Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bordeaux and Paris - A Wrap To The 2010 Tour de France And On To The Junior Vuelta in Assen, Netherlands

The final days of the Tour de France are always a marathon, whether you are riding the race, or simply trying to follow it as a spectator. This year was no different. The final stages of the Tour took place in Bordeaux and Paris - cities which are roughly 400 miles apart. I had never been to Bordeaux, however, I had experienced firsthand the flavor of the region through years' of enjoyment of the great wine produced in the area. The city itself did not disappoint. The town is built along the inlet of Gironde with beautiful cathedrals and cobbled sections of the old city. There are cafes, brasseries, and restaurants throughout. From my experience, the meals here are all about pairing food with wine that accents the flavors and essence of the creations. In Bordeaux, food and wine are truly an everyday art. This was a huge contrast to camping on the Tourmalet - where the standard was canned tuna and stale bread. Liam was excited to be able to get chicken nuggets and frites, followed, of course, by a scoop of ice cream. We were definitely back in civilization!

Ride along the Gironde in Bordeaux

In Bordeaux, we would be able to see two stages of the Tour de France. On Friday, a sprint stage would finish along the Gironde, and, on Saturday, the final time trial would be a point to point race from Bordeaux to Pauillac. We spent Friday morning riding along the Gironde and were able to ride the final few kilometers of the finish. It is always great to get on a closed of section of the Tour de France and tear it up. We were having so much fun that we actually road the final 2k finishing chute a few times. A headwind was coming off the river and could have been a factor in the race. We found a spot with a large monitor of the race about 150 meters from the finish. The sun was out and we were able to relax on the grass and take in the scene. We ran into Joe and his wife Liz from Wisconsin. It was fun to take it all in with them. The carnival atmosphere really started to pick up as the race approached the town. As Liam had predicted, the sprint finish was won by Mark Cavendish - in an awesome display of power.

Fun taking it all in with Joe V and Liz

Next day was the time trial. Normally Liam and I ride the TTs, however, the logistics of getting back to Bordeaux from Pauillac and then getting to Paris that night were going to be too difficult. I also had some safety concerns about the roads. When you are not sure, it is better to give it a miss. We decided to skip the ride for now, but we will return to Bordeaux this fall, to do some more riding for sure. In any case, we were able to get a good view of the riders as they came through the city of Bordeaux.

Liam with Mike and Clare Barry

On Saturday, we had the opportunity to take in some of the time trial race with Mike and Claire Barry. Mike and Claire are the parents of Michael Barry who was in the Tour and rides for Team Sky. Over the years we have met many of the parents of professional cyclists, and they share one thing in common - they are all very nice, down to earth people. Mike and Claire shared the story of Michael riding Mont Ventoux with his dad on a tandem at nine years old. We shared with them some of our Father Son Tour adventures. It was a lot of fun. The Barrys also told us about a youth stage race in Assen, Netherlands where they used to bring their son. Liam immediately wanted to do the race. The race is in its 46th year and is now called the Junior Vuelta. It is the largest youth stage race in the world and it takes place over 5 days with time trials, criteriums, and road races. To make a long story short, Liam is going to do the event which starts on the 2nd of August. (A little of the story - Liam turned 10 on July 27th and was eligible for his international USA Cycling license. We contacted the race in Holland and they had room in the event for Liam. We got the all the permission letters from USA Cycling by fax and we are good to go!) Unfortunately, there are not any hills in Holland, but the experience will be invaluable for Liam. He really wants to start learning race strategy from these kids over here! We will be reporting from Liam's first stage race next week on the blog.

After the TT in Bordeaux, we headed out to drive the 600 kilometers to Paris. We actually pulled into the City of Lights before midnight on Saturday night! Last year we didn't get into Paris until 7 in the morning on Sunday. It is a real feeling of accomplishment pulling into Paris after following a Tour de France. I can only imagine what the riders feel. Liam and I had 4000 miles of driving and about 1000 miles of biking under our belts. Sunday morning we headed out on our bikes for a Paris ride. The city has become very cyclist friendly over the last few years. During the weekend, they actually close off the road by the Seine to cars, and it is available to cyclists and in-line skaters. The Velibe program of free bikes throughout the city has been a huge success, and has resulted in drivers being much more aware of cyclists. We had a wonderful ride all over the city. I can't think of a better way to spend a morning in Paris.

Gaby on the Champs

After our ride, we headed to the Champs for the finish of the Tour. We met up with Gaby Zwaan who had had come from a meeting with Doug Ulman, the head of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Gaby had given his painting of Lance Armstrong to the Foundation. I think that it has found a wonderful home in Austin, Texas. Liam and I hope to see it at Livestrong HQ when we are there in October!

Sharing cycling tales with friends from the road

Liam and I met a group of Australians who had ridden many of the same climbs we had. We shared our tales of the road and watched as Lance rode up the Champs for the last time in his career, and the race was written into history. It was another great year on the Champs in Paris at the end of July.

This year, Liam and I have dedicated our Father Son Tour to the fight against cancer. 28 million people are affected by this disease. It is a number that Liam and I hope that someday in our life times will be 0. If you followed along and enjoyed the blog, please consider a donation to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Link can be found on the right at the top of the blog. Together we are making a difference in this important fight. Thanks everyone for coming along for the ride.

Livestrong, Train Safe, and Live Well!!!

Bill and Liam signing out!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stage 17 - To the Mountains and into the Rain and Fog

At the beginning of the week, Liam and I drove 1000 kilometers or 600 miles to catch back up with the Tour de France in the Pyrenees. The final few stages are always the hardest to follow. The distances between stages seem to increase and the crowds are much bigger. This year the weather has been really tough. Conditions have been extreme both hot and cold. Tavi and the boys decided to stay in Switzerland and see the finale of the Tour on the television. It was probably a good thing because the next few days were pretty tough and at times miserable. It was a miserable that in retrospect was a lot of fun, but when you are in it you say to yourself, "what was I thinking!" The rain started as soon as we hit the town of Lourdes. In Lourdes we got some supplies and headed up into the mountains. In route we passed over many of the Livestrong messages on the road that had been made by the chalkbot. It was beautiful and at the same time a little sad to see all the messages to loved ones that had lost their battle with cancer. There were also many uplifting messages of survival and inspiration. Liam and I had left a message earlier that was printed on July 19th. We were e-mailed a picture of it.

Top of the Tourmalet

The Tourmalet was socked in with rain and fog. It was useless to even pitch a tent. Liam and I ended up sleeping in the car. The first day we climbed the last 12k of the mountain in the rain and fog. The Tourmalet is a tough climb with a constant 10% plus grade. Liam was riding very strong as usual. In the last k or so we rode to the summit with a group of Dutch riders who were raising money for a children's cancer foundation. The ride which covered the entire route of the tour de France was called the Tour for Kika. It is always amazing to see all the inspirational things people are doing around the Tour de France. They are the stories within the story that make this race so special.

"Le Tour Man" Some real characters on the road

Race day the weather was no better. Liam and I hiked up the mountain in the rain to get a good spot to watch. We decided to watch about 1 and a half kilometers from the summit on a very steep section where attacks would be certain. The sun actually came out for about 4 minutes before the rain and fog returned. By the time the race came through visibility was about 50 feet. We had a blast, all the same, meeting the characters that were on the mountain that day. After the race came through, we hiked back down the mountain to our camping spot, packed everything up, and said goodbye to the mountain. We made it down to the Autoroute at midnight and to Bourdeaux at 2:30 in the morning. We tried to find a hotel room , but to no avail.... Yet another night slepping in the car! The finish of the tour is like the last few miles of a marathon it is a real test even for the spectators. In Bordeaux the next day a bed, a hot shower, a great meal, and a glass of wine was waiting. However, that will be in the next blog.

The Sun Came out for 4 minutes in two days

We are off to ride and watch part of the last time trial through the vineyards of Bordeaux. Livestrong, Train Safe, and Live Well!!!

Bill and Liam

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cycling and Art - A brief intermission before heading to the finale in the Pyrennes

This Ride is dedicated to 5 year old Emily Boon

We have taken a little intermission from following the Tour de France to do some riding adventures in Switzerland. Switzerland, at this time of year, is a paradise for the outdoor enthusiast. The weather is spectacular, the lakes and rivers are warm enough for swimming, and the roads and trails offer some awesome biking and running. There is a system of bike "highways" through out the country. These routes, that are mostly located on low traffic roads, are clearly marked by red bike route signs and are a great way to see the country. Liam and I study the map in the morning and by the early afternoon we are on a great adventure!

Most of the time we arrange to meet Tavi and the boys somewhere along the route for a picnic. Sometimes we choose a lake, sometimes a mountain pass, and sometimes an urban adventure. This year we have had a consistent theme of art and the artist to many of our adventures. In Rotterdam we met up with Gaby Zwaan and again saw the artist at work in the Alps. I think this inspired us to explore the world of art more. Our 40 mile round trip bike adventure to the Paul Klee museum was a perfect way to do just that. Liam and I headed out on the bikes and Tavi and the boys headed up in the car. We met at the museum just outside of Bern and had a picnic and then had a great adventure in the world of art. The kinder musem was fantastic - complete with atliler. I think Tavi and I had just as much fun drawing and being creative as the boys!

Being on hand for Gaby Zwaan's project was very inspirational - Multi dimensional living art Here Is Gaby's video of the moment.

It has been a great intermission to the Tour, but now we are ready to head back into France and down to the Pyrennes for the Finale of the bike race. We plan to ride the Tourmulet, and be there first hand to see this queen stage. We also plan to head up to Bourdeaux for the final time trial, and, of course, pre-ride the route. Then it is off to Paris to see the fireworks on the Champs. Stay tuned, there is still a lot more to come!

Life strong, Train Safe and Live Well!

Bill and Liam

Bonus Video - Ride with Kaspar - Check out the landslide!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Stage 9 - Morning climbing the Col de La Joux Plane - Talking cycling, Livestrong, and the global battle against cancer

Link to Belgian TV Piece - Cycling, Lifestrong, and the battle against cancer.

While in Morzine, we were very fortunate to meet up with Katleen and Thierry who were filming and producing daily segments about the Tour de France for a Belgian TV station. Thanks to Gaby Zwaan, the two had seen our blog, and were interested in what Liam and I were doing in France. (Thanks Gaby!) On Sunday, Katleen made a call to her producers in Belgium, and it was decided that, if we agreed, Tuesday they would do a segment on Liam and me. Wow, it would be a really great opportunity to talk about Livestrong, our motivation, and, of course, do some great riding in the mountains!

We arranged to meet at our hotel at 8:30 in the morning in Morzine. This would give us three hours to ride, do an interview, and get back to see the start of the stage. It seemed that the whole town was awake and stirring. You could feel the energy as the Tour de France was getting ready to roll out of town after its first rest day.

The day was Tuesday the 13th of July. Normally, I am not superstitious, but we did have a little bad luck this day. The first thing that came up was that the police would not let the film crew through town to get on the mountain. Luckily, there was an alternative route they could take. While Katleen and Thierry drove around the several mile detour, Liam and I had planned to get a start up the mountain. As we pulled out of town, Liam said from behind, "daddy I think there is something wrong with my wheel." This usually only means one thing -- flat tire. I was afraid that we would miss Thierry and Katleen so we had to run with the bikes for about a mile to get down to the road to where they would pass. We made it just in time as Katleen and Thierry were coming out of town. I quickly changed the tire. (BTW - I'm getting better at this!) We then headed up the Col. This part of the ride was fantastic. The Col de la Joux Plane starts off with a 10 percent plus grade. We jammed up the mountain with cameras rolling! We picked a spot about halfway down the mountain to sit down with the camera and talk about cycling, Livestrong, the global battle against cancer. It was really cool!

We started to descend again with camera rolling to make it back into town for the start of the day's stage. Towards the end of the descent, I looked back and the Belgian film crew were nowhere to be seen. Had we gone that fast? I think I did remember hearing something unusual. The pop, I had in fact heard, was the car's clutch belt blowing. When they finally made it to the bottom of the mountain, we had to push the car into a local hotel parking lot. Katleen and Thierry remained calm and collected throughout the whole ordeal. After they had calmed the owner of the hotel down and called the TV station in Belgium, we headed off to the start of the stage on foot.

Max and his dad - Photo by Liam Flanagan

Liam and I now have a system. He gets on my shoulders by the team buses with the camera so that he can get a view and we can get some good shots for our blog. It works well, and my shoulders are getting a lot stronger! This day we saw Team Radio Shack roll out. Max Armstrong was there with his mom to wish dad well for the start of the stage it was really cool and Liam got a great photo. He is turning into quite the photographer as well! As we were headed from the buses to the start I looked back and couldn't see the film crew. This time it was a dead camera battery. Jerry had to run all the way back to the car to get another. Good thing he is in really good shape.

I later found out that during the afternoon there was a problem with the internet connection in Morzine. The crew had a really hard time uploading the piece for the evening. They made the deadline, however, which is a credit to just how professional they are! It turned out great. It was something that not even the bad luck of Tueday the 13th could stop.

Morzine says goodbye to the Tour

So -- there it is -- the story behind the story of our segement on Belgian TV. Thank you so much Thierry and Katleen!

I hope that, through the piece, Liam and I were able to represent Livestrong and Cyclists Combating Cancer well!

Live Strong, Train Safe, and Live Well!!!

This is Bill and Liam signing out.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Morzine Avoriaz - First day in the Alps

Morzine is a beautiful French village high in the Alps. Liam and I have really loved this town since our first visit in 2006. The town sits at the confluence of six mountain valleys, and it has a great mountain feel to it. It is also, from Morzine, that Liam climbed his first Alp, the Col de La Joux Plane, last year before the 2009 Tour de France. In the winter the town is a thriving ski resort, and during the summer it converts into a mountain biker's paradise. The bikers take the ski lifts up, and then they bomb down the descents dressed like gladiators. We were in luck because Morzine is the location of two stages of this year's Tour de France, and the town is where the riders will spend this year's first rest day.

When we are in Morzine, we have always stayed at the Hotel Le Cret. Le Cret is a charming chalet style hotel with a pool and spa! We were looking forward to stayjng there again. It turned out that when we arrived we had an extra surprise -- Team Radio Shack would also be staying at the hotel!

Gaby and Liam with the portrait of Lance

Saturday afternoon, Liam and I climbed Avoriaz from our hotel in the rain. Avoriaz is a catagory 1 climb, and from town the ride was about 12 miles up to the finish or 25 miles roundtrip. Even in the rain it was a beautiful ride! The next day (the day of Stage 8) we climbed the mountain again -- This time in the sun and heat. This was a welcome sight as our friend Gaby Zwaan, the Dutch artist, was painting a portrait of Lance Armstrong on the road of the climb. We met up with Gaby as he was starting his work. It was really incredible to see him paint. He actually becomes part of the piece with paint all over his shoes and clothes. This is perhaps why his pieces have so much energy The finished work was fantastic!

On the climb we also met up with Amen from Austrailia on the road. Amen is an avid bike rider and photographer. You can check out his work at It is always great to meet fellow cyclists on the road. It seems that on a bike friendships develop in just a few miles!

Unfortunately, Team Radio Shack had a tough day on the road. The team, however, still looked very strong on the last climb of the day. Levi Leipheimer was up with the lead group and Chris Horner came flying by us on the road. Even Lance Armstrong who had had several crashes looked strong as he rode by.

Liam checking out the Trek "Shack" bike

Back at the hotel we met up with Joe and Ben from Trek and watched the riders roll in from the stage. Liam even got an up close view of on of the Trek "Shack" racing bikes! Although the team had had a tough day spirits were still high. They are truly an awesome group of people!

The Boys with Chis Horner at breakfast

Today is the rest day in Morzine. At breakfast this morning, Chris Horner stopped by our table! He is a really cool guy, and he looked very strong. Look for Chris to do something very special out on the road latter in this Tour!

This is Bill and Liam reporting from the rest day in Morzine.

Life Strong, Train Safe, and Live Well!!!