This is my first time to France, and man is it great. Riding yesterday I kept thinking, "This is so cool, it looks just like it does when they race in the Alps in the Tour." And then I realize, that's because they really do ride exactly where we're riding.
We rolled into Courchevel Monday evening and after a quick and delicious dinner, had a big biking party. We have 8 athletes, 3 coaches, 3 toureree's (I made that word up) and 2 tour guides. That makes 16 people and just as many bikes and a lot of skis as well. Some how, all the bikes and skis made it, but my coach's and my clothing bag didn't make it out of Atlanta. I was bummed because I wasn't able to jump Tuesday morning, but I was able to make do with biking for the afternoon. I had my helmet, borrowed clothing, and rented some old school cycling pedals with straps, which worked great with my flat soled vans. Nonetheless that will probably be the only time that I ride 65 miles without cycling shoes.
We rode from Courchevel yesterday, descended for a long ways before going across the valley and then up a 27 kilometer climb, which ended in Italy! After the descent, I hopped into the van with some of the other guys and rode back up to town. Todd, Bill, Taylor, Johnny, Bryan and one of the Tourer's, Walter, rode all the way back to Courchevel. 90 miles is a bold way to start the week!
The riding got serious this afternoon. Everyone but coach Greg raced the famous Alpe d'Huez climb. It's only 17 kilometers long, but has 21 switchbacks and ascends almost 1000 meters. Infamous is probably the word to use.
We decided to handicap start it in the same fashion that the Sundance Hill Climb was handicapped. So some of the older riders and the coaches started earlier, and us athletes started later, with the hope of catching everyone. Taylor started last, then Bill, then me, Johnny, Bryan, Todd, and so on. Bill threw down a really hard race, held off Taylor and caught everyone else to finish first and put down the fastest time, ahead of Taylor's. Todd finished right behind Bill, then Taylor, and then a bit more to me, at 51:20 race time. I think Bill's time was close to 3 minutes faster than me, which was kind of incredible considering I could ride with him in the last hill climb we did. I was pretty happy to edge out Todd's time to be the third fastest guy up the mountain.
We've all got some work to do - the record time is 37:35, and that was on a year that they did at the end of a stage, not just as a Time Trial! Then again, that record was set in 1997 (not by Lance, his is just one second slower) and now they ride it in well over 40 minutes; 42 minutes was the fastest in last years stage. It makes you wonder... typically athletics don't get less competitive overtime.
In the end, beyond the race, the times, stats, etc. I can't get over the idea being just stoked to had this opportunity. L Alpe d'Huez really is one of the most historical places in European sporting events. It's where champions have been made and tour's have been won for years. It's like getting the opportunity to play tennis at the Wimbledon courts... except for, that's just tennis.
Where am I?