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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

NEW BOOK AWARDS

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 www.newbookawards.com

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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Hectic Finish to a Hectic Tour

July 31, 2014

To describe the experiences of the last three weeks while living in Giselle the GlobeScout camper van as simply enjoyable would be an understatement akin to describing Paris as merely an interesting place to visit. Giselle had carried us in comfort and safety over 5,000 kilometers of autoroutes, suburban streets and single lane country roads. She had provided a comfortable travelling home for us and, despite our mishaps with parking in tight places and driving under low bridges, she had never let us down. Nevertheless it had still been three weeks of living in tight quarters and we were not sorry to hand her bandaged body back to her rightful owners upon our return to Paris and then check in to a hotel in the inner suburb of Fontenay sous-Bois. A full-size bathroom and a king-size bed were just two of the luxuries that we welcomed, not to mention the 10-foot ceilings of our hotel room.

The final Stage of Le Tour was scheduled for the day after our return to Paris, and although the racing on this day would not change the placings in the various categories of prize winners, it promised quite a spectacle as the route called for the riders to travel up and down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées a number of times before reaching the finish line. And thanks to a program offered by the Australia-based cycling team Orica GreenEdge, we would be seated in a pavilion overlooking the Champs-Élysées as the riders travelled in a loop that would take them back and forth along the iconic avenue from the Arc de Triomphe at one end to the Place de la Concorde at the other.  They would traverse this cobblestone paved loop a total of eight times, with each lap covering a distance of 3.8 km (2.4 miles) as we watched in comfort while reflecting on the symbolism inherent in the fact that the Arc de Triomphe was built to honor the victories of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Our first stop for the day was planned to be Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral, followed by lunch at a gourmet restaurant arranged by Orica GreenEdge, and then watching the conclusion of Stage 21 from our seats in the pavilion. After much deliberation and scrutinization we had managed to decipher the series of train and Metro trips that would be required to make our plans come to fruition. All of this called for an early start to the day, but the good news was that we would not have to put on sandals and bathrobe to walk 50 yards or more to the bathroom. Even better, once the flow of shower water had started there would be no need to keep pressing the water button every 20 seconds or so to keep it going.

We enjoyed a very special form of Mass, most of which was in Latin and which was accompanied by glorious voices and organ music. During a pause in the proceedings I made a quick mental note to choose a Latin song for my next audition because no-one will ever know if I forget the words – I can simply make up some sounds to fill the gaps and no-one will ever know the difference. As a matter of fact, I wonder if that’s how that jazz form of singing called “scat” got started? Frank Sinatra probably sang “scoo-bee doo-bee doo” because he forgot the original lyrics. Who would have thought that a Latin Mass would help me solve a mystery that has been bugging me since my childhood….?

But as I was saying it was a very nice experience in the Cathedral and afterwards we walked over the bridge back to the closest Metro station.

Paris at the Beach was the theme of the month in this particular area, where a large amount of sand had been imported to create a “beach café” on one bank of the River Seine and an even larger amount had been used to create a “beach rugby” field in front of the historic Hotel de Ville. We paused for a few moments to observe the local rugby team players who were endeavoring to teach the skills of the game to passers-by. The problem seemed to be that the only passers-by who were interested to learn something about the game were all under the age of 10. Anyone older would have by now acquired sufficient discernment to know that a game that calls for taking a perfectly good football and throwing it around instead of kicking it makes no sense at all. The depth of the desperation to find a way to promote the game was further evidenced by the huge poster that defaced the façade of the historic building and advertised the upcoming “Women’s Rugby World Cup”. The poster featured a 50-feet tall woman dressed in loose shorts and a long-sleeve rugby shirt which probably had the effect of scaring some of the younger children away, while having no effect at all on anyone else. I wanted to find the organizers of this event and put them in touch with the management of the Lingerie Football League in the United States who could surely offer some promotional ideas. Who would have ever thought that the Americans could give the French advice on how women should be dressed to attract more attention?

A few minutes later we were on our way to lunch and were sitting in a busy Metro car with all seats taken, and many people standing, when the unmistakable strains of a saxophone rang out. But it wasn’t just any saxophone, it was a saxophone playing Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”. I couldn’t see where the sound was coming from but suddenly I felt like I was in a Paris night club – albeit without cigarette smoke and a cover charge – and it created a pleasant and mellow feeling. This feeling was enhanced further when I realized that the music that I had assumed was entirely recorded was in fact provided by a middle-aged man playing a large saxophone together with the accompaniment of a portable stereo player to provide the backing track. I did not feel quite so contented with myself when he passed along the carriage with a cup and I found I had nothing smaller than 20 Euros (about US$27) to offer him in return for his efforts. I hadn’t realized that there were any musicians in the Metro but over the course of the day on our Metro travels we heard and saw competent musicians playing the piano accordion, violin, clarinet and other instruments. It was quite atmospheric and a pleasant surprise.

After arriving at the Champs-Élysées we found ourselves on the wrong side of the street in relation to our restaurant. The road was completely barricaded and there was no way to cross, so the only option was to go back down to the Metro and find an exit tunnel that took us to the other side. When we finally arrived at the restaurant there was much confusion with our entrance invitation. When the ladies at the desk asked which company we were with we replied “Orica GreenEdge”. They didn’t seem to understand that around 50 or so people under that name were due to have lunch in the restaurant and they refused to let us in while one of their number went to check with the management. While we were waiting, an Australian couple with two children arrived and navigated their way past the gatekeepers. The husband turned to me and asked if we were having trouble. I explained what had happened and he replied that he would get it straightened out. I thought it was very kind of him to offer and hoped that he might know someone who knew someone who could get us through the door. He had just introduced himself to us as “Shayne” when one of the event organizers arrived. He had a quick word to her and we were suddenly on our way, problem solved. As we were walking out to the patio for pre-lunch champagne I realized that this "ordinary bloke" who had gone out of his way to help us was none other than Shayne Bannan, who is one of the two Team Managers for Orica GreenEdge. As if he didn’t have enough on his plate after 3 weeks of Le Tour, it was kind of him to step in to help us out.

Following the pre-lunch festivities we were seated at a table with a lively group of Aussies, some of whom had brought their bikes with them to France and had ridden portions of the race route. One Adelaide couple had even climbed the dreaded Mont Ventoux which frequently features in Le Tour and which I remembered well from years earlier when I had traversed it in a small rental car, ever fearful that the engine would blow a gasket on the way up or that the brakes would burn out on the way down. The three-course lunch at the Michelin-rated restaurant was wonderful, served elegantly by an efficient and almost invisible staff of waiters and waitresses.

After lingering over our post-lunch refreshments we eventually moved to the pavilion to watch the race. The riders were still in the countryside outside of Paris when we arrived, but a screen on the opposite side of the avenue kept us informed of the progress of the yellow jersey and other members of the peleton. The arrival of the riders at the Champs-Élysées coincided with a flyover by French Air Force fighter jets trailing red, white and blue smoke. After passing around the Arc de Triomphe eight times, the final result saw Frenchmen finish in second and third place which was the best result for the host nation in 30 years.  Napoleon would have been proud of his countrymen.

As for us it was a day of sensory overload with a vivid and unique array of sounds, sights, tastes and aromas that could only be found in Paris. In other words it was a perfect ending to a wonderful trip.

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