Archive for August, 2011

A Tour de Paris

19 August 2011

Yesterday, I got up early for a ride into Paris. I had my route taking me along the Champs Elysees so I could experience the road used for the sprint finish in the Tour de France. Anything outside of that would have me by myself and without use of the Garmin GPS.

I had my lights on for the first time and it was quite cool. The roads were relatively quiet so early in the morning. I recognised a small section of the road as I had gone down it for the ride to Versailles the day before. I had come from a road on the right as I was facing but I could recognise it as I had sat at the red light for a couple of minutes. Where I had turned off to the left the day before had me going straight today.

I passed the palace at Versailles to the south and saw a beautiful small lake opposite. There were two swans swimming and it seemed as if the lake was just for them. After passing the palace, the road kind of stayed urban as I slipped into the outskirts of Paris and then into Paris itself. Traffic was not that bad – I had expected worse.

Crossing the River Seine

I crossed over the river Seine and was soon at a section on the route where the circular began. I remember planning the route so that I would head up the Champs Elysees towards L’Arc de Triumphe but the route was telling me a certain exit on the roundabout that I felt was wrong. Sure enough, the Arc de Triumphe appeared ahead and I was not even on the Champs Elysees. Doh! I passed around the monument and started heading down the Champs Elysees.

Arc de Triumphe

When I got to the Place de la Concorde, I went all the way around and headed up the Champs Elysees to get the true #TDF feeling. The television pictures do not even prepare you for the road surface. I remember hearing the commentators say that some of the riders keep tight to the edge of the road as it was smooth. Yeah right! Riding that close to the pavement would have me worried that my pedal was going to hit the kerb and I would be off. The cobbles are not the big ones but sized about a couple of inches wide and spread out like fans. I would not fancy sprinting on them but I guess if I had a whole support crew with spare bikes and such, it would not be a big deal. Still, respect given to all the sprinters.

The "smooth area" on the Champs Elysees

Cobbles on Champs Elysees

After coming back down the Champs Elysees again (yes, twice), I made my way over the river Seine and then on to the Eiffel Tower. I missed the turning for it and had to go through an underpass (dedicated bike path for that) and then cross the road and come back the other side. There were scores of people already lined up waiting to catch an elevator which had not even started operating for the day. There was a queue at each leg of the tower. Crazy! I took a self-picture directly under the tower which looked neat.

Underneath the Eiffel Tower

After that, I went to find some breakfast. I am not too sure which monument I was at but the breakfast, Le Petite Dejeunner Angalise, was very nice. A cup of espresso, freshly squeezed orange juice, a small carafe of water, a croissant and jam, and two sunny side up eggs on top of ham. Delicious!! That sat nicely in my stomach.

Le Petite Dejeunner Anglaise

I looked for the route to Sacre Coeur and decided to head down to the river and then head North just after Notre Dame. That plan would have worked except I didn’t identify Notre Dame as I think it is under going repairs and was shrouded in protective sheets. Once I realised I had gone too far, I had to look at the paper map again to get my bearings. As I was doing that, a French tourist asked me where the Champs Elysees was and so it was relatively easy to direct him towards that. So my plan was to make for the Bastille and then straight upwards.

I got to some other monument and again I was lost. After the photo I put on facebook, it turned out I was at the Bastille after all. So when they say they stormed the Bastille, I was thinking of some much bigger place. After that, I turned northwards-ish and made my way past Place de la Republic and then on to Gare du Nord (train station). Then, I was kind of by myself again and kept taking the roads which seemed to be heading physically upwards. Soon there were signs for the cathedral and after that it was easy. Well, the route was easy. This was all on cobbles and it was a beast of a climb. MaymyRide gave it a category 5! Tour de France does not give out category 5s as I guess they just seem too insignificant to be given a grading. Category 1 is the steepest category. I regard HC as being uncategorised. After riding around the cathedral, I descended back through Montmatre. This is my favourite place in Paris. I just love the area with all the oil painters and little cafes.

I headed south towards the river hoping that I would catch my route back to St Quentin en Yvelines. As luck would have it, I ended up at the Place de la Concorde and from there it was easily back.

I found getting around Paris on bicycle a lot easier than walking. It is easier to get lost but you don’t have to deal with getting taxis or figuring out le Metro. It is definitely the way to do it. The only drawback is that you can’t leave the bicycle and being by myself meant I couldn’t use one of the public toilets. I was out for six hours and had to hold it all in. 😛

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First French ride

17 August 2011

Today I went for my first French ride but not before picking up the rental car. I drove around town looking for a parking once place once I had learned that parking is free for the month of August. I found one close to the hotel and the car is staying there. I went back to the hotel and knocked up a quick route around Versailles. I went downstairs and finished setting up the bike. I had a close call with the dynamo light as I couldn’t get it to go on. Fortunately, it seemed to be just the way I set up the wires as after switching terminals, the light worked.

I set off heading North, not as if I was heading for the centre of Paris, that would have been North East. The first traffic light I stopped reaffirmed the notion I had that I like the traffic lights. They have lights that are at eye level and pointing diagonally out towards the driver; in my case, the cyclist. Saves getting neck ache staring up at the lights. I then came to some designated cycling lane which basically just a striped line painted on the side of the road. Another cycling lane I came to diverted me on to the pavement (sidewalk). What was interesting about the the cycle path was that it also accommodated for cyclists coming in the other direction. I saw an oncoming cyclist and he was in my lane!! As he got nearer, he moved over to his lane (on the other side of the trees) and after we had passed, he moved back to mine. Most strange.

For the first few miles, it was predominantly downhill. That worried me for the way back! The road signs seemed quite straight forward. There was one that was puzzling me when I had picked up the rental. No right turn for a 10t. What did 10t mean? Before 10pm? I finally figured it out when I saw some other signs with the “t” on it. Ten tonnes!! Vehicles over 10 tonnes in weight, no right turn! Good to know but not applicable in either case.

I came to my first cobbled road. I had been using one of these designated cycling areas when it led on to a cobbled street. I continued up it. The cobble stones are not as small as the ones I know in England but it does make for some interesting riding. I flashed a look to my left and saw that there was a cycling lane on the road itself. At the next opportunity, I veered left and on to the road. Much smoother. It was not long before I was back on the cobbles. This time there was no escaping them as the bike lane went over the cobbles itself!

Then came Versailles. Wow, much bigger than I had imagined. And very gold. I walked the bike up to the golden gates. I checked to see if it was really gold but it was just painted. Not that they would have been gold. If they had proposed melting all the metal down for cannon balls, I doubt they would have left any gold fence standing. I continued with the ride and sure enough, what comes down must surely go up!! It wasn’t a bad climb but I was passed by some older gent. I made a couple of wrong turns as the map didn’t have the roundabouts that well but it was easily noticed. As I had been doing best route, the map was a bit funny on some of the turns but zoomed out, I could see the correct way to go.

It was only 16 miles but it was good practice on the French roads and it keeps my legs ticking over. Tomorrow, the centre of Paris and the Champs Élysées. Wish me well.

PBP 2011 – Our Ozzie cousins

17 August 2011

Meet Simon (on the right) and Tim, a couple of Australian’s who have flown over from Australia just to ride the PBP!

Simon and Tim

I am thinking they must have flown the furthest distance of all the entrants. Simon rode in 2007 but unfortunately failed to make it in 90 hours; his finishing time was 93!

Simon's recumbent

PBP 2011 – Arrival into Paris

16 August 2011

We arrived safely into Paris. It took some time to get out of JFK but with a westerly wind behind us, we raced over the Atlantic in quick time. The Airbus 320 has three cameras on board; one on the tail, one on the undercarriage and one on the nose and you could select to view what each camera was seeing. As the plane took off and landed, all the screens were showing the view from the tail camera – that was pretty neat.

Got through security with ease; makes US immigration seem like Fort Knox in comparison. Both pieces of luggage arrived safely though I noticed an inspection ticket tucked into on the straps and one of the straps was loose. That means they opened the bike box. I hope to god they packed the bike back well. I am waiting for it to arrive from the airport – it should be on the next bus when the San Francisco flight arrives.

The hotel is on the other side of Paris to the airport. I saw the Sacré Cœur and the Eiffel Tower from a distance. We went by the Stade de France which looks quite impressive. It is the home of both the football and rugby national teams.

Will be going out to explore but not sure if I should await the bike.

PBP 2011 Mystic Alma’s Predictions

15 August 2011

Alma has done a great spreadsheet and calculated the times I am expected to exit each controle. You can keep track to see how well she does! The green bars indicate projected sleep stops.

Controle Opening Closing Alma’s estimate
SAINT-QUENTIN Sun. 18h00 n/a Sun. 18h00
MORTAGNE-AU-PERCHE Sun. 22h27 Mon. 03h20 Mon. 01h55
VILLAINES- LA-JUHEL Mon. 00h59 Mon. 08h44 Mon. 06h31
FOUGERES Mon. 03h57 Mon. 14h40 Mon. 11h28
TINTENIAC Mon. 05h45 Mon. 18h38 Mon. 14h46
LOUDEAC Mon. 08h49 Tue. 01h08 Mon. 23h34
CARHAIX Mon. 11h32 Tue. 06h49 Tue. 04h04
BREST Mon. 15h08 Tue. 13h19 Tue. 09h42
CARHAIX Mon. 18h24 Tue. 19h51 Tue. 14h57
LOUDEAC Mon. 21h42 Wed. 01h56 Wed. 00h36
TINTENIAC Tue. 01h34 Wed. 08h47 Wed. 05h23
FOUGERES Tue. 04h01 Wed. 13h04 Wed. 08h45
VILLAINES-LA-JUHEL Tue. 08h01 Wed. 20h12 Wed. 14h20
MORTAGNE-AU-PERCHE Tue. 12h00 Thu. 01h56 Thu. 00h34
DREUX Tue. 15h45 Thu. 07h12 Thu. 05h02
SAINT-QUENTIN Tue. 19h00 Thu. 12h00 Thu. 09h01

Weather watching France

6 August 2011

    Saturday 6th August

Paris: rain, temp 63F
Brest: rain and shine, temp 63
Loudeac: rain and shine, temp 63

Night ride to Greenport

6 August 2011

Ok, I had a crazy idea of setting off a 2 o’clock in the morning and riding to Greenport then grabbing breakfast somewhere on the way back. As I was still up by 10:30pm, I decided to change that to 3 o’clock instead. I was pretty much set up so I thought it would just be a case of getting riding gear on and out the door. It still took me half an hour!

Having the two lights on the front makes a big difference. The dynamo is definitely the brightest of the two but the Niterider has a wide beam and lights up a big area. They complement each other well. The only problem is the Niterider has a rechargeable battery and will only last 3-4 hours. I wonder if I can run it off the cache battery for part of the night. The Garmin can have half the night and the Niterider the other half. That may just work and then I can charge the cache battery up once daylight comes. Sounds like a plan.

I saw a fox on Nichols Road. It is only the second fox I have seen in this country despite being here ten years now. It ran gracefully across the road but with purpose. Not the frightened run of a squirrel. Majestic. I also passed three youths walking home from a party, perhaps.

When I got on to Rt-347, the traffic was intermittent. I did think about the stats of when the most cycling fatalities are in Suffolk and hoped that everyone on the road would be driving sensibly. Only one driver honked his horn at me. I was very visible from the rear with my two red lights and reflective ankle bands.

As I reached the Rocky Point bypass, the streetlights disappeared for the first time. I felt like I had been transported on to a night dive with my headlights acting as my main beam in the water. It was peaceful, it was still, it was nice. Visibility was great!!

Dawn broke at around 5am and then the sun crept over the horizon some time later. I reached Greenport after 3:12 hours of cycling – 53 miles. The metal bird has disappeared. Not sure if someone took it as a souvenir but it is definitely gone. I was going to take a photo of it. as it was, I just tweeted that I had arrived. I poured the fresh water from the back up bottle to the main one and slipped in a Gu tablet. I set off for home, looking for a place to have breakfast on the way.

At Riverhead I stopped to buy a big water bottle. I filled both bike bottles and drank a bottle of cranberry juice. That was nice. I continued on, still looking for a breakfast place. I didn’t want a chain and was almost resigned to eating at JT’s in Nesconset. I then passed two possible places but I didn’t stop. Mainly because I had just replenished supplies at the 7-Eleven and it felt too soon to stop again. Two cyclists caught me up and we chatted about how far we had gone. They had done 40 miles or so. I told them I had done 80 and that I had been to Greenport and was now on my way back. They seemed impressed.

Once I reach Sound Avenue it starts to become really familiar and it doesn’t feel like too far to go. When I reach Rt 112 it almost feels like I am home though there is another ten miles to go. As I approach Lake Avenue, there are no cars behind me so I move into the left lane and wait for a gap in the traffic. The lights turn red, then green but I have not triggered the sensor and I don’t get the left turn light. I wait for the oncoming cars to pass by and then take the break in traffic to cross into Lake. I enter the parking lot of JT’s only to find people waiting to be seated. After cycling 100 miles, I am not going to wait for a seat. I head out of the parking lot and cycle home.

I averaged 16.5mph heading out to Greenport and 14.4mph coming back. There was a slight head wind coming back so that goes towards explaining why I was slower. I also felt tired in my legs. Not my thighs but my calves. That’s interesting because when I do the CTS workouts, it is always my thighs which ache. The new rear bag seemed quite well though when I stand up to attack a small climb, it does end up shifting to one side or the other. It is not a big deal to move it back into place. I don’t want to tighten it any further as it is a carbon fibre post. I can definitely get some stuff in it.

Overall, a good ride. And now I have to do another hundred tomorrow.