Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I have watched the Tour de France from the time I was a 7 year old girl, fascinated with the beauty and colour of the peloton, the landscape of the country, and the competitive nature and speed of the athletes.

I have watched in awe as they suffer on the majestic mountains, sprinted for finish lines, and crashed only to rise up from the carnage and carry on.

The buzzing sound of the peloton, the helicopter shots of the teams racing through the sunflower fields and snaking through narrow European towns, the switch backs and summits of the epic climbs, the crazy fans in costumes and in nothing at all have captivated me every July for decades.

My imagination has run wild on many training rides where, in my head, I am attacking on Alp d’Huez, in a breakaway with Jens Voigt, been motivated by the cheers of the fans, and my triumphs are being narrated by Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwen, “oh, it’s a beast of a climb!”.

And yet, it is even better to experience it in person.  This year, as the pack rode through Ornon and Annecy I was filled with the excitement of also having ridden there, as they summited Mount Ventoux I could see the same roads that I had suffered on, when they climbed Alp d’Huez not once, but twice, I screamed “I’ve been there!”, when they summited the Semnoz I could barely hold my excitement “I’ve done that!”

There are few words that can describe the sense of accomplishment having summited a 30 km mountain and the thrill of the descent.  Life changing, awe inspiring, immense pride, and giddiness may be some, but the only way to truly be captured by the beauty and grandeur of the Alps is to experience it yourself.

So who’s in for the Cycling Centre France trip next year? 

Monday, July 15, 2013


July 10
Every Wednesday there is a time trial up Alp d'Huez, an epic mountain that will be climbed twice in the same stage at this year's Tour de France.  It is known for it's 21 hairpin turns and race drama with screaming fans lining all 13 km of the mountain during the race in July.

Wanting to test ourselves, we paid our 5 Euros to register for the race, collected our timing chips, and after a ready, set, go, we began the race.  The end would find Diane and Bridget on the podium for women, placing first and third respectively, and Chris finishing a very respectable 36th in the men's field.

This is how we really like to see Podium Girls!

July 11
Another Great day!  We drove to Annecy with the plans of having an easy recovery ride around the lake, a stunning work of Mother Nature.   The lake is apparently so clean that no animals live in it as there is nothing for them to eat.

The plan changed when we turned left instead of right to go up this small little 8km climb which turned out to be the very tough Col de la Forclaz, a knee ripper for sure!  It may not be long, but the grade is over 10%, I mean look at all the red in the profile!  At some point in this climb we all said to ourselves “ I thought this was supposed to be a recovery ride?”

There were tons of hang gliders and para gliders as well.  It was kinda eriee when they would fly over top and would cast a huge shadow over you. 

As we climbed to the top of the Col de la Foclaz the view of the lake was spectacular and well worth the work to get up!  Chris even found a souvenir cow bell, though he couldn't fit the largest one they sold in his pocket, so he got a travel size.  The descent was the best yet, long and curvy road with few hairpins to keep the speed in check.

It was a HOT day and most of the restaurants were closed when we wanted to eat. So we had snacks and headed back to Bourge for dinner. 

We had a huge laugh tonight and are really enjoying everyone's company.

No one was hurt in the making of this picture.

July 12
The Glandon was the nail that sealed the coffin.  For the past winter we have been training with a picture of the Glandon in our sites, imagining ourselves climbing this epic beast, and today was the day.

We set off under more blue skies with snow capped mountains enticing us.

We reached the foot of the Col de la Croix de Fer and after 30 km and an average grade of 5% we found ourselves at the top.  Only 3 km away was the Col de Glandon and the end of our climbing for the week.  Over the past five days we have climbed 7, 451 meters (24,446 feet), that's 5,000 feet above the Mt Kilimangaro summit!

We're all getting much better at descending and mastering the switchbacks, thanks to the tips that we read by Petrina before coming on this trip.

Tomorrow we'll be going in to Lyon to catch the end of the Tour de France and stalk some pros!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Our group has arrived in France and are enjoying the mountainous scenery and living in cycling bliss.

Everyone arrived in to Lyon on different days and enjoyed getting to know each other over drinks, good meals, and short rides to get the jet lag out and he riding legs in.

On Sunday the adventure began to Ornon, where we'll be spending the week at a converted school house that is now run as a cycling oasis by a British couple called King of the Mountains.

Discussing the Wimbledon win the town folk at King of the Mountains
 Just after arriving we set out on our bikes for a ride around the area and some flat roads at the base of Alp d'Huez.

On the way home we climbed up the Col D'Ornon, a beautiful climb 11 km in length with an average grades of 5.5%.  The good news is we get to ride 8 km of this climb at the end of almost every ride to get back to our accommodations!

Tanya and Chris at the top of the Col d'Ornon

On day 2 we set off for a 100 km ride full of ups and downs on a route called the Morte - believe that translates in to "death ride" in some languages!

The group took a wrong turn, but what kind of adventurous trip would this be without a wrong turn or two!  The signs in France are so great and plentiful though that it was easy to follow the route back to Col d'Ornon.

The group is separating in to climbers and descenders, with the climbers being more controlled on the descents, but by the end of the week the descenders will be stronger climbers and the climbers will have mastered some descending skills.
There was some spitting today and what looked like rain, but we've been lucky so far with the wet weather holding off until we're back in shelter enjoying delicious food made by our hosts.

Tomorrow we will do the town time trial. Apparently on Wednesday you sign up at the tourist office pay 5 euros and get a time chip. It's a neutral start from the Bike shop out to the bottom of Alp d'Huez and then it's a race. Guy and Helyn, our hosts, say it's a blast. You will have all kinds show up. There is a podium at the top for the first 3 places, Diane has her eyes set on the prize!

All is good, food, chatting, fatigue level.