Friday, May 30, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Apparently our funky weather (hot, muggy, cold, overcast, sunny, almost-rain) is coming from the Sahara Desert and brought with it a bunch of yellow-orange rusty-colored sand that was deposited on top of us. That explains why i have been picking grains of sand out of my head for the past hour.
In a few minutes, i'm back out the house for motorpacing. Keeping the mouth shut may be a good idea to save my teeth from the shooting sand pebbles that will inevitably be coming my way from the scooter wheel.
To get motivated for my ride, i'm watching tour of belgium on the TV. There were already two crashes in the ten minutes i've been sitting here. It looks like they were hit with the rain/sand as well. I just caught a glimpse of Stijn Devolder who clearly lost a bunch of weight for this race. According to a recent interview, he's been routinely checking out the stages during the weeks leading up to the event. He added that he planned to lose 4kg to be best prepared for the race.
And after my ride - of course after i've eaten, elevated the legs, stretched, etc - I'm gonna check out a criterium race live in Zaventem.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Later on we learned that it was a 747 Kalitta Air cargo plane (of USA) that couldn't get off the ground so it just went straight ahead instead of up, up and away. Luckily nobody was killed.
They interviewed a guy who saw the incident. He was there plane-spotting. He cracked me up when he said that this now it gives him proof for his girlfriend that his hobby of plane-spotting really is as dangerous as he repeatedly tells her.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Our waffle party was a small one consisting of only three - me, jonas and CTodd. Todd was here from Boston for only 1 1/2 days but made sure to get his fill of waffles, beer and chocolate! (On a side note, he created the most incredible carrot soup during his super short stay. Too bad he forgot to take the leftovers with him when he left this morning.)
Todd's favorite topping combination was cocoa powder, coconut, bananas, strawberries and maple syrup. Mine was coconut and banana. Jonas chose coconut, powdered vanilla sugar, and maple syrup.
We washed it down with fresh pressed dark roast coffee. YUM!
Here's the recipe:
1 package yeast
1/3 cup very warm (not hot) water
2 tbs sugar
MIX above ingredients together and let sit for 5-15 minutes
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups flour (i used 1 1/3 white and 2/3 whole wheat)
KNEAD it all together for 5 minutes. It should turn into a dry ball.
egg replacer equivalent of 3 XL eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (softened)
LET RISE until batter doubles (I cover mine with a damp cloth and put it in the barely warm oven. I turn on the oven for 5 minutes then turn it off and put the bowl in there with the door open)
1 cup pearl sugar (you can also use sugar cubes and break them into pieces)
LET SIT for 10-20 minutes
When the waffle iron is hot I slightly grease it with a drop of margarine using a paper towel.
Spoon mixture in the middle. Make sure not to put too much so it doesn't ooze out the sides.
Remove when golden brown and eat with whatever toppings sound good.
The next time i make them it will be for dessert. I'll probably serve them with a scoop of soy ice cream and serve with non-dairy whipped topping, fresh fruit and maybe a mint sprig for presentation. Since i'm writing this from the couch where i've been planted since my waffle party many hours ago, i think the waffle dessert party will not be any time soon.
When i came across the site I just had to join in, especially since i am based in Belgium. Naturally i am making Belgian style waffles! If they turn out tasty i'll share the recipe and photos.
Wish me luck!!
Friday, May 23, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
As Jonas and I arrived at the event on our bikes, we immediately were passed by a world champion jersey, belgian national jersey, the whole top belgian U-23 team, another belgian national jersey.
My first thought was optimistic. Maybe they bought the jerseys online or from their nearest bike shop. Or possibly the jerseys were given to them from a friend of a friend of a neighbor of a relative who knows the rightful earner of the jersey.
Unfortunately they all had those solid oversized horse legs which made my second thought a bit less positive. Shit.
But there i was, standing next to these guys, on the start line of the most technical circuit I'd ever seen - cobblestone climbs and tight turns, high speed descents with uprooted pavement as speed bumps just at the bottom before the turn, and of course some narrow roads lined with concrete ledges.
The 62km race lasted just over an hour while i bowed out after only 22 minutes. I did make an improvement over last week's race. This time when i dropped out before the race was over I didn't hide behind the van.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Anyway, i figured i would give a shout out to some of my favorite neighbors.
The top photo is of the mama sheep and her two kids. Every morning, the mom greets me with about a zillion baaaaaaaaaaaaaaa's ever since i shared some 16-grain bread with her. The only time she didn't run directly over to me was when her "owner" was nearby. She stood in the back of the pasture until the guy walked far far away. Only then, when she could clearly tell he wasn't coming back, did she make her way over to me for her snack.
My other neighbors are young cows. They love when i visit, but i'd say i love it more. It cracks me up to watch them get excited to see me. When i call to them from the other side of their grazing field, they'll rush over - in a cow-like manner. It will take them about ten minutes to walk about 150 meters because every few meters they have to stop for a snack and eat some grass.
Earlier today i was doing a search on an excellent food movie called Eating. I didn't find it but what i DID find was a very strange site called pweeta.com. It stands for people who enjoy eating tasty animals. I took a few minutes to check it out but i still can't figure out if it's a joke. Apparently the guy who started the movement died of a triple coronary something-or-other. I figured i'd pass the site along to you so you don't think of me as a vegetable-loving freak.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Next it was off for a perfect warmup around the course. The weather was great (a bit hot perhaps at 30 deg. C - 86 deg. F) with not a cloud in the sky. The race was 12 laps totaling 84km with lots and lots of tight technical turns and two "hills" which were actually highway overpasses.
Last time i raced this event, I instigated a break of 4 gals early on in the race. We stayed together up until the last lap of the race - an exciting day!
As i waited at the start line this time around, doing a little pre-race stretching, an 80 year old lady came up to me and asked about my stretching so i told her it was for prevention, then we talked about the weather and next week and what the race is going to be like. Normally i wouldn't write about this boring stuff but what made it especially fun for me was that it was all in flemish! Yippee - i'm getting better at it! And my experience was even topped a few minutes later when another rider pulled up alongside me and the lady. It turns out it was her grandmother. When she introduced me to her grandmother as an American, the woman was shocked! Double-yippee!
My pre-race strategy was to ride in the back of the pack way to either side of the road to stay out of trouble, keep the pressure off, prevent myself from spending face-time (forced or inspired) in the wind, and keep in the draft. I can also give myself a little extra front wheel room when i'm in the back.
The race started off fairly fast but manageable, so my first thought was that everything will be ok. But then i looked up the road only to find that we were in "neutral" mode with the pace car slowing the riders. Once the car moved out of the way, all hell broke out. The pace immediately shot up to 45kph with a string of attacks. After the first few turns where i, along with the others at the back of the pack of 123 riders, had to come to a complete trackstand before sprinting out out of the turn from 2kph to 45kph in 10 seconds, I realized what i've always known - the back is the absolute worst place to be!
After an hour of stop-and-go every minute - that's right, 60 stop-and-go's per hour - I was really cursing those turns. Just as my sprint out of one turn ended, I'd reach the next turn only to trackstand and sprint again. By the time i finally made a conscious effort to just ride through the middle of the peloton to get in a better position farther up, my energy was wasted. I rode through the middle, got to the center of the peloton then almost immediately pulled off to the side to spin it back to the finish line.
I only lasted seven laps of twelve at avg speed of 39kph, but i got an incredible workout. I don't know if my memory is accurate since the mind has a convenient way of forgetting pain, but can't imagine that i've suffered this much in a cyclo-cross race. Maybe all i have to do is suffer at the same level in a cross race, and I'd do a lot better!
Anyway, just before i reached the crowds at the finish line, i passed our parked van, immediately pulled over and hid behind it so nobody saw i pulled out. Yeah, totally pro.
Even though my debut was a bust, I'm really looking forward to the next opportunity to give it a go. Heck, it can't get any worse than this...famous last words.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
FINALLY, us Belgians have enjoyed a full week of wonderful weather - 70-80 degree F (22-28 deg C) days with boatloads of sun. It's been about one year, last april in fact, since we've had a full week of nice weather. So in my fear of wasting these precious days, I've been spending almost every second outdoors. In one week i went from bright white to dirt patch brown (i still haven't mastered the art of even layering of the sunscreen.) There are few feelings as satisfying as sun on the quads. I even salt-stained my shorts.
Last weekend i went on one of those organized cyclo-tourist rides. The course is completely marked with arrows or symbols painted on the pavement and the periodic supplemental signs taped on the poles to help you find your way. A typical cyclo-tourist ride gets 500-2000 participants average and the start time is whenever you want to take off between 7:30am to 1pm. They offer different lengths such as 30km, 70km, 110km.
My ride had about 1000 riders. We left at about 8:30am and the course was riddled with riders ranging from the 35 year-old weekend warrior - equipped with his fully weighted backpack filled with all necessary artillery to last the km's - to the once-a-year joy rider wearing his musette he must have scored in the 1956 Tour de France. As an avid people-watcher, I was having a rippin' time checking all the outfits out.
I went to the ride only with Jonas but during the event we periodically tagged along with groups passing by, while other times we were joined by the onesies and twosies we passed along the way.
When riding in a group with folks who may only ride in a group format once or twice a year max, the bike handling skills of many are a bit creative. Since I plan to enter my first road race of the season next week, this was perfect practice for me. I got to remember what it's like to have a dumbass ride up me and another rider (jonas in this case) and wedge his front wheel between us. He surely put a lot of trust in our not swerving by even a centimeter towards each other.
My favorite of all the cyclists had to have been the 75ish year old guy who rode with us for a while. He looked like a former pro racer; his clothes were neat and tidy, large saddle bag, cycling cap (no helmet), tubulars, pristine clean bike, curve in the back probably due to many thousands of KM's on the bike and excellent bike skills. Jonas and i passed him at about 75km into the ride and he tagged along as many others have. But this guy not only lasted on our wheel for quite a while but he worked in with us. We kept our 3-(wo)man paceline up for about an hour - up and down the undulating roads. He really impressed me with his power, poise, timing, and clean bike. Ok, maybe the last one doesn't go with the first three descriptions but i did think about the bikes cleanliness as we pacelined past numerous riders.
Today is yet another perfect day so i must go now to sit in the sun. When the weather turns again to crap, I want to be able to say that I at least made the best of it!
Thanks for reading!
Friday, May 2, 2008
that Team High Road, professional cycling team competing in international road bicycle races, is currently without a name sponsor, and have therefore chosen the name of the company owning the team? The team participates in many editions of the annual Grand Tours of cycling, such as the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia. Since 2005, the team has been one of 20 teams that compete in the new UCI ProTour.
The team was founded in 1991 as Team Telekom, sponsored Deutsche Telekom. In 2004 their name changed to the T-Mobile Team. It contains a total of 29 riders, 9 physiotherapists or nurses, 9 mechanics and service persons, and has 22 partners. The team is under the management of Bob Stapleton and Rolf Aldag. Former leaders include Olaf Ludwig, Walter Godefroot and Eddy Vandenhecke (managers), Luuc Eisenga (spokesperson) and Brian Holm, Tristan Hoffman, Allan Peiper, Valerio Piva and Jan Schaffrath (sports directors).
In November 2007, Deutsche Telekom AG announced that it was to end sponsorship of professional cycling with immediate effect. The team continues under the name "Team High Road". The team changed nationality in February 2008, switching from Germany to USA
I found this info in Wikipedia. As i was sitting in front of the TV watching the Tour de Romandie Time Trial I saw a High Road rider and couldn't figure out what a High Road was. I thought maybe it was somehow an anti-doping team - as in "take the high road." Now i know.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Prologue: Team High Road's Mark Cavendish - 22 yr old from GB - rode an average of 56.425 km/hour to cover 1.9km in 2:07.6. Damn that's fast! He said his excellent result is because the course was so short it was like a sprint which is his strength. And if anyone disagrees with that sentiment, they should think back to this year's Scheldeprijs where he nipped Tom Boonen at the line. (In tommeke's defense, though, this probably wouldn't have happened if he didn't prematurely raise his arms in an anticipatory triumph. Note to Tom, Erik Zabel, et al - wait until AFTER you cross the line to punch the sky.
Stage 1: I only watched the race with about 10km to go. The only real interesting part of the finale was the last turn leading into the finishing straightaway. The stage had a slightly uphill finish. Thomas Dekker of Rabobank took off for the sprint very early. Appearing to have a brief brain fart, he slowed down and slightly swirved just before the tight left hand turn onto the finishing straight. Maybe he ran out of energy or didn't know the turn was coming. Putting himself close to the left side of the road, he was out of position for a top speed tight left hand turn. About two seconds before the turn, Maxim Iglinsky of Team Astana jumped ahead of Dekker clearly to take the turn in first position. By nailing the turn textbook style, he was able to carry all his speed through to the finish line. The chasers just behind slightly overshot the turn, which forced them to ever so slightly take the speed off. That second it took to get back up to speed was enough to easily give Iglinsky the win. It was beautiful to watch.
Stage 2: Again, I only watched the last 10km or so. And again, the only real impression that was made on me was the sprint. Robbie McEwen was so impressive he brought tears to my eyes. Just under the 1km banner, McEwen found himself at the front of the peloton. Knowing it was much too early, he just continued to soft pedal in hopes that others would come around. Just after a few passed, putting him in 6th position, he jumped on the first promising wheel that took off for the line. But by being in 6th position, he was clearly boxed in according to everyone's definition of boxed in - but his. Somehow he managed to squeeze between to guys who were practically riding elbow to elbow. You have to be so incredibly talented to fit a whole entire person with bike through a wildly swerving pinhole at over 60kph.
After he crossed the line, I saw him grab a cell phone to take a call. My first thought was how sweet it was that he'd take a call from his wife right after he crossed the line. But then i heard an awfully familiar voice coming from the TV - it was McEwen. He said even though he did the sprint alone, he gave a lot of credit to his team for their hard work throughout the stage. He also said that he had cramps during the sprint. Next time i suffer from cramps, I will think of McEwen.
Thanks for reading.