My riding is pretty routine. If I’m honest, I am more commuter (Cat II) than anything else. Two small children, a marriage, a day job, etc., eat away at ride time until there’s little left but the 45 minutes back and forth to the office.
They are 45 good minutes.
Most days I ride an ancient, steel Moser, a beast of a bike by modern standards. It has a shortish top tube that yields a strangely upright riding position. This is a bike made to commemorate the Italian’s capture of the hour record (51.151 km) in 1984, though it rides a lot more like a classics bike. When I’m riding it, I envision Francesco in his brutish posture, hands on the hoods, torso bobbing, mud spattered, his boxer’s face contorted into a grimace. I am only half the man on the bike (perhaps just a third), but the bike fills me with that crazy hero-worshipping desire to go fast.
When it rains, I’m Jens Voigt. Like everyone’s favorite breakaway artist, I love the rain. I run hot, so the minute the wet stuff starts to fall, I get a burst of energy that causes me to take turns much faster than prudence dictates. I imagine I’m out on a breakaway. I peek back over my shoulder, as if there is some marauding peloton ready to swallow me up. Mostly there are just cars and buses, occasionally a college kid on a crappy mountain bike.
I am no kind of sprinter, but a yellow light is an invitation beyond my capacity to resist. There is, after all, a stage win at stake. I channel Sean Kelly, not a pure sprinter, but a combative one, an opportunist, the sort of guy who wouldn’t shirk the responsibility of making a traffic light if it was at all possible.
When I was a kid, one of my heroes was Evel Knievel, swashbuckling super hero on a Harley. Quite why he took to jumping his bike over cars and buses I don’t know, but I do know that my eight-year-old self always imagined himself a BMX riding equivalent. I have a long history of Walter Mitty-style day dreaming.
It’s embarrassing to admit that, at 38, I am pretending to be a retired Italian cyclist for nearly an hour-and-a-half every day, except, of course, for the times I’m pretending to be a German hammer or a red-white-and-blue clad daredevil.
The truth is I have no real interest in commuting by bicycle. Commuting is mundane. It lacks sex appeal.
I would much rather turn the hill (steep bump really) that leads to my house into the Poggio, the Tourmalet or the Gavia Pass. I greatly prefer to imagine the straight, wide road that carries me down to the river is actually the run-in to the Velodrome in Roubaix. I ride the wheels of unwitting fellow commuters as though we’re running a team time trial. I take my pulls very seriously, even though, mostly, they just drift off the back, uninterested in whatever game I’m playing.
What I do, riding back and forth, back and forth, every day, all year, in all weather, year after year, is hard. In many ways, I think the commuter is more noble than the pro racer. We do what we do with no hoopla. There is no finish line to cross. Ours is a stage race with an infinite number of stages.
In order to keep going, I take my inspiration wherever I can get it. I glance down at the decals on my old, steel beast, and I ride a little harder. Francesco wouldn’t let me ride his bike any other way.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Today we did a little tune-up ride, leaving our hotel in Ferney-Voltaire (the birthplace of Honoré Voltaire) and riding by numerous embassies down to Lac Leman and the world’s most famous fountain.
After getting all the assorted problems with my bike worked through I discovered that despite purchasing the micro SD card with European maps for my Garmin Edge 705 GPS unit, I discovered that the installation of the new map set was the moment that the GPS chose that opportunity to flatline. Great.
Getting data from rides recorded could be difficult. Need to ask the wife to overnight the Edge 205 to me. Ugh.
I shot the top image early this morning outside our hotel. The field of sunflowers had to be 10 acres. It was so postcard French as to be comical. When I first saw them my reaction was giddy. The white peak in the middle of the photograph, the one coated with a dollop of clouds is none other than Mont Blanc. As I watched it, conditions on the peak pendulumed from clear to shrouded in cloud cover and back.
Today’s ride takes in the Col de la Ramaz among others. There are lots of green lines on the Michelin maps, provided I’m willing to skip the climb up the Joux-Plane. It’s a tough call, but I’m leaning toward the Ramaz, especially as the Joux Plane is better known as a climb based on its southern face and we would be climbing the north side.