Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Part six, six, six!

After leaving Verbier I drove back towards France the way I came passing cyclo-tour group after group riding through the passes which made me super jealous. The weather was perfect and the terrain looked super fun. I had shit to do though, namely get to the Col de la Colombiere for stage 17.

If you can't ride it, I guess driving it isn't that bad. I can't remember if this is before or after my car got searched when I was crossing the border back in to France.

After a few wrong turns which ended up actually yielding a few positives, including a camping pad that I'd needed a couple weeks earlier, I finally got onto the Col and found a pretty great spot to camp and spend the next couple days.

My view looking out of the front of my tent until two German or Belgian or whatever the fuck they were jerks came through and put their tent in front of mine blocking half my view. Words were exchanged, but you can only get your point across so well when you're yelling at dudes who don't really speak your language and seeing how there were two of them, both bigger than myself, fighting wasn't really an option, and yes, at this point in the trip I almost would've fought anyone. They didn't show up until the second day though so for one night this was mine, all mine.

Got the tent set up and went for a hike half way up the trail across the road and came across this little guy. I was half scared shitless, half amazed. I didn't, and still don't know what kind of animal this is. It was getting dark so I decided to head back to the tent, make some dinner and pass out.

Woke up and still had another day to kill before the stage came through, so I decided to finish the hike I started the previous day. The view from about 2/3rds of the way up.

The trail to the ridge line is near the right border of the frame. The view from the top was amazing. To one side the Alps and to the other the valley below and Lake Geneva. There was some haze in the air this day so the pictures toward the lake aren't that great.

A 360 degree view from the col. Filmed this with my digital camera and for whatever reason eventhough I rotated it, blogger won't upload it properly. Turn your computer or head for full effect.

The hike back down was rough. It took longer than I expected to get to the top and I didn't bring enough food so I was a little shaky on the way down. Had to get a flick of the sign though.

Aloha Fixed sticker smack-dab in the middle. After I put the sticker up I headed to the little restaurant at the top of the climb to watch the end of stage 16 on TV and drink some orange soda. If you don't remember this was the stage that Jens Voigt took that horrible fall during, when it happened everyone watching had the craziest reaction. It was pretty gnarly.

This is what I woke up to the day of the stage. Wind and rain.

HQ. Salami, chocolate dipped rice cakes, box of orange juice and an assortment of other crap. I decided to wait the storm out inside the tent.

Things can get really boring. This is a study of the creases in the tent fabric.

Passed out for a while and woke up to semi-clear skies and an oven for a tent. The heat and the sunburn I got from the hike the previous day gave me a nice red hue.

Unzipped the tent and looked across the valley towards the road to see things had gotten a little more crowded from when I woke earlier in the day.

Bikes and bikes!

Walked a few kms downhill from the summit and found the perfect place to watch the race from. Check me out! I'm directly to the right of the graphic at 1'32" wearing what looks like all black and again at 3'49" on the left of the frame for a split second yelling at Lance. Pretty damn stoked.

After the the Schlecks, Contador, Kloden, Armstrong, Nibali and Wiggins, Pellizoti in full KOM kit and bike and Dave Zabriskie came through. This was the closest I had gotten to the riders all tour and by this point they looked pretty rough. Andy Schleck looked like he was 50 and Wiggins looked like a skeleton. It's crazy what these guys put themselves through.

After his awesome solo effort earlier in the stage Thor was in no mans land, behind the leaders but still ahead of the grupetto. This guy is an absolute beast.

Back of the first grupetto. Vai Allesandro!
Tony Martin leading another group. He's gonna be a good one.

Allez Kim! Cancellara on the far left and a bloodied Cervelo rider with Kim Kirchen.

This is why you don't even bother trying to drive or even really ride off a summit finish or crossing for probably, at least, 45 minutes to an hour afterwardds.

Aforementioned tent ruining my view. Fuckers! After the stage was over I decided to be lazy and camp another night before making it down to Lake Annecy for the ITT. I mean, come on, would you want to leave this?

Up early, try to leave nothing but flattened grass behind.

It was a little windy.

After almost having a nervous breakdown due the fact that I couldn't find the one key I had for the car, which had fallen out into the grass somewhere while I was packing, I was packed and ready to roll.

Off down the hill towards Annecy.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Parte Numero Cinco!!!

After those few nice rest days camping in Spain it was time to drive all the way across France in two days through torrential downpours to get to Verbier, Switzerland in time for the mountain top finsish of stage 15.

After staying the night at some shitty overpriced motel somewhere on the side of the autoroute just outside Lyon after the first day of driving I got up early and was gonna try to make it all the way to, and set up camp in Verbier by that night. After countless exits off the autoroute looking for an ATM along the way, which brought me about as close to completely losing it as I've ever been I finally made it to Switzerland. By the time I arrived it was starting to get dark, still raining super hard and the temperature was dipping down into the low 40's so I decided to check into a chalet that was literally just across the France-Switzerland border. The old dude at the front desk asked me if I wanted to see the room first and I said no. I was so tired I didn't even care and when I got up to my room I saw this gem. Matching floor and wall carpet. So awesome!

Woke up early the next day and drove the hour through the swiss alps to get to Verbier and found a perfect spot to park just about 2 km from the finish of the stage. Not a bad view for a few days.

Went for a walk around Verbier and came upon this road signage. Aw!!!

Jesus, that sign was no joke! These kids were running around singing a song about Tom Boonen. I wish I could remember how it went.

After my walk I decided to head back to the car and make some dinner on my new little camp stove. First warm dinner in a while. What's your kitchen view like?

Spent the rest of the night listening to the jazz and classical station on the radio in the car while looking out the back windshield across the valley at the mountain range. I'd have to say I was pretty content. This is what I look like after sleeping in the backseat of a car for probably the 12th time of the trip

A little panoramic video of the view. There was a fresh dusting of snow on the top of the mountains from the storm that came through a couple days earlier. Hung out for a while, had breakfast, got the kit on and headed down the hill to go for a little ride and head right back up the hill to check out what the big dudes would be handling the next day.

Probably one of the funnest climbs I've ever done. It was pretty difficult but the gradient didn't really change so once I found my rhythm and where my limit was it was great. Not too many people on the hill either because the stage still wasn't 'til the next day.

Early rise again the next day and headed back down the hill to do the climb again. It was really fun doing the ride the day of the stage. A ton of people riding and everyone along the side of the road seemed to be enjoying themselves. An old woman actually called me Andy Schleck on my way up the climb. Pretty funny. After my ride I got some food in me and headed up to the beer tent that was set up about 50 feet from my car to watch the early action of the stage while it headed my way. Since I don't drink anymore and I was taking up valuable bar real estate I felt compelled to spend some money and ended up drinking about 7 or 8 espressos while watching. These people were making money hand over fist. Not a bad gig, rent a couple a couple flat screen TV's, get a ton of beer, espresso and water and follow le Tour around making a ton of money.

We all know what happened that day. Alberto Contador blowing le Tour apart.

Cycling really is a family sport.

After the stage ended I decided to walk into town to check out what was going on. This mural/sculpture is on the roadside along the route . I think this is a reenactment of an accident during a Tour of Switzerland in which a cyclist ran over a goose and went down. Funny stuff.

I came upon the Lampre mechanics working on the team bikes outside the bus. I want a Wilier! Alessandro Ballan's world championship rig.

Serious stuff!

Foyer of a restaurant in town.

Spent the night in the car again and decided to load up on some groceries before heading out of town. On my way back into town the Lampre team passed me on their way down the hill for their rest day ride. I got to the grocery store and found myself grocery shopping next to the Lampre soigneurs. They were going nuts for Philadelphia cream cheese. After I finished up I decided to hang out on the side of the road and wait for the Lampre guys to head back up and caught Columbia heading out for their ride.

Lampre heading back up the hill.

Vai Allesandro! Dropped by his own team.

Got in the car and started heading towards the Col de la Colombiere for stage 17 and passed Columbia on their way back up the hill. Verbier was a pretty rad place and basically all that I saw of Switzerland was pretty amazing, too. Up next, the Col de la Colombiere. Hopefully the time in between posts won't be quite as long as it was this time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

PART this many IIII
After camping in Arcalis the night of the stage I woke up the next morning and started heading toward the Col du Tourmalet. For anyone thats at all interested in the race or the history of Le Tour you know that this is one of the more historic passes (not to mention one of the nicknames I've given to a climb I do at home pretty regularly) in cycling. To say I was super psyched would be a huge understatement.

However, as hard as I tried to miss traffic, I actually ended up driving right into that days stage. I was a bit frustrated. To help ease my frustrations I decided to take a detour and on my wayward travels found this thing. Le Gran Motte. Pretty cool to walk through. I'm not sure exactly what it was but it reminded me a lot of a lava tube, but about ten times the size. Pretty rad.

As I was sitting in the parking lot some old dude walked up to me and started talking to me, I didn't understand a word he was saying but he handed me this flyer and I could only assume that he was trying to tell me about this reenactment that he and some friends were staging. I love how crude this flyer is. I don't know if you can see it but the cutting and pasting of figures in the foreground is awesome. In the first photo you can see people rehearsing. Would've loved to have gone but I had other stuff to do.

Another roadside distraction. Goats and a river. I told them to give me their cheese. I like goat cheese.

French radio can be pretty damn awesome. Driving through the countryside bumping the classical jams was pretty much what got me through some of the tougher times.

It took me all day and night to make it onto the Tourmalet. I arrived at around one in the morning and promptly passed out in the back seat of the car and woke up to this. Not so bad.

After putting some food in my stomach I decided to take a walk up the col and see what I was getting myself into. After nearly reaching the top I decided it was time to head back down, get the kit on and start riding.
It was super hot that day. After getting about a fifth of the way up the gendarmes were starting to tell people that they couldn't ride any further. There was no way I was letting them stop me though. I had been dreaming of this for nearly a year. After getting off my bike I walked around them on a little dirt path and walked up a dirt hill to get back on the road. Damn the man! This climb is no joke. I made it up by pacing myself as best I could. I latched on to peoples wheels and followed them until I either passed them or they dropped me. It got real tough near the top. Just when I thought I had it made one of the publicity cars selling livestrong bracelets was stopped in the middle of the road clogging the road grinding everything to a near stand still. I got through but the damage had been done. I lost my rhythm and there were only two alternating thoughts running through my head; puke or pass out? I opted for C: stop. I rested for a sec, was given a goo packet by a really nice australian (i think) couple, caught my breath, remounted and got a push from some nice old dude and continued on my way again only to find that I had stopped about 100 meters from the summit and that my effort to make the top would be successfuly thwarted by the gendarmes about 50 feet from the summit. Damn them, so close!!! To have gotten that close to making it and having to stop really really pissed me off. Oh well, from what I hear the up coming tour is crossing the Tourmalet not once, but twice. I may have another shot at it. Anyway, this is me near where I stopped and where I would watch from. So stoked.

My view for the day. The Pyrenees are amazing.

The wall of sound and bodies.

This switchback hurts. REAL steep.

They came and went and I finally got to the top and got to look over the other side. That descent looks like heaven.

Self portrait/beard check atop the Tourmalet!

The next day was a rest day with a really big transfer up north and the next few stages were pretty flat which didn't exactly make me want to drive all that way to watch, so I had to figure out what to do with myself. I thought long and hard and finally decided with a little help and inspiration from Ted Leo to head towards La Costa Brava of northeast Spain to try to find somewhere to camp along the coast for a few days and do some swimming, relaxing and riding. After nearly two weeks in, I was ready for a little rest and relaxation of my own. What I found totally blew me away. It's a campground called camping pola in between the cat. 4 climbs and towns of Tossa De Mar and Sant Feliu de Guixols. The tour had actually been through here a couple days earlier on its way from Girona to Barcelona. The campground had its own beach (the video above), great hiking and most importantly some of the best riding I've ever done right there.
Sleeping here was pretty rough. That ground was not soft at all. After a night of sleeping on all of my clothes inside my bag as a pad I went to the store at the site and bought one of those blow up floaty mattres guys and slept on that. Of course those things go almost completely flat about half way through the night but it was still better than sleeping on the clothes. I'm such a trooper.

Aforementioned hiking. I don't know if you can see it but there is actually a staircase carved into that cliff face that takes you from the top all the way down to the water. Unfortunately, it's part of a private residence and totally inaccessible. Trust me, I tried.

Sometimes life is really, really hard.

I found my own little spot to hang out at. A little cove, a little boat, a little warm Mediterranean. You get the picture. I'd hang out at the beach all day and swim and then once it cooled down in the afternoon I'd head out for a ride. This is pretty much as good as it gets.

This climb is absolutely amazing. It starts out on a cliff just above the water and goes up and up for about 8km's of the funnest climbing you could ever ask for. This was the best day I've ever had on a bike by myself. I think I actually started crying because I was so happy at one point. For those of you that know me and know how all this got started I think you can understand.

What's at the top? Oh, you know, just a hermitage thats been around for 557 years.

Simple math and cycling knowledge should help you figure this one out. On the road just outside Sant Feliu de Guixols.

I could do this everyday for the rest of my life.

Alas, all good things must come to and end and it was time for me to bid farewell to Spain and camping pola after three days of absolute bliss and drive all the way across France to Switzerland in two days to catch the stage to Verbier. I vow to return to this place. I don't think I've ever vowed to do anything, this is a pretty worthy first.

On my way out of the campsite for the last time I saw this guy. How I missed it up until then is beyond me. Next time! I fucking fucking fucking LOVE Spain!!!