Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Cycling Saga Continued...

Today as I was comfortably plowing my way through a bag of cashews (I acknowledge that I have a problem) and trying to figure out what I was going to eat for lunch, British guy suggested that we take advantage of the warm, sunny weather by going cycling.

My initial response is less than enthusiastic. I flop myself on the bed as he begins to assemble his cycling gear.

"Where exactly are you going to cycle?"

"By the university. In the sun."

"Are there a lot of hills?

"There's one climb, yes."

"Is it a big climb? How steep is it?"

"Not as steep as Alpe d'Huez."

"That's like saying the Sahara isn't as hot as hell."

"It isn't?"

"How long are you going to go for?"

"An hour or so."

"How fast are you going to go? Is there going to be a lot of traffic? What are the road conditions like? How cold will it be? Are you going to eat lunch before or after? What are you going to wear?"

This is what I sound like when I am attempting to gauge the likelihood of a) sheer mind-numbing exhaustion; b) dramatic and humiliating crash in the town square; and c) death.

You'd ask a lot of questions too.

British guy pulls my bike out of the gear room. (Yes, we have a gear room.)

"Why don't you just put your bike together and get your cycling clothes on."

Heaving a dramatic sigh, I grab my cycling shorts and try my best to re-assemble my bike before British guy rolls his eyes and takes over. I'm not very good at that sort of thing.

The last time I had to put my bike together, I asked British guy if it mattered which tires went in the front and which went in the back. If you don't get this at first, go find a bike. See the chain? See the tire with the cassette on it? (I just want you all to know that I just googled: "What is the thing called on a bike that the chain goes on." It's a cassette). Anyway, turns out it does matter. Who would've thought? (Probably anyone with a functioning brain....)

British guy replaced my pedals because if you will read here, you will see that I've had a bit of trouble with the new pedals I purchased. I fell over last week because I couldn't unclip in time. Luckily I'm used to this sort of excruciating embarrassment and it didn't phase me. But British guy replaced my pedals anyway.

After getting ourselves sorted (re: British guy assembles my bike) we ride out past the university and along the river, the mountains rising up in all directions and the rolling hills speckled with church steeples and farmhouses. We veer off of the river path and cycle through a small town before we begin climbing. British guy surges ahead. We've reached a tacit agreement that he goes on ahead because it is physically impossible for him to cycle as slowly as I do and I don't want to get myself all sweaty cycling as fast as he does. Just kidding. There are no steroids known to man that would enable me to keep up with British guy. I've looked into it.

Occasionally the silence around me is broken by cyclists overtaking me or zooming downhill, giving a quick nod and a sharp Bonjour before whizzing around the corner and out of sight. I wonder why on Earth these people are out for a ride at 1:00pm on a weekday. Don't they have jobs? Maybe they're bloggers.

And then the silence returns. The cityscape falls away as I climb and I can see Grenoble spreading out beneath me. My heart turns into a gooey mess. Grenoble does that to me. The sound of my own breathing is echoing in my ears, my heart is racing from the exertion and my legs are tired from a week of hard workouts. Church bells clang from somewhere above me and occasionally I hear a cow lowing. A small dog waits in the shadows of an old farmhouse before suddenly deciding that I am threatening. He runs after me barking excitedly at my rear tire.

Up above I can see a red dot moving quickly down the road. It's British guy descending. I stop my bike on the side of the road, managing to successfully unclip from my pedals instead of my usual method of wobbling to a halt and then slowly falling over into the grass. My life is essentially a testament to The Three Stooges or [insert any slap-stick comedy where actors repeatedly walk into things, fall over, hurt themselves, etc].

Due to a little thing I like to call gravity,
 this is usually what happens when I get on my bike

I consider myself lucky that British guy finds this amusing. Whenever I bite my lip and wobble unsteadily downhill on my bike with a death-grip on my brakes and a less than orthodox technique, British guy gives me a few pointers, but mostly I think he finds the whole business entertaining.

Today on the ride back home along the river, British guy tries (again) to teach me how to draft. I've gotten to the point of just barely being able to keep up with his "easy" pace, but I am so scared of getting too close and causing a crash that instead of being inches away from his rear wheel, I'm usually at least two feet away and thereby defeating the entire purpose of drafting.

"You'll get it eventually," British guy reassures me.

Yeah. Right. Watch out Lance...

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