Monday, April 6, 2009

La Route Adelie de Vitre... and Normandy

Instead of pure speculation, I was assigned to be a feed zone person. This, I have found, is the perfect position for me at races because it reminds me of the days of relay races in track. There were around 9 long, 20km circuits that we held up retro cloth bags with a small panini roll, energy bar, and bottle of electrolyte-enhanced water from the right side of the road for the riders to swipe as they passed at what averaged at 45 mph. On the final 4 circuits of 8 km, they still passed by the feed zone. Here, they snagged water bottles mostly - those who were racing yet. It's not like a running race for this reason. It's so long (about 200km or so) and you're dependent not only on the energy you generate from your legs to carry you over the finish, but also on the bicycle you ride. Many mechanical problems each race take out even the best of the riders. If you add that to crashing into other people and getting injured, the list of race inhibitors gets longer and longer.

I thought the guys who "got dropped" (term for those who have to exit the race for whatever reason) would be upset. The majority of them from our team came right to the feed zone to wash off and drink water, eat a panini and discuss the day. Many of them were not upset at all. Nor did they seem stressed. It's sort of like living in Minnesota and how we deal with the weather. It can be nasty, but you choose not to dwell on that. Instead, you think about the next day. The way it can change at the drop of a hat. And that it's really not in your control most of the time.

Now, Phil and I are living at Franc and Stefanie's house in Flers, France. It is about 100 km from the race site this past Friday. Flers is a fortified town of 17,000 or so inhabitants. There is a main street clad in stone and brick, with tiny stone storefronts and banks and a huge flowered roundabout. It's got a huge park surrounding the castle that is now the city hall. In fact, Stefanie, her neighbor Isabel, and I went running at the park surrounding the preserved castle today. It has a mote and everything. Today it's about 70 and sunny - perfect for a morning run with two funny french women in their mid-thirties who loved the challenge of speaking to me in broken english. Needless to say, they weren't as keen on teaching me their french as they were asking me about english words, but I am hoping to get myself a book to work from soon. The people I meet aren't adament in teaching me their language I am finding. Franc and Stefanie's boys, Simone and Romaine, are two of the most adorable little kids on the planet. (I'll get a photo of them soon!) Romaine is just 4 years old. Stefanie describes him as "crafty" and always trying to get his way using his charm and humor. With huge coke bottle glasses and a tuft of hair on the top of his head that bounces when he walks, his tiny presence demands a lot of loving attention. Simone is 9 years old and he pretty much let's Romaine run the show. He's well-mannered and quiet, but his eyes speak for themselves. He loves listening to me speak in English and often looks down and blushes when I smile at his reaction to my lack of French.

The people of Normandy are some of the nicest and most generous people I've ever encountered. They're simple country folks really, but they live modern lives. In small, extremely efficient houses tiled in white and decorated simply, with huge sliding doors and windows that open up to big yard and farm across the way. The grandparents, Nanard and Dede, are constantly stopping over. They make large, multiple course meals for us and include anyone who decides to stop by. The internet is virtually nonexistant, and the kids play outside in the grass - they kick around inflatable balls, pick up bugs, rollerblade atop the newly paved road adjacent to their housing development, and most importantly, they all (and I mean every person in every community of Northern France) admire and respect the centuries old sport of cycling.

In the photo below, which was taken our second night here, you can see everyone. From the left: Franck (Phil's former coach and really good friend), Phil, Nanard (Stef's father), Dede (Stef's mother), Stefanie (Franck's wife and my running mate), and Christian (Phil's German teammate).

No comments:

Post a Comment