Friday, July 30, 2004

home again

> This is just a quick note to let everyone know that we are back home again, safe and
> sound...and ready for some sleep.
> More stories forthcoming...
> Good night.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Paris and #6

> Our Paris hotel was very nice, but did not have internet access so this report is a bit
> late.
We arrived in Paris early Saturday afternoon and did a bit of strolling and sightseeing before our tired legs pleaded with us to head back to the hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Balzac, just a block off the Champs Elysee up near the Arc de Triomphe. It's a very nice old hotel with very modern, stylish furnishings, but as is the case in France no shower curtain. We've gotten pretty good at taking a shower and have only totally soaked a bathroom once.

We were tired so we ordered carry out from the Indian restaurant next door and it was
so good. After a week of French food it was nice to get a change. I can't tell you how much we are craving some good Mexican. We're not the only ones either...we met Scott Sunderland's wife and young son near the finish line Sunday and she said that he was craving Mexican (and margaritas!) so much that they were going to celebrate that night at a Parisian Mexican restaurant. chips, salsa, cheese dip, burritos, chili rellenos, margaritas...bring it on! we've had plenty of foie gras, pate, etc, etc.

Sunday morning we were up early for a group ride. We cruised up the Champs (where I
flatted) then headed west to the Bois de Boulougne, a big Park on the edge of Paris.
In the park is a big oval road the encircles the horse track for about 2+km. On the
weekends Parisian cyclists come out to train and mock race. There's a finish line
painted at the top of a gradual rise that marks the sprint point for each lap. The
peloton gets cruising around the track and really cranks it up before the rise
whereupon the leadout and sprint lets loose. It's pretty crazy with everyone jockeying for position and lots of testosterone flowing.

A bunch of us jumped into the peloton and did some hot laps. Once we got the hang of
it we decided to do some sprinting. I got on the front on the backside to set the tempo and start the leadout, but nobody came around me so I rolled across the line first. At this point the pack was only about 20 riders, but over the next few laps it grew to more than 50...and the word is that a bit later in the morning it would be over 100 and very sketchy. The next time around I came from 4th wheel and came around a guy just before the line to take it. Then I tried to do the same thing the next lap, but the same guy threw his bike at the line to win by a hair. Next lap one of the guys in the group offered to lead me out so we settled in the first 10 guys behind a couple of strong french guys and waited. As we hit the foot of the rise he took off up the side with me in tow. He pulled off about 350 meters from the line (a long way to sprint), but I went anyway. Our leadout had gotten a gap, but one of the French guys had gotten my wheel. At 50meters to go I could hear him starting to come around me so I dug again and held him off. He was a bit pissed I think because when I tried to talk to him after the sprint he only said "I am not a sprinter" in a haughty french accent. Me and some of the other guys in my group did a few more fast laps and sprints before our group reformed to hit a few sites of Paris.

We rode through the city checking out many landmarks. The highlight was probably the
view of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero. It was incredible. We got a few nice
photos too.

We gradually worked our way over to the Champs where the barriers were up and the road closed for the race. We got out on the course and did a lap on the cobbles before snapping a few more photos and heading back to the hotel.

After getting cleaned up we all walked over to the Place de la Concorde to the Automobile Club de France, a private club right next to the Hotel Crillon overlooking the Place. Trek Travel had rented out the club for our party/race viewing. It was a beautiful old building with a huge front balcony overlooking the race course. Inside there were food and beverage stations and big screen TV's in every room. We hung out there for a while, but eventually Melanie and I, along with one of the guides, decided to try to sneak our way over to the finish line grandstands. You need a special pass to get in over there, but we managed to find a way to get seats at the 200m sign before the finish line.

We watched the breakaway struggle to keep their advantage for a few laps before getting swallowed up by a peleton determined to set up the sprint for a final showdown for the green jersey. The next to the last lap the pack was absolutely flying single file and on
> the last lap the leadouts started early as teams sought to keep the field strung out
> and
> fast. When they came around the bend it was a blur and right in front of us Tom Boonen
> stepped on the gas and held off his rivals to win the stage. It was exciting.
> From there we decided to hop the fence to get up against the barriers where the press
> photographers were standing. That's when we met Scott Sunderland's wife. She was
> squezzing past the fence to greet Scott so we chatted with her and escorted her right
> up
> to the barriers. Scott was very nice and incredibly excited to have finished the Tour.
> He's one of the older riders in the race and did not think he would even have a chance
> to
> ride the Tour.
> We tried to get over to the podium, but could only get about 150m away before we hit a
> line of gendarmes. We found a spot right on the barriers from which to watch the post
> race parade of teams. Right next to us were a couple of French guys that are training
> parnters of Christophe Moreau so when Credit Agricole came by he stopped right in front
> of us to talk to his friends. We got photos and Melanie even got a kiss on the cheek.
> We also got an invite to the Credit Agricole party later that evening, but we passed
> since Melanie was fighting a cold and we were both exhausted. We stayed there and
> watched all the teams file past right in front of us. They were all very very happy to
> have finished and the crowd was showed their appreciation. It was a cool scene.
> Once that was done we headed over to the back of the Presidential grandstands where the
> big wigs had been seated. Right on cue we saw Lance's Mom, Sheryl Crow, Robin Williams
> and a bunch of others descending the stairs. Melanie called out to Lance's Mom Linda
> and
> she came over...crazy. They had a chat for a couple of minutes (really) and then Linda
> gave here a hug. Then Melanie tracked down Robin Williams for an autograph and a kiss
> on
> the cheek. It was a surreal scene.
> Our group reconvened for a parting dinner at a hip Danish restaurant. The food was
> super
> bland, but we had great conversation recounting stories from the trip. We had a
> wonderful group of people on our trip and enjoyed getting to know them all.
> Yesterday we caught the train to Amsterdam. We'll be here until Friday. There are
> bike
> everywhere...more bikes than people I think. What a cool sight. We are staying in a
> nice hotel right on one of the many canals. We'll do some sightseeing, shopping (it
> seems sooooo much cheaper than Paris where you can pay 11 euro in some places for a
> beer), and museum gazing in the few days we're here. Our legs and seats are thankful
> for
> several days off the bike after so much riding last week.
> Thanks for reading.
> Chris and Melanie

Friday, July 23, 2004

more name dropping

> this is for all the cyclocross junkies out there.
> the rabobank team management is staying here, including hennie kuiper and adri van der
> poel (2 time world cyclocross champion). adri had just returned from a run when i saw
> him, introduced myself and snapped a photo with him.
> he still looks fit. maybe he'll be racing masters cross in holland this winter.
> 8-)
> we just finished the wine degustation. dinner time now. tough life.
> i hope y'all are having fun at work! ha! 8-)

another sunny day in burgundy

> the headline of today's `'L'Equipe" daily sports newspaper translates to "He gives
> nothing to anyone". Lance is pretty fired up and he and the team are taking no
> prisoners. Floyd was the man yesterday and I think he'll be the next leader of the
> team
> after Lance starts drinking beer, eating burritos and hanging out with his kids.
> i feel like i've been dropping too many names but it's tough as we've been lucky to
> meet
> many very cool people on this trip. after the TT up the Alpe a US Postal van was
> parked
> at our hotel right below our balcony. Melanie went out to see if she could score a
> couple of USPS team caps and got to talking to the woman with the van. a few minutes
> later she returns to the room with this woman, Carly, in turns out that she
> works for lance's agent in texas and is his personal assistant on the tour, taking care
> of all of the little things and coordinating stuff with sponsors, etc.
> it was going to take her a long time to get down the mountain that night and she needed
> to change and freshen up after a very long day so Melanie offered the use of our
> restroom. She was very appreciative and gave us some caps and a nice fitted USPS
> baseball cap. We talked with her for a while before she left and she mentioned that
> Lance was very very motivated this year, especially by the doping rumors and assorted
> trash talk...i.e. he's on the decline, beatable, etc. Whenever he faces some adversity
> or feels like he has something to prove he becomes even stronger. She's been having a
> blast following the Tour on the inside, but she's exhausted and ready to get home and
> sleep for a few days. it was just another cool encounter on this crazy tour de
> france
> adventure.
> today we went for a 3.5 hour ride in burgundy...flat and pretty windy. we got a fast
> group going and just hammered over all these narrow farm roads. it was pretty epic.
> even as a bunch of triathlete guys were getting dropped from the group Melanie was
> right
> there near the front all day long. She even initiated the final attack the blew the
> group apart in the last 8km of the ride...this was just after she said she was going to
> go easy and cool down the rest of the way. classic. needless to say she got plenty of
> compliments at the post=ride picnic and around the pool later. the mountains were
> tough, but i hit my high heart rate of the trip on this ride chasing back on for 20
> minutes after a quick stop to by a copy of l'equipe. i thought i'd be back in no time,
> but the group hammered and i had to time trial for way too long to catch back on. it
> was a tough interval, but fun nonetheless.
> we each grabbed a massage here at the hotel this afternoon, so hopefully our legs will
> have a little left in them for the rest of the trip.
> we have a wine tasting followed by dinner again here at the chateau tonight. this tour
> de france business is tough work! 8-)
> Chris and Melanie

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Chris on the Col du Glandon 2004 Posted by Hello

alps to burgundy

> this morning we awoke even before the cows had returned home...5am.
> ughhh
> 3 cups of french coffee, you know, the super strong mega caffeinated stuff?
> yeah, that did the trick.
> we were on the bikes at 6am. this was for 2 reasons`;
> 1. the teams were staying up on the mountain and had to get down to the bottom for the
> stage start so the roads would be closed by 7:30.
> 2. we had to ride early and fast to get to the top of the col du Glandon before the
> roads closed and the race arrived.
> so we descended alpe d'huez just as the sun was coming up over the was cool.
> then we forced our sore legs to turns the pedals and carry us through the valley to the
> start of the climb to the top of the col du glandon. this climb is a 1st category
> climb
> of 22 km....that's really really long if you are self propelling yourself up the road!
> even more so if your legs are cooked from days of riding in the alps and hiking all
> over
> alpe d'huez to watch the time trial.
> while this climb was nasty in spots, the amazing views and scenery more than made up
> for
> all of the suffering we endured to get to the summit.
> at the summit we set up shop on the patio of the only structure up there, a restaurant.
> we sat in the sun and drank cokes, water, beer, and ate roasted chicken, pasta, and
> chocolate mousse, while getting the inside scoop on the impending NHL lockout from
> Curtis
> and Radek. summary`; it doesn't sound good. maybe they start playing in
> january...or
> maybe no season.
> radek is pumped that he got traded to montreal. closer to chez paree 8=)
> the race came by and it was so cool. we could see them approach from way down the
> valley. a break led by simoni cruised up with a 4+ minute lead. simoni was sporting
> a
> cheesy little thin goatee...very italian. 8=)
> the peloton had usps on the front though when they approached us bettini and another
> quick step guy led out virenque (with moreau on his wheel) for the king of the mtns
> points. Lance was surrounded by the team looking very content. there were already a
> number of guys off the back and this was the first of 5 big climbs today.
> once they passed we descended the glandon. this was a sick sick sick sick sick sick
> sick descent....narrow narrow narrow road with twists and turns and melting tarmac.
> plus
> thousands of cyclists trying to get too. very very very sketchy.
> needless
> to say we bombed it! huge adrenaline rush and not for the faint of heart....we had
> about 30 of us just flying down the mountain passing cars and weaving all over the
> place.
> yeah, it was probably dumb, but it was sooooo much fun!
> the funny part is that at the bottom we asked kevin livingston about the speed the
> racers
> did it and he said that we wouldn't believe how much faster they descend...he said it
> 's
> pretty scary. i can't even imagine bcz i thought we were flying.
> now we are at chateau gilly in burgundy and just finished an amazing dinner in their
> restaurant. it's in the cellar and the ceiling is that of an ancient
> cathedral....hard
> to describe. this place has been around for a long long time....8th century i hear.
> iberian gazpacho, fillet of beef, and tasty wines. good bread too, of course!
> time for bed now before a nice long ride through the wine country. flat, but windy.
> how about Lance! he is truly making a statement in dominating this tour.
> Chris and Melanie
> p.s. who is the ESPN guy that is doing their TdF coverage and also does the college
> gameday?
> p.p.s. it's time to stop thinking about it and book your trip to the tour de france.
> it's a must do.
> take care

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

really quick post TT report

> the TT was amazing, quite an atmosphere.
> we watched from high on the hillside overlooking switchback # 1 the final one before
> they
> entered the village. we sat just below the second S on the huge BASSO painted on the
> hill. we think the helicopters filmed us a couple of times but we're not sure. the
> view
> was great, we could see the action on several switchbacks from there. look for us on
> TV
> tonight. i wore a blue sleeveless Joe's Bike Shop jersey and Mel had her Postal jersey
> and cowboy hat on.
> big win for Lance, he is dominant right now.>
> time for dinner and an early AM tomorrow...riding by 6am to get to the top of col du
> Glandon before the race arrives.
> take care,
> Chris and Melanie
> p.s. we had a couple of beers with the cutters after the stage. they're actually
> pretty
> good guys and kind of happy that their show got cancelled. now they get to follow the
> tour, get paid to do so, and not have to do much of anything.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

good morning from the circus

> the mountain is a circus this morning, filled with cycling fans from the world over all
> packed onto this beautiful mountaintop in the Alps. they call Alpe d'Huez the island
> in
> the sun & boy is the sun shining this morning. just blue sky and sunshine...what a day
> for the time trial. people have pitched tents and parked rv's in every open patch of
> ground...the hotels are filled and bikes are everywhere. alpe d'huez is a big ski
> resort
> so there are a bunch of hotels, restaurants, bars, small airstrip, and even a skating
> rink. it's a really cool village. today it's more like a city with more than a
> million
> spectators expected on the mountain. it's indescribable.
> on the back side of the mountain is a glacier where people are skiing even as i type.
> they close it down by about noon as the temps warm, but folks are hopping on the tram
> at
> the crack of dawn to get some turns in.
> a couple more notes from yesterday...
> -the other ex-postie is Dylan Casey...he can still ride a bike!
> -for you hockey fans out there, Curtis Lesychin and Radek Bonk are in another trek
> travel
> group also staying in our hotel and they too know how to ride their bikes!
> -i said it last year and i'll say it again, the riding over here is phenomenal. great
> roads, challenging climbs, incredible scenery, and if a car honks at you it's too cheer
> you on, not hassle you. plan a trip over here and ride. you won't be disappointed.
> -watching old french guys on old bikes, with sculpted legs just hammer up these climbs
> turning over huge gears.
> -there's nothing like settling into a climb that's going to take anywhere from
> 45minutes
> to an hour and a half. you just get into a rhythm and your mind discovers a zen-like
> state where you know you're suffering, but you are also enjoying the pain. when you
> get
> to the top you are rewarded with a nice blast of endorphins and a big smile crosses
> your
> face. tomorrow we climb the col du glandon, a climb of some 22km if my memory is
> correct...that one will take a while. i don't think it's too steep, but it seems to go
> on forever. at the top we'll stop for lunch and to watch the race come by literally at
> our feet.
> Well, it's time to wade back out into the circus, grab some breakfast, and prepare for
> the day's events, namely the time trial up the mountain. After having ridden the
> course,
> we have a whole new level of respect for what these guys are going to do. It should be
> a
> fun day...follow the action LIVE on or watch for us on tv on OLN.
> cheers,
> Chris and Melanie
> p.s. thanks for all of the emails in return. we can't reply to many of them due to
> very
> limited internet access, but keep them coming...we're reading them. also, if you have
> specific questions about something, ask away and we'll do our best to answer either in
> a
> separate email or in one of these electronic postcards.

quick report alpe d'huez day 2

> here are some quick highlights from the day. i will try to get a more thorough report
> out's time to grab dinner.
> -gorgeous descent off the backside of the mountain
> -long, very hard ride in the alps with 2 big cols to climb...4.5 hours total
> -pulling a 30 person pack single file for 20km...amazing tempo workout
> -starting the first climb with 10 guys, setting the tempo, watching guys pop 1 by 1
> until
> it was just 2 of us left, before having to ease up for the last km...the legs were not
> happy!
> -incredible switchbacky descents that seemed to go on high speed taboot
> -riding tempo side by side with kevin livingston at the front of a double file line
> listening to stories of battles past on the very same roads...amazing
> -suffering like a dog to stay in that group further up the climb digging deep to get
> back
> on several times before pulling the rip cord with 2km to go. in that group was also
> christian vandevelde's wife and another ex-postie...not sure of his name
> -great lunch at the top, drinking beer and watching the last 90km of the stage on
> tv...great, exciting stage with Lance winning a sprint.
> -helicopter ride from there back to the top of alpe d'huez. oh wow, what a view
> ---more later....and there's a lot more.
> tomorrow is the TT up the alpe and there are sooooo many people up here on the mtn.
> what
> a circus!!!

Monday, July 19, 2004

Alpe friggin d'Huez 1

> sunday am we grabbed a quick breakfast at a cafe for about 3 euros, coffee, oj, and 2
> pastries...good stuff, especially the cafe.
> then we headed over to notre dame for some quiet meditation in that beautiful old mean
> really old> cathedral. then it was off to the jardin des tuilleries by the louvre to
> chill out in a lounge chair, people watch, and read l,equipe to catch up on the tour.
> tyler abandoned...bummer. mayo al,ost quit but was talked back onto his bike by his
> teammates. voeckler has been amazing. i even bought a brioches la boulangere cap
> today
> to support the team.
> the train from paris to grenoble was great. we set the ipod on random and watched the
> scenery go by. it,s now time to remind you that these euro keyboards are a mess. i
> don,t have time to correct all the typos. the US really needs to get a rail system
> like
> the euros. its really a pleasant way to travel. fyi, canada has it figured out too.
> via rail rocks.
> from grenoble we rode in the trek travel van up to alpe d,huez. it was a nice preview
> of
> the 21 switchbacks and the amazing scenery. we had a nice, if a bit long, dinner and
> hit
> the sack.
> this am after breakfast we saddled up and rode down the mountain. the descent is crazy
> with tons of bikes, pedestrians , and cars zooming down the mtn. at the
> bottom we headed down the d91 towards les deux alpes, the galibier, etc for a warm up.
> even the road up the valley is a pretty good climb. on the way back to start the climb
> we ran into our friends jen and dean from baltimore. small world!!!
> we arrived at the base of the climb, wished each other luck, and started pedalling.
> the
> first part from the town of bourg d'oisans is easy but once you make the left onto the
> climb proper it's a big wake up call! steep steep steep!!!
> i rode a steady, yet pretty hard pace the whole way up in my 42x25 with my HR pegged
> right around my lactate threshold of 164. MY MAX hr IS 177 so 164 hurts pretty good.
> however i had good power the whole way up and aside from getting stuck behind cars and
> bikes a few times did a pretty good tempo the whole way, not racing speed, but solid
> tempo. i could have used a 39x25 a bunch of times but i made do with the bigger gear.
> the road was lined with people, crazy people, who have been camped there for days,
> drinking, singing, and grilling out. the dutch especially are all over the moountain
> getting crazy. they make a nascar tailgate look like a knitting party...not that i've
> been to any knitting parties, mind you. 8-)
> i finished the time trial in 1hr 16min after getting a bit off course near the top, but
> i
> was happy. only a handful of people passed me on the way up, though one of them was a
> man of at least 60yrs old who was just hammering. much respect to him and his genes.
> i turned around to ride back to one of the switchbacks to film Melanie riding up. i
> hadnt gotten very far at all, like maybe 1km, when i saw her just tearing up the road,
> wearing her cowboy hat and riding right next to Kevin Livingston! they were chatting,
> but they were really moving. i turned around and tried to film them riding the last
> km,
> but i had to hammer just to keep them in filming range. Melanie finished in 1hr 25min
> and i tell you she was not feeling good this morning, but she had a terrific climb!
> kevin told me that she go into a good rhythm and was cruising up the steep pitches.
> incidentally, the year that Pantani set the record up alpe dhuez with 37 minutes and
> change kevin finished 20th not far behind. he said they ride the steep parts <8> percent grades in the 39x23 but they are pedalling at 90+ rpm. that's moving.
> well that's about all for today. we're grabbing dinner up here. we are staying up on
> top of alpe d'huez until thurs. tommorrow is a big day with 3 big climbs and probably
> another trip up AdH! ouch!
> then wed the mountain will be in lockdown for the time trial and they expect 1 million
> people lining the climb. that's completely nuts, but the Tour is nothing if not a big
> crazy spectacle.
> a bientot,
> Chris and Melanie

Saturday, July 17, 2004

greetings from Paris

> Greetings
> We had a nice flight over with a brief stop in London...just long enough for a
> traditional breakfast of fried egg, baked beans, hash browns, bacon, sausage, toast,
> mushrooms, fried tomatoes, and tea.
> We arrived in Paris with a good dose of jet lag, but that did not stop us from grabbing
> a
> nutella and banana crepe for nourishment before heading to a cafe for a tasty belgian
> beer to watch the last hour of today's stage. Lance and Basso are crushing it, and
> Voeckler is riding with so much heart and panache to keep the yellow jersey that he is
> now a big hero over here.
> We hit our favorite latin quarter cafe for a kir and some people watching before
> grabbing
> a to go sandwich and eating dinner on the pont des arts, overlooking the Seine at
> sunset.
> Then it was off to bed for a solid 12 hrs of sleep!
> voila, no more jetlag.
> we're off to explore Paris before catching a train down to the Alps.
> until next time,
> Chris and Melanie