This email got me thinking about my relationship to cycling as a fan and rider.
I have followed professional cycling for decades or since Greg LeMond won his first Tour de France. I have spent much of my precious time and resources as an avid fan in Italy, France, England California and Australia. When the UCI ejected Peter Sagan from the Tour de France last July, my fan heart was broken.
I never thought Lance Armstrong was clean because I saw an interview with Greg LeMond talking about getting dropped by riders who the year before were middling racers. Then he knew the drugs were winning. Lance was up among the elite riders who were winning and they were getting caught doping. My assumption was that he was better at not getting caught. So I left some room for being wrong and cheered Columbia High Road and other riders on. Besides he was a bully, that was clear without a urine sample.
Somehow I survived those wretched years when the press broke a new drug scandal every year. I remember once I was traveling in Africa and spent some time with a German couple. He was a sports writer and the German press had just made a big deal about not televising or covering the Tour de France because of the drugs. I couldn’t understand how you could just stop caring. I was still in the throes of attraction to cycling.
Now I understand. Sometimes the corruption of the officials and the lack of fair play doesn’t just knock the wind out of you, it hits you with such a punch you just don’t give a flying fig anymore. I have huge respect for Peter Sagan. His cycling skills are unparalleled today. And his attitude is super fun and eccentric. He brings excitement to the sport. Oh, and he’s won the world championship 3 years in a row. He was on track to win the green jersey again, when his crash with Mark Cavendish drew the ire of race officials. They didn’t just relegate him for that stage (like they did Mark Cavendish when he had a similar crash back in the day), but ejected him from the race. Later the UCI dropped the disqualification, as if that does anything to erase the stupidity of the first decision.
The rest of the season I followed the Australian team and their excellent videos on social media. Orica Bike Exchange’s Backstage Pass was awesome. I stopped using my NBC Gold Pass to watch races. Still I wondered if I’d go back to feeling good as a fan after a break.
Then I received this email about Peter Sagan’s Fondos in California. Nope. I have a precedence. After many years as a USC football fan, I read about the concussions, then I took my family to a home game and the pre-game videos of greatest “hits” made me sick. Haven’t watched a game since. The Olympics, well who hasn’t lost faith in the Olympics? The latest in scandals is the Russians’ systematic doping. But that has been going my whole life. See the documentary Icarus on Netflix for a refresher.
I am sad to announce my heart break was finally irrevocable. I am a former cycling fan.
As a cycling fan, I knew I made the right choice to include Winchester in my vacation plans when I walked to a late lunch and had to detour around an amateur bike race! I found the The Old Vine pub restaurant and was able to get a seat with a view of the race. The food was delicious–pub food has certainly been given a serious uplift since the 1980s and 90s.
I wasn’t more than a 5 minute walk to the doorstep of the Winchester Cathedral. Just in time for Evensong. Naturally I did not have to pay an entrance fee to attend worship, but I gladly paid 8 pounds the next day when I returned for a proper tour of the Cathedral with UK Sarah and her friend from Winchester, Adrienne.
The Winchester Cathedral is truly impressive. I enjoyed it more for seeing it with a long time parishioner Adrienne.
The Cathedral Crypt
We spent over an hour going around the Cathedral and enjoyed a great conversation.
We were ready for a coffee and I had read about Chococo chocolate and coffee cafe. Adrienne agreed that it was a terrific idea and we ended our time together drinking coffee and eating desserts. Delicious.
The oldest sweet shop in Copenhagen awaits. Must taste La Glace.
Finally, and it is a two-day trip, I will take my grandson (and any other grandkids) with my new LEGO VIP card to Billund to the Danish LEGOland!
P.S. What I won’t be doing is using these two guide books to plan my future visits. They were both very disappointing and the maps particularly frustrating. TripAdvisor provided my most useful information.
To be fair, I first read about the Louisiana MOMA in the Analogue Guide.
This year, as in every year, I briefly thought I would watch the Tour de France casually. I would not become obsessed and thus avoid the highs and lows of cycling in July and the gutted feeling when it is over and forgo getting up at 5:30 a.m. PST.
Then I got this email.
I bought the NBC Sports Gold pass for cycling during the Tour of California in May. It did not include the Giro but it will include the Tour de France. I watch on my computer, follow VeloNews and the @letour on Twitter and watch every episode of Orica Scott Backstage Pass on YouTube.
The favorites are Chris Froome (Sky), RIchie Porte (BMC), or Nairo Quintana (Movistar) for the overall General Classification or yellow jersey. The race begins on July 1 with a time trial in Dusseldorf, Germany. Will my favorite Tony Martin win on home turf? Will Germans Marcel Kittel or Andre Greipel turn themselves out to win a stage at home? Will Mark Cavendish be healthy enough to compete? Will best rider in the world Peter Sagan win the green jersey again? We’ll know when Le Tour finishes in Paris on July 23rd.
If you like listening to podcasts. My cycling favorite is The 3 Domestiques. I listen on the Stitcher app to Matt Keenan, Sam Edmunds and Dan Jones discuss pro-cycling with great interviews.
So set your alarm and don’t miss the drama, the athleticism, and the tradition.
I bought this fan kit in England and mailed it home in a box of books. It just arrived!
Thanks to Bike Mike, I had two great places to eat dinner and two nights available. The “Paper Island” is a warehouse filled with lots of street food. (A lot like the Portland street food but with a roof and lots of picnic tables.) And the other recommendation was for 108, a bistro started by noma alumni Kristian Baumann. The front desk staff at Absalom Hotel called 108. A table for one was available at 5 or 9 on either open evening. The restaurant also said they only take reservations for half their tables so I could try walking in at another time.
Noma shut in December 2016 so the team could reimagine the restaurant and menu in a new location. Meanwhile, 108 continued to serve up great food at a fraction of the price in a lively atmosphere at Strandgade 108. I am not a foodie, so I was a little nervous. It was the best food adventure I have experienced.
The wait staff worked as a team so I was never left long without something new to try and they all spoke English and were very interested in how I received each dish. They recommended I order three small savory dishes and one sweet. Then I also ordered a glass of bubbly and a cup of coffee with dessert. The couple next to me ordered two savory small plates plus a large plate to share (the monk fish), then after I gave them a bite of one of my dishes, they ordered it too. They also each ordered a different dessert to share. We were all enjoying the atmosphere and the tastes, each more incredible than the last.
I cannot do justice to the various dishes, except to say that I didn’t know that fresh, fresh peas and fresh, fresh caviar with rapeseed blossoms could taste so amazing. And that after eating the shaved truffles on the dumplings of braised pork, I thought I could smell truffle for the next 24 hours. All of this super adventurous eating and drinking for about $75 US.
At the opposite end of the cost curve was the street food, just down the way along the waterfront to a warehouse called “Paper Island” in English. I circled the various vendors twice and decided on the toasted sandwiches at Spoon. I asked the young man making my sandwich where he would recommend for fries. He said the best were at the place across the hall–the only place that fries them in duck fat. They were both delicious. I also bought a local beer at the “bar” in the middle that allows you to stay and dine at the tables while you go back and forth fetching more food. I also got a recommendation for a cheesecake place, Bertels, on the way home. My intention was to walk home and stop along the way, but the rain was lashing and I hailed a cab once I crossed the pedestrian bridge.
Mike’s recommendations were both super. So you may also want to try one of the traditional Danish restaurants known for smorresbord, but only if open-faced pickled herring sandwiches chased with a shot of schnapps (snaps) sounds divine. It sounds like a fast track to a nap to me!
Mike’s other recommendation was to rent a bike and cycle to both Paper Island or 108. This is a very good idea because it is a long way to walk and the taxi ride is about $30 from the central station. Remember rush hour starts early in Copenhagen as most people begin their commute home between 4 and 5 p.m.
I arrived late on a Monday night and then I took the train early to Malmo, Sweden on Tuesday, so my first full day in Copenhagen was Wednesday and I had not yet seen anything besides the train station and a pastry shop. I had reserved a spot with BikeMike Tours after hearing about it from Rick Steves. After witnessing just a little of the bike traffic, I was glad I booked a tour and would have a guide for my first foray into the city.
Copenhagen is a 1000 years old and committed to keeping their streets cobbled and their footprint much the same. It was not designed for cars. Yet it is a dynamic, economically vibrant place. Bicycles allow them to move people without sacrificing the quality of life that their history offers. The cycling culture is such that people ride everywhere in all weather and with cargo bikes if they have children or a load. As one fellow tour rider from the USA noted, “No one is wearing lycra bike shorts or riding a fancy bike.” It is part of the fabric of life and very utilitarian.
I digress, I want to tell you about this fabulous tour.
Mike is a bit gruff when you first meet him at the shop. His website can also be offputting to some:
i am not just another #$@%&*! bike tour guide. I am bike mike.
I appreciated that he was being very forthright about what his tour was and was not. What it is: an exciting tour of the city at a good pace with a guide who LOVES Copenhagen and Denmark. I ride my bike as my main source of transportation and I “kissed” the curb; my bike went down but thankfully I did not. So the city cobbles and curbs can be challenging especially to riders from the USA. It is so worth the risk.
I arrived feeling very jet-lagged and hoped that the fresh air and exercise would revive me. There were about 18 of us in the group with a mix of Europeans and Americans. Mike leads the way and expects you to follow, and we did. People in my group did a great job of keeping up.
Mike does stop often to share information about this beautiful city and its culture. He is unabashedly proud of their socialist welfare state and the monarchy. He is a real enthusiast and he will infect you with a love of Copenhagen.
He also gave good tips on restaurants along the way. Although his description of a typical Danish lunch–open faced sandwiches of pickled herring followed by a shot of snaps (schnapps)–sounded like a fast track to a nap!
He said we would ride through whatever weather came our way just like a local. However, when a particularly nasty bit of rain and wind came through he let us grab a coffee at the national theater and then ride on. This added an hour to our tour but no one complained.
In fact, we were all full of good will toward one another at the end. The tour was well worth the DKK 299 in cash.
I also learned about these really groovy Danish locks that fit onto your bike as a permanent fixture. Mike uses them as do most people in Copenhagen. I walked across the street to the bike shop and bought 2 to use at home.
I am visiting Denmark this summer. I found my hotel on Trip Advisor. Thanks to Rick Steves’ I am taking a bike tour in Copenhagen with Mike. My chum Susie from University is going to show me her Malmo, Sweden on June 6–the national holiday to celebrate being Swedish. I have printed the instructions to find hidden Giant sculptures around Copenhagen on a bike scavenger hunt.
I am excited that I am going to be able to see two more Scandinavian countries (after Norway in 2013). Originally I thought I’d get into the countryside and see more of Denmark. Then I realized that second half of my trip involves a lot of travel through England, so enjoying one city more thoroughly and staying in the same hotel is appealing.
I discovered Helen Russell’s humorous memoir Year of Living Danishly at Vroman’s bookstore in Pasadena. I read it to prepare for my trip. The culture in Denmark is similar to Norway in many respects. The author refers to Jante’s Law, which I experienced growing up with a Norwegian grandfather.
Aksel Sandemose outlines 10 rules for living Danishly in his novel, A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks, known as Jante’s Law.
You’re not to think you are anything special
You’re not to think you are as good as we are
You’re not to think you are smarter than us
You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than us
You’re not to think you know more than us
You’re not to think you are more important than us
You’re not to think you are good at anything
You’re not to laugh at us
You’re not to think anyone cares about you
You’re not to think you can teach us anything
Some people think it is synonymous with humility and essential to maintaining the egalitarian Scandinavian society. Some people think it is about enforcing conformity. In another memoir, In Cod We Trust, by Eric Dregni, about his family’s year in Norway, he observes, “These ten commandments may have begun as a morality tale of how not to act, but over time these rules were adopted to teach kids not to be self-important narcissists.”
I am curious to soak up as much of the culture as I can for the relatively short time I am there, and to find out more about Jante’s Law.