Thursday, 22 June 2017

On my first Challenge of the year

I sat out the first of Vélo-Québec's 3 Challenges this year on account of a sore ankle. I am not sure what I did, but I think a pulled a tendon or something at the gym on the Wednesday before the Metropolitan Challenge and so I was in a certain amount of discomfort vis-à-vis my right ankle for a few days to the point of popping into a nearby clinic to get a medical opinion. Unfortunately, all the nurse could say was that there wasn't anything obviously wrong. So I opted out on the grounds of prudence.

Naturally, the pain went away on the day of the Challenge and I wasn't in a position to take advantage of the relief. This was the weekend before the Tour de l'Île.

Last Saturday was the Mauricie Challenge. I drove up in a rented car to Trois-Rivières to meet the Parents and their friend Annie S. (not Fil's old girlfriend Annie B.) at the Trois-Rivières youth hostel where Annie had booked us a room for four.  The next morning, after a breakfast of spinach and onion omelets with Mummy homemade toast and coffee, we set off to the start the other side of the Saint-Maurice River in Cap-de-la-Madelaine.

It had rained the night before, but day turned out fairly nice.  Quite cool and mostly dry with little wind. It was fairly cloudy most of the day with sunny breaks which increased with afternoon. After the obligatory "cheese de groupe au départ", we set off like herd of tortoises to borrow a phrase from my sister. This refers to any start that happens in bits and drabs and takes longer than expected. I am afraid I was the last to leave owing to a pre-departure pit stop.

 I fell in behind a group of cyclist going at a fair, but slightly too slow, clip for a dozen or so kilometers before they slackened their pace for a bit which led me to overtake them. This resulted in me pushing myself a bit too much for my first real jaunt on Leonardo this year which meant I had soreness in my legs by the time I overtook Mummy on her new road bike. I slacked off the pace and let her draft behind me, allowing her to exploit my size and relative youth. This ties into one Margo's sayings, namely: "Large nephews make good windbreaks."
 I used the opportunity to take a selfie over my shoulder. Mummy was impressed at my skill. Apparently, she has yet to master the ability to shift gears and pedal at the same time. I would have thought she was better at multi-tasking than that. I was feeling a shade out of shape so I kept to the basic 100 km course, the same distance as my parents and Annie did. I can say that I averaged a higher speed, but then I stopped a bit more than they did meaning that we kept leapfrogging each other, and arrived at lunch at about the same time.
 After lunch, I passed this business which evidently believed in the pre-literacy school of signs, and thus the backhoe sticking from the wall and the large hammer. ;-)
 My Father has a somewhat aesthetic taste in bike clothing and tends to make snarky comments about the logo laden spandex-type cyclists. He something of hypocrite in this as he is notorious for mixing and (mis)-matching various bits of active wear.  One of his more outlandish hiking outfits is a pair of genuine leather lederhosen (minus the suspenders), with a random t-shirt and South American fedora hat which he pushed the crown out.  So for the Défi, he chose to actually wear bike shorts, in which he tucked in (a definite faux-pas in and of itself) a red t-shirt, and wore a red and white helmet under which he wore a bright yellow skull cap which I had bought him so that he might have a second one to go with the red one (which I also had bought him).  Would it have been too difficult to coordinate by wearing the red cap?
The Parents arrive ten or so minutes after Annie and I. We sat at a table in the shade and drank chocolate milk and iced tea.  I offered to go to the bar tent for beer which Pappy accepted. Annie and Mummy demurred though the latter then helped herself to sips prompting the family joke "Oh no, you don't! You'll have 'arf a pint like the rest of us!"

While we were loafing around, Mummy made unfortunate comments about a rather plump, middle aged woman who crossed the finished line.  I pointed out that by the colour of her bracelet (light blue such as Pappy and Mummy are wearing in the above photo) I could tell she had done at least 80 some odd kilometers, and from the time she arrived, I suspected she had done at least 100. As well, she didn't look knackered (as in "Oh God, I don't wanted to go another step. Some please catch me.") Furthermore, the important thing was that she was out on her bike.

To be honest, I was feeling a trifle defensive as I feel I am too thick around the middle these days.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

On clueless prizes

Apart from one incident, this year's Tour de l'Île went very well up until Vélo-Québec awarded me a prize.

The day had been forecast as unfavourable with cloudy skies, cool and with a chance of rain for much of the week. However, the forecast got better on Saturday and in the event the weather was near perfect. Sunny yet cool (high of 21). Indeed, I made the mistake of heading to the event in long trousers. I was again a volunteer mobile bike mechanic. Again like last year, I left my place early for th Chalet in Lafontaine park to pick up my Bénévélo kit and that of my friend J.-P..  There was a sign on the outside wall saying beware of the mother duck.  Low and behold, there was indeed a mother mallard who had made a nest in one of the big planters next to the wall. She was keeping a close eye on anyone who came close to her. A pair of duckling poked their fluffy heads out from under her and I had the impression that there were more under her.
 After picking up the kits, I headed over to J.-P.'s for breakfast. His family has grown by one since last year. Chloé is now a big sister to Estelle who is just starting to locomote. Both very cute. After breakfast, J.-P. and I headed to the start to await our orders to roll and to seek out people who needed their tires inflated. Our team was in fact sought out by a woman who had found a young girl who had lost her mother. J.-P. and a couple of policemen looked after her.
 The one seriously untoward incident came when Montreal's fat  and evil slob of a mayor got on the public address system and made a blatantly vote seeking speech which touched on his needlessly expensive Montreal 375 party which he implicitly contrasted with the previous night's terrorist attack in London and made empty promises about bike paths. (This, by the way, is the first time I have heard a mayor speak at the Tour de l'Île.)  I would have thrown a mushy banana at him, but pity stayed my hand: it was a pity I wasn't near enough to see where he was.
After a while, J.-P. and I set off, but a few blocks later, we stopped to greet Marie-France, daughters and Felix, his nephew. The latter had been put in charge of pulling the elder daughter in the Tour in a trailer! What with one thing and another, J.-P. and I were separated before we left Parc Avenue. My services were called for in order to help someone with a flat tire and possible seat handlebar interface problems which would be tedious to related but not so tedious as to endure, to borrow a phrase from Douglas Adams. The one good thing was that I got to say "Shalom" to passing Hasidic Jews who pointedly ignored me.

The Tour de l'Île generates an amount of surprising and potentially dangerous litter. I make it a point to pick up as much of it as I can. This year, I picked up one full biking water bottle, two Gatorade bottoms (one full and one empty), a velcro LED visibility strap, a pair of biking gloves (whose owner I found) and a new inner tube, still in its box (size 700x35-42 Schrader valve).

My observation is that people who are participating in the Tour are either trending towards the better equipped or are opting for Bixis. The former require less intervention from Bénévélos and the latter are of less concern as if something goes wrong we can't really help them given the way Bixis are designed. All this to say that I didn't have whole lot of business from cyclists. Discounting inflating tires at the start, I would say that I escorted more "civillians" across the road than I helped cyclists!

Once back at Fletcher's Field, I found the volunteers' tent where I enquired where I was to return my unused inner tubes. One of my fellow volunteers told me it had been cunningly located at the opposite corner of the field. I went over and dropped off my unused inner tubes as well as the one I had found as I have no use for  Schrader valved inner tube.

Around lunchtime today, I got a "Thank you" e-mail from Vélo-Québec which reminded volunteers that there was a "happy, jolly" thank you party this evening and that the following volunteers had won a prize. I was surprised to see my name on list and J.-P.s!  The party was to be held at the Musée Grévin. So I headed there after work.  My path was blocked by the f***ing street party on Crescent street for the f***ing F1.

The Musée Grévin is, in essence, a Québécois knock-off of Madame Tussaud's. It is located in a former movie theatre in the Eaton's Centre in former years I saw such movies as Cutthroat Island and Interview with a Vampire. As you start the tour, you first confronted with number of Québécois celebrities, before encountering people most non-Québécois are likely to have heard of. The effect is really rather cheesy. One room was laid out like the shower from Psycho with Alfred Hitchcock sitting down and reading a script. However, if you looked behind the curtain, there was no Janet Leigh, nor even a bottle of chocolate syrup! Also, the accuracy of at least one of historical figures was farcical: depicting General Wolfe with a musket on his back is monumentally wrong.

That didn't stop me from taking a few selfies.
I was surprised at how tall he was.
I was also surprised that they didn't have one of his son.

I would have love to have taken a selfie with her husband.


After making my way through the maze, I came the table where I could claim my prize.  Oh joy.  Oh rapture.  A year's free Bixi usage.

Do the clowns at Vélo-Québec even try to think these things through? I mean, chances are a "bénévélo" is bound to already own a bicycle. And those that do and who happen to use Bixis (all three of them) have probably already yearly passes. To boot, this "prize" is only really useful to those who live in the Bixi area and those who live further away from downtown would might view it as a pretty empty prize. Then you have the not insignificant percentage of the population who view Bixis as a poorly thought out waste of taxpayer's money and a serious drain on the biking budget.

Sorry Vélo-Québec, while the Tour de l'Île might be better than the Five Boroughs, a prize of "free" Bixi usage is not a suitable thank you gift. It is an insult.