Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Les Jeux de Francophonie

I knew my 12.5 years of French immersion would come in handy one day!  Well other then ordering a coffee at Tims in Quebec :)
our b-e-a-utiful bike path ride
The last stop for the Canadian Team on our European adventure was Les Jeux de Francophonie in Nice, France.  If you havn't herd of these games - like most of us attending them, it's a pretty cool concept.  Not only is it a games for Sport - but also for French culture with talents such as singing, breakdancing and sculpting competing for medals.  The atmosphere was also pretty cool - all the Canadians stayed in the same residence - giving us all a chance to play the game "which sport am I" - at which I was pretty good at haha.
Our first day there we tried to pre ride the race course - but Nice is a bit of a congested and confusing city, and we were left riding up an down the bike path along a river for most of the afternoon.  We couldn't really complain though because...we were in Nice! haha After getting lost all day - we had determined that the course was probably not going to be a hilly as we had originally thought (not sure why we thought this...).  My worries about having to climb multiple mountains subsided and I seemed to be more focused on watching Smallville with my again-room-mate Shani than on freaking out about the race course.

Pizza for pre-race jitters! maybe because the cafeteria closed before we had dinner...

The day of the race was a little bit backwards for us in 2 very big ways.  First off - we woke up to rain. We had been sweltering all week in +30 degrees (loading up on salt tablets and never shutting our windows), and the one day we would have enjoyed a little sun it decides to play a trick on us!  I am not exaggerating - because I know a lot about rain being from Rain City Vancouver - this was THE most rain I had ever ridden in. In my Life.  Our 8km of neutral is best described as motorcycles bringing waves of watery fury down from the heavens whilst being run into by other riders whose breaks failed to show up for the race...aka the scariest neutral ever!  Because it is a games where only French speaking nations are invited, some of the other cyclists - although very strong - had a lot less race experience then us, Quebec and the French.  It was really inspiring to see girls who don't get very many opportunities to do something they love, to be so excited about getting to race.  This being said - when someone is 'overly' excited in a race - its best to steer clear of them if their breaks don't work.  By the end of the race - half the Canadians had gone down in crashes - me included.  Not only because of the other riders - but the rain brought up a lot of oil from the tarmac and turned our race into "Cyclists on Ice".  The second bit of backwards-ness was that mountains we had, and three we did climb.  It took me three times of 'blowing-up' to settle into the race - by which time I was on my own and left to do a 70 km TT.  The funny part is - even though I crashed (broke my Oakleys :(..) and rode by myself - I still had an amazing time.  I felt like I was racing a stage in the Tour de France - going down switchbacks and through small French towns.  We finished along Le Promenade des Anglais - where the Tour had their TTT this year - which made me realize that this is what I want to be doing - I want to be able to race my bike in amazing places, and meet some pretty cool people along the way.
Everyone who raced had their own story to tell - about obstacles they overcame (just barely), and the emotions they went through.  We didn't come out with the result that we had wanted - but the rain only brought more colour to our crazy adventure so far.

Us with the Canadian Soccer team

We would have loved to stay for an extra day in order to see more of the sights of Nice - but we ended up celebrating that evening with Pizza at Lou Parelli (3rd time that week!) and dancing in La Vielle Ville with the breakdancers.  So we left the beautiful Cote d'Azure on a high note :)
Dancing in la Vielle Ville - B Boys taught us some mad skills

I'm so sad to have left my temporary team mates - and Europe - but am uber motivated to get ready for next year so I can do it all over again - and this time maybe win something along the way :)

All packed up - getting in our last tanning session haha

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Kermess in Merksem

we rode to a castle near where we are staying - cafe was closed - no cappuccinos :(
My boyfriend and I have a 9pm Skype date every night.  At the beginning of this trip - I would be chatty Kathy, telling him about all the new and cool stuff I had been experiencing.  And now - our Skype sessions have been more along the lines of "Yeaaaaah...we went for a ride and then went grocery shopping...Yeah thats about it" hahaha.  I must say it somehow takes a whole day to do a 3 hour ride, get groceries for dinner and update my has been pretty stressful haha.
We all cooperated with no funny business.
Each day does come with its Highs - yesterday we did a team photo shoot and seeing as we are not all that serious off the bike - we came up with some pretty funny poses. 
Who has the best face??  It's a close call hahaha.
This picture is a foreshadow of what was to come - Matteo won his race the next day!!
Today the boys and the girls had races - in different towns.  So we (les filles) went north near Antwerp to Merksem and did a Kermess.  It was flat and windy and we managed to do 80km in 2 hours - not bad not bad haha.  We all wore our home team kits (TRT represent!) - but still raced as a unit, which worked really well.  Our cohesiveness off the bike really transfers to a great team effort on the bike :)  Anika and Annie were both in long break a-ways, and Shoni and I managed the sh*t out of attacks.  Its pretty cool being 2nd wheel while the girl leading is trying to chase down your team mate, and shes trying to get you to pull through and all you have to say is "nope! it's my team mate!", and let her do all the work. Sukka!  I knew the sprint would be chaos like in the Lotto Belisol Tour - so I tried desperately to get on a good wheel.  I managed to do so - but again -the sprint starts before a km to go so you have to sort of pick 3 good wheels to jump to...  I ended up 9th - and my goal was top 10 so I am pretty happy about that.  It is definitely a skill that you need to be over here to pick up - and I havn't got it quite down yet.  The rest of the girls finished strong of course ;), with Annie giving the last dig before the bunch sprint.  We may not have got on the podium but everyone couldn't stop talking about how much fun the race was, and how happy we were of our effort - so the podium spot wasn't even needed to have a successful/awesome day :)

A night out in Leuven - I am clearly lacking in the duck face capabilities...
Tonight I am sure we will get our fill of awful Rom/Coms and candy - a final rest before our adventure to Nice, France where we will be competing in the Jeux de Francophonie.