Aug 30, 2011

Québec Road Cycling Championships, 2011

It was rainy and it was windy, but it wasn't the storm "Irene".  I refuse to agree with those who thought it was.  I saw a few images on TV of smashed homes and torn up trees.  That, was where Irene passed.  Up in Ste. Agathe, Québec there was just a lot of rain, and a good steady wind.

The woman's field rolled out at 14h30 behind the comissaire for a 14 km neutral start (meaning the riders are not allowed to go faster than the pace that the car sets in front of us).

I chose to take a risk and not dress lightly.  I say take a risk because being too hot on the bike is as bad, if not worse than being too cold.  I had a DeFeet sleeveless baselayer, my Hincapie Jersey, my Hincapie windvest, my Hincapie armwarmers, and my Hincapie long sleeved jersey.  I even put on my black (those ones are for the rain) Hincapie shoe covers.

The neutral start was a bit peculiar, not only because of the distance but because after 14 km, we had to unclip and wait a few minutes before actually going off to race. 

At a certain point I attacked, but was brought back.  Right afterwards, my teammate Joanie Caron broke away solo in a counter attack.  She was alone for almost 40 km, and had at least 2 minutes over the field.  I really started to think she would take the win!  A few girls went to the front of the pack to work on bringing Joanie back (or, catch up to her, in other words).  The Canadian Champion, Véro Fortin, didn't seem satisfied that their work would suffice, and broke away to do the job on her own.  I went with her for awhile.  To make a long story short, Fortin got away from me, caught up to Jo, and got away from her as well.  Joanie and I raced to the finish together and arrived just under two minutes after Fortin.  And that my friends, is how Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda took home 2nd and 3rd place in the 2011 Québec Road Cycling Championships.

Our other teammate, Véro Labonté (the newly crowned Québec Time Trial Champion) broke away from the field near the end of the race to scoop up 4th place on her own.  Unfortunately Val Crête had a nasty spill and rode to the finish in a van with some young aspiring firefighters.  The 5th Québécoise member of our team, Véro Drapeau Zgoralski came in with the peloton. 

No victory, but it was a good, satisfying race out in the wind, rain, and hills.  2nd, 3rd, and 4th.
Antoine Becotte

Peace out.

Aug 27, 2011

Véronique Labonté la nouvelle championne!

Félicitations à ma co-équipière Véronique Labonté pour sa victoire aux championnats Québecois en contre la montre à Ste. Agathe, Québec aujourd'hui.  Good job Véro, c'est une victoire bien méritée!  Félicitations à Véronique Drapeau-Zgorlaski, mon autre co-équipière Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda qui a également participé à la course. 
Véro Labonté and Lex Albrecht, Belgium, 2011
Demain, je monterai à Ste. Agathe avec Valérie Crête avec une de nos voitures d'équipe, la fameuse Mazda5!  On va rejoindre les deux Véros pour participer à la course sur route pour les championnats Québecois. Préparons nos bouteilles de eload, ça va être une autre belle course!

Aug 23, 2011

So, What's Next?

Since I've been back from Europe, I've been taking it easy on the bike. 

I've done a few specific interval sessions in my living room on my beloved trainer.  I don't have air conditioning and was happy to have my Headsweats headband on to keep the sweat out of my eyes, so I could actually see what went down in Milan-San Remo 2009. 

I've played on the Mont-Royal, been introduced to some new roads that I've never ridden on before in Montréal and have had a couple of excellent rides around Québec City.  I did one of the Wednesday night criteriums in Laval as well.  I also did the Québec Provincial Championships Team Time Trial with my teammates Joanie Caron and Véronique Drapeau-Zgoralski (or, Mini-Véro, as we like to call her!).

Next up is the Québec Provincial Championships Road Race this coming weekend.  I was burnt out for last year's race, and I'm hoping to feel a bit better this time around.  We'll be racing in St. Agathe, a ways north of Montréal.

Other than that, I'll race a few more Wednesday night crits, do my beloved Défi-VéloMag cyclosport ride, race a crit or two in the USA, and perhaps the Green Mountain Stage Race as well. 

The season is slowing down for me, but it definitely hasn't come to a complete halt yet, and I'm still loving riding my bicycle.  OF COURSE!

Aug 9, 2011

One Last Ride in Belgium

I went out on one final ride in Belgium the night before leaving for Canada, with my teammate Véro Labonté.  We got caught in the rain, and not just the regular Belgian mist, but a real downpour! 

I washed my Specialized S-Works Amira up nicely before packing it up into the bike box.  I made extra sure to get my crankset with my Quarq CinQo powermeter nice and clean.  You can see it peeking through from the other side of my's red, my favorite colour, and it goes well with the S-Works Amira paint scheme!

See you later, Belgium!

Team Nutella Taste Test

After learning that Nutella is different around the world, we decided to purchase various sorts of the Italian-invented hazlenut spread from throughout Europe to compare to the American version, as a fun little game at the end of our Euro project.

Wikipedia has an interesting chart that compares Nutella ingredients around the world. ( The main differences are cocoa content, milk content, and the type of oil used to make the spread. These variations inevitably lead to an assortment of nuances between flavors, smells, appearances, and viscosities.

In this test, we tried 5 types of Nutella from the following countries:
Belgium, Switzerland (Made in Austria), United States of America (Made in Canada), Germany, and Sweden.

8 subjects participated in the test, and were asked to evaluate each spread based on it's colour, scent, and flavor.  The Nutella was presented on numbered metal spoons. Each number corresponded to a country. The test subjects (us!) were unaware of the origin of each Nutella sample.

The evaluations recorded by each subject are detailed in the three charts below, under “Appearnace”, “Scent”, and “Flavour”.  Here are the results:


Lex Jo MoJo Mary Anne Denise Erik Mandy
Belgium Similar to USA (shiny) ? (3) Dark Dry Lightest (5) Lightest (1) Very oily (5)
Switzerland Most viscous looking Light Lightest (5) Milky Ok (2) (3) Better than 1 (3)
USA Similar to Belgium
Brown between (4) Medium dark Yum (4) (4) Slightly more than 1 (4)
Germany Matte brown Thick, dark (2) Dark Dry (3) (2) (2)
Sweden Darkest Dark Darkest (1) Very dark Looks luscious Darkest (1) (1) (1)


Lex Jo MoJo Mary Anne Denise Erik Mandy
Belgium Doesn't smell much No smell More nuts

Shit (5) (5) Weak (5)
Switzerland Little chocolate smell, mostly nuts Nutty

Some OK (2) (4) (3)
USA Light smell, chocolate and hazelnut No smell

Not great (4) (3) (4)
Germany Strong nut scent Slightly more scent than USA Second highest chocolate scent

OK (3) (2) (2)
Sweden Chocolately Chocolate scent Chocolatiest

Yum (1) (1) (1)


Lex Jo MoJo Mary Anne Denise Erik Mandy
Belgium Not sweet (5) OK...but... Most nuts by taste and smell (4) Blah Not so hot (4) (4) (5)
Switzerland Similar to Germany, nutty, not too sweet FAV (1) Best (1) Least taste (american?) Strong and powerful hazelnuts (FAV) Tasteless (5) (5) (3)
USA Good! (4) Good mix choc & nut. (2) (3) Nutty and thick Tasteless (3) (3) (4)
Germany Very viscous, vanillay FAV (1) American (Wrong!)
No nut flavor. Not great
2nd best, 2nd darkest (2) Bland Second best, very sweet (2) (1) (2)
Sweden Very sweet & chocolatey, not much nut (3) Similar to Germany Best (Sweden?) RIGHT (1) Super chocolatey taste! (OTHER FAV) Amazing (1) (1) (2) (1)

We unanimously agreed that the Swedish Nutella was the darkest. The majority of us found it the most appealling, except for suject 1 who prefered the matte-brown colour of the German Nutella. All testers who commented on the scent also agreed that the Swedish Nutella smelled the chocolatiest.

Here's the most important part: Taste
Belgium: Didn't fare well. Ranked 4th and 5th place out of the 5 Nutellas, amongst all participants.
Switzerland: Mixed feelings! Several of us chose this one as their favorite, and several chose it as their least favorite
USA: Ranked mid-way between the 5 Nutellas
Germany: Relatively good results, several of 1st and 2nd places! One person found it bland though
Sweden: When the results are averaged, this is the favorite!

So here's the verdict:
American Nutella isn't as bad as lots of people make it out to be. Swedish Nutella is the most chocolately. and people who prefer a less sweet, and more nutty spread will tend to like German and Swiss Nutella the best, (although the German Nutella ranked better than the Swiss one). Belgian Nutella: of course, it's still Nutella, but it's the least favorite out of all 5 types tested. Belgium loses! But they win for their waffles...

Aug 7, 2011

Fans in The Driveway

I thought the SPAR grocery store in Tielt-Winge opened at 12:00 today.  I was waiting for noon to come as I sipped my morning decaf coffee.  By chance, my teammate mentioned that on Sunday it closes at noon, and doesn't open until noon the next day.  I have no food left.  No herring, no green apples...  Had I waited until noon today, I would have been screwed for another 24 hours.

When I came back from getting groceries on a cruiser, I noticed three men on bicycles pull into our driveway.  They started talking to our mechanic who had his head out of one of the house's windows.  They wanted pictures.  Postcards with rider photos and their stats on them are super popular here in Europe.  A reality that we're not at all used to in North America. 

I told the guys to hang tight, and I went in to get a few Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda rider cards.  The other girls brought some out as well.  The men were ecstatic.  They pulled out their disposable cameras and wanted pictures with all of us.  They asked questions, laughed, and wished us luck in Flemmish.  I'm not exactly sure of everything they said, but they were happy, and, so were we. 

Now where was I...?  Oh yeah, gotta go throw that pickled herring I just bought into the fridge.

Aug 4, 2011

It's a Sunny Day in Tielt-Winge

I had a great training ride with my teammate Joanie this morning, somewhere in Belgium.  We filled up our bottles with eload, and just rode and rode until we found the perfect places for our intervals.  Pretty fun. 

Now I'm just chilling outside under the sun, in the backyard of our temporary home-base in Belgium.  Our favorite mechanic, Erik Maresjo has a great playlist of smooth beats flowing from his laptop as he washes our Specialized S-Work Amira bikes. 

Yesterday was a bit of a different story, weather-wise.  It was extremely cloudy and humid all day, and there were some points when the rain came down pretty hard.  That's nothing out of the ordinary here in Belgium though.  I went out for a 3 hour solo-ride.  It's hard going for that long when you're not very familiar with the area, and the fact that the roads aren't in grid format makes keeping your barrings that much more of a challenge.  Luckily local cyclist groups have mapped out bike routes by spraying indicators on the road.  All you have to do is choose one of the symbols, and follow it.  I chose white arrows.  Then I lost track of them, and started following green ones.  Then...I figured I should head home and I followed road signs to big cities that I recognized: Leuven (the home of Stella Artois), then Aarschot, and then back to Tielt-Winge.  I ended up having a great day and got to ride on some new roads.  My chain was flipping dry and noisy once I got back though.  After all of that rain, there was no oil left on it!

Aug 2, 2011

Being a Tourist in Sweden

Travelling for bike racing is significantly different than going on vacation.  I haven't been on a "normal" vacation for a couple of years now, and I don't necessarily miss it either...

I had an extra day between my final bike race in Sweden and my flight back to Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda's temporary home base in Belgium.  Since my Specialized S-Works Amira road bike and my Specialized Tranisition time trial bike had been sent on their way back to Belgium already, I played the tourist game in Goteburg, Sweden.
Goteburg was established in the 1600's.  It used to be a fortified city, surrounded by a moat.  Though most of the fortifications that surrounded the old city limits have long been torn down, the moat still exists.  I took a cruise with a few teammates and our favorite mechanic through the old channels, and even out into the harbor of Goteburg on a tourist boat.  One of the most handsome Swedes that I had seen all day (and believe me, I saw a LOT of them) drove the boat.  I was more than impressed with they way he handled the vessel.  I like a man who can drive.

We also went on a big ferris wheel that cost a big amount of Kronor.  We got a great view of the city.

Next, in a restuarant on the quai, my teammates MoJo and Denise, (and special guest Jamie) ordered some whole shrimp that we dissected together.  I think shrimp brains are red.  And I know their eyes are hollow.

A few of us rented public bikes (similar to Bixis in Montréal, and pretty much the same as the Velibs in Paris) and cruised around other parts of Gotenburg.

By the end of the day I was wiped out.  After scoring a few green apples to bring back for the following morning, we hopped on bus #80 to head back to our very, very, very cheap hotel on the edge of the city.

Sweden is sweet.