Breakfast At The Bike Shop?
Warning to new members: my posts can wander aimlessly for quite a while, so if you want to get straight to the food bit, skip ahead to the bolded word cooking.
It is spring, and bike road racing racing season is well under way.
The first races of the year, in February, are wake-up events in warm climes like Australia (Tour Down Under), the Middle East (Tour of Qatar), and South America.
In March, the circus moves to Europe for the spring classics. Strategically, the European season starts in Southern Europe with races like Paris-Nice, Tirreno Adriatico, and Milan-San Remo. But spring this year in Europe has been awful, wet and cold. The peleton suffered through freezing, blowing rain on the normally sunny roads to Nice and on the Adriatic coast.
The final insult was in Milan-San Remo. The race started, as always, in central Milan, by the cathedral. Milan in March is chilly. I remember many years ago, arriving in Milan from three months in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Bali. Tanned dark from the Asian summer, still in my tropical clothes and sandals, I stood shivering on a street corner with our pile of luggage, holding my 9 month old daughter, waiting for SWMBO to emerge from the American Express bureau. As the Milanese walked to work, elegantly dressed men and women, in gorgeous coats and boots, stopped and and handed me lire notes. I hadn't realized just how ragged I looked, but hey, I wasn't proud - I took the money.
I was thinking of that cold March day 16 years ago, when the racers left Milan this March. They ride south through stubbly gray fields, gradually climbing though the cold foggy hills to the mountain pass at Turchino. There, 140 km into the race, the peleton enters a narrow tunnel. After a short ride in darkness, the riders burst into blue skies. Sun and warmth pour forth, angels sing and trumpets blow, the race has reached the Mediterranean coast, winter is over, and the "Primavera" has truly begun. Milan-San Remo is the most beautiful of races, an opera in three acts, accelerating to a furious sprint finish along the palm-lined Liguran coast of Italy.
This year, Milan was colder than ever, colder than when sympathetic Italians gave 100 lire notes to what looked like a newly arrived refugee and his young child. As the race climbed, the fields became white, and then the roads. The peleton was riding in blowing snow, thin tires slipping on icy roads, racers shaking with cold and their fingers frozen on handlebars.
Imagine riding through a snowstorm at 40 km/hr, wearing Lycra tights and a thin polyester jacket . . . and you have only 8% body fat. Half the peleton abandoned the race, and several of the survivors were sick a week later when the World Tour arrived in Belgium and Holland for the Northern classics.
Winter's grip was still tight, and some of those races were shortened or cancelled outright due to snow and ice. But bike racers are tough, and when the weather lifted just a little, we had a glorious Tour of Flanders - the Ronde Van Vlaanderen - a Greek tragedy for defending champion Tom Boonen who crashed out with broken ribs, and a triumph of age and strength for Fabian Cancellara who powered away on the final climb as upstart Peter Sagan, ten years his junior, bowed his head and slumped his shoulders. On the other side of the world, a man who'd just turned fifty cheered.
Now it is time for the hardest classic of them all, Paris-Roubaix. Milan-San Remo is called "the Primavera" for its beauty, Paris-Roubaix is called "the Hell of the North" for its brutality. The race is long, over 250 km, and a fifth of that is on the worst cobblestone tracks in the region. Not the picturesque cobbled rues of the city, these are disused remnants of old Roman roads, large sharp-edged stones jutting from deep wallows of mud. These roads are not normally used - they are too deteriorated - until early April when the fittest men in the world will push their ten thousand dollar bikes over jarring tracks where farmers don't even drive their trucks. Faces and eyes coated with dirt and clay, hands and legs numb after hours of jack hammering by the pave, the riders will struggle to reach the old velodrome of Roubaix before the dreaded time cutoff, when the gates are mercilessly closed and the last riders, after 250 km of pain, are barred from finishing the race. Grown men will weep outside closed gates tomorrow.
It is brutal and masochistic, and we love it!
Which brings me to the actual point of this post, long after you have despaired of ever seeing such a thing, as by now you probably feel like the suffering riders in Paris-Roubaix - reading this drivel on and on and will there be any mention of cooking before the gates close - well here it is!
At 5 AM tomorrow, and at 5 AM on many more days this spring and summer, a smallish number of us will gather at my local bike shop to watch the bike races. Paris-Roubaix, then the Giro d'Italia or the Tour of California, finally in July the three-week Tour de France and then the Vuelta d'Espana. The bike shop has coffee, but no food, unless you count an energy gel as an acceptable breakfast. So I am in the habit of bringing breakfast for the "crowd" (is ten sleep-deprived sadomasochistic cycling fans a crowd?) a few times each year.
Last year, this was easy enough. The evening before, I'd roast some potatoes and brown some sausage, then get up at 3:30 am, reheat it all, pack it up with some paper plates and ride to the bike shop.
Well, tonight I've made yet another variation on that theme (see below), and have managed to bore even myself. I can't bring the same darn thing to the next race or the next. I need help!
Wanted: suggestions for a make-ahead breakfast, that can be reheated or final prepped in less than 1 hour by a barely-awake person, then plopped into bike panniers and ridden a couple miles to feed between 6 and 12 barely-awake people, who are perhaps not inclined to be too picky - it is a free breakfast, after all - but, this being Portland, won't eat pig slop either. And it has to be at least somewhat interesting, otherwise this starts to be too much like work for me.
Ideas? Note there are no cooking facilities at the bike shop, not even a microwave.
Oh, here's the menu for tomorrow at 5 AM. Potatoes roasted with olive oil, rosemary, garlic, and tossed with melted butter and chopped spinach. Pork loin, cubed, salted and marinated in Tiger sauce, oil, and just a little soy sauce, sauteed, and tossed with a cooked mixture of onion, garlic and lots of fine-diced red jalapeno. Coffee. Beer. It is going to taste fine, but I'm bored of this sort of thing and don't want to bring anything like it for the rest of the year.
This post was edited by johnliu on Sun, Apr 7, 13 at 7:05