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Active Expert: Gale Bernhardt

11 Posts tagged with the bike_tour tag

Summarizing the hours from the first three days of the bike tour, we rode 278.4 miles, climbed 17,283 ft, ride time was 19 hours and elapsed time was around 24. (Elasped time on Garmin Connect was incorrect on the first three days because of operator error.)


At the end of day 3, we saw people (I assume triathletes - and specifically Ironman athletes) putting on running shoes after riding 119+ miles. A cyclist asked me if there are significant training benefits for Ironman athletes to run after riding for three days and accumulating some 19ish hours of ride time.


My answer was, “No significant training benefits.”


The cyclist asked, “Then, why do triathletes feel compelled to run after long bike tour rides? Are they just ego maniacs looking for attention?”


Ah, an interesting question.


I think some triathletes get a warm fuzzy feeling by running after a long ride, believing that it somehow helps them be faster Ironman athletes. Know that I’ve coached endurance athletes for over 25 years and I’ve never seen any benefit from running for 10-30 minutes after a huge bike tour ride. That is never – not one time.


If you are a triathlete feeling compelled to run during a huge volume training week provided by a bike tour, then do it on your day off or after a shorter ride. I’ve coached plenty of Ironman athletes that eliminated all swimming and running during a bike tour. They focused on the bike and put all quality training time towards a strong ride. They were better triathletes for it.


Isn’t that why an Ironman athlete is doing a bike tour – to be a better triathlete?


A few years back there was a self-announced “serious” triathlete that rode one of the longest days of the tour in his speedo. He was doing this because he “needed to train the same way he was going to race.”


Ah yes, he was the talk of every aid station and the butt of many jokes about triathletes. What would have made the whole picture better was if he would have been wearing arm coolers, compression lower leg socks and a heart rate monitor strap. But, that was before the days of coolers and compression wear.


Are triathletes, specifically Ironman triathletes, just ego maniacs? 

883 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: running, ironman, bike_tour, triathletes, ego_maniacs

In a previous blog I gave you summary data for my most recent bike tour. Because I want to get the most from a bike tour, I plan key days to ride fast. Other days will be recovery or aerobic. I suggest you do the same.


How many key days to plan as "key" depends on you as an individual. Some where between two and four days, of a seven day tour, can be fast.


On any mountainous area bike tour I suggest you select the best climbing days to be your key days. Make the big climb(s) your focus and the place where you plan to ride your best.


Basic strategy for most bike tours:

  • Take the first day of the tour easy and mostly aerobic. (I know it’s tough to do, but worth it later.)
  • Pick two or three days to ride your best – and often it’s the key climbs.
  • Be flexible and willing to modify the plan where necessary to optimize the tour experience.


Before beginning my most recent bike tour, I targeted the three days with the biggest climbs to ride as strong as possible. That was day two, day three and day six.


Day 1 of the tour ended up being much, much harder than I anticipated due to wind. We fought gusting crosswinds (I’m told up to 50 mph at times) most of the way to Laramie, Wyoming. Effort on this day was much higher than I planned it to be – but – if I would have kept the effort level low it meant extending the day much later than I wanted.  We got a late start, the day was hot and I broke a saddle. All that put us on the road late into the afternoon.  You can find the day 1 file here. Put all view settings on either distance or time to get a better idea of what was going on. If I would have stuck to original plan, I would have kept heart rate below 142. That didn’t happen. Notice the average speed of 13.5mph.


On day 2, the infamous Wyoming wind didn’t disappoint. We rolled out earlier to try to avoid some of the wind, but from the start line we had headwinds around 15mph. The winds steadily grew so that we had a mostly steady headwind at 24mph. There was still some gusty side winds, but not nearly as bad as day 1. If you put both elevation and heart rate settings on “time” you can see an elevated heart rate section that corresponds with the climb. Heart rate variability is associated with attempting to follow a strong wheel. Notice that heart rate plummets before the end of the climb and that is associated with a viscous leg cramp – I think Gracilis muscle. (I think a result of effort and lots of sideways leg motion to balance in the wind.) Average speed at 13.8mph.


Day 3 - I was whipped from the previous two days, but I still wanted to maximize the climb best I could. I decided to ride the climb at my own pace and try to peg a heart rate of 145 (Zone 3 for me). You can see from the file that I was pretty good at pegging a zone of 145,  +/- 2.  I knew this day would be tough at a predicted 115 miles (turned out to be 119+) and it delivered. Two flat (and ruined) tires, rising temperatures and three days of accumulated fatigue had me ragged at the edges. I needed an easy day.


Key points to take away:

  • As you build fatigue in your legs it is very typicalto see low heart rates and high rating of perceived effort.
  • Some people will see very high and erratic heartrates coupled with low speeds, but I find this is less common.
  • If you are in a state of fatigue, you will not be capable of producing sustained high speeds.


In the next blog I’ll show you files of a rested state and let you know how the tour ended.

822 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: colorado, bike_tour, fatigue, low_heart_rate

Those that have read previous blogs and my books, know I’m a fan of large training weeks to boost fitness. These are often called “crash training blocks” because you increase volume significantly more than your curren tnormal.


Before heading into daily specifics and how to structure your own crash training week, or use a bike tour to your advantage, first I’ll give you a summary of my last week of bike riding. A group of us did the Bicycle Tour of Colorado. Because I live in a city near the 2012 start, a couple of us rode from my doorstep to begin the tour, which is why my mileage is different than that shown on the website.



Ride time – The time spent moving on the bicycle (pedaling and coasting). This includes rolling easily and waiting for others, warm up, cool down and toodling along at an easy pace just because.


Elapsed time – Total time accumulated in the activities associated with cycling on a tour. (Stopping at aid stations, clothing removal time, sunscreen application, changing flat tires, inspecting broken seats, popping into a bike shop, etc…) This time begins when cycling starts for the day and stops when the bike gets racked.


Average speed – Distance divided by ride time.


For six days of riding, the totals are:

458.52 miles

26,528 feet of climbing

28:51:32 ride time (near 29 hours)

15.9 mph average speed (you'll see big swings in daily averages)

36:53:00 elapsed time (near 37 hours)


I’ve done plenty of week-long bike tours, around a dozen or so. This tour wasn’t the biggest mileage tour I’ve done, but the ride and elapsed times were both more than I’ve done in the past. The reason for that is a single word – wind.


Tomorrow’s blog will include goals for the ride and some specific file details.



Questions and discussion can be found on my Facebook page.


Cycling and mountain bike training plans can be found here.

763 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bike_tour, crash_training, bicycle_tour_of_colorado

We are now nearing the end of the bike tour. After a rest day for most yesterday, it seems riders are eager to get pedaling again.


Day 6: Due to the bike path being washed out, we went by car to Dotsero. Those without personal sags along went via bus back to Gypsum. Everyone headed toward Vail, Vail Pass and then into Frisco.  (80.3 miles, 4095 ft. of climbing)



Meeka and Del, the best sag team ever.


Vail Pass is a tough and rewarding climb. For whatever reason, I like it. I felt good climbing too. Finally.



Scott Ellis, Gale and Bruce Runnels - looking like it should be Rabbit Ears Pass - but no, it's Vail Pass.


I did think about the USA Pro Cycling Challenge riders that will be doing a time trial on part of Vail Pass in a few weeks. We plan to go up and watch some of the stages. Want to see Tour de France riders without traveling to France? Come to Colorado!

After the climb, there’s a descent into Copper Mountain and then Frisco. A few weeks ago, I noted that there was an avalanche covering the bike path between Copper Mountain and Frisco. The bike path was open when we went through, but…it seems there was some extra debris in the avalanche…



Ron Kennedy and Scott Ellis looking happy to be in the avalanche...


Walking the bike path in Frisco, near Dillon Reservoir, I caught a shot of some wild Iris (I think that’s what they are) with Grays and Torreys Peaks in the background. Summer in the mountains is fantastic.




Day 7: From Frisco we headed back toward Central City. (61.3 miles, 2633 ft of climbing) Because a running race was using the bike path between Loveland Basin (after the Loveland Pass climb) and Georgetown, tour organizers worked with Colorado Department of Transportation personnel to allow us to ride on Interstate 70 rather than bussing for about 13 miles. The State Patrol broke us into groups of about 50 riders and sent us on the highway in small groups. For the most part, this went well. There are always a few knuckleheads in every crowd.


Bicycle Tour of Colorado ended in Central City. A great way to spend a week.  (383 miles, 17,834 feet of climbing)

1,207 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bike_tour, vail, bicycle_tour_of_colorado, loveland_pass, frisco, copper_mountain, avalanche, vail_pass, dotsero, usa_pro_cycling_challenge, loveland_basin, central_city

Since there has been a lag between this post and my last bike tour post (due to the Tour de France postings), I decided to do some consolidation.


Day 5 was a day off in Pagosa Springs. The morning included a short hike and in the early afternoon a couple of us did a short and easy spin to keep our legs loose. One big find on this day was a store that sells poop.


Those of you familiar with the infamous Turd Trophy know how fond I am of lacquered poop. As it turns out, I’m not the only one that knows the value of these shiny treasures.



The store front is located just outside of Pagosa Springs. I didn’t get a chance to go into the store to find out if I should consider a second business of turd ornament manufacturing. Maybe I’ll stop in next time.


Day 6 of the tour was from Pagosa Springs to Monte Vista, with Wolf Creek Pass featured as the big climb of the day. In the photo below, I’m climbing the pass and you can see the “Runaway Truck Ramp” behind me. For those unfamiliar with steep mountain passes, when a big truck misses a gear or loses its brakes there is an uphill ramp made of deep gravel. The semi truck is to drive into the gravel and uphill rather than careening to an accident somewhere downhill. I’ve see the deep tracks in those ramps and can’t imagine how scary it would be to be out of control and heading toward one of those ramps.



Since we did seem to have the tour-de-wind this year, Day 6 didn’t disappoint with more winds heading into Monte Vista. Our regular Sunday ride group worked well and it turned out to be fun.

It was a 72-mile day, 4:05 ride time (17.5 mph avg), 5:12 “out” time, 3,911 feet of climbing.


Day 7 was the final march to the finish line. We rode from just outside Center to Gunnison, Colorado. Due to lodging differences and an early start to begin driving home, there were only three of us riding together today. (Todd  Singiser, me and Bruce Runnels in the photo below on one of our last stops.)



The final day for us was 94.4 miles, 5:20 ride time (17.7 mph avg), “out” time of 6:05 and 3271 feet of climbing.


In the next post I’ll do a summary chart for you and explain how this week of fun is a big boost to fitness.

1,067 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: colorado, bike_tour, center, pagosa_springs, wolf_creek_pass, monte_vista

On day three of the tour, we rode from Alamosa, Colorado to Chama, New Mexico. It was a steady climb out of Alamosa for about 30 miles before we got into some rollers. From there it was a combination of rollers and climbing over two passes I hadn’t done before – La Manga (10,320 ft.) and Cumbres (10,022 ft.).



(Gale happily climbing LaManga. The ribs are tolerating eight pedal strokes out of the saddle today. Progress!)


While we had some tailwinds yesterday, today began and ended with unfavorable wind. Not just a little wind. It was relentless, strong wind that was blowing in our face most of the day. Downhill sections required pedaling. Ugh.


When we first rolled out of Alamosa, we got intermingled in a big group. I hate being in a big group of riders that I don’t know and are not categorized by riding ability. I’ve seen too many accidents happen when inexperienced riders get mixed into a group of experienced riders.


While I hated the situation, I hated the constant headwind worse. I worked my way toward the front of the group and looked for wheels of those I trust.


After the first aid station, a core group of people I know, and ride with often, were able to begin a rolling paceline were no rider stayed on the front for very long. We disallowed people to enter the paceline. We were fine if they wanted to sit on the back of the group and draft, but no one was allowed into the rotation.


No matter how the race is run it always ends the same
Another room without a view awaits downtown
You can shake me for a while
Live it up in style
No matter what you do I'm gonna take you down

Everybody wants into the crowded line

Bob Seger – “Shakedown”


I offered several riders the explanation of why we rode this way:

-          We ride together often and can predict what the other rider will do.

-          The formation is tight to shelter people from the wind.

-          Please take no offense to your personal skill level, you are likely a great rider. Unfortunately, we’ve encountered people that did not have the group riding skills to keep all of us safe.


Most riders do understand, but I know some take offense. Sorry.


I will say it is a ton of fun to ride in a group like ours. We shelter each other from the wind and do our best to work together for the good of all.

Well…with a couple of notable exceptions:

-          There are some city limit sign sprints.

-          State border signs count double points.



(Left to right: Bruce Runnels, Scott Ellis, Bill Frielingsdorf, me, Ron Kennedy, Todd Singiser)


Though there was plenty of good fun ramping up the speed, I don’t think anyone can tell you the sprint or king of the mountain scores.


The reward for a hard, hard day in the saddle was the best Spanish rice I’ve ever had and killer green chili. I think it was called the Fireside Inn restaurant, next door to our cabins. We walked there for linner (late lunch, early dinner) and evening pie or ice cream.


Ride time 5:00, “out” time 6:34, 80.56 miles, 16.1 mph avg., 3216 ft of climbing


In another blog, I’ll give you more information on intensity each day. In the mean time, scenery photos below.




(Most blog photos for the bike tour were taken by Del Bernhardt)

1,331 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: colorado, bike_tour, bicycle_tour_of_colorado, btc, alamosa, chama

If you want a training plan (or a variety of new workouts) to help you achieve your 2010 goals, I have designed several resources to help you. Know that I wrote my first easy-to-follow training plan and subsequent first book because that is exactly what I wanted as a self-coached athlete.


Just give me a plan to follow so I can do the workouts when it fits my personal schedule and so I can make modifications to a plan to fit my personal needs.

Also know that all training plan are designs are based on the same foundation principles that help elite athletes reach their goals; then, modified to meet the needs and time constraints of non-paid athletes. The plans range from comfortably completing events to gunning for a personal record (PR) performance.


The plans are available in a couple of different formats – electronic, book and possible combinations. Depending on what you need, one format may work better than another. First, there are several plans available on Active Trainer. This format makes it easy to move workouts around and modify them to fit your personal needs. There is some device download capability and there is data analysis to help you evaluate your training accomplishments. Be sure to take a look at all of the free downloads available on that page.


Also available on the Active Network are columns and blogs to help self-coached athletes succeed.


I have written several books to help self-coached athletes succeed. Some of the individual training plans are available in the electronic format on Active Trainer referenced in a previous paragraph and in hard copy within a chapter of one of these books:


Training Plans for Multisport Athletes – A book containing 14 detailed training plans for triathlon, duathlon and X-Terra events. There are plans for sprint triathlons, Olympic triathlons, half-ironman distance triathlons and ironman-distance triathlons. In addition to shorter plans, this great training resource contains three, six-month plans and a year-long plan.


Training Plans for Cyclists - This book was written based on the large number of requests I received from road and mountain bike riders, who were familiar with Training Plans for Multisport Athletes. They too wanted a book laid out for reaching new endurance goals, maintaining foundation fitness and racing. This book contains 16 such training plans. The book is written so you can mix and match various training plans. Advice is giving within the book on how to mix and match, as well as how to modify individual plans if you are self-coached. There are ride plans for 30-, 50- and 100-mile (century rides) events. There are five touring event plans and five mountain bike plans. For the off-season, there are two foundation fitness (base training) plans. Explanations are given for Level I riders and Level II riders.

Triathlon Training Basics – This book contains four detailed training plans to help first-time triathletes prepare for a sprint triathlon or an Olympic distance triathlon. Two plans are designed for already-fit beginners and two plans are for currently-unfit beginners. There are also four plans per sport (swimming, cycling and running) for individuals wanting to train for a triathlon as a single-sport team member. The plans can be used in succession, helping you progress from a triathlon team member to a triathlete. The book contains strength training, stretching and bike fit photos to help you get started on the right track. (None of the plans are the same as those found in Training Plans for Multisport Athletes.)


Bicycling for Women – Great chapters “for women only” and five training plans to help you complete a 50-mile bike ride, a century, a 40-kilometer time trial or faster group riding, a multiday tour or improve your hill climbing skills. This book is written on the premise that women can, and do, ride fast. (None of the plans are the same as those found in Training Plans for Cyclists.)


Workouts in a Binder® – I created “Workouts in a Binder®” product and co-authored the first edition of swim workouts for triathletes, which quickly sold out four printings. These handy workout cards help athletes and coaches optimize workouts and are waterproof to prevent destruction from water, sweat and dirt. This product is so popular, the series has expanded and will continue to grow:

Workouts in a Binder® for Triathletes

Workouts in a Binder® for Swimmers, Triathletes and Coaches

Workouts in a Binder® for Indoor Cycling

Workouts in a Binder® for Runners and Triathletes


Successful training doesn’t have to break the bank.


1,030 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: cycling, triathlon, ironman, leadville_trail_100_mountain_bike_race, tri, bike_tour, 70.3, training_plans, half-ironman, sprint-triathlon, century_ride, base_training, olympic_distance, bicycle_training, triathlon_training_plan, mountain_bike_training

Ahhhh, a much needed recovery day for us after yesterday and the Tour riders are visiting Lake Annecy for an individual time trial stage.


There are so many good photos from today, it is tough to select just a few. Sometime later, I’ll post an entire album.


To begin the day, we went for a ride up Col de la Forclaz. It was a beautiful ride on roads similar to the one below featuring Scott Ellis, Ron Kennedy and Todd Singiser.



At the top of the col was a nifty shop and I think food was available as well. There were several antique bikes, chainsaws, butter churns and other interesting relics. In the shot below, you can see an old bike sitting against the railing, overlooking Lake Annecy. The small green platform that is barely visible on the right is a launch pad for hang-gliders. Yeow, what a leap.


After the ride,  we cleaned up and Julie had arranged a boat ride across Lake Annecy to the start/finish area for the time trial. Below is a shot from the boat, looking back toward the valley where our chateau was located. 


The time trial stage is nice because you have several chances to see the riders. There is a large grassy area, fenced off, where the team buses are lined up. Riders warm-up next to the bus, then roll out for their TT start. The first photo is the warm-up area and the second shot is Christian Vande Velde heading out for his ride. 


The group ended up splitting up today. Four of us enjoyed watching some of the early riders on course, had some lunch at an excellent café and then spent most of the rest of the day at the entrance/exit to the team bus area. Others did something very similar, just in different locations along the course. A few folks hung in a pub and watched the live TV coverage of the event.


After a great day, it was back to the chateau via boat to enjoy a delicious meal prepared by the innkeeper – complete with dessert to celebrate Sandy Singiser’s birthday. Todd will have a tough time topping a trip to France birthday present…


Today’s stats:  13.76 miles, ride time 1:18, out-time was 1:41, 2,783 ft of ascending this day.

2,929 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: tour_de_france, bike_tour, lake_annecy, col_de_la_forclaz

This was the toughest day of the week with lots of climbing – 12,393 ft. - and rain.


After riding L’Alpe d’Huez yesterday, we ended the day in Allemont. We grabbed lunch at a deli and got into the vans bound for Lake Annecy. One of the things that made this trip so enjoyable was staying at chateaus. I’ll include a few chateau photos in the next blog. I should have taken even more chateau photos, but hindsight…


The group split up today with some of us riding bikes to the train station and boarding a train to begin our ride in, I believe, La Roche-sur-Foron. Others got in a van and drove to Grand-Bornand to drop the van for the drive home. That was the plan anyway. This group had a short climb up the back side of the Columbiere (opposite direction from the race) and they intended to meet us at the top.


There was a sense of urgency for the train group to catch an early train and get riding. Because we rode some of the actual race route, we needed to be sure that we were well ahead of road closures. As you would imagine, the roads close to all non-credentialed vehicle traffic well before the riders come though. If my memory serves me correctly, this means we needed to be at our race viewing location some two to three hours before the riders would roll though.


Early in the ride we were not on the actual race course. As we got closer to the Romme, there were more and more spectators making the same nomadic journey we were making. I don’t recall exactly when the rain began, but it was somewhere on the Romme climb. Perhaps the wet conditions were the perfect compliments to riding in a river of people.


Riding up any major Tour climb is hard to describe. I will describe it for you here, but you can’t know what it is really like unless you experience the madness. At that, it is a madness of order, yet no order. I am still in wonder how more people are not injured. Somehow it seems to work.


Imagine navigating a narrow mountain road on your bike. The climb is tough, so you have to lend concentration to keeping your pace. Now put that ride within a river of pedestrians walking up the climb, carrying coolers, chairs and cheering equipment. Make half of those spectators cyclists with varying cycling skills and fitness levels.


Line the sides of the road with campers and trailers that, in some cases, secured their particular location a week ago. They are barbequing, some are watching the Tour on satellite television and many are having parties.


Add a few darting dogs, kids and the occasional chattering group of adults with arms waiving enthusiastically and you can begin to formulate an idea of the “normal” flow of the ride.

As the ride is progressing along normally, sprinkle in the occasional sponsor caravan that is tossing out free shirts, which causes everyone around you to swarm the caravan vehicle. I got very good at shouting out “attention”! (Click on the little speaker at this link to hear the correct pronunciation.)


Finally, to complete your vision of the ride, imagine paint and chalk artists standing, sitting, and lying in the road, creating their personal message to the riders. The river of pedestrians and cyclists parts around each artist like a river parts for a giant boulder.


Wow, what a surreal experience.


It poured rain for the climb to the top of the Romme, and once at the top we huddled under a picnic shelter for awhile. David Cooper, one of our guides, finally made the call that we needed to keep riding to summit the Colombiere to meet up with the others in our group. There was only one way to get to our destination before the road closed down, pinning us on the Romme, and that was to ride in the rain.


After a descent that took us past a downed tree that had been struck by lightning, we began climbing again. It is a long and sweeping climb from the valley up the Colombiere. (Photo later).


Once on top of the Colombiere we found the others in our group. The shelter at the top was limited and Peter was the first one I saw when I reached the top. He told me where the others were and gave me a Coke from the pack he carried from Grand-Bornand. I was in sore need of sugar and the caffeine was good too.


After some recovery we settled into our “spot”. Below is a shot of the end of the rain and our location to watch the riders, preceded by the sponsor caravan.



The next photo shows the road up the Col de Columbiere lined with spectators for as far as the eye can see. Click to enlarge the photo to see the road wind deep into the right side of the photo about ¾ of the way across. 



Below is a shot of a few of the sponsor caravan vehicles. People atop the vehicles throw out schwag to eager spectators. One of the vehicles throws out the publication specific to the caravan, telling the length of the parade is 200 vehicles. 



The fourth shot show some of the helicopters that are following the race. These are not the television camera copters, those followed later. We suspected these were some sort of VIP choppers. (Click on the photo to enlarge.)



The final shot shows how close we were to the racers, and more, it is a good illustration of the fatigue they cannot hide. It was a hard day in the saddle. 



After the sweep vehicle came past us, it was time to ride toward the finish line and our van. That river of pedestrians and cyclists I previously described is now more crowed, heading downhill and it now includes exiting vehicles. Constant vigilance is essential.


Once at our van, Julie realized that we would get back to the chateau faster if we just rode our bikes. A long, hard day; but still nowhere near what the riders have experience.



Today’s stats for the crew that rode long:  62.88 miles, ride time 5:15, out-time was 11:55, 12,393 ft of ascending this day.


When I get back to the chateau, the airline has finally delivered my second bag. Woo-hoo!

Tomorrow’s ride is a much needed recovery ride near Lake Annecy.

2,774 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: tour_de_france, bike_tour, col_de_romme, col_de_la_colombiere

Before launching into day one of riding, I’ll give you a summary of the week. Each rider could choose to ride all days or not. Those of us that rode all six days logged 22 hours of ride time, 40.5 hours of “out” time (ride time plus time spent on the mountain side waiting, hiking, etc., basically this is total chamois time),  293 miles of riding, 50,525 feet of climbing (see update on climbing footage here) and a ranking of 172.54 ft/mi of the tour. Just how did we get those miles? It all began one morning in Grenoble…


In the photo below, we are getting ready to leave Grenoble. Left to right are David Cooper (Ride Strong Bike Tours guide. This company provided two vans, sag support and a minimum of one riding guide each day.), Peter Stackhouse, Bruce Runnels, Ron Kennedy, Linda Kennedy, Ed Shaw, me, Todd Singiser, Allie Singiser, Craig Singiser and Scott Ellis. Todd’s wife Sandy is missing from the photo and could well be the one that took the photo with my camera.



Once out of Grenoble, we rode through stereotypical stunning French country side. Below is a shot of Todd. We couldn’t resist the backdrop and there were kids on ponies learning to jump in the valley below. The second photo shows a close up of the mailbox marker, assembled with incredible attention to detail and a replica of the house below. Clicking on the photo allows you to see the detail. 




The final shot is of a stone, one-way bridge that spanned the valley. Ed and Scott found it irresistible and had to ride across it. 



Day one stats: 69 miles, ride time 4:45, out-time (including a great picnic lunch) 7:16, 10,472 ft of ascending this day.


***Big thanks to Ron Kennedy to providing the lion's share of the data that will be logged in the blogs for this trip. I managed to mess up my Garmin most days, total operator error - having too much fun?

2,625 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: tour_de_france, bike_tour, france, riding_bikes_in_france

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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