Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Alpe d'Huez: 21 turns is still 21 turns too many

If you will recall, my first encounter with Alpe d'Huez did not go very well. When I finally made it to the bottom, I was pretty sure I was not cut out to be a cyclist. Fortunately I have short-term memory loss and was back on my bike within a few days. Last week I decided to give Alpe d'Huez another try.

I didn't factor in the new pedals.

My spiffy new pedals. 

It all started a few weeks ago when British guy was in a cycling shop. He called me.

British guy: So I'm at the shop and they have pedals on sale. Which color would you prefer?

Me: Hot pink.

British guy: Your bike is blue.

Me: I want hot pink.

British guy: They don't have hot pink. And anyway, you should get pedals that match your bike. Do you want dark blue or baby blue?

Me: Do they have anything with glitter?

I ended up with baby blue pedals, which I put on my bike right before we set off to spend a weekend cycling in les Hautes Alpes.

It was crisp and clear upon our arrival in Aspres-sur-Buëch and British guy and I set out to get in a quick evening ride before meeting up with the others for dinner and drinks around the campfire.

Eager to try out the new pedals, I jumped on my bike and struggled to get into my newer (and much stiffer) pedals. After a bit of maneuvering I finally clipped in only to realize that I was now incapable of unclipping my feet from the pedals. Panicking, I wobbled to a stop and gracefully fell off my bike.

Up until that point I had the feeling that I was becoming a more accomplished cyclist. However during this entire saga, British guy hardly even looked up from fiddling with his bike which made me realize that since he's so used to the wobbling and clattering that ensues whenever I come into contact with my bike, I'm probably not as accomplished as I thought.

Oh well.

British guy loosened my new pedals as much as possible, but I still couldn't get in and out of them very easily.

In spite of this, the weekend went well with at least one long and beautiful ride in les Hautes Alpes. I managed to do the first climb without falling too far behind. Unfortunately I didn't know that it was the first climb. I was under the impression that it was the only climb. This was not British guy's fault. He explains everything in detail before we set off. The problem is that while he's explaining the route, my thought process is doing something like this....

That's a pretty map. I wonder where I can get a map like that. If I had a map like that I could be super hardcore and do lots of cycling tours on my own. There's so many squiggly lines. Oooh, a cat is pouncing on butterflies outside. That's cute. I wish I had a cat. Once I almost had a cat, but my dog tried to eat it and my Dad said we couldn't keep it so he got me a goldfish instead. And then a water snail. Andy. That was his name. 

British guy: Does that sound good?

Me: Yes. Absolutely. Let's do it. Did you know that I had a water snail named Andy when I was growing up?

British guy: Did you see on the map where we're going to cycle?

Me: Yes. We're going to cycle along one of those squiggly lines.

And that's why when we get to the top of the first pass I am under the impression that it's the only pass and then am confused as to why I find myself climbing yet another pass when there was only supposed to be one.

The top of the 2nd climb.

At any rate, we had a lovely weekend with some very cool people and the following Monday we set off for Morocco. It was two weeks before we returned to Grenoble, which was long enough for me to completely forget about the pedal incident. So when British guy suggested that we head up to Alpe d'Huez to get in one last ride before the snow hits, I eagerly agreed.

British guy decided to take a longer route going up to the top via another road while I tackled Alpe d'Huez. The plan was that we would meet up at the top and then cycle down together. British guy set off. I did a nice easy 10 kilometer warm-up and began my ascent up Alpe d'Huez. I got about 0.5 kilometers up before I remembered that I had had a really difficult time getting unclipped from my pedals. The road got steeper. Cars roared past me. I pushed and twisted as hard as I could on my pedal to see if I could unclip it. Nothing happened. I tried again. Still nothing. I decided to give it one more try before officially panicking. It unclipped, but now I faced another problem. I couldn't clip back in. I toppled over onto the side of the road just as a car came zipping around the corner.

Not wanting to seem like an idiot, I quickly pretended that I was lying on the ground  on purpose. The car slowed down. I waved them on with a cheerful smile that said, "Don't worry. I'm on the ground because I'm supposed to be on the ground. I am an accomplished cyclist. Just fixing my bike. In the middle of the road. On the ground. Like accomplished cyclists do."

The car rounded the bend and was quickly out of sight. I tried to get back on my bike in the middle of a 9% grade. It was impossible. I decided I would push it up until I reached a flatter section of the climb where I could more easily get back on the bike without looking stupid. When you're cycling there is only one cool position. It's on the bike. Otherwise you just look like an idiot wearing a helmet with foam shoved down your neon spandex shorts. I had to get back on the bike as quickly as possible.

There was only one little problem. There was a lot of traffic, and I didn't want anyone to see me pushing my bike up so every time a car rounded the bend, I quickly bent over my bike and pretended I was adjusting the brakes. Not surprisingly my progress was slow, and by the time I reached a reasonably flat section of the road, I had had enough. I descended Alpe d'Huez with my tail between my legs.

When British guy descended an hour and a half later, he found me sunbathing in the parking lot.

British guy: What happened to you? Is everything alright?

Me: Oh yeah. I just made it up to the top so quickly that I got tired of waiting for you and decided to descend. It was pretty windy up there.

British guy: Had some trouble with the pedals again?

Me: I don't want to talk about it.

I spent the entire car ride home sulking while British guy tried not to laugh. I had intended on sulking for the remainder of the evening, but British guy strategically stopped by IKEA on the way home to pick some things up for the apartment. It's impossible to sulk in a place that has reindeer shaped pasta and free refills.

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