Spandex ya’ll

So not quite as timely as AGMA had hoped after my last post, but an improvement (if I do say so myself…)  Two posts in one month is promising.

But I had a VERY good reason why I am not posting until now….

Regular readers can probably guess.

Maybe.

Or have no clue.

Hints:

  1. AGMA hasn’t been able to travel internationally since March 2020.
  2. It’s July.
  3. The biggest cycling race of the year takes place in July.
  4. The biggest cycling race of the year takes place my very favorite country to visit (think wine, cheese and baguettes.).  The country of Monet, Édith Piaf, and Pepé Le Pew

YES!!

AGMA put my mask on, got on an airplane, and flew across the pond to see my boys in spandex.  

Viva la France!

It was like a religious experience.  

I had a 2 week trip planned in July 2020 to see the last week of the Tour de France plus see some other sights, but we all know how that turned out.  We barricaded ourselves in our homes (other than those who moved from Atlanta to Chicago…) in hopes of keep the contagion sweeping across the globe from landing on us.  It was a time of grave concern for our friends, family and country made worse by the total ineptitude of The Fat Orange Virus in the White House and his enablers. 

The cancellation of a pleasure trip seemed inconsequential given the ever increasing numbers in ICUs and funeral homes.

Fast forward to early June, 2021.  AGMA is healthy and fully vaccinated.  France is opening up to vaccinated American tourists in mid-June.  I’ve been watching European cycling events all spring on my laptop via a VPN (a way to get around geo-restrictions on cycling events.)

AGMA sensed a perfect storm!

I casually say to Hubs, “Would you mind if I went to France in July for a week to watch some of the Tour?” 

“Nope…”

I made my airline reservations that night.

AGMA knows the Delta variant is surging in parts of France.  But I also know that masks are mandatory pretty much in every inside space and on any form of transport there.  Hey – I survived COVID in the US when we had a “president” who wanted us to drink/inject bleach.  I felt confident I would be okay.

And it was wonderful!

Without boring those who don’t really care about the Tour de France (I will never understand you, but I still love you!), my first 2 days were spent in a town – 3 train rides away from CDG airport – called Libourne in the Bordeaux region.  It’s a charming town right on the beautiful Dordogne River, which was quite high and flowing quite fast because of all of the rain in Europe the previous 2 weeks.  Think those horrific, deadly floods in Belgium & the Netherlands.  The theme of high, fast flowing rivers followed me on my trip (both in Paris and Lyon.)

The main shopping street in Libourne
City Hall in Libourne
The very high Saône River in Lyon

Damn climate change.

I was in Libourne for the end of stage 19 and the beginning of stage 20 of the Tour de France.  Because stage 20 was a time trial and riders took off individually with a minute between each rider, I had a wonderful opportunity to see all the riders up close and personal.  I positioned myself near the beginning of the TT and close to one of the broadcasting cameras.  And some of my friends saw me on TV!

You can say you knew AGMA when…

Before all the riders had taken off, I had to hustle to catch my trains back to Paris.  The next day was the stage 21; the ride into Paris. 

On Sunday, July 18th, I went through the vaccination verification check near the Arc de Triomphe to scout a spot to watch the riders do their 8 circuits on the Champs-Élysée.  AGMA found a group of Danish fans who spoke excellent English and I settled in for the 4 hour wait until the riders showed up.

You do some very strange things for love…

Wout van Aert (Belgium) won the stage, Tadej Pogačar (Solvenia) won the yellow jersey (overall winner), the polka dot jersey (best climber), and the white jersey (best young rider). A cycling superstar at 22!

And Mark Cavandish (England), at 36, a sprinter that most people felt was way beyond his prime and the ability compete with the world’s best, won the Green jersey (best sprinter.)  And not only did he snag the Green jersey, but (and this is a WAY BIGGER deal!) tied the record of Eddy Merckx for most stages won EVER in the Tour de France.

I need a cigarette now….

What did AGMA do in France after the TdF you ask?  

I walked.  I walked for 5.5 hours in the Louvre.  I walked for hours all over Paris.  I walked more hours all over Lyon.  Hours and hours.  My new technowonder Alexa Echo watch told me that I averaged 19,000 steps a day for the 7 days I was gone.  Honestly, I didn’t know these stumpy legs had it in them.

And (this is really TMI so look away if you tend to be queasy) AGMA sweated.  Buckets.  It was hot in France.  The heat combined with hours of walking outside in the sun exacerbated by being in buildings that were supposed to be air conditioned, but…ummm…not really.  Buckets.  

It was kinda gross.

In Lyon, which is a WONDERFUL city by the way, AGMA had a COVID test per US requirements to go home.  I was negative so I had to leave the next day.

But the cherry on top of the trip was the flight home.  It was a Air France direct flight from Paris to Chicago.  And it was nearly empty. 

E.M.P.T.Y.

I was in the first cabin in economy (being the value traveler that I am.) There were 78 seats in the cabin.  There were 14 people in the cabin.  AGMA became the undisputed queen of row 20, and was able to lie totally flat to nap on the 4 middle seats.   And they gave me champagne with dinner and cognac after dinner.  

The perfect way to end a most unusual, exhausting, amazing, sweaty trip!

Viva la France!

Latern Rouge

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This is a story about bloodied bodies, broken bones, man tears, epic battles of the spirit, redemption and altruism.

Not AGMA’s normal fare.

It’s is a story within the bigger story of this year’s Tour de France.

No, no, no…PLEASE don’t close this window.  I know most of you aren’t interested in cycling but PLEASE keep reading.  Trust me – this is an incredible story.  You might even want to bring out a hankie…

Rather than go on and on about how amazing it was (it was) and how it’s the most grueling athletic event in the world (it is), AGMA wants to tell you the story of one unforgettable, brave rider.

Meet Lawson Craddock.  The 26 year old Texan was one of the 5 Americans in the TdF this year.  This was his 2nd TdF and he rides for the EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale team.

Can you imagine how much room that name takes up on their jerseys?

Men’s Elite Cycling 101 Primer (a bit of a snoozer but bear with me)…  The professional teams start training for the “Grand Tours” in January as well as the Spring Classics (1 day races) and the week long races (Tour of Switzerland and Tour of California for example.)  The Grand Tours are 3 bike races that are 21 days long – the Tour of Italy (Giro d’Italia), the Tour de France, and the Tour of Spain (Vuelta a Espana.)

Each professional team has around 26 riders on it.  For the Grand Tours, each team’s director is allowed to only select 8 riders on their team to participate in each one.  Sometimes a rider gets chosen to ride in two of the Grand Tours. Not too often though because they are grueling races (over 2000 mile each) that take place only a month or two apart from each other.

Some riders never get chosen to ride in a Grand Tour.  Sad face…  😦

But they ALL, without exception, want to ride in the Tour de France because it’s the most prestigious bike race in the world.  Yeah it is!

The professional teams announce their TdF teams about a week before the race starts.  Some riders know they are going to be on the team far in advance if they are considered a team leader.  Other are on the bubble and don’t know until a few days before the teams are announced that they’ve made the team.

Lawson was one of those riders on the bubble. He didn’t know until the last minute that he’d made the team.  His job, as the others on the EF Drapac TdF team, would be to ride in support of their team leader, Rigoberto Uran.  Rigoberto finished a surprising 2nd in the 2017 Tour, and they had high hopes that he could win the TdF in 2018.

Lawson’s rider number in the Tour was 13.  Ahh oh…  In an attempt to fend off bad luck, he wore the number upside down.  It didn’t work.

About 60 miles into Stage 1 of this year’s TdF, Lawson’s bike hit a water bottle in the Feed Zone (the area that the riders get snack bags full of treats) and crashed hard.  Really hard.  Only 60 miles into this 21 day, 2082 mile race.

Battered, bruised and with blood pouring out of a gash above his left eyebrow, he got back onto his bike and continued riding.  It’s just what cyclists do…

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Lawson as he finished Stage 1

Like other injured riders who press on after an accident, Lawson was treated by the Tour doctor.  While he was riding his bike.  While the doctor is hanging out of a convertible going 30 mph.  Crazy stuff!

Lawson finished the stage.  In last place.  During a post race interview, he broke down into tears.  He knew he had a potentially race ending injury.  All that training.  All that sacrifice.  Only to crash on the first day.  Of THE Tour.

He needed stitches to close the gash above his eyebrow.  And X-rays showed he fractured his scapula.  Plus he hurt all over.

“That’s it,” I told Hubs, “he’s out of the race.”

But we are taking about cyclists here, not soccer players.  Ouch…

That night, Lawson tweeted that he was going to start Stage 2 and ride as far as possible on the stage.  And not only was he going to start, but he pledged a $100 donation for each stage he finished to a fund to restore the Alkek Velodrome in Houston, TX that was decimated by Hurricane Harvey last year.  He challenged all of his fans to do likewise.   The Alkek Velodrome is where scores of hopeful kids in Houston get their start in bike racing.  It’s where Lawson got his start.

He started and finished Stage 2.  And Stage 3, and Stage 4, and Stage 5, and, and, and….

Stage 9 had 13.5 miles of France’s infamously rough and bumpy cobblestones.  He said he would double his donation to $200 if he finished that stage.  AGMA didn’t think he’d do it.  He did.

Through the Alps and the Pyrenees, there were 26 climbs up mountains.  Really, really big mountains.  And lots of twists and turns in the roads descending the mountains.

And as every day passed, the donations to the Alkek Velodrome kept coming in.

Stage 20 was an individual time trial.  Each cyclist rides the route by themselves as fast as they can.  The rider with the best time after all the rider have ridden the route is the stage winner.

Lawson was interviewed again after he finished his time trial on Stage 20.  There were more tears.  This time though, they were tears of unabashed relief and joy.  He was going to make it to Paris the next day for Stage 21 and finish the Tour.

Oh, did I mention there are time limits on each stage? If a rider finishes outside of that time limit, he is out of the Tour.  Poof.  Goodbye.  Five riders left the Tour because they were outside the time limit on some of the mountain stages.

Not Lawson.

One rider was DQed for being a bad boy and punching another rider.  Some riders had to abandon the race because of illness.  Other riders were injured too badly to continue.  A broken collarbone here, a fractured vertebra there, and throw in a fractured patella. Some riders just abandon because the mountains were too hard.  31 riders in all left the race before it reached Paris.

Not Lawson.

He rode across the finish line in Paris on Sunday with his EF Drapac teammates who gave him unwavering support throughout the entire 21 days of racing.

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Lawson and teammate American Taylor Phinney after they crossed the finish line in Paris on Sunday.  Taylor broke his nose when he crashed on a descent on Stage 19 and face planted on a tree.   And he rode two more stages.  With a broke nose.  And a fractured orbital plate underneath his right eye.  Only in the Tour…

Lawson rode across the finish line as the Latern Rouge of the 2018 Tour de France.

The Lantern Rouge is designation given the rider to who finishes in last place.  It’s named after the red lantern that was on the back of the caboose of a train back in the day.  Bringing up the rear – get it?

And he made a little bit of TdF history…he was the first rider to be in the Latern Rouge position at the end of each stage for the entire race.

But he finished the race.

He admitted that he was in intense pain for most of the Tour and that he wanted to quit more than once.  But the donations coming in for his beloved Velodrome keep him peddling forward.  One kilometer at a time.

Lawson was hoping to raise $2000.  As of July 30th, his campaign has raised over $225,000.

And now you know why AGMA loves her cycling so much!

 

 

 

Goats who dance

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On any given day of the week, you will find me hard at work on AGMA in my favorite coffee shop, Dancing Goats Coffee Bar.

Seriously, how can it be anything less than awesome with a name like Dancing Goats?

When I decided to start AGMA (the blog) in December of 2013, I knew I couldn’t write at home. Home was not the place to birth AGMA – too much cat hair.

I needed excitement.  I needed inspiration. I needed a place full of diverse, interesting people. I needed the stimulation of hipster surrounds.  Because AGMA – the blog and the person – is nothing if it isn’t hipster.

But most of all, I needed great coffee.

Not sure how I found Dancing Goats. It’s about 4 miles from my house so I must pass at least 6 other coffee shops on the way here. But it’s located in Decatur, GA which is a liberal enclave in the very red area surrounding Atlanta. It’s also close to world class Emory University and the all-women Agnes Scott College. DG is quite large inside with lots of seats, natural light and great wifi.

And they have great coffee.

Many a time, AGMA has come to Dancing Goats write with no clue as to what I was was going to write.  And many a time, DG has come to the rescue, providing the most interesting source material in the world – human beings. Something I see or hear will flip a rusty switch in my brain.  Actually, they’re all rusty.

Dancing Goats has provided many ah ha moments.

And did I mention they have great coffee?

My favorite seat at the high counters by the windows. On the wide end. There are 4 of them in the shop. It’s hard to explain….

During the school year, it gets really crowded. Sometimes I have to sit somewhere else. This is very definitely a 1st world problem.  But AGMA can’t seem to write as well as I can in one of the four favored seats.

Today I’m in one of the four.

This could be a Freshly Pressed post in the making.

I’ve met incredibly interesting people at DG. College professors, graduate students working on their doctorates, film industry folks, foreign visitors, business types, harried moms with their toddlers… All ages, colors, shapes and what ever else you can think of. Like I said, human beings.

…who all love great coffee.

And today, I was reminded just how much I love the staff here.

They’re normally stellar and recognize their “regulars”. AGMA tries to come once a week so I think that qualifies me as a regular…

And did I mention they make great expresso drinks?

Today, as I was ordering my mocha (fyi, AGMA is a mocha whore), the young lady behind the counter asked, “Is that a Tour de France shirt you’re wearing?”

I was stunned.  This woman was my very favorite person in the world at that moment!

“Why yes!” I said excitedly, “It starts tomorrow you know!” And I proceeded to show her the Tour de France logo on the sleeve.

“It’s official Tour de France merchandise.”

Yes, boys and girls… YES!!!

It’s what AGMA longs for 48 weeks of the year. It’s 21 days of sheer joy and delight. It’s the time of year where you will find me glued to the television (or my phone if I have to be out and about) every morning for 3 hours. It’s the biggest, most grueling annual athletic event in the world with the best athletes in the world. (Yeah – I said it…)

It’s the Tour de France!!!

(crickets)

For those of you who are relatively new to AGMA, I have this recently acquired inexplicable passion for professional men’s elite cycling. I just LOVE watching it. And it’s not the tight spandex suits these very fit young men wear.

Butt it doesn’t hurt.

I had the thrill of actually being there twice in the past 5 years, and it’s an experience like no other. It’s pretty much the best party ever!

Imagine that you are a fanatic football fan and get to go to the Super Bowl, or a crazed college basketball fan and get to go the the NCAA finals. Or (very timely) a serious soccer fan and get to go to the World Cup finals.

SSSSSSCCCCCCOOOOOORRRRRREEEEEE!

That’s what it’s like for AGMA.

They guesstimate that, in 2016, between 10 to 12 million fans lined the roadsides in France over the Tour’s 3 week duration.

It’s really a sad that, once Lance Armstrong fell from grace (as he should have),  American interest in cycling shriveled up like Cadet Bonespur’s winkie.

But that’s another post (on the state of American cycling, NOT CB’s winkie…)

AGMA will try very hard to find time to post over the next three weeks, but I’m making no guarantees.

I’m going to be very busy managing my four – countem’, FOUR – TdF fantasy cycling teams. I’ll report how well my teams did in August.

AGMA knows you’ll be holding your breath until then.  Naturally.

Watch out world, the SpandexAvengers are on the loose!!

I need a cigarette…

Cycles, Wars & Wines

Frites all over Belgium.  All. Over. This was a shop in Antwerp that we enjoyed.  They have frites shops/stands like we have hamburger joints in the US.  Word has it that fries were invented in Belgium, but were given that name “French fries” because WWI soldiers got confused because the people in the Flanders part of Belgium speak French.

AGMA loves to travel.

But then you knew that.

Surprisingly, I’m getting a bit burned out on travel. Actually more than a bit.

WTF? Yes…

AGMA’s sure it’s just a temporary condition. AGMA HOPES it’s just a temporary condition.

But seriously….six weeks after I got back from a 2 week trip to Spain/Portugal with a friend, Hubs and I left for a two week trip to Belgium & France. Two days after we got back from Belgium/France last week, we left for a wedding in Nashville.

It was a beautiful wedding by the way…

We got back on Sunday and leave next week for 5 days in Chicago to visit the grands. And their parents. Of course.

Too much travel – definitely a 1st World problem and a really good one at that. But as Hubs can attest to, when AGMA gets pooped, she gets pooped.

And I’m pooped.

Today Hubs suggested a short getaway to NOLA in June because airfares were on sale. I told him to take Son #2, who will be soon unemployed (his choice – he took ‘the package’) and available for junkets. I hope they go.

I’d actually love to have the house to myself for a few days.

So before AGMA turns into a total travel troll, for your entrainment and delight (I’m sure…), I’m sharing a few of the best pictures (not the ones of the ground, my lap, my fingers, etc…) of what I like to call our Cycles, Wars and Wines trip.

I promise it won’t be the 240 pictures that Hubs shared on Facebook. OMG….

First for the Cycles. And you know AGMA loves those young men in spandex!

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So the famous Cobbled Classic bike race, the Tour of Flanders (Ronde Van Vlaanderan) is a one day race that takes place in Belgium.  And it starts in Antwerp.  And at the frite shop that we went to in Antwep (pictured at the top of my post), this was ALL the sauces that you could put on your frites!.  Ketchup is so yesterday…

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Night falling on the Grote Markt (main square) in Antwerp.  AGMA loved Antwerp (over Gent, Brussels and even Bruges!)  The construction in the foreground became the main stage of the start of the Tour of Flanders where the riders signed in.

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A day of spring sunshine brought Antwerpians (??) out to the Groenplaats in Antwerp.  The sunshine didn’t last….

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We’re now in the tiny village of Kwaremont, Belgium where there is a very narrow , steep hill full of cobblestones (called The Kwaremont) that is one of the famous climbs in the Tour of Flanders.   Riders have to ride up not one, not two, but three times! AGMA could barely walk up it….  Oh – and the sunshine and mild temps of Antwerp did not show up in Kwaremont,

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Though a wonderful Belgian organization called Inter that promotes accessibility to sporting events and festivals, we had a GREAT view of the goings on at the top of The Kwaremont.  You know the riders are close when their team cars pass though.  AGMA’s excitement was building….

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My fav rider, World Champion Peter Sagan from Slovakia.  You can tell it was a cold day because the riders are somewhat (for professional cyclists) bundled up.  And so is the crowd.  And so was AGMA.  And Sagan didn’t win – he finished 6th.

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The main square of the town of Oudenaarde, Belgium.  The finish line is just outside of town.  We visited Oudenaarde the day before the race to explore the town, go to the Tour of Flanders Museum (yes there is!) and see the riders in the Tour of Flanders Sportive.  This event takes place a day before the ‘real’ race and allows any cyclist who thinks they have the right stuff to ride part of the course (some ride the whole course – 273km!) There were 3000 riders who rode the Sportive this year.  And I think they all stopped in Oudenaarde for a beer afterwards.

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The official finish line with Sportive riders coming in.  Son#2, the cyclist, rode the Sportive a few years ago and says the vast majority of the Sportive riders are MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Latex.)

Sunshine, mild temps, riders not bundled up…  Dorothy, I don’t think we’re at the Tour of Flanders anymore.  And you would be right!  We are in a tiny town in France called Maing.  This is another very famous one day Cobbled Classic race called Paris Roubaix.  We drove 100 minutes from Epernay, France and 100 minutes back to watch 5 minutes of bike racing in Maing.  Hubs is a total saint for indulging AGMA’s weird cycling compulsion!  Here’s Peter Sagan again.  And yeah – we were that close to the riders.  And he won!

The guy in the pink helmet is Taylor Phinney, the only rider from the US who was in Paris Roubaix this year.  One thing I adore about cyclists is how incredibly tough they are.  In 2014, at the age of 23, at the US Nationals Road Race, Phinney totally shattered one of his legs in a horrific crash.  He’s worked incredibly hard to come back from that near career ending accident to ride in the Tour de France last year and finish 8th at this Paris Roubaix.  And he is a total character.  When he’s interviewed, he sounds like a laid back California surfer dude, and has a never ending supply of wise sayings and smiles.

Sooo…yikes…this post has gotten way longer than I had intended so I’m going to give you a breather.

And let you heave a sigh of relief that that cycling “stuff” is done. Heathens…

Just kidding.  Not really.

Wars and Wine shortly…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Trashedroom

…and breakfast and lunch and spending the night?

It’s AGMA!

Sorry about posting late this week – I’ve been in Richmond, Virginia all week doing what I love to do. Second to blogging that is…

I’m watching cycling! The UCI Road World Cycling Championships to be precise. It’s pretty awesome and I’m as giddy as a NRA lobbyist in Texas.

Don’t cringe. I promised no more bat*hit crazy cycling posts. Until next year…

When I first checked last December (yes – I said last December), hotel rates in downtown Richmond were sky high. Most were already sold out. Looks like I’m not the only bat*hit crazy one.

Just sayin’.

So, to be able to afford to be in the middle of things for nine nights during this world famous international cycing event, I decided to clear the cobwebs out and think like a Millennial.

I Airb&b’ed it.

Right now, I’m in my own large, fully stocked and furnished one bedroom flat that I booked way back in December. It’s a half block off the Road Race course, three blocks away from another part of the course, and a little over a mile from the finish line. Nice.

Even better, it’s less than $100 a night. Sweet.

This past June, a conundrum evolved. I decided to go to Richmond three days earlier than planned, but my Airb&b place was booked for those extra nights. And all of the other available “Entire Place” category offerings were ridiculously expensive. I guess they figured out this was a pretty big deal for their city. Duh.

Airb&b has three categories for their offerings – Entire Place, Private Room & Shared Room.

Seriously? A shared room? Even in my not-aging-gracefully open mind, can I imagine a scenario in which a shared room would EVER be an option. So that category was out.

I could do a private room, right? It’s like being a house guest, right? But to complete strangers. Who could be gun toting weirdos or self-proclaimed vampires or worse….

Donald Trump supporters.

I shuddered.

But I figured the people offering the room were taking a bigger risk than me. A way bigger risk. They had no idea who or what was going to walk through their door.

My search turned up a charming room in a home in a great location (still in the middle of things), and the hosts had good reviews from former guests. Perfect.

And it was less than $60 a night. Sweet again.

Happily, it turned out that they weren’t gun toting weirdos (that I could see) or self-proclaimed vampires (at least they didn’t sleep all day and go out at night). Or Donald Trump supporters. You can pretty much pick up on that cray cray radar after about two minutes.

Most of the time, I felt like they got the short end of the straw. I creaked across their old wooden floors three times a night to use the bathroom, used copious amounts of their toilet paper and forced them to listen to my amusing (in my mind) stories about my most interesting and fascinating life. And cycling. ZZZzzz…

But they were delightfully charming about all of it and even chuckled at my stories. They even gave me a lovely guest review. Tear.

After AGMA though, I wonder if they’ll continue to do AirB&B? I wonder if they’re willing to take the risk of getting another AGMA? I guess I could have been worse than just normal AGMA weird.

So now I’m thinking…

We have a room in our house with it’s own bathroom. We’re in a great area of Atlanta and on a bus line. Maybe we could make a few extra buck taking in lodgers. I can be charming and chuckle at boring stories. I can buy toilet paper at Costco. And our floors don‘t creak.

I’m picturing the sign now:  Ma AGMA’s Rooming House. No guns, vampires or Donald Trump supporters allowed

Does that violate some kind of equal access or ADA law?

I sure hope not.

Batsh*t one last time

…in 2015 that is.

I know, I know.  I said I’d post my last Tour de France post before Sunday.  I meant to say by Sunday.  By midnight on Sunday.  In my time zone.  So I’ve got like over three hours to spare.

Tada!  Here it is!

Still crickets…

But OMG – I now totally understand why people do those fantasy league thingys! American football, soccer, basketball, baseball; I could never understand why these fantasy leagues are so popular.

Until now.

This year, AGMA decided to participate in the NBC Fantasy Cycling Challenge and is now O-B-S-E-S-S-E-D!   Notches up the enjoyment of watching like 100%.  I didn’t know that was even possible…   You “hire” 15 riders but get a total salary “budget” so you can’t just pick all the awesome riders.  Crap.  Now I’m angsting every night about my 9 rider “starting” line up.  It’s so much fun!

So I’m finding even more ways to love my beloved TdF.  Even more ways to be batsh*t crazy about it.  Lucky you.

Here’s my final post from last year.  I can here an audible sigh of relief from some of you.  Okay, most of you.

Thank you all for indulging AGMA this week!  I mean, if you can’t share your passion with your friends, who can you share it with?  Ya’ll are the best!

Batsh*t Crazy Part III (originally published 7/26/14)

archdetri

I don’t want to whine, but it’s lonely being a Tour de France fan.

Most people don’t understand why the hell you watch it. And they sure don’t want to hear about what happened on yesterday’s action packed stage that you are bursting to share with somebody. Anybody. Hello….

You end up talking to the barista at Starbucks or the checkout person at Target. They’re at work; they can’t walk away from you. Captive audiences. Maybe I should go to some cycling shops to “browse”. When one of the employees asks if they can help me, I can say, “How about the stage of the Tour yesterday? Crazy, right?”

Not just crazy. It’s batsh*t crazy.

So, the great thing about my trip to France last year was that I was surrounded by people with the same obsession. They know who the riders are and what teams they’re on. And what a GC rider and a peloton is. And, most important, they know that the English language television announcers of the Tour are like rock stars!

Yeah – rock stars.

Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin are the Tour announcers who broadcast to all English speaking countries. Bob Roll, or “Bobke”, is a former American professional cyclist who augments – along with a couple of other guys – the broadcast for American audiences. All 37 of us.  R-O-C-K S-T-A-R-S.

I had my picture taken with all three. Now just let that it sink in.

It happened this way children… On that first fateful day of my TdF experience last year – Stage 17 in Chorges, France – remember, just when I though things could not get any better? They did. Both are long stories – blah, blah, blah. But I got to meet Bobke and Paul. This is a big deal and the 36 other people in the US who are cycling fans understand this.

These guys, along with all of the other media type folks and broadcast vans from all over the world, are behind an impenetrable fortress of chain link fencing at each stage finish. No credentials = no access. Without access, it’s hard to stalk…eh…talk to you’re favorite “rock star” announcers.

Honestly, it was dumb luck. It was being in the right place at the right time. Twice. It was being bold enough to holler “Hello!” Asking if they’d mind getting their picture taken with you. Granted, the pictures are with them on one side of the chain link fence and me on the other, but I’m getting the “shoulder touch” from both.

R-O-C-K S-T-A-R-S.

Our group went on to watch three other stages in the French Alps. I couldn’t even get close to the media area for me to try to stalk…eh…find Phil Liggett, the missing link in my triumvirate of cycling broadcast gods.

Then, quite unexpectedly, in Paris, the amazing city of lights, magic happened. Ah Paris!

Stage 21 of the 100th edition of the Tour de France. The cyclists were going to be coming into Paris at dusk. It was 90 degrees F at 9AM.

To kill time, I decided to walk down the entire Champs Elysees from the Arch d’Triumph to the Place de la Concorde. Wanted to “soak” up the TdF experience. It was hot, humid and crowded. I was soaking it up alright…

Almost at the end of my walk, by the media trucks and busses, BEFORE of the chain link fence was erected, I spied HIM. It was Phil out in the open – no credentials needed. He was a sitting duck! I walked up to him and babbled like a tweener meeting Davy Jones at a 1968 Monkees concert. Some nice bystander took a picture of us. Got the “shoulder touch” again. Yeah – that’s right. I needed a cigarette. I don’t smoke.

The fence eventually went up, the cyclists arrived, the Arch d’Triumph lit up, the awards given and it was over. It would have been a serious let down if I hadn’t stayed in Paris 10 more days… Ah Paris!

The 2014 Tour de France ends tomorrow. I’ve been watching it on TV. I’m in Atlanta.

Pass the Prozac please.

Guano loco parte II

Hello….   Anybody out there?

(crickets)

As expected, I’m a stranger in a strange land.  A voice crying out in the wilderness.  A Tour de France fan.

I told somebody who commented on my last post that I won’t extend the “torture” too long.  The other two promised (threatened?) posts will be catipulted into the blog-o-sphere in the sky by Sunday.  Next week, the AGMA you know and love, that crazy, wacky, post-menopausal imp will be back with her “normal” abby-normal musings.  My cycling maniac persona will go back into retirement.

At least until next year when, I’m sure, all hell will break lose and I’ll totally lose control. Again.

Batsh*t Crazy Part II (originally published on 7/16/2014)

KeepCalm
Yeah – I’m going to write about the Tour de France again. I warned you in my last blog post that you’d hear more about it. Sorry. But ya’ll know that even if you don’t like professional cycling or sports in general, there may be a few things to smile at below…

And I can use “ya’ll” because I live in Georgia.

Today is the first anniversary of a most momentous occasion in my life. One of THE most momentous occasions of my life. It ranks right up there with my wedding day, the birth of my two children and the time I got to see “Dancing With The Stars” live. But probably not in that order…

A year ago today, I stepped off a train in Grenoble, France. I had a bag full of American flags and custom t-shits, a digital camera full of pixels waiting to be pixelated, and visions of rotating road bike wheels and cyclists in spandex in my head. I was on a pilgrimage. I was excited beyond words. I was going to see the Tour de France!

My roommate during this adventure was a delightful 36 year old woman from Australia who didn’t mind rooming with a woman old enough to be her mother. Easily. Actually, there were quite a few Aussies in our tour group. Australians are wild and crazy cycling fans. They dress up in crazy hats and wave very large Australia flags. They have blow up kangaroos and blow up guitars. They like to drink beer before, during and after the race. Of course, I hung out with them instead of the Americans. Duh.

Before I left the USA, I had custom t-shirts made up to take with me. The first one cheered on the American cyclists. It had all their names listed on the front and on the back it said “Born in the USA”. The second one said “I (heart) le Tour de France 2013” on the front and “Please sign here” in French on the back. I had fellow travelers and strangers by the side of the road sign it as a keepsake. The third one, my favorite – see above – said “Keep Calm and Shut Up Legs” in honor of my cycling hero and huge cycling fan favorite, Jens Voigt. “Shut up legs” is his famous – amoung cycling fans – catch phrase. The back said “Jens Y’all”. Yeah…Georgia.

I wish I could say I was making this up, but sadly it’s all true. My name is Aging Gracefully My Ass, I have no life, and I’m a uber geek.

There are 21 Stages (cycling days) to the Tour. Our first big day watching the Tour live and in person was on Stage 17, a time trial stage. Normally, at the end of a “regular” racing stage, the cyclists go to a restricted area with their team buses that’s off-limits to the general public. General public like me. Bummer. But if you have lots and lots of money then it’s possible to get what they call “VIP Access”. No $$=no access. Bummer.

Without going into detail that’s boring – but it’s probably too late – under the right conditions, a time trial stage can give you unrestricted, uncensored access to these incredible world class athletes. It’s like hanging out with the German team right after the World Cup or chilling in the locker room with the winning team at the Super Bowl or being back stage during “Dancing With The Stars”. Like “you can see the glitter on their sequins” access. Serious.

We had the right conditions last year.

And that’s when this late middle age cycling fan’s dreams came true… I saw some of my very favorite elite professional cyclists up close and personal. Like “you could smell their sweat” up close and personal. Like “get an autograph and a hug” up close and personal. Like “have a conversation with Brent Bookwalter” up close and personal. At this point, my experience was getting close to exceeding that of my wedding, the birth of my children AND “Dancing With The Stars”.

Combined.

The scales tipped and I went over the edge of “best experience ever” when I met The Jensie (Jens Voigt’s nickname.) He signed my “Keep Calm and Shut Up Legs” t-shirt. While I was wearing it. I think he may be my “senior crush”. He was the oldest cyclist in the Tour last year at the ripe old age of 41. He’s the oldest cyclist in this year’s Tour. I’m old enough to be his mother. Okay – a very young mother but still… Does this make me a cougar?

Okay, this post is getting too long and there are still LOTS of good stories to tell. One more post maybe…? It’ll be the last, I promise.

Batsh*t Crazy Part III – coming soon to a WordPress blog near you!

Still batsh*t crazy after all these years

Okay – I’m free-handing this.  Normally I type my posts into Pages and edit the crap out of them before I post.

Not today.

Today, I’m a woman of few words.  Today, I’m honoring the start (this past Saturday) of the GREATEST SPORTING EVENT EVER in the history of the world.  Today, I’m reposting a series of posts (one at a time) from last year.   I’m not reposting because I’m lazy (maybe a little), but because I pretty much said it all last year and, as of Saturday, it’s seriously begging to be said again.

Join me.  Be part of AGMA’s strange and unlikely passion.  I need a cigarette…  Again.

Batsh*t Crazy (originally published on 7/7/2014)

crazyfans

Some people love professional football (American or the other kind), basketball, hockey and/or baseball.  Translation… love = go batsh*t crazy for.  They plunge into a deep and wide valley of depression when the season is over.  The Internet provides a critical, possibly life saving service to these diehard (translation… diehard = batsh*t crazy) fans.  They‘re able to connect with other like-minded (translation… like-minded = batsh*t crazy) fans via email, message boards and social media.  They can immerse themselves into an alternate reality, like a 14 year old with World of Warcraft, that appears to decrease the anxiety of the wait until the start of new season.  My husband is one of these types.  I’m thankful.  It keeps him off the streets.

Some people live for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and the chance to relieve Warren Buffett of (say it like Dr. Evil) “one billion dollars” with their bracket selections. This year I got ten correct picks out of a possible sixty three.  Banner year for me.

Some people have been in a state of ultimate bliss since the World Cup started on June 12th.  The “every four year” type of event allows for forty seven months of depression and hysteria-building.  That’s pretty special.

I watched the USA vs. Belgium match last week at a very crowded, hot, stinky bar.  I’m on the wagon, was at least 15 years older than the next oldest person there, had to stand up the entire game crammed up against a very large sweaty man who was drunk, and the USA lost.  It pretty much sucked for me.  I did win $36 in an idiot proof random pool though.  That notched me up to being okay with it all…

Add Wimbledon (OMG) into the mix and some people out there have been chain smoking since Sunday they’re so positively orgasmic.

But honestly, none of the above can even remotely compare to the greatest sporting event in the entire universe which started last Saturday.  I see heads nodding out there in total agreement…

The Tour de France! Ta da!

(cue cricket sounds…)

No really – it is!  Everyday for three weeks in July, I’m glued to the TV set for 5 to 6 hours starting at 6:30 AM or so to be able to watch it live.  It’s way better when you watch it live.   Except for the commercials.   You get really tired of the same seven commercials after three weeks.

Of course I DVR the entire thing as well.  You never know when you might need to revisit a particularly interesting section of cobbles that caused three cyclists to brake their collar bones.  Or see moronic, idiotic fans get mowed down again while trying to take selfies in the middle of the road with their backs to 200 charging cyclists.  It’s all great fun!

My son’s to blame. He became interested in cycling as a hobby during the late 2000’s and was smitten. Instead of a daughter-in-law, I have three-bikes-in-law – road, time trial and mountain.  And two grandkittens.  I think that’s going to be it from him.

He started watching the Tour de France right before he took up cycling.  It inspired him.  I started watching it with him for a little “mother-son” bonding time.  But it all seemed a bit silly – grown men riding bikes trying to beat each other to Paris over three weeks. It would have taken them a lot less time to get there if they had taken a direct route, but they went all over kingdom come to finally end up in Paris.  What was up with that?  I did, however, love the breathtaking scenery on many of the stages and those fit young men in their little biking shorts.  Hey – I’m old, not dead!  Aging gracefully my ass…

Over the course of the next two years, I learned the real skinny about professional cycling.  The Tour de France (and other similar cycling races) is an athletic symphony blending world class talent, strength, skill, courage, daring, strategy, dedication and intelligence in the perfect song of sport.  I’m not biased.  Really.

Expect to hear more from me on this in the next three weeks.

Cycling = Best. Sport. Ever.

Yeah – I’m batsh*t crazy.

Batsh*t Crazy Part III

archdetri

I don’t want to whine, but it’s lonely being a Tour de France fan.

Most people don’t understand why the hell you watch it.  And they sure don’t want to hear about what happened on yesterday’s action packed stage that you are bursting to share with somebody. Anybody.  Hello….

You end up talking to the barista at Starbucks or the checkout person at Target.  They’re at work; they can’t walk away from you. Captive audiences.  Maybe I should go to some cycling shops to “browse”.  When one of the employees asks if they can help me, I can say, “How about the stage of the Tour yesterday?  Crazy, right?”

Not just crazy.  It’s batsh*t crazy.

So, the great thing about my trip to France last year was that I was surrounded by people with the same obsession.  They know who the riders are and what teams they’re on.  And what a GC rider and a peloton is.  And, most important, they know that the English language television announcers of the Tour are like rock stars!

Yeah – rock stars.

Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin are the Tour announcers who broadcast to all English speaking countries.  Bob Roll, or “Bobke”, is a former American professional cyclist who augments – along with a couple of other guys – the broadcast for American audiences.  All 37 of us.  R-O-C-K S-T-A-R-S!

I had my picture taken with all three.  Now just let that it sink in.

It happened this way children…  On that first fateful day of my TdF experience last year – Stage 17 in Chorges, France – remember, just when I though things could not get any better?  They did.  Both are long stories – blah, blah, blah.  But I got to meet Bobke and Paul. This is a big deal and the 36 other people in the US who are cycling fans understand this.

These guys, along with all of the other media type folks and broadcast vans from all over the world, are behind an impenetrable fortress of chain link fencing at each stage finish.  No credentials = no access.  Without access, it’s hard to stalk…eh…talk to you’re favorite “rock star” announcers.

Honestly, it was dumb luck.  It was being in the right place at the right time.  Twice.  It was being bold enough to holler “Hello!” Asking if they’d mind getting their picture taken with you.  Granted, the pictures are with them on one side of the chain link fence and me on the other, but I’m getting the “shoulder touch” from both.    R-O-C-K S-T-A-R-S.

Our group went on to watch three other stages in the French Alps.  I couldn’t even get close to the media area for me to try to stalk…eh…find Phil Liggett, the missing link in my triumvirate of cycling broadcast gods.

Then, quite unexpectedly, in Paris, the amazing city of lights, magic happened. Ah Paris!

Stage 21 of the 100th edition of the Tour de France.  The cyclists were going to be coming into Paris at dusk.  It was 90 degrees F at 9AM.

To kill time, I decided to walk down the entire Champs Elysees from the Arch d’Triumph to the Place de la Concorde.  Wanted to “soak” up the TdF experience.  It was hot, humid and crowded.  I was soaking it up alright…

Almost at the end of my walk, by the media trucks and busses, BEFORE of the chain link fence was erected, I spied HIM.  It was Phil out in the open – no credentials needed.  He was a sitting duck! I walked up to him and babbled like a tweener meeting Davy Jones at a 1968 Monkees concert.   Some nice bystander took a picture of us.  Got the “shoulder touch” again.  Yeah – that’s right.  I needed a cigarette. I don’t smoke.

The fence eventually went up, the cyclists arrived, the Arch d’Triumph lit up, the awards given and it was over.  It would have been a serious let down if I hadn’t stayed in Paris 10 more days…  Ah Paris!

The 2014 Tour de France ends tomorrow.  I’ve been watching it on TV.  I’m in Atlanta.

Pass the Prozac please.

Batsh*t Crazy Part II

KeepCalm

Yeah – I’m going to write about the Tour de France again.  I warned you in my last blog post that you’d hear more about it.  Sorry.  But ya’ll know that even if you don’t like professional cycling or sports in general, there may be a few things to smile at below…

And I can use “ya’ll” because I live in Georgia.

Today is the first anniversary of a most momentous occasion in my life.  One of THE most momentous occasions of my life.  It ranks right up there with my wedding day, the birth of my two children and the time I got to see “Dancing With The Stars” live.  But probably not in that order…

A year ago today, I stepped off a train in Grenoble, France.  I had a bag full of American flags and custom t-shits, a digital camera full of pixels waiting to be pixelated, and visions of rotating road bike wheels and cyclists in spandex in my head.  I was on a pilgrimage.  I was excited beyond words.  I was going to see the Tour de France!

My roommate during this adventure was a delightful 36 year old woman from Australia who didn’t mind rooming with a woman old enough to be her mother.  Easily.  Actually, there were quite a few Aussies in our tour group.  Australians are wild and crazy cycling fans.  They dress up in crazy hats and wave very large Australia flags.  They have blow up kangaroos and blow up guitars. They like to drink beer before, during and after the race.  Of course, I hung out with them instead of the Americans.  Duh.

Before I left the USA, I had custom t-shirts made up to take with me. The first one cheered on the American cyclists.  It had all their names listed on the front and on the back it said “Born in the USA”. The second one said “I (heart) le Tour de France 2013” on the front and “Please sign here” in French on the back.  I had fellow travelers and strangers by the side of the road sign it as a keepsake.  The third one, my favorite – see above – said “Keep Calm and Shut Up Legs” in honor of my cycling hero and huge cycling fan favorite, Jens Voigt.   “Shut up legs” is his famous – amoung cycling fans – catch phrase.  The back said “Jens Y’all”.   Yeah…Georgia.

I wish I could say I was making this up, but sadly it’s all true.  My name is Aging Gracefully My Ass, I have no life, and I’m a uber geek.

There are 21 Stages (cycling days) to the Tour.  Our first big day watching the Tour live and in person was on Stage 17, a time trial stage.  Normally, at the end of a “regular” racing stage, the cyclists go to a restricted area with their team buses that’s off-limits to the general public.  General public like me.  Bummer.  But if you have lots and lots of money then it’s possible to get what they call “VIP Access”.  No $$=no access.  Bummer.

Without going into detail that’s boring – but it’s probably too late – under the right conditions, a time trial stage can give you unrestricted, uncensored access to these incredible world class athletes.  It’s like hanging out with the German team right after the World Cup or chilling in the locker room with the winning team at the Super Bowl or being back stage during “Dancing With The Stars”.  Like “you can see the glitter on their sequins” access. Serious.

We had the right conditions last year.

And that’s when this late middle age cycling fan’s dreams came true…  I saw some of my very favorite elite professional cyclists up close and personal.  Like “you could smell their sweat” up close and personal.  Like “get an autograph and a hug” up close and personal. Like “have a conversation with Brent Bookwalter” up close and personal.  At this point, my experience was getting close to exceeding that of my wedding, the birth of my children AND “Dancing With The Stars”.

Combined.

The scales tipped and I went over the edge of “best experience ever” when I met The Jensie (Jens Voigt’s nickname.)  He signed my “Keep Calm and Shut Up Legs” t-shirt.  While I was wearing it.  I think he may be my “senior crush”.  He was the oldest cyclist in the Tour last year at the ripe old age of 41.  He’s the oldest cyclist in this year’s Tour.  I’m old enough to be his mother.  Okay – a very young mother but still…  Does this make me a cougar?

Okay, this post is getting too long and there are still LOTS of good stories to tell.  One more post maybe…?  It’ll be the last, I promise.

Batsh*t Crazy Part III – coming soon to a WordPress blog near you!