Watch the Tour of Romandie

stage 4

Stage 4 Promo Video

I haven’t had a lot of motivation to train since last fall.  Hip tendonosis, herniated discs, a tired brain, bad weather, marking papers and the Jets kept me from getting much exercise over the winter.  The byproduct of my apathy is a comfortable layer of fat around the mid section, lungs that seem to have shrunk to half their previous size and legs that want to quit after an hour of pedaling.  I need some outside help to get this ship moving before it retires permanently to dry dock.mEnter the Tour of Romandie and stage 4, which will take place tomorrow.

When Yvonne and I ran our little bicycle tour enterprise in Europe, one of our riding days was a 105 km loop from the alpine town of Juan, over the Juan Pass, down the most awesome descent a roadie could ever hope to ride, up and over to Saanenmoser for coffee and eclairs, through Gruyere for some cheese, and then back to Juan through the town of Charmay. Tomorrow’s stage will follow much of this route and then take in part of my once usual Saturday loop, going from Gstaad and Gsteig, over the Col de Pillon and ending in the town of Leysin. I watched the promotional video that the TDR put out for stage 4 and felt like I was on my bike again, hurtling down from the Juan Pass at 80-90 km/hr.  Sitting in my easy chair I felt 20 years younger and 20 lbs lighter.  (At the present rate of weight gain I’ll be 223 by the time I’m 77.) My hands remembered the hurt of braking into the hairpins and my eyes started tearing. Is it the wind of the downhill or the heroic music in the video making me nostalgic. The climb through Gstaad and Gsteig is a nice steady one, and is followed by another long fast downhill that ends with the climb back to Leysin. My lungs are burning just thinking of the 12% leg buster at the beginning of that final climb. In my present condition I imagine my heart would be hammering along at 240 bpm just trying to keep the bike moving. The video short changes the climbs but makes up for it with a lot of downhill footage.  Oh the downhills!  So now the question; am I willing to put in the work to get back some of the fitness needed to ride these climbs?  Am I willing to hurt for a while in order to enjoy tackling some mountain passes in the west this summer? Or should I become a cycling pedestrian, cycling only flat roads on windless days, and dreaming about what once was. I guess time will tell!

Enjoy the video.

Mennonites In Tights Invade Amish Country

As a youth growing up in Dauphin I proudly explained to the Ukrainians and Scots of that community that I was of Mennonite heritage.  The most common misconception was that Mennonites rejected such conveniences of modern life as electricity and automobiles.  It was a challenge to explain to my 13 year-old friends the religious distinctions that made Mennonites, Old Mennonites, Hutterites, Haldemans and Amish different from one another.  Having lived in Indiana however I knew that the Old Order Mennonites and the Amish were the ones that rejected that unnatural  and pride inducing beast known as the automobile in favour of the lowly horse.  I suppose that there is something humbling about sitting in the buggy up close to the ass of the horse that prevents pride from welling up in the breast of the owner.

wisconsin-amish-kingston

Many Mennonites have moved so far from their roots that Menno Simons would be appalled that they still identify themselves with him.  Most Mennonites have also quite readily accepted the material offerings of modern life making them indistinguishable from the non-Mennonites around. The Amish on the other hand cling to life as it was in the 1700’s and have left a unique cultural imprint on the landscape from Pennsylvania to Minnesota.

Vernon County Wisconsin is Amish country.  The roads also make it cycling utopia. Combine the two and you have the perfect setting for a great cycling holiday.  While the Mennonites in Tights are addicted to the Red Wing Diner and the Cat Sass, occasionally it is necessary to get out of the comfort zone and experience some new terrain.  Three of the Mennonites in Tights and one wife made the trip to cycle and spitzier with the Amish.

The 3 Mennos

Menno Invasion

Highlites:  Cheap cheese curds and top notch Westby sharp cheddar, cheap hotel and some good talks with the owner (Louis from Serbia), cheap gas, classy Badger Crossing eatery next door to Bobby Johns in Cashton which gave us endless cups of coffee.  A friendly lady from Chicago that gave the writer a ride to his hotel after he destroyed his derailleur, a fine bike shop called the Blue Dog whose owner provided his own Kona road bike so that the author could complete his riding vacation, bombing the downhills with Rocket Rob, surviving the near hairpin turn after going into a high speed wobble into Soldiers Grove, the descent into Chaseburg, strolling with my honey in Viroqua, shady lanes and big hardwoods, Amish farms.

badger2

Badger Crossing yes, Bobby Johns next door no!

chicken

$6.50 Chicken Dinner Special

wedding

Justin couldn’t make it, he’s at a wedding in B.C. At least I kept my shirt on!

Downers: Cheap family restaurant in Viroqua that gave us 5 ounce steaks for the price of a 10 ounce (after much cajoling they realized the error of their ways and turned 5 ounces into 15), Phil’s Soggy Bottom Supper Club not catering to the public, a trashed Campagnolo Super Record derailleur that was anything but cheap,  chasing Jack Rabbit Rempel up the climbs, the 17% grade on the Apple Orchard road out of Gays Mills after consuming an enormous and delicious sub sandwich, Curt and I almost crashing on the last corner into Soldiers Grove, having to admit that Curt might be correct about the body adding fat when it is being slogged to death on the climbs (I weigh more than when I left!)

Final Impressions:  Another great cycling vacation in Vernon County with excellent cycling companions, gorgeous scenery, endless route options, and the most fun on the downhills since riding in the Black Forest and the Alps.

S Turns on the fast descent down Sveum Road into Coon Valley

S Turns on the fast descent down Sveum Road into Coon Valley

packers

How do you know you are in Wisconsin?

orchard

Eve sampling the forbidden fruit!

Jimmy Salmon N. Reunion Ride

Saturday MIT holds its first Jimmy Salmon N. Reunion Ride.  It has been a while since Jimmy moved to the Big Fish, so if you are interested in hearing exciting tales from the west and hearing about the adventures of the Sir Ernest Shackleton West Broadview Debating Society, join us for Saturday’s ride. Due to it being graduation day and Merle H. having to get back in time to fulfill his parental duty and celebrate his daughter’s success at having made it through the public school system, the ride may start at 7:00. Check the schedule to see if the ride meister has o.k.ed the schedule change.jim

The Three Wise men

Remy’s dust up with the shoulder this last week reminded all of us of our own experiences with the nastier side of the sport. Over the last few days I have coincidentally come across a number of stories about pros who have rebounded from adversity.  Taylor Phinney (BMC) and Chad Haga (Giant Alpecin) both had near career ending crashes. At the same time both were able to look at the benefits of having to face adversity.  Taylor Phinney – “That accident helped me to broaden my horizons so much, I’m truly grateful for the experience. It’s given me a completely different outlook on what I’m doing in life.  Chad Haga – “I hug everyone a bit tighter now. It can all end very quickly. I try not to think about it too much, or think that I shouldn’t ride again. I want to live my life the best way I know how, and God will decide.” Adversity comes in many forms. Velonews posted a story today about Evan Huffman (formerly of Astana) who, while not facing recovery from a crash, failed in his bid to find success racing in Europe. “I think from the outside it looks really bad, in a lot of ways, to go to a WorldTour team and then come back down. It seems like a failure. But I don’t really feel that way. I think that I learned a lot. Even now, this year, having been back for a year, I’m still drawing on those experiences and those lessons that I learned from Astana to be successful now. So I don’t have any regrets.”

Giant Alpecin Crash

Cycling has received a bad reputation as countless pros have betrayed the ethic of sport and have accepted that its ok to “win at all costs”.  Doubt and skepticism accompany the achievements of all in the Peloton. By contrast, Huffman sports two tattoos; on one arm is “truth” and on the other “grace”.  While these are testimonies to Huffman’s deeply held faith in God, they are also statements about a commitment to engage sport and life at another level. Here’s to three men that understand that a real win comes from a deep understanding of the importance of truth to self and others and in the grace to accept and grow through the difficult challenges in life.