The longest day? Maybe! Two flat tires delayed us enough that we barely got back before dark, but we did it. Col du Glandon, Col de Croix de Fer , Telegraphe and the Galibier. This was the big ride we hoped to accomplish, and we did. Was it easy? No. Memorable? Heck yeah! We pushed ourselves to the limit, and had not a few but many people staring at our silly “little” bikes. Do they ride as nice as a Trek Madone? No way. But you can’t put a Trek Madone into a suitcase and easily travel with it!
Click here for photos and descriptions of the ride. –Mike–
We’ve arrive at the main train station in Lyon, where I’m standing in a long line that moves like molasses because? Are people planning their vacations in real-time at the ticket counters? You see the sane people at the same counter for 5, 10 minutes. Why? How hard is it to say you need tickets to Toulouse or Paris or Nice or wherever? We’ll eventually get to Grenoble, but will it be today?
The plan was to have all the loose ends tied up early so I could get to bed at a reasonable hour and do the regular Thursday morning ride before leaving for the airport. That plan was laid to waste by the big sale that starts Friday; way too much stuff to get done, and just when I was about to write off one of the biggest tasks (new hangtags for every bike on sale) I had an epiphany.
Seriously. A real live epiphany. As in, I’d been fighting this one for some time, it really seemed beyond my technical abilities, and then, at 9pm, I realized I had already written an SQL query that was doing almost the exact same thing! And thus began a three hour ordeal in which I did get the job done, but got to bed sometime past 2am.
And I have to get up for the ride at 7.
So I went to bed thinking Kevin would appreciate the opportunity to sleep in (I always have to wake him up) but at 7:03am there he is next to the bed, saying “Aren’t you getting up?” And for the briefest of moments I was thinking, 4 hours sleep, but how can I rationalize missing the ride? Then I remembered that I’d forgotten to bring my bike back home from the shop (I planned to pick it up around 11pm, naively thinking I’d be done by then). Saved! But Kevin went on his own and had a very nice ride.
I got going earlier than I wanted to, not really sleeping after Kevin left, but clearly not coherent because on the way to the airport we realize we left the cytomax at home… Not quite fatal but close… and then after checking out bags Kevin asks where the backpack with the camera gear is. Um, er,… Quick call to Becky who does another round trip to the airport and delivers both camera bag AND cytomax, literally saving the trip. We might be able to live with a substitute for Cytomax (although we didn’t want to find out!) but it’s not like we can go out and buy $2000 in extra camera gear.
And why is the camera gear so important? Because if it’s not documented in words and photos, it didn’t happen. Simple as that!
Turns out to have been a good thing we didn’t get to the airport early and catch the earlier flight, since that flight was delayed an hour and we wouldn’t have made our connection at Dulles. So maybe my lack of a brain this morning worked out for the best. Although it was more an issue of preoccupation with work stuff that messed things up. Hey, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
9:55pm Made it on plane to Frankfurt and had enough time to set up mobile hotspot and send files from laptop. Close but worked! Bye until Frankfurt- Mike
With just over three weeks to go before heading to the French Alps, there’s no time to waste on “nice” or “fun” rides. Every ride counts, as Kevin (my son) and I prepare for at least one epic ride over there, the 100 mile Glandon/Galibier loop. Still, today’s ride ended up being less nice (although not really less fun) than planned, because this was our first ride in “normal” late-Spring early-Summer weather. Up until now, it’s been rare to see temps above the mid-60s for most of our outings, so it was a bit of a rude awakening to see what 90 degrees on open climbs would do to us.
The route was similar to the classic Woodside/Santa Cruz run, where you head over Old LaHonda, Haskins Grade to Pescadero, Gazos Creek to Highway One and then South to Santa Cruz and back via Highway 9 and Skyline. Except that instead of heading into Santa Cruz we rode up Bonny Doon Road to Empire Grade, then down Jamison Creek, up China Grade and then connected to Highway 9 at Waterman Gap.
Despite an issue with some pain in his right leg, Kevin got his best time yet up Old LaHonda (23:23), but the run south on Gazos Creek and Highway One was a bit slower than normal. Looks like something’s a bit tight and he might have to do a bit of pre-exercise stretching in the future (a foreign concept to me; I’ve never done any formal stretching ever, preferring to work out my kinks on the bike… this is not a recommendation for others!).
Lunch at Davenport’s Whaler Cafe was a bit more eventful than usual, as a couple of hungry cyclists (us) ordered more food than we had money for (they take only cash there). $34 worth, and we had $27. I didn’t think about the expense of the imported (from Mexico) Cokes, made with real sugar. The guy said no problem, bring $7 back next time since he’d seen us before. So we paid what we could, knowing that we were now flat broke on “real” money, which would mean no “Mr. Mustard” stop on Skyline… not a good thing! Thankfully Kevin had noticed an ATM machine, and got $20 cash to make good on our debt with a few dollars in reserve.
I should mention we weren’t the only people with Chain Reaction connections at the Whaler Cafe; inside was a guy with his son who’d recently purchased a Trek Madone from us and outside were several more “Dads” out on a one-way Mountain View to Santa Cruz ride on their Chain Reaction bikes.
From there it was the long hot run up Bonny Doon, a far tougher climb up from the coast than Tunitas, particularly when combined with Empire Grade. Why the Tour of California rated Bonny Doon a Cat-3 and Tunitas a Cat-2 escapes me; Tunitas is a shaded, cooler climb with a gnarly middle section but a very easy lead-in and finish. Bonny Doon, on the other hand, is torture on a hot day, a rude awakening as you escape from the cool coastal fog into hot dry air. Not hot really; never above 90, but compared to what we’ve had lately, that was plenty warm enough.
The other issue with incorporating Bonny Doon into your “Santa Cruz” run is that there are no services between the coast and Skyline, because you’re bypassing civilization (the various towns along the lower flanks of Highway 9). So you’re just out there on your own, in some ways miles from nowhere, on a road that just isn’t very friendly when you’re not at the top of your game. On the other hand, it’s nice to do something different, and the views along Empire Grade are pretty amazing, plus you get to experience the Jamison Creek descent (which is so steep you can’t even approach white-knuckle speeds) and the fun climb up China Grade.
Make sure your brake shoes are in good shape before descending Jamison, because you could easily lose 1/4 of their life in just one descent. If wet, it’s possible that you might not even make it to the bottom before they’re gone (but anyone descending Jamison Creek in the rain needs to have their head examined, if there’s anything left of it after attempting the descent).
Once at the bottom of Jamison Creek, you turn left on 236 and after a mile or so, right on China Grade. But before you get to China Grade, there’s a golf shop/bar on the left side of the road where you can buy a coke and fill up with water. Very friendly people; today, as we were looking for a place to park our bikes, a nice woman in motorized golf cart drove up to us and suggested we just park our bikes up on the porch. We explained we were just there to get some water, which she said no problem and pointed to the ice chest/water cooler on her cart which she nicely let us fill up from!
China Grade, while steep, is only a mile and a half long and completely shaded, so it’s actually a much more pleasant grind that anything on Bonny Doon. Unfortunately, at the top it connects back up to 236 which is in the process of being chip-sealed (oil & gravel), making a mess of our bikes and taking all the fun out of riding that section of road. Thankfully that goes on for only a couple of miles, after which you connect to Highway 9 at Waterman Gap for the 6-mile run up to Skyline. Kevin claims he doesn’t like that stretch of road, but he rides it like he owns it, attacking it pretty hard despite just recently looking like he’d be asking for a sag wagon.
The question is, would Kevin be flying up Highway 9 if not for a date with Mr. Mustard? After a long grind there’s nothing quite like an ice cold coke (just $1) and/or… heaven forbid but at the time it sure tastes good… a hot dog. Yes, we had hot dogs on a bike ride, with 35 miles to go. Seems like that should be about the worst thing you could eat, but somehow, it works. I’m not suggesting you try it yourself, but when the alternative is a Clif Bar or Shot Blocks, well sure, those work, and maybe they’re even better for you, but at that point in the ride, you deserve what you want.
After that we had a brief stop at the nearby fire station to mix up some more Cytomax and then headed north on Skyline for the quick ride back home. You’re less than two hours from Redwood City at that point, even though it seems so much further. Skyline heading north is a pretty pleasant run, maybe 45 minutes from Highway 9 to 84, with just a couple of small climbs along the way. We arrived home at 6:10pm, just a bit later than planned, and about 9 hours after we’d left. Not as fast an average speed as prior rides (14mph) but definitely a lot tougher going, and definitely needed prior to France. –Mike–
Question was, would today be that “day off” that he couldn’t afford? My concern was that last night was Senior Prom (an event I didn’t attend back in the day because it conflicted with a bike race) and Kevin didn’t get in until 1:30am. Would I be able to roll him out of bed and onto a bike before the sun went down? Turned out not to be much trouble; Kevin woke up around 9:30 if I recall correctly, and not being terribly energetic for a while, it wasn’t until noon that we finally got out… but that’s plenty of time for what some refer to as the “coastal classic”- up Old LaHonda and down the other side, over Haskins Grade to Pescadero, north on Stage to Tunitas and back up to Skyline and down Kings to Woodside.
Lots of people on the east side of the hills today, but darned few on the coast. In fact, there was only one other cyclist at the Pescadero Bakery, a nice guy from Bonny Doon who hitched a ride into town on our wheels (which I don’t mind; if you see Kevin and I out on the road, and I’m plowing into a head wind, go ahead and grab a wheel). My guess is that most were at the Grizzly Peak Century, which is what Kevin and I would have been riding if not for Senior Prom (I did offer, when I picked him up, that we could go home, get dressed for the ride, grab our bikes and just head over… who needs sleep?).
Anyone not riding missed the best day of the year so far. Temps ran from mid-60s to low-80s, with the only downside being a persistant headwind regardless of what direction you were riding. What was a bit sad was not having many “rabbits” (cyclists ahead of you) to catch. Even on Old LaHonda, where you normally encounter a steady stream of rabbits (those you’re chasing) and dogs (those chasing you).
We didn’t charge any of the climbs flat out, but did put the hammer down once we got to the upper reaches of Tunitas, where it flattens out. That’s a real good test for how Kevin’s doing, because as he tires, he’ll often have trouble holding onto a wheel (a wheel which you need all that much more when you’re tired!), but today I was able to gradually crank up the speed and he held on. In France, that will become even-more important, as we’ll need to catch “trains” of riders speeding by if we want to get around quickly and efficiently.
Most of the “infrastructure” for the 2011 trip to the Tour de France has been handled; plane tickets, train tickets, car rental, hotels, and some route planning. What’s needed is a feeling that Kevin and I are ready for a far-more-ambitious schedule of riding than we’ve done on any of the three prior trips to the ‘Tour with Kevin; in particular, there’s a 100 mile day, a huge loop without any possibility of shortcuts, featuring the Col du Glandon and the massive Galibier. 74 days is just not that far off, and Kevin got off to a pretty bad start this year with his kidney issues, so it was a very good thing we got this ride in!
Two months later and I’m finally going through the photos I took from the 2010 Tour de France. This was the scene with 9k to go on the Tourmalet, the last climb in the ‘Tour, Andy Schleck’s last chance to try and beat Alberto Contador. A big day! And an epic day for us as well, having gone to bed the night before with a raging thunderstorm rattling the windows, and having ridden that morning 25 miles in weather that varied from drizzle to downpour.
Normally, if you plan your ride so you’ll get to your spot three hours before the race comes through, you’re fine. This day wasn’t normal. At two different towns along the way, we were told bikes couldn’t get through. Stay here or go back. And this was with at least four hours to go! Thankfully, I had my Garmin Edge 705 with the Euro mapping chip, so I was able to find my way around the outskirts of each town and back onto the main road, ahead of the Gendarmes that were blocking the way. At one point we had a huge number of other cyclists following us; I felt like the pied piper.
But then we came across the Gendarme from Hell. We’re riding along, then see some spectator waving at us and yelling something in Italian that we couldn’t understand, so we get off the bikes, thinking it’s the regular ritual, ride your bike when you’re out of sight, then walk each time you see a Gendarme. No, the guy waving at us was trying to tell us to go back before it was too late! The idiot Gendarme wouldn’t let people get past, nor would he let people go back down the hill. Once you were in his territory, if you were on a bike, you were in jail.
The second photo shows the dead-end side road the Gendarme forced us to leave our bikes on. We weren’t allowed to be anywhere near them, because he feared (correctly) that we’d get on them and fly up the hill as soon as he turned away. So instead of getting close to the finish, or at least up past the corner, where things open up to a dramatic view, we were stuck in this no-man’s-land. Even after the race went past we weren’t allowed down the hill for another half hour, and withhundreds of cyclists backed up behind this guy, I’d just about had enough and decided to get something going, something to rattle this guy. He doesn’t understand English, he doesn’t want to explain in French, so what do do? Grrrrr. No, I mean Grrrrr. That’s what I did. I growled. And got other people to growl as well. One big mob of cyclists, many growling, had to be unsettling to the guy. But nowhere near as unsettling as the afternoon had been for us, his prisoners.
And so begins the preparation for a visit to the 2011 Tour de France. Every year I go, I figure it might be the last for a while, because what compelling reason could there be to go again, what unique set of circumstances would make such an effort worthwhile? And every year since 2000, except one, I have found the allure of the Tour de France impossible to escape. I had a good shot at breaking the chain three years ago, the year I didn’t go. It wasn’t easy; I was definitely going through withdrawal, and really badly wanted to get back to Europe even afterward, perhaps to see the Vuelta. In the end, I stayed home, watching the ‘Tour every day, and wishing I was there (even though 2008 wasn’t that great a race, with Carlos Sastre winning in unimpressive style).
But yesterday the bug hit. Again. I went to the usual sites, the ones that have figured out the route ahead of the official announcement, and started to piece together an itinerary. It won’t be easy! With the ‘Tour going counter-clockwise in 2011, it will be the days in the Alps that make the difference, so that’s where we’ll be. And the Alps are much more difficult to get around than the Pyrenees, with fewer options for train travel so a rental car becomes a requirement, not an option.
The ‘Tour is going to come up from the south into Gap around the 19th of July, and between then and the 23rd will apparently be hitting the Telegraph, Galibier, Alpe d’Huez, Glandon, a final individual time trial up the beyond-category Chamrousse and possibly even the Izoard. Amazingly, there’s a lot of new territory for me in that mix; I’ve set to climb the Telegraph, Galibier, Izoard (which I’m really looking forward to) or Chamrousse.
Making things difficult is that there’s no one place you can spend several nights, as was the case two years ago when we planted ourselves in Albertville for 5 days. It’s possible LaGrave could work out for a few days, but if I don’t get my act together quickly, what few rooms exist there will be gone. And since, at this stage, the route isn’t yet certain, there’s a chance that LaGrave might be the wrong place at the wrong time.
And then there’s the issue of leaving the shop, yet again, at close to the busiest time of the year. Of course, it’s a long way off, and we’ve got the opportunity to beef up the staff well before then, plus, while my daughter gripes about me taking off and leaving her and my wife in charge of things, they do a pretty decent job and they’re not above feeling good reminding me that yes, the shop can exist without me for a few days (as long as they’re here to take care of it).
Addendum 11:39pm- have made reservations for 7/19-7/23 at a place near La Grave, in the Alps. This will give us easy access to all of the Alps stages with the exception of the final time trial on Saturday, the 23rd, which will require a two-hour drive. There are very few places with rooms left to rent, in fact, far fewer tonight than when I first looked last night! From here on, a trip to see the TdF in the Alps will probably have to be booked through a tour company (which has already booked a block of rooms on spec).