Thursday, July 3, 2008

In Pau

One remarkable thing about the Etape experience has been meeting lots of great people along the way. Yesterday, I spent my first hours in France reassembling Aida out of the Trico Sports Iron case that miraculously brought her intact all the way to Pau. While assembling the bike in a Euro-size hotel room was easier than I imagined, I definitely wanted an expert to take a look at the result. I took a quick tour of the city, also to find a decent pump to bring the tires to the correct running pressure, and to work out the jet-lag with some pedal-pumping.

I stopped by chance at CYCLES DANIEL PLANAS (un pro à votre service: 41, Rue Castetnau, Pau, 05 59 27 50 42). A former pro and all-around nice guy, Daniel kindly checked my bike and fixed the play in the fork my hasty assembly of the headset had left. I ended up spending more than an hour in the store, meeting local cyclists, chatting and learning more about the Etape, its pièges, tricks and tips for the ride. One ocean and some away from home, it was very nice to feel so welcome and to meet other cyclists ready to take on the mountains.

And the cyclists are coming in droves: yesterday, the small plane that took us from Paris to Pau was full of them. All looked like your average Joe, until the baggage carousel started unloading a dozen bicycle cases for rouleurs of all ages and fitness level. Cycling is in the air here, even our chubby cabbie wen on about the Etape, the roads and expectations for Sunday's event as well as the imminent start of the Tour de France.

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