A few weeks ago I was hanging on for dear life as Jean-Louis, the young Frenchy phenom, dragged me up to the Domes. One by one our companions faltered, then softened, then were smeared on the climb like quiescent bug guts.

He slowed down towards the end and generously let me hang on. At the top I heaved and spit and gasped. If Jean-Louis were one of my kids, he’d be the third-oldest. “You do a good ride,” he smiled.

“Urgle,” I answered.


“Urgle. Thanks.”

“Oh, yes, eet eez nossing. You do a good ride. How old are you?” He wasn’t even sweating.

“I turn 51 in December,” I said, trying to make myself as old as possible.

“Really? Zat is so old. You are riding very good. Eet eez easy to tell here in America ze riders who do ze intervals. Zey have ze second punch.”

“Damn,” I thought to myself, recalling an interval that I once did back in ’87. “I better start doing some intervals.”

I live atop a hill that is the perfect interval climb. It’s not too steep, it’s about 20 minutes long, and it has varying pitches. I always climb it slowly because I am slow. However, with Jean-Louis’s comment as a motivation, I resolved to use this daily slog as my daily interval.

Riding without a power meter or heart strap or lately even a watch, my only way to measure the effort is perceived exertion. Since I generally perceive all exertion as painful, it shouldn’t be too hard, I thought, to turn my daily slow slog into a slightly less slow slog that would qualify as a JLFI, or “Jean-Louis French Interval.”

After a few weeks I noticed that indeed, despite my flubbery tummy, bad posture, and general weakness, that one daily interval was making me faster. Without any way to measure it, though, all of the improvement was in my head, where I do my best riding anyway.

Today as my pal and I were returning from a brutal bike path ride to Santa Monica, where we bopped into Phil’s Coffee and paid $4 for something that, had we made it at home, would have cost 25 cents, a couple of Hop-in Wankers jumped on our wheel in Manhattan Beach. They snuggled up into our draft and didn’t say a word.

In Hermosa we stopped at the light. I turned to HIW #1. “Hi,” I said. “What’s your name?”

“Stacy,” he said.

“That’s a girl’s name, isn’t it?” I asked.

HIW #2 didn’t say anything because he was focusing on his track stand, which all pro Cat 3’s do at the Hermosa Pier stoplight because of the late fall thongs who might be watching. HIW #2 was wearing a POC helmet, POC glasses, POC jersey, POC bibs, and POC socks, astraddle a Ritte van Vlaanderen frame.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

HIW #2 took a break from his track stand. “Kyle.”

Kyle moved to the fore and I dropped back with Stacy. “Man,” he said. “This wind today is awful.”

“How would you know? You’ve been sitting on a wheel for the last six miles.”

“Yeah,” he agreed, “but I usually ride alone.”

We came to the short climb up by Rat Beach. Pal and I and POCleberry upped the pace. I got out of the saddle and grunted. Stacy got out of the saddle too, but he didn’t grunt, his rear derailleur did. It had apparently not had much force put on it over the course of its 25-year lifespan.

A massive pop-and-sproing emanated from his drivetrain. He looked down just in time to see his bike fall apart. We kept going and didn’t see him again.

In a moment we had reached the bottom of Malaga Cove, the starting point of my JLFI. “Poor old POCleberry,” I said. “I’m gonna ride him off my wheel.”

We hit the lower slope and I twisted the cranks. After a couple of minutes I wasn’t just on the rivet, the rivets were being nailed into my balls. Pal rolled up to me. “Hey, dude,” he said. “Gotta turn off here.”

“Bye,” I gasped.


10 thoughts on “L’intervale”

  1. Arkansas Traveler

    I’m still in a daze from Phil’s girl asking me if I liked it sweet and creamy.

  2. Tasting 2013, just out of barrels, this morning…apologies in adgvance for the mental wandering…

    I think Jean-Louis was from Montpelier or Figeac, and was a protege of Fabien Roux, who was enamored with his older brother, Laurent, who was mentored by Laurent Blanc, the footballer, who….blah, blah, blah…can you say “Pot Belge”?. Ancestry.com should do a special piece on them.

    The late 80’s and early 90’s were killer in southwestern France! Just ‘member, WM, if they’re Euro, don’t feel bad,..those dudes have a genetic advantage AND the rocket fuel….but you showed them all anyway….you eat rivets for breakfast.

    1. This kid is funny and smart and strong and clean as a whistle.

      Plus, he let me hang on.

  3. I do get a distinct feeling you never flick the elbow for riders to come thru as you prefer berating them in print over helping them see the errors of your ways.

  4. But…but…Am I the only one…?

    Surely there is more to the story than I’m seeing…? Mine ends in a “POCleberry” and leaves me wondering what happened on the rest of the JLFI…?

    Is this artistic? Am I to just guess? Was it a surprise ending in which the author signs as POCleberry? Was the ending provided to subscribed folks?


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