First Race Day Ever in Europe

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Micheal told me that he is reading a book Slaying the Badger, a story about Hinault and Lemond in the ’86 Tour. Here is a review from RKP. Michael said the book starts out kind of gross with Lemond having diarrhea and using a box full of Benard Hinault postcards for something involved.

That made me think of the very first day I raced in Europe. I was on the US National Team and we were doing a PRO-Am race called the Tour de-Vaclouse. It was in the Provence area of France with a stage climbing Mount Ventoux. Anyway, Bernard Thevenet, who was on the tailend of his career, but had won the Tour de France a few years earlier, was the team leader of Peugeot. And it was all the Pros against the Russians it seemed.

I was so nervous for the start of the first stage. It was in the city center of Avignon. We rode to the start and I was so sure we weren’t going to be able to find it. Greg Demgen had raced in Europe a couple times and was the leader. We got to the start and I couldn’t believe how many people were there. I needed to go to the bathroom seriously. So, I rode over to a small bar and went in to find the W.C. I walked in and it was something I’ve never seen before. A small room made out of porcelain with a hole in the floor. It was a squatter. It was super dangerous. I was having issues. Trying to keep my balance and not soil my cycling shorts, but not completely slide out and end up in a pile in the corner. I was trying to use the wall as a balancing point, but my cleats on the porcelain keep slipping.

Anyway, I was so perplexed about the whole scene, that I hadn’t even noticed there wasn’t any toilet paper there. It was a nail hammered into the wall with newspaper torn into 1/4 pages stuck on the nail. I’m pretty sure that was the first time I’d used newspaper to wipe. But, I wasn’t complaining. So, I take the first sheet of newspaper off the nail and on the backside is a headshot of Bernard Hinault. I couldn’t believe it. I was going to be wiping my butt with Bernard Hinault’s face. In France. Thinking back upon it now, I would probably have folded the paper up and put it in my pocket and used the next piece, but that didn’t occur to me at the time.

When I finished I pulled the chain hanging down and a huge flood of water came from everywhere and completely soaked my leather cycling shoes. When I went back outside, the race had left. I was completely paniced. But, everyone watching pointed me in the right direction and everytime I came to an intersection, they would tell me where to go. I caught up with the back of the caravan just a little ways out of town, just when everyone in the race, the riders, the drivers, the mechanics, everyone was having a nature break before the real start of the race.

My European cycling experience started off a little haywire that day, but it left a lifetime memory.

You can see how it would be a little tricky in cycling shoes.

Just rip into 1/4 sheets, and voilà, toilet paper.

8 thoughts on “First Race Day Ever in Europe

  1. SB

    oh man now you’ve done it… gonna be a flood of poop stories unleashed… “this one time….”

  2. JH Higgins

    You probably remember, they have similar squat toilets all over Japan… definitely dicey with steel cleats on!

  3. Ted Lewandowski

    You’re lucky they did not charge you to use the WC
    as most toilets back then had a fee – even in restaurants and bars – try coming up with French Francs when you trying to go and are in your racing outfit!!!

  4. bob

    i was in Milano about a decade ago, there was this little Mom & Pop eatery that alot of American models used to frequent, so naturally that is where i went for lunch. Anyway one day i had to go and it was about the same as my grandparents outhouse in IA. Except that was a two seater. this was a just slanted wood floor with a large hole & two hand rails. No water involved, no TP , then i had a vision of these beautiful women using it and felt ill. I left & never went back. thanks for bringing back some ugly memories

  5. WildCat

    My senior year of high-school a group of us from the French class went to Paris for a week. The first day we were there my buddie and I were out walking through town and needed to go. We found one of those pay toilets, well, naturally I decided to jump in after him to save my money. Totally got sprayed with the disinfectant.

  6. Seis_Pendejos

    The worst “toilet” I’ve seen was in the desert west of Maracaibo, Venezuela. A three sided shack with a 5 inch hole in a concrete slab. I have no idea where it went.

    My most frustrating dump was during the Tour of Uruguay. I couldn’t just coast along behind the peloton because the UCI commissaire follow the race was a woman, so I tried to roll off the front. Some Uruguayan guy kept following me even though I told him what I was trying to do. Maybe he thought I was lying. Finally I just had to undo the bibs, let’er rip, and give him a front row seat.


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