Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tour Méditerranéen 2011 - Mont Faron Finale

Last weekend marked the finale of the 5 day Tour Méditerranéen professional bike race here in France. It was one of the first races of the 2011 season, and, as it so happened, several stages of the race were very close to our house in Auriol. We had been counting down the days to this Tour, however, we had a bit of bad luck with timing. For the first there days of the Tour the boys were in school, and we also had a visit from the French Flu à chez Flanagan. When the flu comes knocking...don't open the door! There was nothing, however, that was going to keep us from going to Mont Faron on Sunday to catch the first mountain top finish of the 2011 Pro tour.

View from Mont Faron down to Toulon

Toulon is about 45 minutes from our house. It is a beautiful port city on the Mediterranean Sea. Unfortunately, the only thing Mediterranean about the day was the proximity of the race to the sea, otherwise, it was pretty cold and cloudy. Since both Liam and I were getting over the flu, we decided to leave the bikes at home. Normally, we would ride the climb a few hours before the race. This has been our tradition for the past few years, and I don't think we will be leaving our bikes at home in the future. One of Liam's teammates, Emeric, did ride the mountain and we were able to be there to cheer him on. We got a shot of him coming by at the beginning of the video.

The whole family is back in the action for the 2011 season

Even though the weather was bad the mountain was still beautiful. At 5 km, Mont Faron is not a long climb, however, its 10% to 12% grade makes it extremely difficult. In fact, because of its difficulty the last 5 km would decide the general classification of the entire Tour! The climb also came at the end of a 100 mile day which makes it all the more difficult! There was no hiding on the mountain. The strong men were going to come to the front. We had a great spot about 1 km from the finish to see the riders come by. The surprise of the day would have to be 23 year old, American Andrew Talansky's 4th place effort. This young American, in his first professional race, was able to excel on a mountain against some very good climbers. His 4th place on the day also earned him 4th place in the general classification of the Tour. Another stand out was young American Peter Stetina who finished 25th on the day and 24th overall in the Tour.

Impressive Pro debut for 23 yr old American Andrew Talansky 4th overall!

American Peter Stetina also 23 years old was 24th overall!

Frenchman David Moncoutie won the race for the second year in a row, fellow countryman Jean-Christophe Peraud --who lead the race until the final kilometer -- was second, and Dutchman Wout Poels was third. Thomas Voeckler, the current French National Champion, finished 6th; and the mentor of our cycle club, Rémi Pauriol, finished 11th and won the King of the Mountains Jersey!

Our Club mentor, Rémi Pauriol, on the way to winning the King of the Mountains Jersey!

We were also able to see Canadian Michael Barry on the climb. Michael who is better known for his super support roles on his teams finished 62nd overall, and he was looking very strong on the climb. Although we have never met Michael in person, we are big fans of his work ethic and his entire family's approach to cycling.

Michael Barry laying it down on the climb!

For us, it was another great day of following professional cycling. Though, in the future, we will not be leaving our bikes at home!

Just a side note --- What is the deal with Lucca, Italy? It seems that everyday we hear about a young talented rider that is moving to this Tuscan town. Andrew Talansky, Taylor Phinney, and Ben King just to name a few. From Wikipedia we discovered it has a rich history, but what about the riding? It is about 5 hours from the house...another thing to put on the list!!!

This is Bill and Liam signing out.

Livestrong, Train Safe, and Live Well!!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Few Shots --- as the Pro Peleton Comes Rolling Through our Back Yard!

Today the Tour de Mediterranean Passed just behind our House

Liam, the boys, and I had been counting down the days to the beginning of February for the arrival of the Tour de Mediterranean. The Tour de Med is a five day professional bike race that takes place on what have become some of our favorite training rides here in Provence. Unfortunately, the boys have been in school for the first three days of the event. I did manage to make it up the Mountain behind our house today to snap a few pictures of the riders coming through. I hope this wets your appetite for more coverage Sunday. On Sunday, the riders will be battling up Mont Faron for the first hilltop finish of the 2011 Pro tour. This will be the Queen stage of the race, and the overall victory will be decided at the summit. We hope to be there to capture some of the excitement!!!

Here are a few photos from Friday's Stage 3:

Race lead today after the Col de L'Espigoulier

The Champion of France Thomas Voeckler looking comfortable in the leader's jersey

23 Year old American Peter Stetina was looking good out there today!

As was fellow American and Garmin rider Thomas Peterson (24 yrs old)

It is really cool to see young talented Americans on the road so early in the European Pro Tour. It is amazing the depth and versatility of the American program these days. It is definitely going to be a break out year for many Americans over here. Liam is on it and super pumped to see some of these young guys in action.

Next report will be Sunday evening with Photos and Video from Mont Faron!!!

Let the season Begin!!!

Bill and Liam

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Ride through Hell – The Paris-Roubaix Challenge

Street view from Paris-Roubaix

“What was I thinking?” These four words were the first thing that came out of my mouth after I had processed my payment and had managed to officially get myself on the start list of the first ever Paris-Roubaix Challenge bike race. I was kind of speaking out loud and to myself because, at the time, there was no one else in the room. I knew this race was going to really hurt and be insanely difficult. I couldn’t even be stopped by the race website’s “Welcome to Hell” scrolled across the home page. After seeing this disclaimer, is a normal reaction supposed to be -- “Oh, yes please! Where do I sign up and turn over all my credit card information? I think a day spent in hell would be a wonderful addition to my spring itinerary of walking on broken glass, sword swallowing and other random acts of self torture”??

Another beautiful view of the scenery for my upcoming "special" Tour

It is now official. Come April 9th 2011, I will be in Northern France to toe the line with 3000 crazy masochistic cyclists for the first ever cyclosportive addition of the Paris–Roubaix spring classic. Paris-Roubaix has a special place in the mythos of cycling legend. This one-day bike race is considered to be the Queen of the spring classics, and perhaps the second most famous bike race after the Tour de France. It is also known to be one of the most difficult one-day races. This year, the first ever amateur version of the classic will take place the day before the professional race, and will run over much of the same course. For the Challenge, the start will be in Saint-Quentin and the finish will be some 100 miles/162 kilometers later in Roubaix, France on the city’s famous velodrome. 100 miles over a windy barren landscape can be tough, but what makes Paris-Roubaix standout is the insanely difficult cobble sections that are thrown in along the route. There will be nearly 40k of cobbles (or pavé) as they are called in France in the amateur event spread out over 18 jaw-pounding, bone-rattling sections.

One might think that the race organizers were just trying to be sensationalists by all their comparisons of the cobble sections to riding through hell. I know from personal experience, however, that there is no exaggeration here. Last year Liam and I experienced some of the course first hand. It is absolutely brutal. Miles and miles of pavé beat and rattle the body and the bike. Riding the pavé is not like riding on a gravel road it is more like riding across a small boulder field. “Ouch” is the best summation of the experience.

Quality of roads I ride these days!

My winter riding has taken on a different character with hell soon to be on the horizon. I now look for rough roads to train on. If I see a pothole or rough spot in the road I will intentionally go right over it. If I get back from a ride and I don’t feel rattled to the bone then I feel like I have not done enough. It is hard to describe the amount of rattling the pavé can produce. Not even potholes do it justice. Then there is the question of bike modifications. Wider tires seem to be one of the most important changes that you can make to a road bike to cut back on vibration. At this point, I’m debating between 25c and 28c tires. I have heard that special latex inter tubes also help although I have never used them. I have also been told that Anti-vibration bar tape and perhaps a special saddle could aid with my tour of the underworld. I have a few months to figure it out, and until then I will be here rattling myself into shape.

In case you missed it -- Liam and I did a recon of some pavé sections last summer.

Liam has smartly decided to leave races like Paris-Roubaix to the future. Both he and his brothers are, however, planning to come up and watch their old man suffer, and then take in some really great racing the next day watching the pros do their thing. All in a perfect or not so perfect spring weekend in France!

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

Bill and Liam