Anna y Miquel

3 Jan

ZanpanzarGirona

Back in August at a pintxos bar in Girona called Zanpanzar, myself and a couple of cyclists from Calgary were having dinner after a long day of riding.  The four of us sat at a communal table along with a Catalan husband and wife.  They overheard us speaking English and politely asked where we were from?  They had lived in the States for a year while the woman was teaching Spanish to students in Conniticut.  She was also fluent in French which came in handy as the Canadians were as well.   Like so many locals here they could not have been more friendly.  By the end of dinner I was invited to their home for lunch to which I of course  graciously accepted.

Lunch with Anna and Miquel quickly became a weekly routine.  Every Monday at 14.00 I would arrive at their home with a bottle of wine and we would share a meal while speaking in English, Spanish, and Catalan.  Often the conversation would dive into the origins of certain words and how they were used in different parts of the world.  Anna loved to break out a massive dictionary with the history of words and phrases.  It was great for me as my Spanish and Catalan improved, Miquel was able to practice his English and Anna, having retired from teaching, got to spend time doing what she loves.

As the holidays approached I was invited to their Christmas day dinner in a town called Besalu which is about 30km north of Girona.  It was at the home of Miquel’s brother Lluis.  What an incredibly nice gesture.  I was truly grateful.

Besalu

Knowing full well that this was going to be a day of consuming incredible amounts of food it seemed like I should at least squeeze in a workout.  Christmas morning was spent on the bike doing repeats up a 2km climb into a neighborhood called Montjuic with breathtaking views of the Girona cathedral and the snow caped Pyrenees way off in the distance.

Montjuic

After that is was home for a quick shower before heading to Besalu which I later came to learn was a town of great importance during the Middle Ages.  It is famous for its 12th century bridge over which features a gateway at its midpoint.  Miguel’s brother Lluis lived in a very large home that sat adjacent to the church of Sant Pere,  consecrated in 1003.

Even though I was 4,000 miles from home, there was a striking resemblance between Besalu and where I had celebrated Christmas in the past.

St. Pere's Cathederal Spicer, Minnesota

However, while standing on the balcony of Llouis’s house with Anna and Miquel’s son Quim, I asked him about a mountain way off in the distance.  Quim informed me that it was called Mare de Deu del Mont and in fact there was a paved road to the top.  Well I’d better add that to the list.

Christmas dinner was fantastic and it reminded me of my first exposure to European family gatherings nearly 20 years ago when my sister was married in Italy.  Those great Italian dinners went on for hours with incredible food and wine with seemingly every family member in attendance.

This day had very much the same feel with Anna and Miquel’s 3 sons and their families.  We spent the whole day eating and similar to back home, the children’s anticipation of opening gifts was present the entire day.  After opening gifts and snapping a few photo’s, a long and much needed family walk through the town of Besalu was a great way to end Christmas day.

SONY DSC

The next morning I rolled out of Girona to climb Mare de Deu del Mont.  It was a 19km climb of 950m with the final 3km averaging a brutal 9.5% but stunning views at the top.   The elevation profile looks like this:

Mare de Deu del Mont

And when former Team Sky rider Micheal Barry descends from the top it looks like this:

 

 

 

 

 

-The Gringo

All I want for Christmas is Neosporin

26 Dec Tour De France crash

So I spent a few days last week in Amsterdam then London, meeting with Media iQ Digital.  I suppose you could say I was a guest at their Christmas party.   Any company that has an offsite Christmas party in Amsterdam is pretty cool by me.

Upon returning to Girona I was excited to get back on the bike being that it had been a few weeks.  Maybe I was a bit too excited.

The weather here has been unseasonably warm with mid day temperatures in the 60’s, lulling you into the complacency of thinking the mountains will be the same.  I have often noticed these signs posted on rural country roads.  I googled the meaning of the sign in Catalan and it roughly translates to “if you take the upcoming corner too fast you’re fvcked”

ice

Well as usual, I needed to learn things the hard way and sure enough the result was a nice bit of road rash to the hip and hand.  (NC – 17 warning)

OUCH!A funny thing happens after coming off the bike hard.  Your instincts tell you to take things much more cautiously for a while and there is this uneasy timidness the next few times out.  Realizing that the recent mishap was a result of too much speed, the wrong line, or just not concentrating, getting down safely becomes the priority versus being aggressive.  Thinking versus reacting really is not a better way of going about things but I suppose it is human nature.

And as the saying goes in Tennessee,

So when I set out a couple of days later I was keenly aware of all of this.  The problem is this cautious mindset begins to work against you and you chances of coming off again become much greater as you ride more tense, grabbing too much break and doing other stupid stuff.

And guess what happens next?

OUCH2.0

Well, it comes with the territory I suppose but I am sure getting tired of changing the bandages.

If I could only descend like this Fabian guy life would be so much easier.

 

But since I can’t, maybe I am better off heading back to The Dam.

Grasshopper Amsterdam

See you at The Grasshopper

-The Gringo

Tales from the middle of nowhere

22 Dec
It’s been 6 weeks, 17 cities, and 5 countries since my last post so there certainly is no shortage of content….if only I can remember where we left off?
Oh yeah, Las Vegas and GNR.  So I got up the next morning, tip toed over the broken furniture and snuck out of the Hard Rock without a peep.
My next stop was St. George, in the southeastern corner of Utah and the heart of Mormon country.  I stopped into the local bike shop upon arrival and similar to drug dealer time, 30 minutes ends up taking 2 hours.
Over the Edge bike shop
Eventually they fixed what needed fixing and I was off for a quick spin before it was totally dark.  Ironman hosts a race in St. George so my plan was to get up the next morning and ride  a chunk of the course.  I went for dinner at one of the nicer restaurants in town, or at least the one with the fewest dually trucks in the parking lot.  While sitting near the bar watching BC and Notre Dame on a 1992 Sony Trinatron TV, the same model I had in college, I could not help but overhear the guy next to me on a date order a Lemonade with his meal.
I gotta get out of this town quick.
The next morning it was 34 degrees when I rolled out.  The ride was about 86mi and 5,400 feet of climbing on a very windy day.  It sucked.  If I ever say I want to do that race just put me in headlock.
My friend Robby recently moved from NYC to Park City, UT and since I was only 450 miles away I figured I’d swing by and say hello.  His home in Glenwild is perched up on a mountain with views of the surrounding mountains and Elk that roam freely.
Preserve-Elk
We had lunch with his buddy Brendan who founded competitvecyclist.com  and after lunch he gave us a tour of parent company Backcountry.com headquarters.  Other than that it was just nice to relax and catch up with Robby and his family before heading off to NYC for a week of meetings then to Minnesota for Thanksgiving.
The week in NYC went by really quick.  I all I really remember is interviewing with a couple of investment banks, meeting with my buddy about the media company he just joined, and an odd group ride consisting of myself, some guy named Floyd,  a former coworker, and a smattering of local riders.
Mayo50
Then it was off to Minnesota where after missing my Laguardia flight I was still able to squeeze in a dinner with 2 college friends at a new restaurant called Kenwood.  It very much reminded me of The Breslin in NYC but more like the less hot friend of 2 girls at the bar that you want to talk to .  The food was good enough though and it was great catching up with friends.
Then it was off to see the family with the highlight being ice skating with my nieces, nephews, sister, and sister-in-law at the local hockey arena.  We even managed a group photo!
Family Skate
And while it was not my first time being photographed on that sheet of ice, it was definitely a less scrappy crew than that of 16 years ago….
WHS96
-The Gringo

Welcome to the Desert

14 Nov axl1

On August 1st 1992 I was sitting in the locker room after Summer hockey practice when the most devastating news my 15 year old ears could hear was announced.

Surly this has to be a mistake, just a rumor….but if it’s true will there be a rescheduled date?

In the Spring of 1992 the 2 most notorious rock bands in the world paired up for a stadium tour.    Metallica and Guns N’ Roses were scheduled to play in front of 65,000 people at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, MN and somehow I managed to get tickets (and parental approval) to go see the show.

A mere 4 days before the gig, it was announced the show was being postponed due to an issue Axl Rose was having with his voice.  A week later the tour rolled into Montreal where a pyrotechnic incident cut the Metallica set short.  This was  followed by Guns playing only 55 minutes before walking off stage after having the kept the fans waiting for hours.  The crowd responded like any reasonable French Canadian would by rioting and trashing their own stadium and city.

Eventually the tour got back on track but the rescheduled date for Minneapolis was in September, on a school night….No shot I was going.  And that was it, I never got to see the original Guns ‘N Roses play live.

By the way, can you guess how much tickets to that show cost in 1992?

$27.50!!!  I think that’s what I paid for 2 beers at Madison Square Garden recently.

So anyway, what does all of this have to do with the present?   Well the drive last week from Valeyermo, CA to Park City, UT passes through Las Vegas and since I needed 2 days to make the trip I figured sin city was as good of a place as any to spend a night.   As I searched online for hotels it was brought to my attention that GNR was playing The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel.  So with cautious optimism I booked a room and bought a GA ticket.

I knew going in that it would be a very very tall order to see Axl and his new band put on a show that resembled the Metrodome show in ’92 but I thought if there was even an ounce of this it would be worth it:

 

Unfortunately what I got was the rock concert equivalent to watching Muhammed Ali get beat by Trevor Berbick in the last fight of his career:

I gave up after an hour of seeing Axl run around stage flanked by a knock off Izzy Stradlin on rhythm guitar, a bass player who looked like Johnny Rotten and a guy who couldn’t hold a candle to Slash on lead guitar.  It wasn’t a shock to me that they were nothing like I hoped they would be but I went back to my hotel room and trashed it anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

-The Gringo

What’s a Xantusia?

10 Nov Xantusia at Sunrise

BARCELONA

Hey folks, am back stateside for a bit but I will tell you the journey wasn´t for the faint of heart.   As much as I love having a bicycle in my possession at all times, it sure can create logistical issues.   Take for example the situation I found myself in as I boarded a train from Girona to Barcelona at the beginning of my daylong journey to the Slowtwitch.com bike fit workshop in Valyermo, California.

After toting my bike case 5 blocks from my apartment on Carrer de la Creu to Estacio Renefe  I bought a ticket and settled into my spot on the train for a 75 minute ride to Barcelona. There was no obvious place to stow the bike case so the open seat  adjacent to me seemed like the best option.

You know that feeling when you are at a concert or sporting event and ¨upgrade¨ to better seats because they are vacant yet  the entire time you really can´t enjoy the event because you are dreading the actual ticket holders showing up?  Well that´s exactly how I felt.  I could see the ticket taker was making his way down the aisle but I felt confident with my polished rebuttal ready for the inevitable showdown.  As expected the ticket taker was not happy and expressed this by exclaiming,  ¨Equipaje Grande!!¨.  We had a mildly heated exchange but eventually came to a mutual agreement that putting my massive bike box in front of the emergency exit would be the best solution for everyone.

Now I could sit back and focus on an order I was trying to place on Competitive Cyclist:

Thankfully we pulled into Barcelona Station without any further issues. I checked into the hotel, had dinner, and pretty much called it a night as a 9:30am flight and 33hr day was staring me in the face.

CALIFORNIA

Xantusia is a 13 acre endurance sports playground owned by former pro triathletes Dan Empfield and Mark Montgomery.  It is about 90 minutes outside of Los Angeles on the back side of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Slowtwitch.com founder Dan Empfield hosts a 5 day workshop on bike fitting.  It is a blend of bike shop owners, mechanical engineers, and entrepreneurs.  Dan does a great job of presenting what at times can be very technical information and his knowledge of the science behind bike fitting is unprecedented.  Here is Dan with local semi pro rider Gus Corona working on his time trial fit.

   

One of the days Paul Swift showed up to talk about for pedal-shoe interface.

As I looked on with great enthusiasm…

Meanwhile, back in Girona my good friend Rusty McGranahan sent this photo to assure me that things at El Doll Cerveseria were still running smoothly.


Most days the fitting classes started around 8am and would go until 5:30pm.  However, we were able to squeeze in a ride one morning at Xantusia, doing a climb that the past 2 years has been used for the KOM in the Tour of California.

After 5 days of locating peoples great trochanter, measuring seat angles, and cockpit lengths, you might imagine I was ready for a break.  That said, I learned a ton over the course of 5 days and walked away a certified F.I.S.T bike fitter, how about that!

 

 

Off to Park City, Utah next.  En route I may stop and try to make amends for an opportunity I missed nearly 20 years ago.  I´ll keep you posted.

 

-The Gringo

Bicycle Pub Crawl

2 Nov 090

So it was back to the office this week following the week-long road trip.  Returning home to my apartment in Girona felt pretty good after living out of a suitcase and driving around in my mobile locker room for 7 days.

Oh that reminds me, my mother keeps asking there have been several inquiries  from readers about my living quarters here. So without further adieu, here are a couple of photos:

Actually looks quite a bit like an NYC apartment huh?  The main difference is you can rent this place for what is costs to take a cab from Tribeca to Midtown.  The bike was not included though in case you were wondering.  That´s mine.

Given what I witnessed a few nights ago it would not surprise me to see apartments that came with bikes though.   It was brought to my attention that on Halloween there are a  group of people who travel from bar to bar to bar via their bicycles.  I suppose you could call it a pub crawl on wheels.  I saw them when I was heading out for the evening around 10pm, then again on my way to meet some friends later.  The pack had been at it for several hours and I presume muchas cañas had been consumed by this point.   It looked a bit like the first NYC Spring Series race of the season, see for yourself:

There were clearly several riders in the rec lane and I expect the list of violations will be long.  Still waiting to hear from race officials.

Wrapped things up around 3:30am that night, not too bad of a showing.

                                                                                                                                                                     Scraped myself together for a ride the next afternoon and actually felt pretty  good.  I stopped off for a quick coke just before the last climb ata restaurant called La Plaça.  Got some odd looks as I walked up to the bar of this 5 star restaurant in full kit but I later found out it was a favorite spot of The Texan when he lived here so now feel equally ambivalent about the event.

Must have pushed it harder than I thought on that last climb because my legs felt terrible climbing Els Angels the next day with Alberto.

-The Gringo

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best,

31 Oct hemingway

since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.  Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of the country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.

-Ernest Hemingway

So I took a few days off of riding to visit San Sebastian and Pamplona.  The foul weather continued unfortunately which apparently is typical for the region in October.   I checked into a fairly unremarkable hotel in San Sebastian however it did have a nice view of the  Kursaal Auditorium.

It was raining so hard that I was limited to bouncing from pintxos bar, to cafe, to pintxos bar.  Not the worst way to see the city I guess but I kept thinking of how nice it must be there in the Summer.  Looking for some sort of activity I climbed to the top of one of San Sebastian´s famous landmarks, Castillo de Santa Cruz de la Mota where I snapped a cool shot of Isle de Santa Klare.  The photo, taken with my iPhone, does not come close to capturing how stunning it is.

You know that feeling when you leave a city and feel like you didn´t really get to see it?  That´s how I felt when loading up the A1 and headed to Pamplona.  There is no question I am going back to San Sebastian in the Summer, this time with a better plan and a proper camera!

Map of My Road Trip

My expectations for Pamplona were really low for some reason.  While driving there I was contemplating just stopping for lunch since it was on the way back to Girona.  Pulling into the center I see a sign that says Plaza de Toros de Pamplona, ah the bullfighting ring.  As good of a spot as any to stop and walk around.

If you have not read The Sun also Rises, or missed the quote to start this post….and the photo, well it turns out Ernest Hemingway spent some time in Pamplona .  Cafe Iruna was his favorite locale while in visiting.  It is a striking space, built in1888 and was the first building to have electricity in the city.  They have done a nice job promoting the history of Hemingway without making the bar feel too touristy.

So I stuck my head in and then walked to tiny cafe where earlier they had been blasting some Bad Brains.

On my way to this cafe I walked by an oddly placed running store which was jammed in between a carnisseria and a pintxos bar.  I noticed they were going out of business, liquidating every last ugly piece of merchandise that had not yet sold.   What I saw as I approached the window confirmed a regrettable decision I had made this past July.  In preparation for Ironman Lake Placid I purchased a new pair of running shoes.  However, in a moment of pre- race euphoria I choose a pair of black Asics which I would later be ridiculed for by my friends, family, and the entire triathlon community.

 

It turns out that there is a global consensus that these shoes are hideous.

Unfazed by the painful memory,  I continued onto La Hormiga Atomica just up the street.  From what I could tell this place was part cafe, part library and had a bit of an anarchist feel to it.  The people inside looked nice enough though and they had free WiFi, so I stopped in. 

After an hour or so I noticed that many people had entered the cafe, yet it wasn´t getting more crowded.  When I asked the woman working the coffee bar why, she led me to a tiny freestanding building behind the cafe and its library.   A group of maybe 60 people were crammed into a small space listing to a band called La Banda de Rosie.  Here is a quick video as they played Sweet Child `O Mine:

The rest of the night consisted of bouncing around with some locals I met until around 3am when I retired to my presidential suite:

-The Gringo

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