Saturday, July 31, 2010

First bike!

The first donation - one bike - has just been made! Thanks mom!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wanna bet?

So here's the seems people are not yet inclined to donate money to the worthy cause. Also, I have heard that some people (you know who you are) are betting that I'm not going to make it all the way to Holland by bike. Of course, there are a few obstacles in the way, notably the warm weather in Portugal and Spain, some mountains, and the possibility of mechanical problems, crashes, or injuries. But here's the deal - I've combined these things into a cunning money generating scheme - you can now BET on the distance you think I will cover.

Of course the Presidents made it and so will least that's what I am aiming for.
The rules are as follows - a bet costs 10 euro's. The winner, closest to the final distance covered, will receive 50% of all money actually paid in, the rest of the money will be donated to World Bicycle Relief. Betting can be done by filling out THIS online form and if it has been set up correctly you should be able to see what other people have betted - otherwise I'll put an overview on the blog at some point. Indicate total distance as a single number if you think I will make it all the way, or will quit without getting back on the bike. If you think I will quit, travel a bit, and then get back on the bike, enter two numbers with a plus sign (example 300 + 1500). A few pointers - start is planned from the parking at the Estadio Nacional de Jamor (west of Lisbon). I will pass through Burgos and Toulouse. The finish will be in Groningen or Steenwijk in the Netherlands. Official distance will be the readout from my Garmin cycling computer. Complaints? Forget it - "over de uitslag kan niet worden gecorrespondeerd".

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Farewell drinks / a message from WBR

Yesterday there was a small farewell drinks party at the institute, on the 8th floor balcony that has stunning views of the sea/rivermouth, Oeiras, and the vineyard at the back of the Institute. Views I will definitely miss (I'll post some more pics later). José Artur Martinho Simões and Luis Paulo Rebelo, ITQB's director and vice-director, presented me with a bottle of wine from the vineyard, and a tie from the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, which will come in handy if I have to be an examiner at Ph.D. thesis defenses in the future.

I gave out a few stickers and cards from World Bicycle relief - they just presented a new video showcasing their work which is embedded below. Have a look!!!

Today's group ride was a bit weird - it showed that Ironmen are human after all. Two of the three regulars who went to Roth last week, Julio and Sergio, showed up for the ride this morning but dropped off after 20 km due to fatigue from last week's effort. Fair enough - if less than a week before you did 180 km with over 30 kmh wedged in between a 3.8 k swim and a marathon, you're allowed a little R&R. For comparison - today we did 60 km with one serious hill, one stretch with fierce headwinds and I was in the front a lot - but we managed to go 30 km/h exactly and that had me pretty cooked at the end. Serves as a good reminder to cycle at an easy pace, especially during the first week!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Sometimes I get asked where I got the idea for the trip. Of course the idea is mine ;-) but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t inspired by some other stories. Recently I read two great travel books about cycling trips from Italy to the Netherlands and vice versa. The first, called ‘De Nieuwe Fiets’ (‘the new bike’) by namesake Dirk Jan Roeleven, is Roeleven’s story about his trip from Italy to Amsterdam. Years ago, on a bike-trip with friends, Roeleven had his bike repaired for free in the Italian town of Cuneo at the bike shop of the Cucchietti family. He vows to return someday to buy a bike and ride it back home. Of course he is met with a friendly kind of disbelief, but years later he keeps his word and travels to Italy to pick up a brand new Cucchietti. The book is a beautiful description of why we ride bikes, and all the sort of things that go through your mind when embarking on a long solo trip. Although Roeleven wants to climb a few passes and hills, his timing (early May) prevents this as he finds snow on his way or miserable weather in the Alsace. The second book is the beautiful ‘De filosofie van de heuvel’ by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer (text) and his girlfriend Gelya Bogatishcheva (photo’s), who, one day, decide to cycle to Rome and depart the next. No extensive planning, no bike preparations, just go. Pfeijffer, a Dutch poet and novelist, isn’t well prepared – overweight, chain-smoking, wine-loving and riding an old Batavus road bike (de oude Batavus) that he picked up at a second hand store for 95 euro’s. Obviously climbing hills on a bicycle is not his favourite pass-time (given the age of his bike he has no triple or compact chainring to help either) and the title of the book refers to all the different philosophical approaches he tries to make tackling a hill an easier task, all the while mocking those of us who cycle on ‘modern’ road bikes: “Their [bikes’] lack of weight results from a complete lack of character. And Gelya and I snort at stupid roadracers who cycle stupid laps”*. The book is filled with beautiful observations on traveling at slow speed, life, little villages in regions that have missed the boat called globalization, drinking wine, stopping to swim in the sea etc…Also, it contains the important lessons that your girlfriend is always right and that it’s not the destination that counts, but the trip – planning should be done moderately. By having planned the entire first two weeks of the route I have already sinned against rule no. 2, but an important reason for that is that Ana has decided she needs to know when I’m in Burgos to be able to join me for a few days and so rule no. 1 takes prevalence.
Both books inspire with the desire to travel but also reveal something important about riding a bicycle and cyclists – the idea to return to a shop in Italy to buy a new bike, or to cycle to Rome unprepared, are both terribly romantic. And that’s what cycling is, for a large part, about. Both the sport of cycling, as well as travels by bike, are the stuff of dreams and epic stories, only to be equaled, in my opinion, by traveling on foot.
These books are only available in Dutch and I heartily recommend them to everyone who reads the language. For those of you who don’t – there is one Dutch literary classic that has been translated into English, Tim Krabbé’s “The Rider”, or the beautiful race reports from the 1949 Giro d’Italia by Dino Buzzati – the times that one read about the race in the newspaper and that reporters could still ‘pimp’ a dull stage into a very eventful one for their audience. He finishes with an epilogue that sings the praise of the bicycle which, even in the future, where we will all be traveling without breaking a sweat, ‘the girls will cover with flowers’. Like I said, hopelessly romantic…

Two training rides this weekend - about 150 km together. The amount of high speed travel in the past weekends seems to have taken its toll.

*Translations from Dutch and errors therein are mine.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Força Portugueses!!!

Yesterday, for the first time in 21 years, a stage in the Tour de France was won by a Portuguese, local boy Sérgio Paulinho. He is one of the most faithful domestiques of Lance Armstrong. After his boss blew his chances of another Tour podium finish he could show his own talents and won the stage to Gap.

Today, three of my regular saturday morning cycling buddies, Sérgio, Helder and Júlio are departing to Germany for the monstrous challenge that is the Challenge-Roth, an Ironman distance triathlon. Boa sorte para vocês!!! Some people think that my trip may be crazy but you are WAY more crazy ;-)

Monday, July 12, 2010

at least I got to kiss a spanish girl too... cycling this w/e as I was in Amsterdam to watch the grand final together with Ana and friends. As a 'troostprijs', like Iker Casillas, I got to kiss the girl ;-)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Jet lag

A great excuse for not-so-strong riding. After arriving to Lisbon yesterday from a very interesting conference in the USA (that is, if Bacterial Cell Surfaces are really your thing) I thought the best way to get back to normal rhythm would be an early morning bike ride, so 8.30 at the Estadio nacional it was. According to Sergio we would be going for a relaxed 3 hour ride. The first part of the ride was okay, but on the first climb of the day I was riding at a heart rate of over 170…I guess two weeks off the bike including a week of American food, beer, little sleep and intense science caught up with me. I barely stayed with the group only to lose them on the descent as per usual. Sure enough I only caught up at the start of the next climb and was dropped again immediately. Decided to go for my own pace, stop for a Coca-cola (definitely not light) break in Sintra and then headed home. I was still able to push the pace a bit on the way back because someone I overtook decided to suck my wheel…but a burp that almost came out as something else meant ‘estive fodido’ (PT for beginners, the expression can be literally translated to English but won’t as not to offend anyone, in Dutch it would be ‘aos tomates’) . It also was the first real warm day on the bike – and it was noticeable as there was a lot more beach-bound traffic than on a normal summer morning, and around midday the smell of churrasco (bbq) was everywhere...

My orange shirt had to be washed again and is now hanging outside...ready for tuesday night ;-)