it??  Dragged me along for the “ride”?? OMG – I crack myself up!)

People always assume that because I love men’s professional cycling, I must love riding a bike.

Uh…no.

AGMA never learned how to ride as a child.   I honestly don’t know why, but it just wasn’t part of what I did.

“Learn to ride now!” people say too me all the time.  Easy for them to say.  They won’t break their collarbones when they fall.

Truth is that I’ve tried to learn.  AGMA’s okay on a straightaway, but add some hills or dips or curves, and my palms start sweating.  The reality is that it’s really hard to learn to ride a bike as an adult.  All that balance “stuff” gets hardwired in kid’s brains when they learn young, but it doesn’t work the same with adults.

I made sure both of my kids learned to ride a bike when they were young not realizing that it would indirectly lead me to a late in life odd passion.

The 2019 edition of the Tour de France is turning out to be the best AGMA’s seen in my 11 years of being a spandex groupie.

The pre-Tour favorite, Chris Froome, who has won 4 previous Tours, had a horrific crash during the 8 day Criterium du Dauphine which is a pre-Tour warm up race.  And just in case he reads AGMA (ha ha ha), heal fast Chris!  All of us miss watching you ride!

Or some of us.

Last year’s winner, Geraint Thomas, crashed out during the Tour de Suisse (another pre-Tour warm up race.) And with very few racing days in his legs, he’s still an unknown for the Tour de France in terms of his conditioning and form.  And the tumble he took from his bike today didn’t help.

Ouch.

That’s all to say that for the first time in a long time, there is no clear favorite to win this year’s Tour.

That makes it especially exciting to watch as a fan!

I can hear you now…ZZZZzzzz….

But really, it IS incredibly exciting.

For the first time in like a kazillion years, a Frenchman, Julian Alaphilippe, is leading the Tour after 16 stages and wearing the Yellow leader’s jersey.  The French press and public are going WILD!!   It’s been 34 years since a Frenchman won the Tour.  Will this be the year?

Who the hell knows??

Alaphilippe wasn’t supposed to be in the Yellow jersey after 16 stages.  He’s a Classics rider (1 day races) and a puncheur (a rider who is specializes in rolling, hilly terrain with short, steep climbs.)

He’s not a GC rider.

GC stands for general classification (as opposed to sprinters , puncheurs, climbers and time trialists). A GC rider is a rider who, at the end of a 7, 8, 9 or 21 day stage race has the fastest times, so he’s sort of a jack of all trades.  They are the riders groomed to win stage races.  ALL Tour de France winners are GC riders.

But maybe not this year??

Who the hell knows??

And that’s what makes it all so exciting!

It’s going to be a knockout, drag out fight the next 4 days.  Tomorrow’s stage moves into the foothills of the Alps.  Then all hell breaks loose on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with 3 brutal Alpine stages that will push the riders to their physical and mental limits.

Even if you’ve never watched the Tour before, I urge you to tune in later this week.  AGMA promises that you will not be bored.  It’s going to be a battle royal between some of the best male athletes in the world in some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

Then on Sunday, what is left of the 176 riders that originally started the Tour on July 6th, will ride, battered and bruised, into Paris, and finish up with a sprint on the Champs-Elysees.

What’s not to love???

And the winner of the 2019 Tour de France will be…

Who the hell knows??

OMG – I can’t wait!!

(Peloton – The main field of cyclists in a race.  Sort of like a swam of cyclists. NOT the exercise bike/program called Peloton…  (but now you know where the name came from!)

Echelon – The staggered, diagonal line that cyclists form to deal with crosswinds.  Each rider is slightly downwind from the previous rider.  Kinda like one side of the V when geese to their thing.  

Musette – bags that carry food and drinks for cyclists on long races.  Basically it’s a cyclist lunch bag.  And like kids, they throw away the stuff they don’t want to eat.)  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bad granny and the boys in spandex

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So my post last week was unexpected, and interrupted AGMA’s travel blog from her trip to Europe in July. I’m back in the swing of things now!

But rest easy. This is the third and last (keyword being last…) travel post. Then it’s back to the normal AGMA nonsense.

So in my last travel post, I was in Provence and had a mouth full of creeping crud from my prednisone. Remember?

From Provence, we trekked to the Principality of Andorra high up in the Pyrenees Mountains between the boarders of Spain and France.  You have to REALLY want to visit Andorra to get to Andorra. There is no easy way to get there.

And I REALLY wanted to visit Andorra. We were going to watch Stage 9 and 10 of the 2016 Tour de France.

Cyclists in spandex! My kinda creepy obsession…

I went to France in 2013 for the last week of the 100th Tour de France.  It was electrifying. I was hooked and have been trying to get back every since. Long suffering and patient Hubs agreed to take 3 days out of our trip to fuel AGMA’s creepy obsession.

What a guy.

We watched the cyclists on Stage 9 on their way up to a rain and hail filled finish from the comfort of the Andorran village of Ordino. No rain or hail 18K from the finish. My cowbell got a real workout.

And I found the perfect TdF T-shirt for my 20 month old grandson (pictured above.) Might as well get him indoctrinated early to his granny’s creepy obsession right?

The next day was a rest day. Normally, when I’m watching from home, I hate rest days. AGMA gets bored with no Tour to watch. But I loved the rest day in Andorra.

Rest day = cyclist stalking day.

The cyclists don’t really rest on rest days. They go out for a 2 to 3 hour easy ride in the morning so their bodies don’t freak out from no activity. They have to keep the engine running so to speak or it will shut down. And that’s not good.

Armed with my list of team hotels, I went in search of my favorite cyclists. Unfortunately, AGMA left our hotel too late to catch the teams going out for their rides, but I knew I had a chance of catching them when they got back.

AGMA went after Team Sky, a powerhouse cycling team based in Great Britain, and the team of two time TdF winner Chris Froome. He was also in the lead of this year’s TdF (with the yellow jersey) after Stage 9.

He went on to win the whole tamale this year and got his 3rd TdF win.

After waiting over an hour, the team finally came in from their ride. All but Chris Froome. The cell phone cameras went crazy. Mine included. Sadly, I lost most of those pictures the next day due to a smooth move on AGMA’s part.

I hate technology.

The fabulous thing about being a cycling fan is access. You get nearly unfetterd access to world class athletes like no other sport. You can just walk up and start talking to them and/or you can take a selfie with them and/or get their autograph. They looked tired so I opted for an autograph.

AGMA is a bad granny.

Instead of getting autographs on the notebook I brought, I got out my grandson’s cute TdF shirt, looked at the cyclists with pleading eyes and said, “Can you sign this for my grandson please?” How could they say no?

They couldn’t.

30 minutes later, Chris Froome finally rode in in his yellow jersey. The access thing doesn’t always apply to the yellow jersey – the teams tend to be very protective of their big “stars”. He pretty much stayed away from the small crowd of stalkers, but he was close enough for AGMA to get some great pictures. Most of which I lost.

He finally came up to the small group of remainig fans and signed a few autographs. I gave him the doe-eyed look and said, “Mr. Froome, could you sign this for my grandson please?” And he did.

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AGMA is a bad granny.

I have no intention of giving that T-shirt to my grandson. His parents have no appreciation of cycling. They might actually let him wear it. The horror!

AGMA’s going to wait until he gets older. Hopefully, with my influence and that of his uncle – my cycling crazy younger son – he’ll become a cycling fan too.

Then he can tell the story of how his crazy, cyclist stalking, spandex loving Nan met the best cyclist in the world and got his autograph for him.

It was a grrrrreat trip!

Oh yeah, after Andorra, we went to Lourdes, France which was amazing, then onto Pamplona, Spain for the Running of the Bulls which was insane. Totally insane!

We spent the last night of our trip, July 14th, in Barcelona before we flew home the next day.

July 14th is Bastille Day in France. The Tour de France went through Provence that day and up Mont Vonteux. Chris Froome actually RAN part of the way up due to a freak accident with a moto that crushed his bike. Nothing like that has ever happened in the TdF.  It was crazy.

It was also the day of the horrific attack in Nice that killed 85 innocent, peaceful people who were enjoying being out with friends and family, celebrating Bastille Day. Let’s hope that nothing like that ever happens again. It was beyond crazy.

AGMA went to bed that night incredibly sad, but determined to continue traveling. We can’t let this type of evil frighten us, and keep us from sowing the seeds of peace and understanding all over the world. If we stop traveling, the bad guys win.

And we can’t afford to let that happen.

Australia in November anybody?