Doing it all the hard way...

Friday, July 6, 2012

France Stage One - all you need is shoes

After landing in Geneva and accepting that KLM had not only lost my bike and bag, but that they had no idea where on planet Earth they might be, I met Stephan and along with some of my late arriving trip mates, we drove to Morzine.
Watching my friends assemble their bikes and seeing their giddy anticipation, only served to increase my blood pressure. My powers of denial finally subsided I got with Horst, our guide and mastermind of our route, and began to inquire about renting a bike. Morzine, being a ski resort town, had a plethora of mountain bike shops.  We asked the hotel owner, and handsome Frenchman named Jean-Marie, where we could rent a good road bike. He asked if it was for me and when Horst said it was he looked me up and down and said, "follow me."
We went out to a barn where he lifted an oiled canvas tarp to reveal a very dated yellow Look brand bike with cobwebs that screamed, "1994." I then noted the Jean-Marie was about my same size. Beggars can't be choosers and I was begging.
Horst put the bike in a bike stand and said he would work on it. He looked at me and asked about size. "82.5cm center of bottom bracket to top of saddle straight through the seat tube," I said with conviction. Horst smiled that I knew the dimension and said that was his same measurement. "9cm setback from the bottom bracket," was my next measurement.
In short order we had the bike set up and removed my speed play cleats from my shoes and installed the plastic Look cleats to match the clunky pedals that were the state of the art when Greg Lemond won the tour back in the 1980's.

After a fitful sleep where I kept awakening from dreams of choking KLM baggage handlers, I had a breakfast of coffee, croissants, muesli and fruit, I dressed in borrowed clothing, thanks to 2020 John and big Sam and we rolled out.

Kevin is looking up at paragliders in the distance. We're in freakin' France !!

The first day was purposely stoned down and was a pleasant affair of rollers and countryside panoramas. The Velo Jaune, as it would be known for the balance of the trip, worked like a bike and I was in France spinning my legs so for all practical purposes, it was all according to plan.

Never have I been so happy to be riding such a poor bike..  This is at our first food stop.

The Velo Jaune was a race bike with twitchy geometry including a ton of toe overlap, which in combination with the antique pedals made starting on steep climbs a dangerous affair. Also the gearing was NOT set up for climbing Alpine passes. I took it easy most of the first day and then on the final climb, I put out some effort to chase out the jet lag and flew up the hill.
When we arrived at the hotel each day we would shower and then wash and air dry our clothes.
Dinner was prepared by a real French chef and was excessive in quantity and high in quality.  Stage one was a great day. I was in France riding a French bike with French pedals and wheels. I did spend a fair amount of time on the phone trying to get KLM motivated to find my bags. They were notably ambivalent.
There was a bike shop in Albertville and I bought a pair of shorts and arm and leg warmers.  I didn't know if my bags would show up in hours or days, so I couldn't be sure of how much to buy.  I also picked up a pair of French underwear and some socks, a shirt and tasteless swimsuit.  So far, so good..

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