Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Catching up

Well the past week has flown by pretty quick and without much internet access. Tuesday Marco took me to Zurich to meet with Shannon and Marco’s friend. Shannon and I left Marco and his friend for awhile and went up Bahnofstrasse, which, until a couple years ago, was the most expensive street of shops in Europe. It was pretty sad going in some of the shops that had 50% off sales and having their jeans still be hundreds of dollars. After stollinig up and down the street for a bit, we headed back and walked along the Lake of Zurich and through the park there. It looked really pretty…too bad it was probably too cold to swim in!

Wednesday evening I raced the Kriterium in Bruegg. The women race with the older juniors and there is a sprint every lap. The race was only 30 minutes long but sprinting the boys every 1k lap was pretty tiring. I attacked a few times, realizing I had nothing on them in the sprint and had to rely on a break-away. I got third in one sprint trying to bridge up to two up the road (one of who was Shannon!) and then got caught at the line in another. It was really fun though. I’ll get to do the race again next week which I’m really looking forward too. I think I do at least part of the men’s race as well and just hang on in the back. We brought Peter back with us Wedensday to Zollbruck.

Thursday morning Peter and I went to the Backerei in town for a breakfast spread they offer which was amazing. After we were able to do a little shopping for presents for home ;-) In the afternoon we went for a three-hour ride with teammate Jessica and her twin brother Christian in the Thun area. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain for most of it and even started hailing huge hail for twenty minutes. We had to hide under a porch for awhile. It was very nice to be warm and dry again later J

Friday morning Peter and I went for a nice and short warmup ride and shortly after we left, I to Fabienne’s in Remigen and Peter back to Weiach. The day at Fabienne’s was good and consisted of vodka-spiked pasta sauce with pasta of course, and trying on a wedding dress Fabienne bought for fun.

Saturday we left pretty early for the race called the Lightweight Uphill Challenge in Germany. It was sponsored by obviously, Lightweight. The winner of each category was given a set of $5k Lightweight wheels. The course was only 8.3k and was a time-trial. I didn’t feel so hot but Shannon won by 1/7 of a second and won herself a brand new pair of wheels. Sweet! After the race we headed to Verduz, Lietchtenstein, where we stayed in a hotel near Stephanie’s flat.

Sunday morning was the death ride with Stephanie, Shannon, Fabienne, Philipp, and Ernst. Three (killer by Texas standards) mountains with my nice cassette meant for flat, Texas roads ;-) The climbs were pretty hard mostly because my cadence was well below 50 but it was good to practice descending. I realized that I really haven’t had much good practice at descending like that but that would be because I really have only been up maybe 6 legit mountains in my cycling career. I think I figured out how to go through a switchback though so that’s exciting! The ride ended up being 4.5 hours which is a lot longer than I normally train right now, but it was good nevertheless and I was happy for the good company. We pretty much vegged for awhile on the couch after and ate some pasta and watched the finish of the Tour. I started not feeling well shortly after the ride, but shrugged it off as the ride. That evening I went to Peter’s house in Weiach and met Benji’s parents. Benji’s mom made us this really good ice cream dessert sundae with espresso and coconut liquor. His parents are very nice.

Baby cows

Monday I woke up pretty sick, but nevertheless, Peter and I left on the train to Freiburg, Germany where we’ll be staying for the week at Christian’s girlfriend’s condo. The trip went by pretty smoothly all things considered and we even ended up paying a lot less for our train ticket by buying it in Germany instead of Switzerland. We walked around a bit along the main shopping street here which is ridiculously close by. Lots of interesting things to look at for sure! Peter and I are all about saving money, so we stopped at a neat Trader Joe’s-like grocery store we found and cooked some dinner at home and just chilled. I went to bed at 8pm and woke up at 7:30am.

The view outside the porch

Tuesday we walked around town a bit more looking for free internet (hahaha). We had no luck for free internet, but we did find a neat little shop that was only $0.03/minute. I think we’ll be going back a bit more this week. We just walked around town a bit more today and had lunch at a bakery and found a Migros to get stuff to cook dinner. It’s really good to have a few days with Peter to explore this city but mostly just veg. I’m really good at stressing myself out and Peter is really good at making realize I don’t have to be, so it’s good he is here.

Peter with gelato "spaghetti"

Wednesday morning we walked to the big cathedral that is maybe a ten-minute walk from the condo. There was a huuuge farmer's market all around the cathedral with tons of produce, breads, olives, meats, flowers, woodwork, toys, and other handicrafts. It was all really inexpensive too. The rest of the day is pretty much chill and go ride. Peter is out riding for three hours now and will come back to pick me up for the last two along the river. We'll make a pitstop on the way back to soak our feet in the icy water. Sounds lovely, huh?

St. Mary's Cathedral


Peter insisted on taking my picture

Monday, July 20, 2009

Steinmauer TTT + Aareschlucht

Sunday was the Swiss National Championships for the Team Time Trial. Since Stephanie is German and Shannon and I are American, we couldn’t compete for a medal, but were able to race out of contention. Fabienne, Sereina, Jessica, and Myriam all raced in contention. Since we didn’t have any aero equipment and only three people, some of the pressure was off, but of course the three of us still wanted to make a good show. The course was two, 30k laps of a rolling course and it was quite windy and chilly. We did fast rotations until we got settled in a bit and then moved to longer 1-minute rotations. Things went well though and we passed two other women’s teams somehow. In the end, time-wise, our Swiss women’s team was first, and then we were second by over two minutes- another good day for Team Bike-Import. Peter was nice enough to schedule his ride around my race and came out during his ride to cool-down with me after the race. It was nice getting to see him for a few minutes.

I’m back in Zollbruck for the week and Shannon is gone at Fabienne’s. Marco is on holiday so he has some entertainment planned for me for the week. This afternoon was the first part of the entertainment with a short walk along this amazing river that goes right through a mountain. The place is called Aareschlucht. It was really amazing to see how powerful water really is to do that to a mountain. After, we went with the parents to a restaurant to get gelace. It’s raspberry season here so everything has raspberries in it now. Sounds good to me! The rest of the evening is just chill-time for me so I can do some research and do other important things like update my blog ;-)

Carrot-monstor from the mother's garten

Liechtenstein Day 5-6

Friday was a very dreary day. It poured rain all day long. It never once stopped. After Stephanie got home from work, we took a little trip to Austria to a village that had good shopping. Since I wasn’t really intending on buying anything, I just followed Stephanie and Shannon around while they went in a few shops, including H&M. Now I can say I’ve been to one of those. Definitely a good place to go if you just want something in particular since the options are extensive and very affordable.


In the evening we drove around awhile trying to find a restaurant that had room for four. Stephanie and Philipp were hoping to take us to a more traditional place, but the options we tried were full. We settled on Indian of all things. We got a bottle of red wine with our curry meal. The wine was really good.

Saturday it was still pouring buckets and even snowing on the surrounding mountains, so Philipp suggested a spur-of-the-moment trip to Ticino in the Italian part of Switzerland where it was sunny and warm so we could ride. The ride was really nice and the area was beautiful. Unfortunately, since holidays just started for Germany and the place is a hot tourist spot, the area was very crowded and the traffic was terrible, so I didn’t get to appreciate the area as much as possible. Maybe next time ;-)

The evening was nice. Just a silly Australian movie called Black Sheep. In this movie, these sheep go crazy when they get bitten by a scientifically-created baby sheep. The sheep then attack and kill people. Of course the main character also had a phobia of sheep. Pretty silly. All-in-all, our stay in Liechtenstein was really great. It was nice to be in a new area of the country and Stephanie and Philipp were great hosts.

On the way to Ticino


Pretty Ticino

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Liechtenstein- Day 3-4

Wednesday rained all day until 3pm, which meant a delayed ride until then. We rode along the Rhine river on this nice path that forbids cars. The path is full of runners, walkers, road and mountain bikers, and rollerskaters. Rollerskating seems to be pretty popular here. We rode into Austria a little bit before turning around and heading back. Shannon and I had some 10-minute rotating intervals to get ready for the 60K team time trial this weekend. It felt good to move the legs like that after the massage the day before.

In the evening, we took this tiny cable car up to the top of this 1800 meter mountain to a restaurant. There are no roads to the restaurant, just a hiking path to the top. Shannon just about had a panic attack on the way up. It was pretty high, but I think the worst of my fear of heights has passed- it didn't bother me too much. The weather was pretty cloudy so the view was pretty eerie. Unfortunately, because of the clouds we couldn't see Lake Constance. Oh well. The restaurant is famous for its Rösti which are Swiss potato pancakes. They were amazing, similar to hash browns but better. Phillip and Stephanie are hilarious and I've really enjoyed getting to spend the week with them. I'm thankful they offered to host us this week.

The moutain-top restaurant

Geez that's high. Hellooooo valley!

These prevent avalanches. Sweet!

Shannon's giant bier. It equaled about two normal ones.

Rösti with Piggy

In the clouds, Shannon and I

When we got back, we started to watch this awesome movie in Deutsch with English subtitles called Die Schweizer Macher. It was about people wanting to become naturalized in Switzerland, but first they had to get approval from the naturalization office. The office took the job seriously and would stalk these people because they said that you couldn't become a naturalized Swiss until you were indistinguishable from a born Swiss citizen. It was hilarious.

Thursday Stephanie, Shannon, and I went riding in the morning with Stephanie's MTB friend Alexa. We all had sprints which worked out nicely for riding together. We rode the other direction on the Rhine to Switzerland and towards the town where Heidi is fabled to have lived. It was another good ride.

In the afternoon, Shannon and I walked to downtown Vaduz (a whole 10-minute walk from the flat) to go to the Liechtenstein museum. I can't find the name of the German artist they were featuring, but his work was quite creepy. The theme of his work was death and the brevity of human life. All the rooms were dark with either candles or dull, old-fashioned light bulbs to light them. One of the rooms featured black and white pictures of old classmates that he didn't remember therefore he said they are "dead" and he put a light bulb under each one. It was just bizarre. Another room had discarded clothing from people that are now dead. Another had three French T.V. shows playing on super fast forward projected on 3 of 4 walls in a small room. It was squeaking with the words being said so fast. You could stop the shows by pressing a stop button but it would resume again. It was supposed to show how no matter what, life keeps moving, eventually resulting in death. I'm just thinking he is a depressed dude. If you spend your whole life contemplating death, before you know it, it'll be your turn and you won't have made anything of your life. Wasteful I think.

Creepy art

After the creepy museum, Shannon and I walked through downtown looking through a couple shops and finding some postcards to send home. We stopped by Coop for some Biberli and some rehydration before heading to the Catholic Church. It was surprisingly small, but I guess it fit the small size of the country. The interior was strikingly beautiful with a dark grey interior with vibrant, jewel-like stained glass. Oh and there were gargoyles ;-) It was an enjoyable afternoon for me.

The rest of the day was pretty chill with reading and finishing a book, watching the tail-end of the Tour, a delicious fish dinner, and the chick flick Alfie.

The Prince's castle

Man painting the Parliament Building

The bell tower of the church

The stained-glass inside the church

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Liechtenstein- Day 1-2

Phillip created my life plan on the white board. This is the path to a world champion. It's a mountain path. Part way there is a doping station which you can go through or go around. Also, the air gets thinner at the top so people get a little crazy ;-)

The first day in Liechtenstein was good. Unfortunately, I'm back to my old problem of not being able to sleep in the morning, so I was up far to early but it was good to get caught up on emails and blogging and such. Phillip, Stephanie's husband, brought us to his work for a "business meeting" to talk about Clif products which he is interested in importing. Shannon and I chilled there a bit longer so he could wrap up things there. After we went to a retired bike-mechanic who had a sweet bike shop setup in his basement so that he could look at Shannon's ever-loosening headset. It was nice to just drive around and see the country. The scenery is very nice here with huge mountains and flat valleys. After a lovely dinner made by Stephanie, Shannon, Stephanie, and I headed to the open-air cinema that was going on in downtown Vaduz (the capital city) since they were playing a movie in English. We watched Sunshine Cleaners- it was quite good.

The bike shop

Today we got up and rode for a couple hours before Stephanie had to head to work. We went to Switzerland and rode through the valleys with her friend Alexa who is a mountain bike racer. She is doing some crazy 8-day mountain bike race that goes across the Alps and has 3000 meters (~9000 feet) of climbing each day. In the afternoon Shannon and I got really good massages from Stephanie's massage therapist, Fabienne. This evening we're going to dinner at Phillip's mom's house.

This country is pretty interesting. Only 62 square miles, most of which seem to be one big mountain and a bit of the surrounding valley. There is a prince here who pretty much rules the country now. A few years ago he threatened to move to Austria if the people didn't listen to him and everyone was distraught. The country gave him more power after that. The country also throws a party for a dead prince every August 15th. Anyways, it's been an enjoyable visit so far and its nice to have another person to ride with us!


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Peter Visit and My First Mountain Race

The past few days have been good but busy. Thursday Peter journeyed to Zollbruck to visit for a couple days. It was very nice to have him around. Since I usually see him every day, it has been weird not seeing him. We went to buy some forest honey from a friend of the family in the mountains. The flavor is a lot more caramel-like it's good.

The Emmental on the way to the Bienenhonig (honey)

Abigail, me, Peter, and Shannon

Friday, the parents took us to a Kambly cookie factory and a famous pottery and then drove us up a moutain that overlooked the Emmental.

Too many cookies

Emmental cow

Pottery workstation

Shortly after we got back Shannon, Peter, and I left with Susanna and Abigail to go to the Schloss-Spiez. The castle was neat of course but not as neat as the one that we went to earlier in the week. We did climb to the top of the tower on some pretty rickety wooden stairs. It was worth it for the view. After some quick duck feeding, we drove back to Zollbruck to meet Marco for riding.
Peter and I

View from the top of the castle's tower of Thunersee


Shannon and I had a nice easy ride to a huge, elegant Catholic church and back and Peter and Marco rode up mountains. The evening was pretty busy getting everything ready to leave early in the morning and the night ended up being far too short.

Peter, Shannon, and I riding in the Emmental

Saturday we left pretty early in the morning so that we could get to the area of the race by early afternoon for some pre-riding. Some areas of the country do not have roads connecting them to the rest of the world and instead you put your car on a train to reach it. It was pretty weird.

On the car-train

We arrived in Valais and went on a nice hour ride with the team. The region is very pretty with lots of vineyards and huuuge mountains. It was amazing to be in the valley and realize that the next day we'd have to go to the tip top of one of the big ones.


After the ride, we dropped off Peter at his hotel and went to Stephanie's Aunt's vacation house which was about 10k from the finish of the race the next day. Stephanie's Aunt and her boyfriend cooked us a delicious feast and we enjoyed a long dinner with many laughs. Everyone on the team and all the staff are great.

Shannon and Stephanie grate cheese

A late bedtime and an early wake up was no fun but eventually we made it down to the race course to get ready. We started at 9am with the juniors. Juniors really don't like women in their field and so they insisted on going 50k an hour for the first 35k on the flats. There was some confusion with the Elite Men and the motorcycles took them everywhere but on the course so all fields had to restart. Pretty confusing. We just restarted where they stopped us 11K into the race. A lot of the juniors blew themselves up before the climb trying to get rid of the girls. Funny because only one girl was dropped. They were going to beat the gals on the climb anyways... The climb was really hard. I've never done one so long was 35k total with one 5k decent in the middle. It took a very painful hour and a half to get to the finish in Nax. It was insane at the top looking down into the valley and realizing we had climbed over 6000 feet in just 35K. Wow. The team went 1-5 and Ernst was pleased. Peter did well too- he got 15th.. YAY!
At the top

Up and up and up

This is about 2/3 up the mountain!

Shannon and I drove back with Stephanie and her husband Phillip to Liechtenstein where we'll be staying for the week. The country is so tiny with only 11 villages. I think Stephanie and her husband have some fun stuff planned for Shannon and I this week. It's nice to change it up a little and train and see a new part of the country (or a new country!).