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Tour de France

65 Posts authored by: ActiveTdF

!http://www.active.com/Assets/Cycling/RobKlingensmith.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/Assets/Cycling/RobKlingensmith.jpg!I'm sitting on a grassy slope, just below the 2km-to-go banner on the hors categorie climb of Plateau Beille. I'm filing today's blog directly from the race course, thanks to a slick 1-pound computer I carried in my backpack called a FlipStart . It's the "mini me" of full-featured laptops, at a fraction of their size and weight.

 

Today's race is the first of three consecutive Pyrenean stages that, together, will probably determine the outcome of this year's Tour de France. Now is the time for those cyclists who consider themselves climbers to go toe-to-toe with yellow jersey-holder Michael Rasmussen.

 

I left my bed-and-breakfast this morning and joined an American group from Ride Strong Bike Tours  for the 40-kilometer ride from Foix to the base of the climb in La Cabannes. The town was jammed with cone-licking Tour fans and media trucks, so I grabbed a quick sandwich and pointed my Cervélo towards the mountain.

 

The serpentine road up Plateau Beille is 16 kilometers long, with plenty of sections that exceed 10 percent gradient. It's a very difficult climb and a perfect end to today's challenging stage.

 

Today, virtually every inch of road is occupied by fans who claimed the best vantage points up to three days ago. Thanks to their boistrous cheering and encouragement, the steep climb wasn't too bad.

 

Thousands of other cyclists were on the road, and the common strategy was to weave your way to the summit finish line, then descend to a choice location on the upper elevations to view the race.

 

Before any pro cyclists can be seen, however, the daily parade of Tour sponsor floats and vehicles roll by, throwing candy and useless schwag to the crowd. This whips everyone up into more of a frenzy, if the all-day, beer-steeped tailgaiting parties weren't enough.

 

By now, you'll know the outcome of today's race, and will probably watch it on TV tonight. But nothing beats the experience of joining an international crowd of cycling fanatics on the slopes of a mountain stage, for a glimpse of the athletes and hours of cultural immersion in the Tour de France.

Rob

 

Rob Klingensmith is an avid recreational cyclist and an executive at Active.com. Rob will provide a unique perspective on what it's like to be inside some of the most decisive stages of the Tour.

853 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: tour_de_france, 2007-tour-de-france, tour-de-france, 2007_tour_de_france, rob_klingensmith

!http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/fredrod.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/fredrod.jpg!I woke this morning completely wasted after spending most the night with stomach problems. Again, I couldn’t eat breakfast.

 

My morale was really low. I knew today would be doable, but how was I going to get through the mountains like this? After some serious doubt, I decided all I can do is take it day by day. Pick my battles one by one. Trust me, I’d rather be battling for a stage win, but with the luck that this tour has brought me, I’m just hoping for survival.

 

I know that I have one day that suits me, and that’s Paris. I know I can do well there, so my goals are set on just getting there to see if I have a chance.

 

Today, the time trial for me was to get into a pace that felt rideable--something that would allow me to start tomorrow. Hard to tell how hard that would be since I was feeling so bad.

 

I started the TT very slow and gradually built up speed to a controlled pain. I seemed to find more energy as I went on, so it gave me hope for the next day. Now I'm back at the hotel for some rest, and hopefully I’ll keep some food down.

 

Tomorrow is another day. And I will deal with it tomorrow.

Freddie

 

Colombian-born Freddie Rodriguez is a professional American road racing cyclist. He is a three-time US national champion and currently races for team Predictor-Lotto. His nickname, "Fast Freddie," is due to his reputation as a sprint specialist. His Fast Freddie Coffee, the Fast Freddie Foundation, and his new Team Fast Freddie raise funds to support youth cycling in America. Freddie resides in Emeryville, California, USA and Girona, Spain. Freddie is riding this year's Tour and will give us an insider's perspective on life inside the peloton. He welcomes questions and will try to respond during the Tour.

846 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: tour_de_france, 2007-tour-de-france, fast-freddie-rodriguez, freddie_rodriguez, 2007_tour_de_france

!http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/Pensec4150x150.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/Pensec4150x150.jpg!...And it feels really good, you know. Each day reserves us a good surprise at least.

 

I told you yesterday that I was expecting a match up between Kloden and Cancellara. Well, the rain made them crash and no rain was forecasted yesterday for today's race. So with the two hot shots down, who else could come and steal the show?

 

As a big surprise, we were assisted to a memorable comeback from Vinokourov! He has simply completed the perfect time trial. Strong, wise, careful; he dominated that stage from A to Z...and he is now only five minutes away from the yellow jersey but the Pyrenees coming soon.

 

Vinokourov looked very strong today. However, I think that Rasmussen is in a great position too with these mountain stages on their way.

 

It's going to be a fantastic match up between these two riders and these two teams. Will Team Astana be able to assist Vinokourov to get him the yellow jersey? Or is Rasmussen just flying on this Tour?

 

Remember that Rasmussen got sanctioned badly by his federation, so the Tour is all he's got left.

 

Despite all these political and commercial issues with Rasmussen and Sinkewitz, I'm really enjoying and I was today with some old pro like me and we were all on the same page.

 

I hope you are enjoying the show and if you have any question, don't hesitate!

Ronan

 

Ronan Pensec participated in 8 Tours, and wore the yellow jersey in the 1990. He now operates Ronan Pensec Events , an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.

743 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: tour_de_france, 2007-tour-de-france, tour-de-france, ronan_pensec, ronan-pensec, 2007_tour_de_france

!http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/fredrod.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/fredrod.jpg!The hard thing about this is it’s not the first time I have faced a survival day at the Tour. So I knew exactly what I had ahead of me.

 

In most races under these strains, I just pull out and recover for the next one. But it’s almost a tradition that you go out there for the Tour de France until you can't go any more.

 

I woke up this morning feeling very sore, especially my right hamstring. I just couldn’t use it. I wasn’t sure how I would pull that off on the bike. My body was in a bit of shock. My stomach was giving me problems. I couldn’t eat.

 

When the race started, I had no idea what my outcome would be. I braced myself for the first attack. All I could do was hold the wheel in front of me. The wind came from the side, and I knew it was going to be a battle.

 

I kept finding myself at the back of the group just hanging on for dear life. I couldn’t activate my left hamstring so it felt like I was pedaling a BMX bike.

 

At one point, I couldn’t take it anymore. I really thought that was it. I was going to pull out. But I kept fighting and kept fighting, since I seemed to have just a little more fight in me. Or it could have been that the fight in the others was starting to die.

 

I somehow survived the crosswinds and kept contact with the field. But I knew the battle had just started. With 65km to go, we had a pretty hard Cat 2 climb and I knew that if we raced up it, I would be left alone.

 

I was pretty lucky, as the road was very open and the wind was blowing strong straight in our faces. That made the pace in the peloton doable.

 

Once I survived the climb, I knew I would make it. I was starting to fade, since I couldn’t eat anything with my stomach not feeling well. I decided to hold on a bit longer. The last 50km was fast downhill, with some small climbs just to change things around.

 

I just followed along and it felt like I was in the back end of a Formula One race, when suddenly, the guy in front of me couldn’t hold the speed. I called that my sign to take it easy and ride in.

 

I had survived a day that could have easily been my ticket home.

Freddie

 

Colombian-born Freddie Rodriguez is a professional American road racing cyclist. He is a three-time US national champion and currently races for team Predictor-Lotto. His nickname, "Fast Freddie," is due to his reputation as a sprint specialist. His Fast Freddie Coffee, the Fast Freddie Foundation, and his new Team Fast Freddie raise funds to support youth cycling in America. Freddie resides in Emeryville, California, USA and Girona, Spain. Freddie is riding this year's Tour and will give us an insider's perspective on life inside the peloton. He welcomes questions and will try to respond during the Tour.

795 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: tour_de_france, 2007-tour-de-france, tour-de-france, fast-freddie-rodriguez, freddie_rodriguez, 2007_tour_de_france

!http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/Pensec4150x150.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/Pensec4150x150.jpg!A classic day on the Tour if we just look at the stage, but what a busy day, actually, with the Rasmussen case!

 

On the road, we have seen a classic stage with an échappée and a peloton which came back strong to end up the stage in a massive sprint, and great work from the Quick Step team to boost Boonen to the finish line first!

 

The thing I've noticed is that Cancellara decided to step back and relax pretty much 25km before the finish line in order to prepare for his time trial tomorrow. This makes me think that Cancellara is no longer looking for the yellow jersey but simply for stage wins. Tomorrow's fight will surely be between Kloden and Cancellara, so keep an eye on these two fellows.

 

So, I was saying that it was actually a very busy day for cycling and not only the Tour.

 

One more time, and I insist, a federation has brought a declaration during the Tour for something that happened weeksif it's not monthsbefore the Tour. I'm talking about the Rasmussen case.

 

The Danish federation just showed up from nowhere to complain during the Tour about something that has nothing to do with it. It's like the Sinkewitz case. The German federation would have had a hundred times the time to bring the positive control to the press. Why did they wait so long when a test is made in one week and a "counter-test" takes only a week to be completed?

 

You may all know that these federations work under the ICU flag...And you may also know that the Tour de France is the ONLY international cycling race today that is not managed by the ICU, but a private company called ASO.

 

Then it all starts to make sense, and the ICU game is pretty clear and very unfair. The ICU has launched the Pro Tour as you also know and it's obvious that they would love to include the Tour de France in it. But if this happens, it will surely not be with cheap attempts like they are doing through the Danish and German federation. It is honestly ridiculous to act like this.

 

It's a pure waste of time for us, for cycling and for the riders. I think the event director did good by letting Rasmussen take the start. If federations really wanted to blame their riders, they should do it immediately and not later on unless the ICU is blocking them and forcing them to communicate during the Tour.

 

The Tour might be the only race that has so much exposure, so it's pretty much during this race that we should all work in the same direction to get a cleaner sport. However, the ICU doesn't think like that and I'm afraid that it looks like they have decided that the Tour will be their battlefield. You can bet on more scandals before the end of the Tour...

 

Finally, I love to answer your questions, as you know, but this time I would like to have your opinion on that. What do you think about the ICU strategy? How do you feel about all this?

Ronan

 

Ronan Pensec participated in 8 Tours, and wore the yellow jersey in the 1990. He now operates Ronan Pensec Events, an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.

862 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: tour_de_france, 2007-tour-de-france, tour-de-france, ronan_pensec, ronan-pensec, 2007_tour_de_france

!http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/fredrod.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/fredrod.jpg!Let's just say I'm frustrated and very disappointed. Not with myself but, yet again, with the Tour de France organizers.

 

Once again, they’ve proven to have little respect for the rider’s health in this race. As a pro for over 10 years, I just don't get their ignorance in thinking that the peloton, coming in at 65 km/hr, was going to make it in one piece through an S-turn like that. I would have bet money that a crash would have happened in that corner.

 

What the organizers keep forgetting is that we have no idea how dangerous the road is ahead at many points. We again put our lives in their hands, and again they have let us down. I guess the saddest part is that I have been trying to be vocal about their mistakes, but they seem to just choose to ignore.

 

Back to the race...

 

Today, everything seemed to be on my side. The body was feeling good and it seemed like my hip was starting to recover from my last crash. The weather was hotter than ever. I knew that if I stayed hydrated, it would play in my favor. The pace before the start was already fast. I knew it was going to be a fast day.

 

We hit kilometer 0 and...we were off! The attacks came from every angle. Next thing you knew there were 20 guys up the road. And pulling away fast. It looked like Arroyo, one of the GC guys made the break. Discovery didn't want to take chances, so they started the chase. The speed was at max at that point and it was hard to just follow in the peloton. I was feeling good, and as I looked around, I noticed guys where having a hard time.

 

Discovery finally brought it back, then the next move went. Again a GC guy was there, so this time my team and a couple other GC teams took on the chase. We finally brought that back, and the breaks just kept coming, but it seemed there was someone always willing to bring it back.

 

It was just a matter of time before someone would get away, but time just kept going without a successful break...and so did we. I think it took 75 kilometers of attacks to finally send off a breakaway. Everyone seemed happy to let it ride away. At that moment, it looked as though we would not have a sprint. I started to relax a bit and began thinking that another day might be my chance.

 

Forgot to mention through all this that Moreau was caught up in a bad crash. But he seemed to recover from it, although he lost some time.

 

As we went through the feed zone, I concentrated on staying at the front. We were told that there was a heavy crosswind and that it could split the peloton if someone took advantage.

 

Nothing happened, we all grabbed our food and continued on.

 

Suddenly, all the Astana guys hit the front and the game was on. Cadel and I sat about 40 guys back. He got on my wheel while I basically did a full sprint in the wind in perfect aim of the Astana train. We quickly took in behind them and enjoyed the ride. From that point on, we sat in the sweet spot as Astana, Discovery and a couple of teams put the hammer down.

 

I was feeling good and didn't believe I was putting too much effort to sit there. But behind the field was in pieces. It seemed as if the other teams were OK with what was going on. Quickstep, Saunier Duval and others helped Astana keep the speed high.

 

We went under the 20 km-to-go banner and the break was already caught. I started to think of a stage win again. I seemed to make no mistakes today. Every pass I made seemed to come easy. I just knew my chances looked good.

 

From 10km to go, Horner took care of me. He made sure I didn't touch the wind. The legs where still feeling good as he took his last pull under the 2km banner.

 

It was now up to me to follow the right wheels. The speed was high--just the way I like it.

 

We hit the last kilometer banner and things looked very good. At that point, I decided to make another small pass on the left side to put me in a better position.

 

I passed as we hit a turn. Suddenly, that turn became an S-turn, and at 65km an hour that was going to be impossible to clear with the group. We all went wide out of control. I had nowhere to go. All I could do was brace myself to hit the guardrail at full speed.

 

I went into it head first, and my head and neck took most of the impact. Including my right knee.

 

After that I sat in pain not knowing how bad I was. When I finally realized that I didn't need to go to the hospital, I got up and finished.

 

To tell you the truth, I don't know how I'm not sitting in a hospital right now. Yes, I am in a lot of pain but I'm hoping to start and somehow finish this tour.

Freddie

 

Colombian-born Freddie Rodriguez is a professional American road racing cyclist. He is a three-time US national champion and currently races for team Predictor-Lotto. His nickname, "Fast Freddie," is due to his reputation as a sprint specialist. His Fast Freddie Coffee, the Fast Freddie Foundation, and his new Team Fast Freddie help to raise funds to support youth cycling in America. Freddie resides in Emeryville, California, USA and Girona, Spain. Freddie is riding this year's Tour and will give us an insider's perspective on life inside the peloton. He welcomes questions and will try to respond during the Tour.

2,616 Views 8 Comments Permalink Tags: 2007-tour-de-france, fast-freddie-rodriguez, freddie_rodriguez, 2007_tour_de_france

!http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/Pensec4150x150.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/Pensec4150x150.jpg!Everybody was expecting another transition stage and we were all even scared of getting bored by that stage…

 

But what a surprise and what a stage! It’s in my top three for this year for sure! Team Astana played a fantastic trick by using the wind to create a breach in the peloton. It was so strategic and so well made that this is something we should show in cycling clubs. A real lesson of cycling today!

 

In the end, with this massive offensive, there is one of the leaders who is now pretty much out, and I’m talking about Christophe Moreau. With 3:20 late, it’s over for him. So, I’m thinking about the “discussion” he had with Fignon now, and if he was the great leader he said he was he should have seen the trick coming and he would have anticipated it to stay in the leading group. Obviously, he didn’t have a clue of what was going on, and in the end he has lost his chances to win the Tour, I think. I’m guessing that today has explained to us that Moreau was just not good in strategy. This should answer your question, ahoops, I think…

 

Finally, we have had great cycling today and this takes me back to the decision of the German TV to stop broadcasting the Tour. In some way, today was the best answer cycling could give: Just showing how cycling can be fun, exciting, complex and beautiful!

 

I’m telling you, everybody is talking about this here. And we are pretty much all on the same page. What they did is a shame, it’s just not rational. Now if they want to push the thing a little further, I would like them to tell tomorrow that they won’t broadcast the Olympics, nor the next FIFA World Cup, for example.

 

If they had the guts to do so, then I would show them lots of respect. Because in the end, by just creating tension as they did with this story, it’s focusing everybody’s attention on a problem that shouldn’t even be mentioned. Sinkewitz was already out of the race when they made their announcement. So what is the point in doing this? Honestly, there is something or someone who is not being fair with the sport of cycling and there is no reason for that.

 

As you said Fleur, I can tell you that you get into sport because you love it and you don’t do it for the money. Once you start doing it for the money, you can tell yourself it’s already too late and you can be sure that your career is already behind you.

 

To answer the ahoops question about Discovery: The reason why they can’t find a sponsor is not because of Operacion Puerto or Basso is implicated, it’s simply because Discovery is an American team and they are looking for a national sponsor, but in today’s U.S. cycling there is no one as charismatic as Lance--and I’m guessing everybody would like to have a new Lance each year. But there has only been one Michael Jordan, one Tiger Woods, one Fangio and this is what makes sports and life so unique!

 

Enjoy the show and feel free to ask anything on the Tour. I’m your insider!

Ronan

 

Ronan Pensec participated in 8 Tours, and wore the yellow jersey in the 1990. He now operates Ronan Pensec Events, an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.

691 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: tour_de_france, 2007-tour-de-france, tour-de-france, ronan_pensec, ronan-pensec, 2007_tour_de_france

!http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/fredrod.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/fredrod.jpg!Sorry guys. Haven’t been keeping up with my blogs. I guess the fatigue of the race is starting to slow me a bit.

 

Yesterday was one of those long days where I just had it set in my head that I would sit in the peloton and rest as much as possible.

 

That proved to be hard as the pace was out of control. The heat being up in the 100s didn't help. Yesterday we all knew a breakaway would go, but after 70 kilometers we started to wonder as the race was still all together.

 

As guys relaxed a bit and people took their nature breaks, the attack went. It was almost funny to watch as they basically rolled off the front, while most of us just watched. It would have taken only three pedal strokes for anyone to cover that move, but at the same time, everyone was happy to see it go.

 

After that, Rabobank chased all day. The pace wasn’t too high, but with a long and hot day, it seemed to go on forever. I remember being very happy to see the first KOM banner, as it meant the race was coming to an end.

 

So, after all that, I don't think I had much of a rest day, but I don't think anyone else did either, so we are at par. The worst went to the breakaway boys. They sure had a hard day.

Freddie

 

Colombian-born Freddie Rodriguez is a professional American road racing cyclist. He is a three-time US national champion and currently races for team Predictor-Lotto. His nickname, "Fast Freddie," is due to his reputation as a sprint specialist. His Fast Freddie Coffee , the Fast Freddie Foundation , and his new Team Fast Freddie help to raise funds to support youth cycling in America. Freddie resides in Emeryville, California, USA and Girona, Spain. Freddie is riding this year's Tour and will give us an insider's perspective on life inside the peloton. He welcomes questions and will try to respond during the Tour.

806 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: 2007-tour-de-france, fast-freddie-rodriguez, freddie_rodriguez, 2007_tour_de_france

!http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/Pensec4150x150.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/Pensec4150x150.jpg!Where should I start? Lots of things have happened today on the race and in the backstage. Let’s start with the race...

 

Today was a classic transition stage where leaders could have a rest. Usually, you only have two scenarios possible. The first one is a big ending in a final mass sprint, and the second one, the one we had, is a serious echappée that ends up by making it till the end.

 

So, what you have to look at during these stages is the strategy of the leaders. How they manage their efforts and how they stick in the peloton to stay high in the rankings. Tomorrow will be pretty much the same thing I guess, so pay attention to leaders and how they manage the Tour. This is where you start wining the Tour actually.

 

Let’s go backstage now with an incredible fight (verbal one, of course) between Laurent Fignon and Christohpe Moreau just a few minutes ago. Everybody knows Laurent Fignon, the great athlete, but Laurent is also now working as a TV consultant for a French television and Laurent is used to saying what he thinks, if you know what I mean. So after the Tignes stage in the Alps, Laurent said clearly that Moreau got very stupid on that stage by launching lots of offensives without really putting what it takes to make benefit out of one (at least). Two days later Moreau heard that and when he saw Fignon this evening, he basically explained him that he should no longer talk about a sport that he had left quite some time ago now. Honestly, Moreau was not in a great position as you could feel that everybody was behind Fignon. Everybody has a huge respect for Laurent when we are still waiting from Moreau to confirm at the highest level, if you know what I mean. So it was interesting to see how Moreau could get on fire for what was the simple truth: he had not played his Tignes stage smartly. Team managers are not doing their jobs or are we getting into a cycling star system where you can’t tell an athlete when he is wrong?

 

The second today’s hot news is about Sinkewitz. You all know about his bike crash by now, but guess what? He has been tested positive for testosterone today...and this is not just that bad, it’s actually even worse.

 

The German TV that is broadcasting the Tour has decided to cancel the broadcast for today--so no show in Germany today, as well as tomorrow, and we don’t know yet about the day after tomorrow. They told the Tour that if any young rider was controlled positive during the Tour, they would cancel the show.

 

The problem here is that the control was made on June 4th (during a training in the Pyrénées) so pretty much a month and half ago, so it’s not fair for the Tour to be impacted by this control.

 

It’s a BIG shame that no one has been able to bring this test to the attention of the Tour before the Tour starts. If it happened before the Tour, it would have been a sad news but with the Tour starting we would have focused on the race and moved to something else. Everybody is talking about that here, and I’m betting that in two weeks, we will still be talking about it.

 

So, I’m very sad today for the sports of cycling. You all know that this sport relies on private partners and that these partners sponsor the cycling because you get an incredible ROI as you get on the air for hours for a very cheap price. So, if tomorrow for management problems and organisation problems the Tour has to stop because there is no more TV which wants to get into a “dirty” sport, then it’s the end of cycling...and I’m sure no one wants that.

 

So I don’t know what went wrong but it really is time to focus on the organisations that are ruling cycling or it’s just going to be the end of cycling. The upcoming days are very important and I’m not talking about the race here.

Ronan

 

Ronan Pensec participated in 8 Tours, and wore the yellow jersey in the 1990. He now operates Ronan Pensec Events , an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.

785 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: 2007-tour-de-france, ronan_pensec, ronan-pensec, 2007_tour_de_france

!http://www.active.com/Assets/Cycling/RobKlingensmith.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/Assets/Cycling/RobKlingensmith.jpg!After summiting the fourth major climb of the daythe hors catégorie Port de BalèsI turned my attention to the gripping 15-mile descent. At 5,800 feet, the air was quite cool, and I shivered from equal parts chill and fear as I pointed my bike downhill, trying to stay clear of the kamikaze cyclists whistling by me at 50 mph. The newly paved switchbacks were just one-and-a-half lanes wide, but the lack of guardrails convinced me not to get too close to the asphalt’s edge; the drop was significant and I wanted to avoid riding home in an ambulance after making it this far.

 

I was participating in my first Etape du Tour, one of Europe’s top amateur sport rides that follows the exact route of one stage of the Tour de France. This year, we rode Stage 15 from Foix to Loudenvielle. The event’s length122 milescombined with over 14,000 feet of climbing, made it the most difficult in the history of the Etape, and certainly the single most challenging day of cycling that I’d ever experienced.

 

The day began with 8,500 nervous cyclists cramming into numerous starting pens in the village of Foix. Despite a 7 a.m. gun, it took 20 minutes to cross the starting line. Once moving, in just six short miles we reached our first climb, the second catégorie Col de Port. Coming so early in the event, the field had no chance to spread out, so the ascent was clogged with riders. This forced most to start conservatively, but also caused many to release their frustrations by launching into their first descent far too quickly.

 

The consequences of this strategy were realized only five kilometers down the mountain, with a major traffic jam of police and EMTs who were attending to a horribly injured cyclist lying in the middle of the road. The inert rider, blood on the pavement and smashed bike were not-so-subtle reminders that today’s descents were every bit as serious as the climbs.

 

Thirty miles of pace lines sped us to the second climb and descent of the infamous Col de Portet d’Aspet, site of Olympic gold medalist Fabio Casartelli’s fatal accident in 1995. Its 17 percent corkscrew gradients and blind hairpins were truly frightening, and I felt as if I’d dodged a bullet getting beyond it in one piece.

 

Up until that point we’d been fortunate to have some cloud cover that kept the temperature down. But at the start of the steep five-mile climb of the Col de Menté, the sun came out and riders began to suffer. On this third slope I maintained a slightly more ambitious pace and powered over the col for yet another very fast descent. My confidence was building, and it felt as if my Cervélo SLC-SL was on rails. Maybe I was figuring out this descending technique...

 

As good as I was feeling, the first 87 miles of the event were simply a warm-up for the remaining 35. Our next obstacle was the imposing Port de Balès. Its 12 miles of climbing including some of the steepest sections that we’d encountered all day, plus melted pavement that convinced me that the air had leaked out of my tires. What began as an exhilarating day of international cycling was quickly turning into an old-fashioned sufferfest.

 

Halfway up the climb at least a third of the participants were off their bikes walking, stretching or even lying in the stream to cool off. This was beginning to look like a death march. My speed was slowing to the point of defying gravity (how was I keeping my bike upright, going so slowly?), but I kept grinding through the kilometers. With two kilometers to go I popped through the treeline, got blasted by a cold headwind and could finally see the summit moonscape up ahead.

 

Having finally crested the highpoint of the Etape, all that remained was the nerve-wracking descent of the Port de Balès, the final five-mile climb up the famous Col de Peyresourde and a blistering descent into Loudenvielle.

 

Of the 8,500 who had entered, about 75 percent finished this year’s Etape du Tour. As a recreational cyclist, riding just one of the 20 stages of the Tour de France puts into perspective the unbelievable talent of the pros. Most of us in the Etape were riding to simply complete the course; the pros will race the same route at almost twice my average speed.

 

In subsequent entries I’ll tell you more about my equipment, nutrition and what I would have done differently, now that I have the benefit of hindsight. For nowif you’re a cyclist who lives for challenges, loves the sport’s culture and heritage, and are looking for your next big eventI encourage you to consider the Etape du Tour. It belongs on any rider’s life list.

Rob

 

Rob Klingensmith is an avid recreational cyclist and an executive at Active.com. Rob will provide a unique perspective on what it's like to be inside some of the most decisive stages of the Tour.

851 Views 11 Comments Permalink Tags: 2007-tour-de-france, martin-dugard, 2007_tour_de_france, rob_klingensmith, austin_murphy, etape-du-tour

!http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/Pensec4150x150.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/Pensec4150x150.jpg!Have you seen all these fights, échappées and all that? This is what the Tour is all about and we would all love to get days like this for three weeks but you can’t just ask these riders to be on top like that all the time, can you?

 

For me, today’s big news is that Vinokourov has “officially” lost his last chance to win the Tour...and he will now ride for Kloden who is now my big favourite. I know what you think: he changes his mind everyday, but this is what cycling is all about. It’s plenty of surprises, nothing is really rational and anyone can win especially this year.

 

So, if I look at the ratings, I see that Kloden is something like 3:50 behind the leader. I can also see that there is still 90 kilometers of time trial to go, so if Kloden gets 30 seconds on the leader for each 10 kilometers that he rides in a time trial, he could win. You will tell me that there are plenty of other guys who could make it too, but the riders that are ahead of Kloden are all great riders in the mountains, but when it comes to time trial, well, they will surely lose some time to Kloden.

 

So, this is just a feeling and we will see after Albi (the next time trial). If Kloden gets some seconds on each of these guys easily, then we can really think that he will get the yellow jersey in Paris.

 

Finally, I would like to answer Dan's comment: Dan, you are right. I got lost in my thoughts I guess, but I do think that Astana is the strongest team on the field this year...and I think it’s actually the only one.

 

I was first thinking that Vinokourov would play for the victory and all these teammates will back him up but as he is now “down”, I’m looking at their team and I see a strong Kloden who could now be backed up by someone like Vinokourov and what a strong backup don’t you think? What about Kashechkin? One more time, he is a very strong athlete. The three of them could be our musketeers for this year’s tour. How nice would that be?

 

Of course, you will ask me who is going to join them to play D’Artagnan...give me a few days and I will let you know. I have some ideas...

Ronan

 

Ronan Pensec participated in 8 Tours, and wore the yellow jersey in the 1990. He now operates Ronan Pensec Events, an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.

511 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: 2007-tour-de-france, ronan_pensec, ronan-pensec, 2007_tour_de_france

!http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/Pensec4150x150.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/Pensec4150x150.jpg!I would like to start today by giving you an update on Sinkewitz’s crash yesterday:

 

Sinkewitz will not start tomorrow; he is out of the Tour. He has had an open fracture on the nose and has lost several teeth. The spectator has made an infarctus yesterday and is now in a deep coma. It’s a very sad news and we all appreciate the support that you gave to these guys.

 

As you know, today is a day off, so I have had some time to analyze all the stages and the configuration of this Tour.

 

This year’s Tour doesn’t have any “boss” as we say here, and as we used to have with Lance, for example. There is no strong team either as I told you yesterday, and I’m kind of feeling that we could see pretty much the same Tour as last year. I believe that any rider from the top 15 can win it, which is very exciting.

 

This guy will have to be very strong mentally and physically but there is definitely an opportunity for any guy from the top 15. And the biggest opportunity is definitely tomorrow. I’m surprised that no one tried to really take Vinokourov down when it was possible.

 

Tomorrow is the last day to take Vinokourov out of the race. If you let him pass the Alps without losing too much time, he will fully recover between Montpellier and Marseille and will then win the Tour for sure. I will bet on Vinokourov if no one takes big risks tomorrow.

 

Vinokourov has a very strong team and he has shown some very impressive mental strengths so far, so I’m pretty convinced that tomorrow is going to be decisive for him.

 

So, I’m already guessing what you think: What do they do on a day off like that?

 

Well, the first important thing is to keep the momentum alive by not changing your routine. Cyclists will wake up late and have a consequent breakfast as usual. Then, they will go for a two-hour ride just to keep the sensations and sweat a little bit. You have to keep your body used to burn energy, and even one day without respecting that would have an huge impact in a few days.

 

Then, they will keep a very light meal for lunch, probably a salad, and will rest. They surely won’t go for a walk or anything like that. The goal is to give some rest to your legs. They will finally end up by some massages at the end of the day and they will go to bed as they are used to do before race day.

 

If you have any question on preparations or anything that I could give through my experience, feel free to ask me and I will be more than glad to share my various experiences with you.

 

I can’t wait to tomorrow!

Ronan

 

Ronan Pensec participated in 8 Tours, and wore the yellow jersey in the 1990. He now operates Ronan Pensec Events, an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.

550 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: 2007-tour-de-france, ronan_pensec, ronan-pensec, 2007_tour_de_france

!http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/fredrod.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/fredrod.jpg!We all knew that today would be hard. All the way through, I don't think I even remember a flat road.

 

Right from the start the race was on. I guess the fact that the start was downhill didn't stop guys from attacking. By the time we hit the first climb, everyone wanted to be in the break.

 

T-Mobile was able to control over the first climb. But on the second, a Cat 3, things got out of control. GC guys were jumping in the moves. Cadel decided to go across just in case. Next thing you knew, things were out of control and the break had to be brought back.

 

We went so hard at the bottom of the second climb that the group was all over the place. Finally, the GC guys came back and they let the non-contenders go up the road.

 

Rabobank was not too happy with the move, so they decided to bring it back, or at least hold it close. It seemed as if they were just going to control the pace, but when we hit the first Cat 1 of the day, Rasmussen went on the attack. I don’t think anyone even responded to his move since it was so fast. But the pace did go up a bit, causing me to drift slightly back.

 

I was able to stay near the lead group and make contact seven kilometers from the top. I was happy to make it back, seeing that this would give me more time to relax over the last two climbs.

 

Over the top, I dropped back to get some bottles for the boys. Unfortunately the road was so tight the car couldn’t move up. I had to drift back to the car, which was not a good choice. I grabbed five bottles and hung on tight as we started to hit speeds up over 90 kilometers per hour. I finally made contact with the field, but it was splitting everywhere. I think I had to go harder down the climb than up it.

 

I do remember that O'Grady was getting bottles around the same time that I was. But I just couldn't follow him. To me, he was taking too many risks passing. When I came around a tight bend, he was on the ground, wrapped around a wooden post. It didn't look good--I hate to see those crashes. Not a good sight. It’s just crazy that we’re pushing incredible speeds into blind corners that we’ve never seen. For all we know, each corner could be just a slight bend, or a sharp 90 degree turn. There’s a lot of skill involved, mixed with a lot of luck in deciding how fast we take these corners. And there’s not much there for protection.

 

So after carrying the bottles for 30 kilometers, I finally was able to make it back to the front and perform my last team effort. I basically sprinted to the front, then made my drop-offs as I drifted back. Once I covered all my guys, I gave a quick wave and called it a day.

 

At that point, I had over 20 minutes on the last group. I knew I could relax and just take it easy. Enjoy the view a bit.

 

Finally, with about 10 kilometers to go, the last and biggest group rode up to me. They seemed to be holding a nice pace until the last three kilometers. At first, I thought it was typical “last group style," a desperate increase in speed as we approach the finish. I’m not exactly sure why this happens, but it happens every time. This time, however, I learned that it was because we were pretty close to the time limit. But again, it’s not like the tour is going to send 100 riders home.

 

Later, I found out that Robbie had been dropped on the first climb and had basically been riding on his own. After the crash on the first stage, his body hasn’t felt the same.

 

I was told by the guys who rode the break with Rasmussen that he wasn’t even breathing most of the time. Cadel also seemed to have a good day as he spent the right amount of energy covering the moves. He rode a conservative race, but smart. Cadel is still within hutting distance of the yellow. We all know how well Rasmussen can time trial, so he’ll need a bit more time before he can feel comfortable keeping yellow.

 

Another good ride came from the young German, Gerdemann.

 

That's about it for now. We are staying close to the finish, so the recovery will not be very good the next couple of days because of our elevation. I think we are sleeping at 2,000 meters. But so is everyone else, so I guess we’ll all be tired on Tuesday.

 

I’m still contemplating how much training I want to do on the rest day. Guess I’ll wait and see how I feel when I wake up tomorrow.

 

Good night.

Freddie

 

Colombian-born Freddie Rodriguez is a professional American road racing cyclist. He is a three-time US national champion and currently races for team Predictor-Lotto. His nickname, "Fast Freddie," is due to his reputation as a sprint specialist. His Fast Freddie Coffee, the Fast Freddie Foundation, and his new Team Fast Freddie help to raise funds to support youth cycling in America. Freddie resides in Emeryville, California, USA and Girona, Spain. Freddie is riding this year's Tour and will give us an insider's perspective on life inside the peloton. He welcomes questions and will try to respond during the Tour.

640 Views 6 Comments Permalink Tags: 2007-tour-de-france, fast-freddie-rodriguez, freddie_rodriguez, 2007_tour_de_france

!http://www.active.com/Assets/Cycling/RobKlingensmith.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/Assets/Cycling/RobKlingensmith.jpg!What’s it really like to ride a stage of the Tour de France? On Monday morning, I’ll be learning the answer to that question first-hand.

 

Each year, the organizers of the Tour de France offer a citizen’s ride called "l’Etape du Tour"the stage of the Tourover the exact route of an actual stage of the race. And just to remind us amateurs that le Tour is serious business, they have a habit of choosing the most difficult stage for the event.

 

This year “the Etape” will be contested on Monday, July 16 (the Tour de France’s first rest day), over the route of Stage 15 from Foix to Loudenvielle. These 196 kilometers (122 miles) feature no less than 14,000 feet of climbing up five major mountain passes of the Pyrenees, including the 20-kilometer hors catégorie Port de Balès.

 

The Etape is limited to 8,500 riders, 5,000 of whom are French. The remaining slots are filled primarily by Europeans. Entries into the Etape are as difficult to obtain as those to the NYC Marathon or Ironman Triathlon, so those who have a confirmed start have prepared quite seriously and now are anxiously awaiting Monday morning’s starting gun.

 

I’ll be riding with a group of Americans and Canadians organized by the Iowa-based tour company Velo Echappé. Included in our group is my Active.com blogging colleague Marty Dugard and Sports Illustrated writer Austin Murphy. I don’t want to say that we’re racing each other, but I suspect that future bar bills and bragging rights are at stake.

 

After arriving in Toulouse on Friday, I’ve spent the last couple of days getting organized and spinning the jet lag out of my legs on my new Cervélo SLC-SL. This is a bit embarrassing. Of course I’m thrilled to be riding what many consider to be the best bike in the peloton, but therein lies the problem: I feel a bit of pressure to live up to the bike. After all, this is the same rig that Frank Schleck rode to victory on Alpe d’Huez last year, and Fabian Cancellara rode to his second stage win in this year’s Tour.

 

It’s Sunday night in France, so I’d better attempt to grab a few hours of sleep before our 4 a.m. wake-up call. Check back to learn how we fared, and if we’ve been able to complete just one mountain stage of the Tour de France.

 

Rob Klingensmith is an avid recreational cyclist and an executive at Active.com. Rob will provide a unique perspective on what it's like to be inside some of the most decisive stages of the Tour.

769 Views 5 Comments Permalink Tags: 2007-tour-de-france, 2007_tour_de_france, l'etape_du_tour, rob_klingensmith, austi_murphy

!http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/fredrod.jpg|style=padding:10px;|align=left|src=http://www.active.com/images/newsletters/cyclist/TourdeFrance2007/images/fredrod.jpg!Just got our first teaser to the mountains. I wouldn’t call it a real mountain stage, but by the way we raced, probably harder.

 

From the start, the pace was high. Everyone was looking for a good breakaway, but it wasn’t happening.

 

Not good news for me because if the break didn’t go in the flats, it for sure would go in the first climb. That meant lots of suffering for me.

 

We hit the climb and the attacks were on. I think I saw Hincapie try like four or five times, but teams are afraid of him getting too big of a lead, as he could be a wild card for yellow.

 

Three kilometers from the top, the pace was just a bit too hot for me. I decided to follow the second group, as they seemed to be at a more reasonable pace.

 

I did make a mistake by drifting to the back of the group over the top, not knowing the roads were open. It meant for bad crosswinds. I was dead last in the group, which was costing me too much energy to hang. I knew there were other small groups, so I let go.

 

The hope was that our small group would eventually catch back on when the peloton would finally let the break go.

 

It took a bit longer than I expected. And my little group was having a hard time. Luckily, I had big guns Boonen and Robbie. We all rotated until we finally made contact with the whole group. I think everyone was feeling the effects of that early pace, so I wasn’t the only one in the red.

 

At that point, a big break had formed and we had no one to represent. Cadel was afraid that someone in that group would get too much time, so we decided to help CSC with the chase.

 

From then on the pace was high and the road just went up and down. My job now was to keep Cadel out of the wind. He seems to like my style of cruising through the peloton. I guess, being a sprinter, I seem to be able to open holes that are usually not there. Cadel is a bit of a nervous rider in the peloton, so I have to keep him close to the front. Sometimes I have to put him in his place when he wants to ride too far forward. Lot more wind for both of us. I try to keep him somewhere in the 20th position, at worst. Just far enough to get a good draft, but still close enough to stay out of trouble.

 

We passed the next couple of climbs pretty much under control. My teammates and CSC kept the pace. I was able to ride the front and keep Cadel in a comfortable spot.

 

Once we hit the flats, the race was on a fast pace and we needed to start making ground on the breakaway. With five kilometers from the bottom of the last climb, Lampre came up to give a hand. But they put the pace so high it really put everyone in the red.

 

As we entered the bottom of the climb, I saw the banner and it read 16 kilometers. At the same time, guys started to attack while others sprinted for their lives to keep up. I wasn’t sure how that helped any. It only got rid of the guys that would eventually drop off anyway, so I didn’t see the purpose.

 

I stayed at the front of the group for the first three kilometers in case Cadel needed my help. Then I noticed the road was so steep there would be little I could do, so...time to shut the engine off.

 

I decided to enjoy the crowds and the mountain as I went up. I basically went as slow as I could go up the climb. By the top, the group with the sprinters caught me.

 

At the top, I just hung with Robbie and my teammates. We had plenty of time to make the time cut, so we were in no hurry to make it to the finish. Again the crowds were good. Over the top of the last climb we could only pass one at a time.

 

Cadel tells me he had a good day and didn’t have to dig too deep. Chris seemed to have a harder day. He said he was at the limit over the last climb, but he was still with the first 25 guys. Still a good ride.

 

The rest of our climbers had a bit of a harder day. For our boys, it was just surviving, especially since some of them had some hard work over the course. Chris tells me that Vino didn’t look so hot on the climb, but that was expected.

 

It also seemed that not too many guys really had the gas to make any good attacks. Most guys attacked and could only hold a hard pace for no more than 500 meters.

 

The Tour is still pretty open and guys just don’t seem ready to show their cards. Or they’re scared to, in case it doesn’t pay off.

 

I think tomorrow will really show who has the legs to contend the tour, but I am expecting surprises too.

 

By the way, I have been sitting in the bus for an hour trying to get out of the finishing village. Piece of advice if you come to watch a Tour mountain finish: ride your bike to the finish or make sure you have a hotel there.

 

I would recommend coming to the tour. It’s worth the trip. Something you will always remember. But it isn’t easy, unless you’re my family member and have VIP passes.

Freddie

 

Colombian-born Freddie Rodriguez is a professional American road racing cyclist. He is a three-time US national champion and currently races for team Predictor-Lotto. His nickname, "Fast Freddie", is due to his reputation as a sprint specialist. His Fast Freddie Coffee, the Fast Freddie Foundation, and his new Team Fast Freddie help to raise funds to support youth cycling in America. Freddie resides in Emeryville, California, USA and Girona, Spain. Freddie is riding this year's Tour and will give us an insider's perspective on life inside the peloton. He welcomes questions and will try to respond during the Tour.

629 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: 2007-tour-de-france, fast-freddie-rodriguez, freddie_rodriguez, 2007_tour_de_france
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