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10 Things I learned in France...(8 posts)

10 Things I learned in France...mohair_chair
Jul 21, 2003 2:51 PM
I just got back from a two week trip to France, staying near Grenoble. Nice country, nice trip. Here are a few things I learned.

1. A perfectly flat road in France is steeper than the same perfectly flat road anywhere else. In fact, every road in France is steeper than any road anywhere else.

2. Drivers in France do not want to kill or intimidate me. In fact, they desperately do not want to come near me or any other rider. If they can't pass with plenty of room, they wait a respectful difference behind. You cannot imagine how good this feels.

3. By the way, drivers on the road don't drive in the left lane like so many idiots do here. They pass and scoot back over. It works amazingly well.

4. When Phil and Paul tell you the peloton is descending the Col du Glandon (south side), what they don't tell you is that the Glandon has at least a 1K section of 14% grade that goes UP! Ouch. And it gets really windy at the bottom.

5. There are few things as fun as a 20K descent. A 30K descent is one of them. Just stay out of the grooves when descending Chamrousse, or your trip will end prematurely. Watch out for melting road tar, too, as Joseba Beloki is now well acquainted.

6. L'Alpe d'Huez is not as hard as you would think. But it's still beyond my comprehension how Lance did it about 25 minutes faster than me, after doing the Madeleine and the Glandon!

7. The coolest road in the world to ride on is the Grand Goulets in Vercors. Ride it in a loop to do the second coolest road in the world, the Combe Laval section on the Col de la Machine.

8. People who say Los Angeles is smoggy probably haven't been to Grenoble when an inversion layer moves in.

9. Lance Armstrong speaks French only marginally better than I do, which is certainly good enough to make himself understood.

10. The most boring thing in the world is watching a sprint stage live on French TV, if you don't understand French (thankfully, I got 30-50% of it). There's no action, and the rest is just noise. It is kind of fun when a breathless Laurant Jalabert chimes in from the back of a motorcycle somewhere on the course. God bless Phil and Paul and Bob Roll, too.

One bonus thing:

11. If you love cycling, you must make a pilgrimage to France and ride there at least once in your life. Consider it your obligatory hajj.
Great post!CHRoadie
Jul 21, 2003 3:00 PM
Taking a riding vacation in France is on my list of things to do before I die, especially climbing L'Alpe d'Huez.
Just did the same trip myself and also stayed in Grenoblechopper
Jul 21, 2003 3:19 PM
And while I agree with you that Alpe d'Huez isn't as hard as you think it is damn hard when you do it back to back on days that are 100 degrees at the start. It is amazing how many people in cars honk at you but they were 100% friendly honks in my case. It was somewhat chiiling riding to Alpe D'Huez and the road signs say Les Deux Alpes, Alpe D'Huez and Col du Glandon. I agree that everybody should put it on their list of things to do. Next year I think I'll do the Pyrenees.
why is Grand Goulets cool to ride?kenyee
Jul 21, 2003 4:35 PM
and why is Combe Laval cool?
Intrigued, but can't picture it :-P

should have googled firstkenyee
Jul 21, 2003 4:37 PM
...just got back from a week in the Pyraneese.Mariowannabe
Jul 22, 2003 7:35 AM
I agree that cycling in France is a great experience. In six days I didn't have a single bad experience with another car. (A motorcycle cop pulled me over at the top of Port du Pailheres just before the riders came through, but I was asking for it;-).
French drivers (and cyclists) -- Wish we could import them!Dale Brigham
Jul 22, 2003 7:57 AM

Great to hear about your trip. I'm off to PBP in 4 weeks, and I eagerly anticipate riding in France again. As a 30+ year cyclist, I have never felt so much respect from auto drivers as I did there on my previous trip. The drivers I encountered were unfailingly patient, skillful, and courteous, as you describe above.

The one time I thought we were about to be harrassed, trudging into Loudeac in the wee hours of the morning during '99 PBP, turned out to be boisterous young cycling fans honking and yelling encouragement to us weary randonneurs heading back from Brest. I almost wept with joy (but was too tired to actually do so) at such a display of solidarity and friendship.

Thomas Jefferson said every (wo)man has two countries: his (her) own and France. I agree.

OK, I want to go! (nm)Nigeyy
Jul 22, 2003 8:08 AM