Thursday, July 26, 2012

To the Pyrenees - Surf's up!

It is hard to imagine the size and scope of the organization and logistics of the Tour de France, but it is huge.  As this massive race travels around France, the event affects all the towns and people in its path. There is literally a palpable wave of energy and excitement that gets pushed out in front and to the sides as the Tour passes through.  This year we were able to get out in front and catch this wave on a couple of occasions and, man, it was good!

Stage 17 profile - Surf's up!
 Liam's riding ability has improved to the point that he can now pedal out and catch the outside waves of the Tour.  These mythic, outside waves are entire stage routes one day before the actual Tour de France passes through. These routes are marked, the roads are in good shape, the towns are all shiny and sparkling in anticipation of the Tour's arrival and, more importantly, you are out in front - on the wake of the greatest bicycle race on earth.

First Category 1 Climb of the Day
In years past, we had been a day ahead of the Tour on a col or for a shorter time trial, but we had never ridden an entire mountain stage.  We were inspired this year from meeting the ladies from the Reve Tour and the folks from the Tour de Concorde.  Both these groups were riding the entire Tour de France one day ahead of the race for specific charities.  We thought, "hey, why not try one entire stage of the race?"  We studied the Tour route in the Pyrenees and decided that Stage 17 from Bagneres de Luchon to Peyragudes was well suited.  It was difficult, with loads of climbing (over 10,000 vertical feet), but at 143k was relatively short in distance.  Because the finish of the stage happened to overlap with the finish of stage 16, we would actually be able to and spectate the finish of that day's pro race if we went fast enough.

Top of the HC climb - Epic day in the Pyrenees
We decided to head to the Pyrenees to catch a wave, but first we had a stop in Provence to pick up Sofiane who is on the same cycling team as Liam.  Sofiane is a few years older than Liam, and has really been a role model when it comes to racing in France.  Although Sofiane lives just outside of Marseille, he had never been to the Pyrenees and had never seen a mountain stage of the Tour de France.  To say that he was pumped would be an understatement.

a very cool day on the bike
 We pulled into Bagneres de Luchon on the second rest day of the Tour de France and started to make plans to "paddle out" for stage 17 the following day. The next morning was bright and clear and the day promised to be very hot. The first 80k were very tough with Col de Mente, the Col de Ares and the Cote de Burs.  One of the highlights of the day was stopping by a mountain stream at the foot of the Port de Bales with about 100k in our legs and cooling off.  After a dip in the stream, we hit the massive 19k climb of the Porte de Bales. Liam had been getting continually stronger throughout the ride.  On the climb of the Bales he took off like a rocket.  There was no way that I - nor Sofiane - could follow.  I think he beat us up the mountain by about 10 minutes. After spending some time on the top with the folks from the Tour de Concorde and the Reve Tour, we dropped down off the mountain to do the final Peyragudes climb.  We couldn't do the last section of the climb because the actual race was coming through.  We did, however, get to see the riders as they dropped down off the mountain for the final run in to the finish of Stage 16.  What a day! When it comes to following the Tour and riding on the wake of the race I don't think it gets much better than this.

Start of Stage 17 of the Tour de France

The following day we were able to see the real stage 17 depart and then head back up into the mountains to cheer on the riders as they rode the exact same course as we had done the day before!  It was an epic couple of days.

Watching the race on the same stage we rode the day before
Livestrong, Train Safe, and Live Well!!!

This is Bill and Liam signing out!

Strava Profile for the Stage 17 ride.  Liam was at least 10 minutes faster on the Porte de Bales!

No comments:

Post a Comment