Monday, April 20, 2009

Musée de I'insolite

The museum of the strange one....yes that described this place perfectly.

his house

Back in january Bruce and I were riding in the Célé valley, which is in the Tarn just west of Figeac. We were riding along the river, it was beautiful and Bruce was freaking out because of all the limestone cliffs.  Then we came around a bend and there was this house with all these freaky sculptures.  A sign said "musée de i'insolite", Bruce pulled out his camera so he could take some pictures and before he had it to his eye this man came out and yelled "pas photos, pas photos.  vous devez payer pour vous preesenter alors pouvez prendre des photos ".  He seemed a bit crazy, so we appologized and off we went.

Later that day our friend Ben told us that he charged 2 euros to go in and that last year he visited and loved it.  We have always wanted to go back and check it out so on Sunday we took Steve and Lisa on a "tour" of the valley and we all met the man, who is really nice (and his longtime girlfriend too...who has already invited us back in the summer for drinks).  I really don't know how to describe this place.  Monsieur Chenu  has an amazing eye and imagination and he has created some really amazing art.  Take a look for yourself.  Thanks Lisa for taking all these pictures!

une voiture fossile

une moto géante

covered in old shoes

these guys were as big as me

the artist

Friday, April 17, 2009

Belgium - part 3

The race on Sunday was the main reason we went to Belgium.  Paris-Roubaix, the classic 1-day ride from Paris to Roubaix which is just at the France/Belgium border.  Total km 267km (166 miles) and 28 cobble sectors and these are not nice flat, perfectly placed cobbles, these are old, uneven, dirty pavés. The race didn’t start until 11:30 so earlier in the morning Bruce and I drove over to the Arenberg Forest  (sector 17) where we decided to see the race (this strech of cobbles is only open to vehicles 1 day of the year, today.  This is the most famous spot (other than the finish at the Velodrome in Roubaix).  It’s 2km of the worst cobbles of the race and they say it can make the race.  There have been people camping here for a week to get their spot and see the race, it’s crazy!  It was only 10 minutes from our hotel (we are now in France) and the race was estimated to come through about 3pm, so we decided to get there at noon.

We got a great parking space and headed over to the entertainment/food/beer tents.  We got some lunch (brat and fries), some beer and watched the marching band perform (yes you read that right, the marching band).  Then the majorettes got on stage and performed to Britney Spears, girls from age 5-17 (classic!), then we decided to walk down the cobble sector and secure our spot.  Only 3 hours to wait!  At almost exactly 3pm the helicopters showed up, the race official cars went through, the motocycles went through and we knew the riders were close.  The TV helicopter is so low it’s easy to know when they are arriving.  It was so exciting, there were thousands of people lined on each side of the cobbles and when the riders came through it was nuts.  They were going so fast and they were all dirty and jockeying for position and then after the 3 groups (1 lead group and 2 packs following) passed us (only seconds apart) the team cars, which follow the riders came to a halt.  There was a big crash about ¼ mile past us, we couldn’t see it but the backup of cars was amazing.  So, that was it.  We didn’t want to just go back to the hotel or to a pub to watch the rest of the race, so we decided to bust it up to Roubaix to the velodrome to see the finish, we had about 2 hours to make it, so off we went.  On the way to the car a  guy told us that at sector 13 you can see the riders right off the freeway, so we figured we’d try that.  It was so cool.  We pulled over, the cobble sector was right next to the freeway, we jumped over the guard rail and onto the cobbles.  20 minutes later the riders went by.  

crazy fans!

The marching band

Here they come through the Arenberg Forest!

Flying...through the forest

The Arenberg forest

crash up ahead all the cars stopped

sector 13 - nobody was there

sector 13

Sector 13

Back in the car and up to Roubaix for the finish at the Velodrome.  It was hard to find parking, we actually ended up parking about 4km away but it wasn’t too bad of a walk.  The velodrome has a huge screen where they are showing the race, we walked right up and saw that they were 15km away.  Tom Boonen, Belgian and favorite was in the lead.  When he turned into the velodrome the crowd went crazy.  Super exciting.  We saw 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th place come in and then we walked over to where all the team buses are (the guys wanted to see the mechanics washing the bikes, seriously).  Then we went into the velodrome pub and who comes in but Tom Boonen.  Bruce got to pat him on the back!  Great race, great day.  We saw 3 sectors which is pretty much unheard of, it was amazing.  

heading through Roubaix to the Velodrome

the Velodrome, was packed...thank goodness for the big screen

the boys loved to watch the mechanics wash the dirty bikes

long hard day at the office

one of the team buses

we were in the right's Tom Boonen the winner

he walked right past us.

This will be my last bike race post (until the Giro d'italia, which is in Italy).  Sorry for boring most of you with this but it's our passion.  Appreciate you sticking with me during the last 3 posts.  Back to regular scheduled programming.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Belgium - part 2

The Lion of Flanders

On Wednesday we went to Dienze to see the start of the Ghent-Wevelgem race.  It was pouring down rain and we arrived with everyone else, parked the car and tried to find the start.  Things were not marked well at all.  We finally found it, but missed the start by 2 minutes.  Alas.

Back to the car to head down to Wevelgem to secure our spot for the finish.  We arrived at the finish 3 hours early, marked our spot and waited.  Luckily there was an amateur race that started and they did laps so at least we had something to watch.  The rain was coming down in buckets, luckily we had our raincoats but I left my rainboots in the car because it didn't look like it would rain,  it was miserable.  Finally the finish - woosh, it's over!  Who won?  That's basically what it's like, but it's so exciting.  The favorites were not the winners, in fact a young kid of 21 who has only been a pro for 2 years won.  His life just changed dramatically with that win.

Actually taking bets on the race

Winner of Ghent-Wevelgem

The rest of the pack

I think the best part of the race was meeting P&J, who were standing next to us at the finish. They live in Portland, are super cool and love bikes as much as us.  They actually arrived earlier in the week for some other classics but will be staying through Paris-Roubaix.  We wish we could have spent more time with them, maybe inside where it was warm.  But we did invite them down to our place if they want to come back!

Our new friends P&J

After the race we headed back to the hotel, showered and found Steve and Lisa.  We met them in Ghent for dinner, great to see them although they were beat!  They flew in to Paris from Salt Lake City, drove to London to see an opera and then drove back over to Ghent.

Thursday we went for a ride in and around Oudenaarde, which is where another classic race The Tour of Flanders happens (that was on Sunday the 8th but we missed it).  Classic cobbles (pavés), 11%, 13% up to 20% grade, argh!  Luckily they are short, in fact called "slopes" because they are not hills (not like the hills in the Aveyron) but they are steep and when you are on cobbles it's even worse, but classic. Going up is super hard and going down is horrible, which I finished my first decents my whole body was super hot and numb, a great all around workout. We road about 3 hours and were beat by the end of the day, in a good way though.

View of the Koppenberg - 19.5% grade

Great place for lunch - owner had been to California 5 times

Steve and Bruce getting ready for the climb

Bruce climbing the Koppenberg

Me climbing the Paterberg - 20.3% grade

That night we headed to Ghent for dinner at Amadeus an all you can eat rib joint, recommended by P&J,  it was amazing.  We haven't had ribs in years.

On Friday Bruce and I went back down to Oudenaarde  to do some more riding,  we did some more classic pavés "slopes", but first we had to stop at the Bike Museum in Oudenaarde.  It was pretty cool and we met Freddy Maertens (who works there), he was really sweet. We have had great weather, sunny 67 - 68 degrees!  That night we stumbled upon this amazing restaurant in Ghent called Bistro 't Bennesteegske, it's owned by a couple and they are the only one's who work there.  Shelly told us that she's up at 7 am shopping and then they open at 11:30 and do lunch, beer/wine, snacks and then dinner.  She said they are done usually around midnight. They've had the restaurant for 10 years.  She looked beat, but the food and the wine and especially the presentation was amazing!

Church in Oudenaarde

me in front of the bike museum with Eddie Mercks team car

Bruce in Ghent

Ghent at night

 On Saturday the four of us drove over to Geraardsbergen to do some more riding, especially the "muur" a classic 20% grade climb right in the middle of the city.  We did that last, spending 2 1/2 hours riding flat along the river, it was really nice.  We did a few climbs but nothing like Thursday and Friday.  I was sent up the muur first, with the camera.  It was hard but not as hard as I thought it was, it is long but you have a couple easy sections to catch your breath, at the very end you cycle by this pub and there were these cyclists cheering me on, I had to make it to the top so I pushed on.  Bruce and Steve road up no problem and then turned around and road up it again.  It was a super fun day and our last in Belgium.

another hard cobble climb

Lisa enjoying the flats

Top of the Muur

Bruce finishing the Muur

The boys at the top

Enjoying a much deserved Beer


It's funny, my first impression of Belgium wasn't great, but each day I loved it more and more and am so happy that I got a chance to spend some time there.  We met some great people, P&J and also A&E, who were staying at our hotel in Ghent.  They both work in the bike industry and are from Chicago.  A. was so helpful, telling us about great rides, where to go,  tips about the races, facts about bikes, etc...and E., well he is a wealth of information regarding bikes and Bruce loved talking to him. We hope to see them back in Belgium next year!

Not sure what this says....maybe "come back soon"