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As many of you know I spent last week in France riding the country side and watching some of the best stages of the Tour de France. Originally, I intended on doing more blogging, but a few items got in the way of that plan. The best excuse is that I was busy riding my bike a lot and the days were packed full of fun. There was nearly zero time for internet access because we stayed in chateaus rather than major hotels, making internet access less convenient. (Know that I’m not complaining about this fact, just to be clear.)


The next few blogs will give you more detail about the rides and the actual trip. In this blog, I want to give you a few tips about foreign or long-distance travel for bicycle tours. I write this blog because I hope I can keep you from some troubles in the future. Let’s begin at the beginning of the trip.


I was booked on a United flight to leave Colorado on Saturday afternoon, July 18th. I got to the airport a couple of hours early, checked in and then went to look for some lunch in the airport. Mid-lunch, I received an easy travel update from United, on my phone, that the flight was leaving at XX time.


What time?


I listened again and the departure time on this update was 1.5 hours beyond what I expected. I grabbed what remained of my lunch and high-tailed it to customer service. After standing in line for about 15 minutes, the woman at customer service was extremely helpful and booked me on a Star Alliance Lufthansa flight that was direct to Frankfurt, to replace the Denver-Chicago-Frankfurt flight. This was great because I could make my Frankfurt to Lyon, France flight with no changes and less actual time in an airplane.


The customer service woman was able to find my bike in the system and got it changed to the new Lufthansa flight. My one checked bag...was dicey. The system told her it was “on hold” – which meant that it could be on an earlier flight to Chicago or it could be sitting and waiting to be loaded. She said not to worry, that they would be sure they got the bag to me one way or the other.


When I got to Lyon, France, the bike case did arrive…but that checked bag did not. Here are a few things that saved the first four days of my trip:


1.     I receive automated updates on my flight status on my phone and via e-mail. This update allowed me to get a jump on rescheduling the flight.

2.     In my carry-on bag I had my helmet, bike shoes, pedals, shorts and a jersey. I had most of my critical toiletries as well. Very critical, I carried my hotel (chateau) itinerary with me. Because we were changing cities during the bike tour, the airline needed the detailed information to deliver the bag to the right place on the right day.

3.     I borrowed arm warmers and a jacket from fellow, generous, cyclists for two of the rides.

4.     At the end of each daily ride, I got into the shower wearing my cycling kit. I shampooed the kit first and after taking it off, washed my body.

5.     To get the clothes to dry, I first wrung out as much water as possible. Then, I laid the clothes flat onto a bath towel. I rolled up the towel and used my knees (you can use your feet too) to squish the water into the towel. I then hung the kit in the window to catch the breeze.

6.     Julie Gildred took me into town shopping to buy a couple of sets of clothes and a few toiletries to get me through until the airlines brought my luggage.  She also called the airlines multiple times for me, to track my luggage while I was enjoying my bike rides. Great service from the tour operator.

7.     Because I was not a business or first class traveler, nor was I a Lufthansa frequent flyer member, my luggage delivery was delayed by one day. I received the bag at the end of my fourth day in France.

8.     In hindsight, I’d recommend carrying one extra set of street clothes in your carry-on bag, if possible. Know that Lufthansa allows only one carry-on bag per person, and each airline has its own policy. Check the policy before you go to the airport because you might be planning on taking two carry-on bags when they only allow one. That written, this issue might catch you if you have to change flights and airlines like I did. (United allows two carry-on bags – one personal item and one carry-on.)


By packing the essentials to get you through a few days without a checked bag, you can still enjoy your trip.


The next post is about the first day of riding.

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A couple of weeks ago I was up in Leadville for a course pre-ride. Marilee, the race director, mentioned that the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike race would be available for viewing on the internet. On August 15th, they will have a live stream webcast that will feature four, 30-minute segments. The segments will include the race start, mid-way of the race for the top riders, the finish for the top riders and finally the last 30 minutes of the race including the “Last A$$ up the Pass” – i.e. the last official finisher.


Yesterday I spoke to race promoter Kathy Bedell and she told me that Lance and Dave are racing, but so is Jeremiah Bishop (2008 National Champion for short track and marathon mountain bike) and Tinker Juarez (2 x Olympian, 4 x 24-hour solo champion). Kathy told me that they are not counting out Levi Leipheimer yet – hoping the broken wrist he suffered during the Tour will heal enough to allow him to race.


You know that Lance was busy getting himself on the podium at the Tour de France, as Leadville preparation. Dave Wiens’s preparation can be found in the column I wrote for the July Active Cyclist. Jeremiah won the Breckenridge Epic. Tinker’s prep can be found here.


If you can’t be in Leadville, you can watch the action live via streaming video at a cost of only $5.95. The Leadville 100’s new website went live today and you can find all the info. you need on the site.


It is a race not to be missed.

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Quick update

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Jul 29, 2009


No, no I haven't forgotten you. The short of it is that the Tour de France trip was incredible and I had little time for net access and writing. On my return to Colorado, there were plane delays that put me back home at 2:00 am Monday morning. The upside to that is I did get to see Andy Potts at DIA and chat with him while we both waited for bikes. He got his, I did not get mine that night - or was it morning?



He looked good for racing New York that day and I can't believe his son Boston is now three years old. We chatted about his race plans for the next few years, they sound exciting and I'm certain he'll do great.



Unfortuneately, I came home to find out that our basement partially flooded from a clogged grey-water drain. Argh. Been dealing with that for a day and a half.



I promise you the start of the France trip postings later today or tomorrow. I've got good tips, stories and photos. Stay tuned. 



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I'm in the process of getting ready to travel to France to enjoy riding the countryside and watch a few of the Tour stages. As it turns out, I will be at the three stages that will likely determine who will win the Tour de France: Stage 17 (Bourg-Saint-Maruice to Le Grand-Borand), Stage 18 (the Lake Annecy time trial) and the biggie, Stage 20 (Mount Ventoux).



I do aim to write some blog posts while I'm there. I do not plan to run up the side of Mount Ventoux in a wig and a crazy outfit, screaming fanatically at the riders...but...who knows what might happen if I get caught up in the excitement... 



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Here is a link to a piece I wrote for the Tour de France newsletter.

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The Competitive Image photographers captured this great still shot of Big Matty Reed doing a flying dismount. I've posted other video links of the flying dismount, but this is a good look at how the rear leg is set-up. Matty has swung his leg over the back of his bike and it is in position to make contact with the ground. He is moving fast (not sure of the mph) so he can literally hit the ground running.


The next photo in the series is Andy Potts in near the same postion, just a bit later. Too bad you can't see his feet, but I suspect his foot is touching the ground in this photo.

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As promised, loyal blog readers, you get an advance look at the column below. It will run in the Active Cycling Newsletter this month. You can subscribe to the Active newsletters here.



An Interview With Dave Wiens: How to Win the Leadville 100 - Part I



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If you are planning on doing a triathlon this weekend and race conditions are predicted to be boiling hot, consider putting ice in a small ziplock baggie. Keep the ice in a small, soft-sided cooler in the transition area. When you change from bike to run, take a few seconds to retrieve the baggie from the cooler and then put the ice bag under your hat or down the front of a swim suit or tri suit.


You can move the baggie around to keep yourself comfortable and not freeze your skin. For the races with ice on the course, you can refill the baggie with fresh ice when yours melts. For courses with no ice available,

just dispose of the baggie at the aid station trash can.


For those of you that struggle in the heat, this is a great trick.

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There are none. It's the Texas Cage Match of road riding.



I took the previous sentence and modified it from the "rules" of the Breckenridge Epic mountain bike stage race. Their Rule #1 made me laugh and made my Twitter page.



Kidding aside, while there are no "rules" for the Sunday group ride, there are a few notes of good manners that have come up repeatedly over the past six months or so that have been begging for comment. Our riders tend to comment to each other, and me, while other groups would chastise bad behavior by screaming at the offender on the spot, or delivering some sort of punishment on the bike or off the bike (tar and feathers).


  • Anyone that shows up for the ride is responsible for other people on that ride. If every person on the ride looks out for the person on their wheel, then everyone is covered. Knowing only what is going on in front of you, with no concern for what is behind you, is best left for your solo effort on race day.

  • At the beginning of the ride I usually ask who is going the entire distance of the planned ride. Speak up. If you are not planning on going the entire ride distance, let everyone know. Then, if you decide to launch an attack off the front or on a hill, people riding the entire distance can decide if they want to let you hang out there or chase you down. Stirring up the group and then turning around early, without forewarning, is a show of bad manners (BM).

  • If the group stops for food or a pit stop and you decide to keep rolling, let someone(s) know. That person(s) should let others that are stopped know as well. If you keep rolling, it is generally assumed you are riding easy until the group joins you or rolls past. For most everyone, there are days when the group is riding faster than you can muster so it is fine to keep rolling to ride by yourself at the front rather than riding by yourself at the back, particularly if you are going longer than others. After informing others you are going to keep rolling, be sure they know if you intend to keep on the planned route or you are going to turn off somewhere. Of course, riding through the stop and then claiming the next city limit prime, hill bonus or time trialing is BM.

  • When the group rolls out of a stop, take a moment to look around for bikes without riders. It is no fun to come out of a restroom to find the group has left without you.

  • If your legs are not cooperating and you don't want the group to wait for you, let someone know because generally, people are doing bullet #1.

  • If you have announced you are having a bad day, tired legs, etc. it is fine to sit in for the entire ride. This is a nice way that the strong people can get a workout and you can as well. Of course, we all know it is a fine showing of BM (and not superior fitness) to feign weary legs, sit in, and then attack when everyone else has been doing the work.

  • Finally, because we get new people dropping into the group all the time, the entire group is counting on you to help shape good manners on the ride. Most of the time, your good behavior or a few helpful words are enough to help people understand how the group works. No one wants the label of being the group's BM.


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As we are nearing the start of the Tour de France, there is plenty of chatter about Lance, his Tour chances, performance, the video where he says that France is only preparation for the Leadville 100 "no kidding", etc.


In the next few days the Active Network will publish the first of a two-part series on the details of Dave Wiens's training for the eight months leading into Leadville. The moment the column goes live, I'll let you loyal blog followers know. You'll get a bit of a lead on the actual newsletter release.


There is plenty of good information to read in the columns, so I won't get into too much detail here. One thing I will give is my opinion on the two different athletes and their approach to Leadville 100 preparation.



Before heading into giving my opinion, first some ground work information. As the world knows, Lance is about to start the Tour de France which lasts three weeks, 21 stages, 2,200 miles, lots of media, plenty of controversy and a fair amount of stress. The last day of the Tour is July 26th.



Wiens, on the other hand, is planning on racing the TransAlp Mountain bike race, that is eight stages beginning on July 18th to the 25th. The race website estimates the vertical gain at 65,000ft for the entire race.



For a moment, let's assume I have two elite athletes on my hands with matching physiology. One athlete wants to do a three-week road stage race that ends three weeks before the Leadville 100. The second athlete wants to do a one-week mountain bike stage race that ends three weeks before the Leadville 100. The athletes will take about 6:30 to complete the race. Exact time is somewhat unknown due to a new route this year, but the 6:30 mark is close.



Which training plan would I pick and why?



Hands down, I'd select the Wiens training plan and here's why:



1. Volume. Anyone that knows my training strategy knows I'm a big fan of a crash week of high training volume in the three to six weeks prior to a one day, ultra-distance race. While I do like one week, I believe three weeks of the Tour is overdoing it and it will take some of Lance's sustainable and high-end power away. It will take Lance at least three weeks to recover from the Tour and it is very difficult to recover and build the high-end power at the same time. I'm talking about the power to be competitive at short distance - not the ability to simply complete the event. (Ask any: 1) Tour racer that has tried to do an event requiring high-end power within three weeks of finishing the Tour, 2) Ironman racer that has tried to race Olympic or short course triathlon within 2-3 weeks of Ironman. 3) Ultra-marathoner that has tried to do a 10k within 2-3 weeks of an ultra run.)



2. Time away from altitude. No doubt the climbing in both European events is impressive, but the top altitude in both events is not high, compared to Aspen, Gunnison and Leadville standards. The Tour puts Lance away from high altitude for three weeks. Based on personal experience, it will take a full three weeks for him to feel good when he returns to Aspen (7,980ft) and longer to feel good at higher altitudes (Leadville is 10,200-12,600ft). Lance is a relative newbie to living in Aspen, so he doesn't have the time base at altitude that long-time resident Wiens has in Gunnison (7,700ft). Also, you will see in the upcoming columns that Wiens is training and racing at high altitudes year round. Another thing to consider is lifetime spent at altitude. Think the difference between Nepalese Sherpas and people that come to altitude to try to acclimatize. Lance returns to Aspen to try to do three things at the same time: 1) recover, 2) acclimatize, and 3) build the power and speed necessary to ride at Leadville intensity. Yes, I know he's Lance, but...



3. Specificity. Lance is road riding for three weeks. Dave is on his mountain bike for TransAlp as well as the time before and after the event. Ask any roadie that has tried to be competitive on a mountain bike, even a non-technical course, riding the mountain bike takes more muscular balance, skills and core strength than road riding does.



4. Stress. In all my years of coaching athletes, nothing undoes an athlete like emotional stress. Lance is constantly under the microscope, hounded by media and managing all of the drama of the Tour. Compared to Lance, Dave is in a relatively stress-free environment. He can establish a Zen-type approach to his training and racing leading into Leadville. He is surrounded by supportive people and few, if any, people that are trash-talking him. Again, I know Lance is tough in this regard, but it can wear a person down.



What do you think? You have a choice of the two training plans, which one would you choose and why?



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