Of a face lift! I’m still working out some kinks, but I hope you like the new layout!
There has been a general lack of interesting stuff going on in my life [I know, I’m clearly doing this unemployment thing, wrong]. Other than the fact that I’ve been eating cookies professionally, and barely riding, absolutely nothing has been going on. There was an outdoor ride last Friday but I’ve been trapped inside, since, reluctantly playing the waiting game with winter. The temptation to throw my trainer out the window has been growing by the day…and I usually fucking love that thing.
The subsequent inability to write has given birth to Blog Doubts, which are actually worse than Writer’s Block, because at least with the latter, you can say something like “well, it takes a while to write a real book/essay/short story.” With a blog, a week without an update signifies impending death. As everyone knows, the Internet does not fucking wait. [Unless, of course, you are famous, in which case, I’ve seen the Internet actually temporarily stop functioning.]
So while I was stuffing my face with cookies, because I’m aware my fame is limited to being blacklisted by cycling news sites because I complain too much about grammatical mistakes and typos, I was freaking out. I’ve been doing this for a while, but surviving a winter still leaves deep, traumatic, scars from throwing myself around my apartment due to boredom for about three months. Let’s not discuss that plummeting power to weight ratio, either.
This past weekend, I’d been so busy staring at a blank Word document in guilt that I completely missed Omloop Het Nieuwsblad [but Lotto didn’t do so well anyway so I was okay with pretending it didn’t happen]. I snapped out of it the next day for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on a beautiful Belgian afternoon. With Boonen, who sort of saved my blog.
My thoughts and feelings on Boonen, like any attractive male not on Lotto-Belisol, are complex. I had a fleeting crush on Tom when I was first introduced to pro cycling. He was easy to like: tall, talented, and absolutely delicious-looking; people even expected me to swoon and drop my panties for the guy. A few years later, when I actually got into pro cycling, I re-tested my crush on the infamous Tommeke. But depressingly, in those few short years, Boonen had undergone the Prince William phenomenon. You know, that thing that happens when a receding hairline significantly depreciates an otherwise extremely attractive man’s appeal. Or maybe it was the loss of the Euro-mullet [those adorable, curly, dirty-blonde locks!]. I mean, he still looks better than 98% of the population; I just didn’t want to hit it that much anymore.
Despite the general lack of sexual attraction, I still like the guy. Like a lot more than I should. He’s amazing [2005, 2007, 2009, 2012] when he’s not sucking . I want him to be on form; mostly to satisfy my bloodlust for a showdown between an equally healthy Boonen and Cancellara, but maybe a little bit because of that panty-dropping smile, too. So when Boonen sprinted to the finish against Moreno Hofland last night, I – consciously cheating on Lotto and feeling appropriately guilty about it – held my breath for Tornado Tom.
I still think it would have been different if race radios had been involved. I still think Lotto could have reeled that breakaway in, and I still think if that had happened, Greipel would have won.
But with Tommeke back, Lotto loss or not, I think it’s going to be a great classics season. And because of that, I also think that last night, Tom might just have saved my blog from dying a slow, silent death.
I’ve spent the past few days with a tissue up my nose [so my life can be hands free, you know?] due to a cold, and the past few weeks being competitively lazy [I was making up for the complete lack of laziness on the part of all those energetic winter Olympic athletes].
But I’m still here! Mucus is slowly going away and I promise I’ll have more fun stories in a bit!
“Ramen for lunch?” I texted. I know I didn’t even have to put a question mark at the end of that statement, but I like to keep up the façade that maybe I can be accommodating to other people’s preferences. In this case, as I was talking to a gastronomical twin, it was wholly unnecessary. An enthusiastic response was sent back and plans to meet in Shinjuku promptly made.
Though Japan is often equated with both sushi and ramen, the problem with the latter is that, unlike sushi, you can’t just follow the [Michelin] stars. Whole books and blogs are devoted to the subject of ramen in Tokyo, which makes choosing just one place a bit overwhelming. On top of that, when you’re on limited time in Tokyo, you want something that consistently delivers but isn’t so famous you can get it in New York. I’d heard enough about Ramen Nagi to assume that this would fit the bill.
Despite its location in Golden Gai, a small area in Shinjuku crammed with tiny bars [including a favorite of Tarantino], I wasn’t quite ready for how cramped the space really was. Behind a simple door, a wall of a tiny staircase leads up to a ticket vending machine, where you make a selection and hand the tickets to the guys behind the counter. The restaurant [if it can really be called that] is narrow enough to demand the creative use of space: customers’ backs are almost against a wall of cardboard boxes and tissue boxes are suspended from the top of the bar. When Adam and I were called up from the alley where we were instructed to wait, I was directed to a seat next to a giant bag of rice, some empty bottles, and a keg. Adam tried to squeeze his legs under the ledge that served as the table. It didn’t work very well but at the very least, he wasn’t seated next to anyone else.
In minutes, though, we had two giant bowls of noodles to distract us from our seating situation. We’d ordered the standard ramen, plus an order of tsukemen. Tsukemen – the new noodle dish darling of Tokyo – consists of cold ramen noodles that are served with a concentrated version of regular ramen broth. The noodles are dipped into the broth before being eaten. It’s different from ramen, but equally good.
Probably because the ramen at Nagi Golden Gai is very good. Chewy, curly-edged noodles are served in a dense broth with a thick cut of pork, a few sheets of seaweed, and a marinated, soft-boiled egg. It’s the kind of food you can’t hate and hits that gastronomical trifecta of comforting, filling, and “holy shit, that’s good.” It’s the ideal bowl of sustenance to take the edge off a night of binge drinking in Golden Gai, or simply a good, cheap lunch with a favorite friend.
I can’t quite remember what we talked about after our bowls of deliciousness arrived, probably because I was too busy enthusiastically slurping noodles [while Adam ate like a normal, well-mannered human being]. When I finally came up for air because there was nothing left to eat, I mentioned that I was surprised that no one had recognized Adam. He shrugged in response as we edged our way towards the stairway, squeezed between a wall of boxes and the customers lined along the bar.
A guy sitting at the counter looked up briefly at me as we passed, before turning towards Adam: “Are you Adam Hansen?” he asked.
We looked at each other in mutual surprise and disbelief at the serendipitous timing of the question.
Adam shook hands with the guy before we stumbled down the steep staircase, laughing at what had just happened. Soon we were back on the street, headed back into Tokyo to continue eating like a pro.
[UPDATE: WE WON!!! Thanks for all the support!]
When Lotto-Belisol announced a Valentine's Day contest, with a VIP weekend trip to Paris on the last weekend of this year's Tour on the line, I had to come up with something good.
With a little a lot of help from my sister, and a couple of pictures stolen from Adam's Twitter feed, plus that Photoshop masterpiece made by Josh...this was born:
Happy Valentine's Day...and keep your fingers crossed for me!
[You can see all the submissions on Lotto's FB page here.]
For the past three years, I’ve been bookending the cyclocross season from opposite sides of the world. It starts in the mid-fall in Massachusetts and ends in Odaiba, a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. Oddly, I watch the same guys race in both locations; first through dirt and grass and a New England fall, then through sand and a relatively warm Japanese winter.
Except this year, I caught the tail end of Holy Week in a dry Providence, Rhode Island and finished off the season of mud and cowbells on a slushy, snowy Tokyo beach.
To be honest, I spent the snowstorm on Saturday in the comfort of my own home while Chandler apparently raced through it. I dug out proper rubber boots for the following day and made plans to meet up with Tim, [his wife and former pro] Lyne Bessette, Chandler, and his pregnant wife, Jenny. As usual, fun times and general ridiculousness were expected.
I did not, however, expect to end up on Japanese TV.
When I finally caught up with Tim, he had a three man video crew following his every move. I had initially assumed that it was part of Cyclocross Tokyo; that maybe they were getting footage for a promotional video. How wrong I was. Tim had apparently agreed to be a part of the show “YOUは何しに日本へ？” [roughly translating into “Why Did You Come to Japan?”], in which a TV crew will select and follow a foreign visitor for a few days. They’d been with Tim, Lyne, Chan, and Jenny since the four had landed at Narita airport.
“So this is like ‘Tim Johnson Does Tokyo’?” I asked.
“Kinda,” he said.
In hindsight, the whole situation is more awkward than I’m currently comfortable admitting to myself. Even after I was informed of the reality of possibly ending up on national TV, there was a race to watch and the likes of Katie Compton, Wendy Simms, and Lyne Bessette to cheer on in the elite women’s race.
We speed walked through packed snow and slush, from the podium to the start line, and cheered as Lyne tore up the almost un-raceable course. Spectators yelled encouragement in Japanese as the American and Canadian athletes sped by, racing through slushy sand and heavy mud. It was the most exciting women’s race I’ve watched, in Tokyo.
Katie predictably took the win, and after congratulations were dispensed, the five of us, plus the TV crew, wandered around the course until the elite men started [Tim’s shoulder injury from World Championships kept him from racing this year]. The five of us screamed and cheered at Barry Wicks while being video-ed by the TV crew. It was awesome, albeit slightly awkward.
The men’s race ended with Zach McDonald taking the win, with Yu Takenouchi and Barry Wicks rounding out the podium. We watched Tim present the awards to the winners before calling it a day. Like every year, I came home exhausted, legs worn out, but happy and giddy. Road season is calling, but there’s nothing like ‘cross on a Tokyo beach in February.