I met up with Fred again this week after an eight month break (see 28 – Frédéric Moreau).
The reason being that while training at the Velodrome one lunchtime, he had clipped his training partner’s back wheel and woken up in hospital with four cracked ribs, a broken collar-bone, a punctured lung and a broken arm. I remarked that perhaps in the future he might settle for a steak and a beer. He scowled and informed me that his little accident had bought him three months in hospital with septicaemia.
I apologised for my oafish remark and asked him how things were going, wishing I could jump out of the 23 storey window to an agonising death on the cobbles below. ‘Fine,’ he said, ‘I did two ascents of Alpe D’huez at the weekend. The same route they’ll do on Stage 18 of this year’s Tour as it happens.’
For those who don’t know anything about cycling, Alpe D’huez, along with Mont Ventoux, are two of the classic Alpine stages of the Tour de France. Many riders have been broken and indeed died on these tortuous climbs, so to ride not one, but two ascents of this famous hill after being holed up in a French hospital for three months with bad blood, is pretty impressive.
During the lesson we covered the latest doping scandals, Bradley Wiggins’ Tour win and everything else in-between, until we finally got on to what I wanted to talk about. Namely, me taking up cycling seriously, buying a decent bike and climbing Mont Ventoux.
‘Mont Ventoux!’ he snorted. ‘You. With that gut. Are you out of your mind!’
I complimented him on his colloquial English and told him I was serious. ‘It’s just a cheese gut; it’ll be gone by the spring. Trust me.’
Twenty minutes later I had effectively parted with fifteen hundred Euros.
‘For the money, this is the best bike you’ll get,’ he stated pointing at the black and white slender frame on his computer screen: Canyon RoadLite X30. 1,500 Euros. German Made. 7.1 Kg. Frame made to measure.
The most expensive thing I’ve ever bought was a Mini Metro in 1993. 1,200 quid and not worth a cent. It luckily got nicked and wrote off six months later. At first the insurance company didn’t believe that it had been stolen.
‘Who in their right mind would steal a Mini Metro?’ they questioned.
I completely agreed with them and said I would have never bought it if it hadn’t had been the last one on the forecourt one Sunday evening when I had to start a new job in rural Nottinghamshire on the Monday morning. They eventually paid up and I haven’t owned a car since.
Twenty years later I’m going to buy a bike for the same money. Any previous bikes I’ve ever owned have been skilfully crowbarred off railings in Manchester, ‘couriered’ down to Bristol and sold at The Miner’s Arms, no questions asked.
I’m a frugal man and have been for some time due to wasting thousands of pounds doing a silly MA writing course which gave me very little back except a whopping great debt. Six years later and now clear, I can start spending it on myself rather than giving it to Lloyds Bank.
So if you’re wondering where I am this spring. I’ll be somewhere up Mont Ventoux grinding away at this eternal mountain. Broke but happy.