Tag Archives: tour de France

France in 2013

Image credit: Gerry Patterson

2013 has been on my mind for the last few months. 2012 has been phenomenal. How can I top it? For awhile, I was somewhat committed to doing Iron Man Florida next year. I even went ahead and made arrangements to volunteer this year, which allows you first dibs on registering for next year. I had even ramped up my running slightly (from 0 to maybe 3 miles per week, very slightly), and put some 5k races on my calendar.

Change of plans. I’m now going to France!

I have wanted to ride in the France alps, and even considered a trip for next year, but that went went on the back-burner once I geared towards Iron Man. Lately I’ve been waffling on going the triathlon route. I can run, but I’m not a runner. I don’t particularly enjoy it. As I started to think about next year’s rides, I felt disappointment that I would skip some amazing cycling, only to focus on running and swimming.

I received an email this week from fellow blogger Gerry. He is a Canadian living in southern France that shares the same passion for hills that I do. He just happens to live near some of the historic, legendary climbs that the pros ride through every year in July. He was putting together a small team for the Haute Route event. Would I be interested?

Yes. Emphatically, yes! I had to first clear it with my wife. I’m lucky to have a cool and understanding wife. She gave her blessing, and I hope she can come with (depends on her school schedule).

So I’m in.

The Haute Route is a 7-day cycling “tour.” I don’t mean that in the casual bike tour sense, where I take my time riding at 12 mph, stopping for every tourist attraction that I encounter. This is a tour in the spirit of the Tour de France. It is a timed event for amateurs that roughly simulates seven stages of the Tour de France. In other words, it will be a world of pain, but I will love it!

This year’s route is from Geneva to Nice, and passes through all of the historic climbs of the French Alps. From what I understand, you name them and they’ll be included. This year has a time trial up Alpe d’Huez. Ouch!

Now that I am going forward with this endeavor, I need to plan my training. Yes, it is a year away, but I’ll need all that time to get prepared. I will be renewing my relationship with Apex Nutrition all the way through the event next year. I may also explore some affordable coaching options. This will be one of the rare years where Assault on Mount Mitchell will actually be a training ride.

France. Galibier! Ventoux! Madeleine! All the rest. I almost cannot believe I’m doing this. In the immortal words of Bart Scott, I can’t wait!

Hincapie Gran Fondo Announced

Those who mourned the loss of the annual Marquis de Sade ride will appreciate this news. George Hincapie, Tour de France legend and Greenville superstar, has announced his own Gran Fondo taking place on 10/27/2012. It will feature many of the same quad-killing climbs as good ol’ De Sade.

What makes this ride special is the celebrity of Hincapie and perhaps some of his closest friends. He and his jersey company have become the face of Greenville cycling, and hopefully will continue to contribute to the community for years to come. Hincapie should be riding along with special guests. They have not yet been named, but I expect a lot of BMC riders (maybe Tejay, Cadel?), and perhaps some other tour pros. Since this is Hincapie’s retirement year, the inaugural event should be extra special.

The longer ride is 80 miles and features the toughest climbs in the area. It starts outside of Greenville and heads straight to the Tryon/Saluda area. I have long complained about Skyuka / White Oak Mountain in the past. We’ll be reunited again, as it appears to be the first major climb. After that will be its younger brother, Howard Gap. It appears that they have eliminated the dangerous descent, as we’ll take the higher elevation route to Saluda, alongside Interstate 26. From there we’ll descend Holbert Cove, and come back through Green River Cove Road. Since Tour de Leaves is the week prior, that means I’ll be climbing Green River two weekends in a row. Ugh!

While these climbs will certainly be painful, they should be equally gorgeous. The fall leaves should be at their brightest in late October. That’s a worthwhile trade-off for the cooler temperatures, which from my experience will most likely (hopefully?) require arm warmers and little else.

There have been a lot of rumblings ever since the event was announced. One of the reservations people have is that this is a Gran Fondo, meaning it is timed. That timing chip tends to attract the hardest of the core, but with a 3,500 rider maximum and a difficult course, I expect there to be a healthy mixture of paces. Regardless how fast or slow you are, there will probably be many others right with you. I know that when I’m going up Howard Gap, the timing chip isn’t going to get me to the top any faster.

The other thing is the price. This is an expensive ride. The longest route is $170, and it scales down from there. A jersey is included in the price for the long ride, so there is that, but it’s a lot more than most. Mitchell is close, but with all the logistics to get people and their bikes up and down the mountain, it makes sense. That said, I think the price is fair for this type of event. Copper Triangle was similar. It was close to the same price, also included a jersey, and was superbly organized. I expect the same, if not better, from Hincapie. However expensive, this event could immediately become a major attraction, putting the area on the map for many.

Hincapie Gran Fondo

Le Tour and Steep Climbs

There were a number of motivators for me to get into cycling. The catalyst, of course, was the running injury and the inability to do anything else for exercise. There were also some friends who cycled and the availability of a cycling club at work, which certainly helped.

Another seed had been planted long ago. I had almost forgotten about that one until recently. Like many other cyclists, it was the Tour de France, although it was not the actual Tour. I had not been a fan of the sport of cycling before jumping onto a bike of my own. Sure, I would follow some of the provocative stories, such as Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis and all the doping controversies (not going there on this blog). Last year was the first time I actually sat down and watched a stage of the Tour.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this website that I’m a sucker for nature and good photography. It was not the actual Tour that inspired me, but these images from Boston.com’s wonderful Big Picture series. I remember that image #6, the one with Bradley Wiggins riding down the Col du Tourmalet, especially caught my eye. It was mind-blowing that man could achieve such heights and travel to such beautiful places on human-powered two wheels. Even though I wouldn’t ride a bike for another couple of years, it remained in the back of my mind.

That also explains why the first organized ride I signed up for was Tryon’s Tour de Leaves, which was more than I was ready for at the time, but that’s a subject for another day. The rest is history. I’m fortunate to have been able to climb to some spectacular heights and see some amazing sights in the brief time I have been riding. There will be many more to come.

Now I am a certified cycling fan. This year I even joined a Tour de France Fantasy League along with some other bloggers (thanks to Mr. Patterson from Languedoc.) I’ve actually done pretty well in the league, currently in 5th place out of 32. For awhile I was 2nd and then 3rd, but have dropped as of late. You can see my team here.

I have learned a lot about riding from the Tour in the brief time I’ve been watching. Most notably, I’ve learned that there are superhumans on this planet. I’ve become a relatively strong rider, but the guys climbing these difficult French hills make it look sickeningly easy. I’ve learned a good bit about descending just by watching and emulating their body movements, and have become a lot more confident in the last couple years, although not quite dangerously so.

And like many others, I have fallen in love with the French climbs that I’ve seen on TV. I long to ride the great ones, such as Ventoux, Galibier, Alpe d’Huez, and countless others. I may even make a trip next year to do so, assuming I can work a couple other things out. Until then, I’ll keep watching and dreaming.

Here is this year’s Boston.com Tour pictorial.