It's Only a Bike Race -

How Hard Can It Be?

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Winner of New Book Awards Prize!


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The Awards Judge Organization proudly announces the

Winners of the First Annual 2015-16


Los Angeles, CA—The Awards Judge Organization has announced the Winners of the First Annual NEW BOOK AWARDS.   The New Book Awards were created to boost recognition for outstanding literary achievement filtered out of a wide spectrum of America’s diverse literary community.  One purpose of the awards is to bring attention to independent and self-published works that might otherwise go unnoticed.  The New Book Award winners range from well-known and established writers to aspiring authors and first works. There are no quotas for diversity; the winners list simply reflects the quality chosen through a natural selection process.

The Awards Judge Organization (AJO) is a national independent product review & ratings commission.

The full text of the press release announcing the list of award winners including "It's Only A Bike Race" can be found at

Le Tour de France - A Vacation On Wheels?

Riding a bicycle around France during July sounds like an idyllic way to spend a few weeks during the summer. Visiting different regions of the country while on a leisurely ride through vineyards and sunflower fields seems like a fun pastime in which all French gentlemen should aspire to partake at least once during their lifetime. Just to add a little adventure and interest to the two-wheeled vacation, there would be a small prize for the first man to return to Paris. …. This was the ill-informed overall impression of the Tour de France that the author had gained during five years of studying French at high school on the other side of the world.

Some twenty years later when he was able to make his long-awaited first trip to France, he began to discover that his pre-conceived notions of the event were removed from reality by a large distance - over 3,000 kilometers to be exact. Having realized the extent of his original misperceptions about the Tour de France, the author was eager to discover whether it was still possible to enjoy the Tour de France in the way he had visualized it as a youngster. Substituting a campervan for a bicycle, he decided to follow the Tour de France for three weeks with the aim of enjoying the race while simultaneously taking in the sights, sounds and tastes of France. This book tells the story of his quest.

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Cliffsides and Beefsteaks

Stage 12 started in the city of Bourg-en-Bresse, not far from the Swiss border. On our way out of campground in the morning we picked up our pain cereale that we had ordered the night before. We expected it to be a rural type of bread and were not disappointed. It was a dark brown loaf encrusted with oats and grains. When my wife went to collect the bread from the campground café, the server was not sure she was quoting the correct order, since it’s an unusual type of bread for a non-French-speaking tourist to request. He was even more confused when he saw that the local daily newspaper Le Progress was also part of our order. Somehow my wife was able to convince him through sign language that I could read French, and so he reluctantly agreed to let her have both items. We drive down to the start town on a series of mountain roads above gorgeous view of deep gorges and mountains. Perhaps I should add that I enjoyed the Alpine views more than my wife who has holding on for dear life as we negotiated one cliff-side hairpin turn after another. 

The center of Bourg-en-Bresse had been decorated in celebration of the Le Tour and it offered many a postcard view.  We drove on another 14km (9 miles) to the village of Neuville-Les-Dames where we parked Giselle on the side of the road outside of town amidst agricultural fields. A tractor arrived while we were waiting for the Publicity Caravan and my first thought was that it was a local farmer come to make a statement of protest against all this Tour de France nonsense. Three generations of a family group had already set up opposite us and were patiently waiting for the excitement to begin. However after a while the youngest member of the family reached the end of his tether and started to cry. He was soon cheered by the arrival of the Caravan but became scared by the passing Vittel truck spraying misted water on the crowd. We have already garnered a stash of keyrings, hats, carrybags and numerous other items thrown from the sponsors’ floats during the past 9 Stages but are still hoping to get a Carrefour tablecloth for our folding picnic table. We have not seen the Carrefour car dispensing tablecloths for over a week but we’ll keep looking.

While we were waiting for the riders to arrive I read that saddle soreness is a common complaint among riders who are training before the new season begins. The body soon adjusts as it reaccustoms itself to the regular riding, but in the interim a common practice to insert a piece of steak in one’s riding shorts to provide some extra padding in the relevant area while on those early training rides.

When the riders came through we saw that the front end loader scoop attached to the tractor had been used by the farmer to create an improvised skybox for 3 spectators.  Not the most luxurious of skyboxes perhaps, but functional nonetheless. The weather had now improved considerably compared to the start of our journey and we had started to make use of the outdoor picnic table and “chairs” that we had rented with the camper van. However the so-called chairs turned out to be folding stools that would be perfect in height and width for an 8-year-old, and so on the way home from the race we stopped at a large mixed retail store (similar to Target) to buy outdoor chairs. Naturally we had to buy wine at the same time because after all what good would a comfortable chair and table setting be without a bottle of wine to set on the table?

After finding two suitable comfortable folding chairs, to complete the purchase we chose the checkout lane with the fewest people in it. There was only one person ahead of me, a middle-aged lady who happened to be wearing a headscarf in Muslim style, and she was just putting through the last of her articles when I arrived. My hope for a quick checkout was dashed when the lady motioned to the cashier that she wanted to pay for her groceries by check. However it seemed she didn’t know how to write a check, so the female cashier cheerfully did the whole thing for her with a smile. This whole incident made me reflect on the laws passed not long ago for public security purposes in France that restrict women from wearing headgear that covers their face. There had been much debate about the law, but it was nice to see that at the personal level there was no discrimination or resentment in evidence.

By the time we arrived back at our campsite the weather had warmed up to the extent that we decided to take a dip in the pool at the campground. After refreshing ourselves in the water that was much cooler than our pool at home in Texas would be right now, we went to the café bar to watch last 45 minutes of Stage 12 on TV. Not unexpectedly, yesterday’s hero Andrew Talansky withdrew from the race before the start. He had fallen a number of times during the race and was unable to go on carrying these injuries. I was excited to see the Australian rider Simon Clarke from the Orica-GreenEdge team alone in the lead, but the question as always was would the lone wolf eventually be caught by the rest of the pack before reaching the finish line. Inevitably Clarke was caught with some distance remaining, but one of his team-mates Michael Albasini was able to press on and finish fourth in the Stage.

We had been planning for a couple of days to have dinner that evening at a nice restaurant across the river from the campground. We arrived to find it all set up with tables inside and outside but no diners seated. After parking the van the lady came out to tell us they are completely full tonight for a function. As we left to go elsewhere we saw well-dressed guests starting to arrive. “Ok” we thought “we’ll just go to that little café we saw in Matafelon-Les Granges near the campground”. The café is next to an old stone church that is now, due to declining attendance, served by a regional priest who says Mass there only the 1st Saturday of the month at 5pm. We parked and sat outside in an area that was half-full. The waiter arrived a few minutes later and asked if we had a reservation, which we don’t. He says they’re fully booked, although we see no signs on any tables. We give up and go back to campground, hoping they are still serving. Fortunately they are and my wife ordered the chicken brochette (which was delicious) and I ordered the grilled Entrecote (very tough and almost unchewable).

I wanted to suggest to the waiter a method that could be used to tenderize his entrecotes, but I’m not sure that I would want to dine on the results.

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