It is a bit like calling out, "Help, I've fallen and cannot get up." It is at the very least something akin to pass me some more of that butter for my croissant, my heart is beating way too slowly. After all, we do take all of this fitness finagling way too seriously. Me, myself and I that is. Because in the end, it if floats we will race it.
So it is Tuesday. Or rather, it is Friday and earlier in the week it was Tuesday. The calendar just keeps doing that to me. Wait a few days, another Tuesday will come around. It is a circular thing. When it does, you probably will not know where you are then either.
There is a bike race going on in France, in case you have not recognized. (That is a circular thing also...) I am not sure why you are reading this when you could be watching that. Or at least reading something about that race, probably from people who are a lot funnier and better informed than I am about the whole thing. Either way, THERE IS A BIKE RACE GOING ON!
Each year I like to go to a few different stages of the TDF. Last year I made it to the Morzine stage in the alps, just as comeback 2.0 was unraveling for Lance. It was a tough time at that team truck, but it was still such a beautiful circus. I met LIam from California there. He and his Dad ride all over Europe together, and have a fun little blog to follow. Check them out at Fathersontour.com.
This is me meeting Liam last year at Morzine. Check the Converse, those were nice.
This year, I am hoping to get to a couple of mountain stages where the up part of the race is such a big deal. Not sure how that is going to go, but I am here in France and going to be for the month. I will be starting out by going to the L'Etape du Tour, then going to our dealer event in Austria (I know that I said France and I also know that Austria is not France - Geez, after all you can barely get a bratwurst in France.) After the dealer event, I will make it to the finish in Paris and then down to Madrid to visit my daughter who is living there (Once more a place that is not France.)
It's kind of a long trip. I have packed a couple of pieces of cycling kit and a few pair of converse and flip flops - oh, and of course a roll of duct tape. You never know when you might need that.
L'Etape du Tour
Liz and I made our way to Alpe d'Huez to do the L'Etape du Tour. This is the 2nd time we have done one of these. It is a citizen race with 9000 of our closest friends over one of the big mountain stages in the Tour de France. This year was up over the Telegraph, then over the Galibier and then up to the top of Alpe d'Huez. Wow. Not super long, but it was tough.
We were being taken care of for the trip by Trek Travel. They really know how to put out a spread and make it work for everyone there. We did a couple of nice warm up rides the days before the ride, and then they had us sorted for the day of the race.
To start with, there are 9000 riders at the L'etape du Tour. This isn't the same amount of logistics as a local group ride or a local race. The roads are closed, just like when the pro's ride that stage, and the pace is hard. Our ride started out with a 10 k long down slope. It made a left turn, and bang we were on the slopes of the Telegraph. The climb was pretty cool. All in the trees, and not really exposed. Nice and cool. There is a short down slope onto the Galibier, making those 2 climbs really just one long climb.
The Galibier is incredible. High up in the air, exposed everywhere, no shade, hot, tough. I did not really get any pictures, but I borrowed this one from fathersontour.com to show how it is exposed.
Liz was really tough on that climb. It is long, and she has not had much chance to do any climbing this year. She made it to the top with a smile on her face.
The descent off the Galibier was incredible. Pretty scarry and fast at the top. Very exposed. But it was downhill for 30 kilometers all the way to the base of the Galibier.
The really freaky part was the tunnels along the road. For the most part they were not too bad. Reasonably lit, and decent pavement. But there were more than just a few. They seemed to get more poorly lit and poor pavement the more the route continued on. Eventually, there was one that was long, and not lit at all. You piled into the tunnel at a fast pace, and all of a sudden you were in pitch black. You could not see the rider in front of you, only a vague outline. People started hitting their brakes in panic. A rider crashed, there were brakes squealing, riders screaming to slow down, other riders screaming to pedal on - terrified that they were about to be slammed into from behind. It was not a great feeling. Somehow, Liz and I both made it through the tunnel unscathed.
Then we hit the bottom of Alpe d'Huez. The road pitches up really steep at the bottom. It is tough. 21 switchbacks that just do not seem to end. The road flattens out just a bit in each of the switchbacks, but then angles up steeply again after that. Up, up and up.
By the time we got to the Alpe, it was hot. The climb is exposed to the west and the sun was baking it. For us Americans that do not live where we can climb on our bikes, it was (Alabama) hot. Had to be 100 degrees, and the heat was reflecting off the pavement in great waves. I saw an egg frying. I saw a small person lying in the shade in the fetal position. There were people walking from the bottom, no one was going very fast. It was a death march up the climb.
We finished. I knew we would. Liz drove us to a respectable time also. It was only 110kms, but it is a lot of climbing. I do not know the total meters climbed, but it was more than 3. We had a great time.
I would imagine when the pros go over it next friday, it will be alot faster and it should decide the tour. I cannot wait.