Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Report: "French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France" by Tim Moore

This is a review of the book French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France by Tim Moore.

I checked this book out of the library with very low expectations. It looked like a joke and quite honestly that's what it was.

I read about 5 chapters of it and decided to research what other people had to say about it. A lot of people made reference to being stylistic similar to Bill Bryson's writing style. This helped me understand the intentions of the author a lot better.

I'll start with the positive aspects of the book. I really admired Moore's goal to conquer the route of the Tour de France. Even if it's only part of the route or even something similar to the route. That is an extremely large goal to undertake, quite honestly much more thank hiking the Appalachian Trail, as Bryson did.

The text seems to reflect that he prepped for this trip much in the same way that Bryson prepared for his trip down the Appalachian Trail. He did a little bit of research, bought a mid-range bike, took a spinning class and rode down the street once on the bike. Even with these minimal preparations, I will give him credit for seeking advice from people that know, at least moderately, what they're talking about. Even if he only listened to about half of the advice.

The journey started off on the wrong foot. He had trouble getting his bike into the country, he had trouble getting his bike onto the train, he had trouble getting the tour route even after the route had been released.

Impressively when he was able to get moving on a route that was somewhat like the Tour route he actually rode pretty well. I found the way that he described his amateurish mistakes and mishaps entertaining. Additionally I liked the way that he went into some interesting history about the Tour, telling stories that I never heard and going into details I had not heard for stories that I did know.

On the negative side the guy is a complete narcissist. Even though the book is about him, he still is obsessively absorbed in himself. Second only to himself, he seems to have a strong sense of pride in his country and really dislikes how things are done in rural France. He cuts down a majority of the places that he stays. In a lot of situations he is downright rude to the staff at the restaurants that he eats at and the hotels that he stays at.

Finally he possesses a strong need for recognition. Don't get me wrong, what he did was no small feat, but the way that the novel reads suggests that he was just short of screaming at people, "Look at me! I'm riding the Tour de France route, aren't I the bomb?!"

The worst part of the whole experience is that, in the end, the experience is not in the least bit life changing. He goes back to his old life style, watches the tour but doesn't ride his bike anymore. He doesn't even seem to have any interest in it nor in fitness in general.

To me it seems as though the negative aspects of this book far outweigh the positive aspects. However the strangest part of this books is that I couldn't put it down. Even though there were a lot of things that I really disliked I read the it through cover to cover. I give him a lot of credit, he is a really good writer. It takes a lot to write a book that I read through even if I don't like the content.

In summary I generally liked this book. I'm not sorry that I read it and I definitely don't think that I wasted my time. With that said, I'm not certain that I would recommend buying it. It is definitely worth a read if you don't have to lay down any money for it, but I'm only going to read it once and feel no need to make it a permanent part of my personal library.

Run Along!

I recently started running. Yes running. This is surprising to me because I have hated running for as long as I can remember.

I started running because I wanted to lose enough weight to feel comfortable enough to get back on my bike. Last year I severely indexed my headset on my beater bike putting me in a situation where I would have to undergo a costly repair or stop riding the bike. It was ok with me since I was feeling light enough to be on my good bike. When winter came around I entered a really bad migraine cycle and gained a bunch of weight.

I decided that I needed to lose some weight, but I always need exercise in addition to improving my eating habits in order to drop the pounds. I knew that cycling, for the short term was out, I didn't want to strain the carbon fiber parts of my good bike with the amount that I weigh. I couldn't use my elliptical because it was in need of repairs, plus I didn't want to be stuck in the basement half the summer.

Being that I was cornered I had a crazy thought. Maybe I should start running. I had that same thought last year, attempted the couch to 5k program and after two days I had serious joint pain in my knees and stopped before it could escalate further. However this year I decided to try a lower impact form of running, I decided to start trail running.

Thus far the outcome has been phenomenal. I've been running for just over a month I feel great and I've lost 11 lbs. I've had absolutely no joint pain whatsoever. All in all it has been a huge success. Additionally I'm excited because in another 11 lbs I will be at the weight I was at when I started gaining weight last fall and will feel comfortable being on my bike.

Like I had said, I initially started running just to get back on my bike. A strange thing happened after about two and a half week, I discovered that I actually like trail running. I like it so much so that I will continue to mix it into my workout schedule when I'm light enough to be on my bike.

Phases of Fandom

Have I matured as a cycling fan? When I was a kid I was only interested in Olympic cycling. It's understandable because that's all was exposed to. Late in my college life I became a lot more interested in cycling in general, both as a sport and as entertainment. I was interested in things that were popular in the US, mainly le Tour de France, Lance Armstrong, Davis Phinney, Andy Hampsten, and Bobke.

I have slowly become interested in more races. Most of which were in late June or early July. Ok basically this meant the Tour and the Dauphine, not much progress. I definitely knew that there were other races but I didn't follow them. In fact the only one that I was really certain of was the Giro d'Italia, and all that I knew about that was that it was in May.

This year I have found myself being more interested in other races. I actually knew what weekend some of the classics were going on and on top of this I have actually been following the Giro. I'm getting interested in it to the point where I will watch an Italian only video feed since there is little to no live coverage in the US.

I will admit that I'm still not quite to the point where I go crazy catching all of the spring classics, nor am I drinking gin and playing trombones in the fall (cyclocross) but I'm getting there.

So to answer the question: Have I matured? The answer is definitely no, but I'm getting there.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year! Welcome to the year of the tiger.

We were going to have a dumpling party later today but we are sick. I'm disappointed, but we will make up for it later this year.

IOC Comments on the Luge Accident

I did not have the stomach to watch the fatal accident of the Georgian slider, Nodar Kumaritashvili, on Whistler Sliding Centre's track, but it was a very tragic accident.

Although I had never heard of the guy before yesterday, it still made me sad for multiple reasons. First of all, I never want to see someone die just before they have a chance to perform in the Olympics, the world stage of sport. Secondly this makes me said because this slider was very young. The guy was 21. He potentially had a long life yet to be lived.

There is another thing that makes me sad and incredibly disappointed which is the response from the IOC. The IOC made a statement effectively stating that the accident had nothing to do with the track. I consider the entire even to be the accident, not just the part where he missed the turn and flew off his sled. To me the accident also included the follow through and what happened to the slider after he came off of the sled.

Although I cannot find a link to it, I also saw an interview on the nightly news yesterday evening with a member of the IOC stating, in essence, that the slider was too inexperienced to be on the track. This is a completely unacceptable statement. The guy didn't just show up out of nowhere with a sled. He was an Olympic athlete. He had to qualify for the event. This is a track that is being used as an Olympic tack. By definition an Olympic athlete is experienced enough to be on an Olympic track.

As everyone who has been paying attention to this event has seen, a barricade has been erected blocking the steel beams that Kumaritashvili struck which caused his death. In addition to this the starting point of the men's event was moved further down on the track. So I pose this question: If there was nothing wrong with the track then why did the organizers feel the need to take these precautions? Is the track suddenly unsafe for Olympic athletes?

You can make your own conclusions. As you can see, I have made mine.