Thursday, July 22, 2010

And we're back...

So... Greetings from the world's smallest hotel room... Literally, we have 2 single beds, 2 bikes, 2 bags, a bathroom... and our handlebars hang over our beds. So much for the wonderful spacious rooms we had the first 2 nights. This brings new meaning to the phrase "Close quarters"... especially for this couple! ;-)

The story of the past four days has included many ups and downs both "geographically" and emotionally.  We have been happy, we have been sad... we have laughed, we have cried... we have been in beautiful sunshiny mountains and farmland where it was pissing rain.

We have met some amazing new friends, pissed off some old friends (that would be Bo pissing off others... no surprises there), and we've learned that Lourdes sucks, Pau ROCKS, the mountain is THE BOSS... And pro tour riders are almost every one of them good guys... Yes even Cavendish whom Nikki was able to score a couple photos with and get his autograph.

Long story short... following the Tour de France is a full-time job and we have honestly meant to provide more updates but haven't had the chance (ie: we've been exhausted and sleeping).

In spite of a poorly run "guided" (in the loosest send of the world) tour, we are having the time of our lives.

A quick note about today... (we'll catch you up on previous days later)... We caught the start of today's queen stage in Pau due to the awful (pissing rain) on the Tourmalet.  All the buses were accessible to tourists, as were many of the riders.  Courtney and Nikki hung out at the HTC-Columbia bus to meet the likes of Eric Zabel (won more green jerseys than anyone in history), Mick Rogers, Tony Martin, Bernie Eisel, Mark Cavendish, and others.  They even gave us water bottles which we had them sign.

Mick Rogers
(more pictures to come from a guy who ended up taking great pix of Nikki & Courtney w/ his super nice camera and promises to email them to us!!)

 Cav's Bike... crazy huge stem... and the marks on the top tube are for each of his stages wins so far in this year's tour <-- The HTC folks were SOOOO nice... you could walk right up to any bike and check it out... and pretty much do anything but sit on it! While other teams (like Rabobank pictured below) kept everyone away from their bus and bikes.

We also caught George on his way to the start and grabbed a photo (We could only download the pix from the iPhone... the pic w/ George and all the others are on our "real" camera... to which Bo forgot the cord to connect it to the computer for downloads)... Court & Nik were also in their "Io non sono Ted King" shirts so the Cervelo guys got a picture of them to send to Ted King... to prove they aren't him!  Nikki spoke a little Italian with Alessandro Ballan and got a photo with him... and then Bo and Nikki hung out with Allen Lim... aka "The Mad Scientist" for a little while at the Radioshack bus and he gave them hats and a water bottle <-- Crazy nice guy!  We gave him tips for where to eat when Team Radioshack shows up to the US Pro Nats this year!  He mentioned he hopes the entire team (US riders of course) come... and we do too!!!! (Also saw Lance and his entire fam.)
While Courtney and Nikki were hanging w/ the HTC boys, Bo was reaching out and giving a pat on the back to all his favorites like Thor Hushovd, Ivan Basso, Fabian Cancellara, Andy Schleck, Chris Horner, Big George, Wiggo, Juan Antonio Flecha, Silvain Chavenel, Christoph Moreau, Cadel Evans, and of course a completely bandage covered Jens Voigt... who responded with (in a perfect Arnold Schwarzenegger voice), "Don't touch anything, it all HURTS!"  To which Bo apologized and Jens said, "Eeeets Okay."

More later but we've got to get ready for dinner and figure out what's in store for tomorrow... either we hit the feed station for a sprinters' stage, or we climb the Tourmalet (too cold, wet, and foggy today... not to mention the million people on the way up it!!)

Au revoir for now!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chateroux to Toulouse

7/18/10 Post 1 – On the Road from Chateroux to Toulouse

So, I’m (Bo) sitting here in the bus on day 2 of this trip trying to get some thoughts down. Jeff Buckley is on the ipod, and the French country side (complete with hay bails straight out of a Monet painting) rolling by. The sun is shining, and we’ll be able to ride our bikes soon.

Life is good.

So, about yesterday. Nikki and I had a perfectly uneventful trip from GSP to CDG. (Big thanks to Matt at the USAirways check in desk for putting our suitcases and bike boxes on priority status). We have a super comfy flight on an Airbus over the Atlantic that took off an hour late but only landed 30 minutes late. After navigating our way though the bowl of spaghetti with meatballs that is Charles de Gaulle airport and finding the correct baggage claim carousel, we had all our stuff. (side note: here is where priority status really helped. Our bike boxes were brought right up to the carousel no problem while about 5 or 6 guys on a separate trip from us looked like they were going to have a bit of a wait before they got their stuff). No probs with immigration, and, as luck would have it, we had come in to Terminal 1, where the buses would be waiting for the group.  Wouldn’t you know it, right when we got to the exit on our itinerary, up pulls the bus, right on schedule. All we had to do was to wait for the big group from Atlanta to arrive an hour later and make their way over from Terminal 2 and we’d be off. All was going according to plan.

 One of our Bike Trailers

Then, everything went wrong.

In spite of the fact that all the documentation that we all had instructed us to one location, (Terminal 1), most of the big group from Atlanta was told to hang tight in Terminal 2 while a couple of people made there way over to Terminal 1 to drag the buses over to Terminal 2.  Only one problem: we had been waiting a while, and Nikki went to the tram to see if she could help out with people making their way, bike boxes and all, between the two locations. So Nikki had headed that way (or so I thought) and, after bit of haggling, the buses headed over to Terminal 2, where the big group was waiting.

At this point, the wheels came flying off: Nikki wasn’t there, nor were four others from the big group, who hadn’t gotten the memo about sitting tight in Terminal 2 and were actually doing what they were supposed to be doing. So, now my wife was lost (I had yet to find out about the quartet making their way to the appropriate location), and the buses weren’t going back to Terminal 1. The two buses left to take people to a Paris hotel where we were set to unpack, build up the bikes and have lunch before re-loading and heading south. One was coming back to pick up the rest of the group who were coming in on a later flight.

So, I was left to grab our rucksacks and head BACK to Terminal 1 to hopefully find my lost wife (no cell phones.) I finally got there and found Nikki with the quartet of lost souls who, again, had actually followed instructions, and we turned them around to get back to Terminal 2, where the second bus would be returning in about 3 hours. I have no idea what these people would have done had Nikki not found them. They had no other way of knowing where the bus would be going.  A little advice to you travelers out there: if it’s a group trip STICK TO THE ITINERARY. Without cell phones, there’s no way to keep things coordinated on the fly. It was only by sheer luck that several people weren’t left out in the cold not knowing what to do.

Needless to say, we were all pretty cheesed off at this point. In spite of being the first to arrive, we’d be the last to actually leave the airport. Airports suck in general, but let me go ahead and say that CDG sucks more than most. So, we just buckled down and played the waiting game.

Then, Providence intervened.

Literally out of the clear blue sky, I looked up and saw somebody I hadn’t seen in 6 years. Tamer Shafik, a close friend form Egypt who went to grad school with us, was sitting there with his wife and three kids. We haven’t seen the guy since we graduated, so, when I yelled his name, he just kind of stared through me, not know who this yahoo yelling at him was. Anyway, after convincing him that I wasn’t a lunatic trying to rob him, he realized who I was, and there was much smiling and hugging to go around. We got to meet his wife and kids, whom we had only heard about before, snapped a pic and traded info and wished each other good travels.

That made the fiasco all worth it…

The bus finally showed up, and, six hours after arriving in CDG, we were release from the spaghetti prison and made our way to the hotel. Upon arrival, we built our bikes up., NASCAR style, tossed them back in the trailer and headed out.

By the way, still no shower. Somebody was starting to get a little funky, and his name was Bo.

Anyway, we had a couple of hours to ride down to Chateroux, where we were bunking for the night at a Best Western, which, oddly enough, was REALLY nice. Mr. Funky (me) took a LOOOOONG hot shower, and all was right again in the world. We had a nice dinner and some wine to ease the pain of the journey, and crashed nice and hard.

We’re now rolling down the road to Toulouse, as stated above. The Jeff Buckley album is done and I’ve moved on to Leonard Cohen. Hopefully we’ll be able to get this uploaded once we get to our next stop. We’re looking forward to a little spin on the bikes this afternoon and some local NOMs tonight. Everybody’s doing well, and hopefully the logistical problems are mostly behind us (knock on wood).

(segue into later today)

The drive today was filled with panoramic views of the rolling hills leading to the Pyrenees... your stereotypical fields of sunflowers, old villages, churches, farms... and we enjoyed it... the first couple of hours.  And eventually we (Nikki narrating now) made it to Toulouse... after having some mechanical troubles... let's just say, nothing like getting woken on by a stopped bus to find that you're not taking your "driver must take a 15-45 min break every few hours" stop at a Service Station, but because the bus is refusing to cooperate and we're stuck in the middle of an interstate.  That would be because the gear box overheated.  So... here we are... on our way to our destination where we're promised a nice ride in the countryside... only to move one 1/2 kilometer at a time before the bus shuts down again.  Thankfully we krept our way to a service station where the other bus was already having their aforementioned driver break/lunch where the driver and tour director proceeded to chat with the owner of the tour company about how in the world to make it to Toulouse today.  Luckily we were only 180 kilometers away.  Eventually 1 1/2 hours after arriving on the station, we continued on for another 1 1/2 hours before it overheated again.  Then... we took another break at a rest area... 15 minutes later we were on the road again... to stop 1 last time not even 1 kilometer from the hotel.  This time we soldiered on... some of us volunteered to push the bus... Patrick was going to help it along like he does often times for Lisa and I up the mountains back home... but it begrudgingly made it the last few meters to the Novotel.

Toulouse is the Capital of the Midi-Pyrenees Region... a rather large city, and very pretty.  Much of the city has canals through it lined with beautiful trees... many Places (think Piazzas/Plazas) and filled with people riding bikes.  They have bike rental stations throughout the town and you see people everywhere riding bikes.  They are similar to the hourly rental cars you can grab around cities like DC.   

Once again our hotel tonight is great! Very modern, internet, nice bathrooms, nice rooms, you name it, it's got it.  And surprisingly enough the rooms are SPACIOUS!  Well, for European standards that is... I'm completely impressed.

Everyone was dying to get a ride in today so we all got our bikes ready, kitted up and headed out around 5 in the afternoon with 40+ American riders.  Let's just say, just because we're in France, doesn't mean Americans are going to stay in the ubiquitous bike lanes.  After blocking cars, taking a few wrong turns, and one group even caused a fender bender in a roundabout, the Greenville Crew, aka The Cool Kids (Patrick, Lisa, Courtney, John, Bo, Philip - Court's kick butt French Canadian buddy from Atlanta, Mark - adopted Cool Kid from Laguna Beach, & I) headed back to the Hotel to get away from the craziness!  And it was great.  We found the hotel with no issues... and Bo and I decided we'd had enough logistical issues for a lifetime much less the past 48 hours and headed to dinner.  The rest of the Cool Kids kept going.

one of our many wrong turns earlier took us by the main Place du Capitole - Capital Building.  It was a beautiful plaza with lots of cafes and people strolling about so that's where we headed.  We found a nice cafe that specialized in Seafood... so of course we had Beef tartar with fries and a salad, along with a heineken, a local red wine, dessert, and espressos.  It was wonderful!  Our waiter was super nice... no uppity French attitudes... and finally, some relaxation.  For the first time we felt like we were in Europe!

So... from about 6:30 - 9... we sat, drank, ate, and enjoyed the people watching.  We were surrounded by locals, people following the tour, and other tourists to the region.  Oh to have this everyday would be wonderful!  As we made our way back to the hotel we found others from our group just heading out to dinner, we gave them our recommendations and carried on back to the hotel... and he were are... bags packed, kits ready for tomorrow... and ready to hit the hay for an early morning and metric century tomorrow along the tour route where we'll climb 3 cols... the last of which is 20 km (12.4 miles)! :-)

Finally some relaxation!
Yummy Noms!
Dessert - Strawberry Crepe & Dark Mint Chocolate Ice Cream
View of the Capital Building from our dinner table

Until then... Bon Soir a tutti (whatever phrases I can't complete in French... I tend to finish in Italian! :-) At least we're starting to say Oui instead of Si... a hard habit to break!!!)

- Bo & Nikki

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Je suis Americain et je ne parle pas francais!

That's me practicing my French... b/c tomorrow we're headed to Le Tour de France!!  It's been rather dramatic thus far and I'm just hoping there are some riders left racing by the time we get there.  Stay tuned b/c both Bo and I will be posting from this blog... until then... au revoir!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Catch up

Well, it's time to play catch-up.  I haven't posted since the Marquis de Sade ride... and well, it came and went and I got my dragon.  I'm not sure I conquered him... but I'm pretty sure he's tamed now.  We completed the ride in 7 hours, with 6 hours ride time and 12,500 ft of climbing.

Then came the rest of March... more riding... April... more riding... another race in Rock tHrill... a trip to Vegas... and now... we just completed the 3 State 3 Mountain Challenge in Chattanoooooooooga.  It was awesome.  A great group of people joined us... and we hit Tony's Pasta for dinner Friday night... 100 miles along the Tennessee River Valley Saturday... Big River Grill that night... and a quick trip home Sunday morning.

The spring is FLYING by... and now we've got our Anniversary this week along w/ the Hubby's birthday... the fun never stops.

I hope to get back into blogging after some of my current craziness at work ends... until then, here are some shots from the rides, events, et al that have occurred since early March...

Friday, March 26, 2010

My Dragon

It's been a trying couple of weeks and I've been missing from the blogging world.  Many understand and know why... and many have already eloquently written about last week... so I will try to move forward... how?  Well... I'm not sure you knew... but I've got this dragon...

In the fall of 2008 the hubby and I bought road bikes and started down this path that has drastically changed our lives... we became cyclists... about 6 months into this new adventure... we heard of a ride coming up... lots of people were doing it... so why not us?  The ride: Marque de Sade

Now... Marquis de Sade... was an interesting French fella...  He was a bit crazy... literally spent much of his life in insane asylums... and the term "sadism" is derived from his name...

This should have at least given me pause... right?  Maybe caused me to step back and ask why this ride was called the Marque de Sade??  Hmm... Sadism, pleasure through pain... hmm...

However I was a bright eyed bushy tailed new cyclist... ready to take on anything... or so I thought. I mean... look at this smile beforehand!

I had delusions of grandeur for a nice long ride in the upstate... got some new gear for the hubby & I, some great nutrition prepared... Then something happened... 5 miles in we hit the first short climb... and I didn't see the hubby again for the rest of the ride... and I realized I may not make it through the day.  After 16,000 feet of elevation gain... sore feet from walking the bike up a couple of mtns... & 6 hours later... I rolled back into the North Greenville Campus a defeated cyclist.

And this ride became my dragon...

Scroll forward 12 months to present day... This weekend is the Marque de Sade ride presented by the Freewheelers of Spartanburg as a training ride for Assault on Mt. Mitchell... (btw - I didn't know last year that this was a trng ride for AOMM)...

I've 12 additional months of experience on the bike... thousands of miles in the saddle... races completed... mountains conquered... but I haven't done another ride like the Marque de Sade.

You see that dragon up at the top of this blog... sitting there taunting me? That's my dragon... he's sitting on top of White Oak... I'll chase him off to Green River... and then I'll go after him like a spider monkey all hopped up on Mountain Dew!  The ride... the mountains will not defeat me... I will slay this dragon!

Monday, March 8, 2010


The final race in the Spring Training Series finally came and went.  My goal for this race?  Well, it was mathematically impossible to move into 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in the omnium... but 4th place was definitely in my sites!  I needed to finish 3 spots ahead of 4th & 2 spots ahead of 5th place to do that.

I brought my lucky charm, Jake, to the race with me.  Thankfully Rich & Bella Hincapie offered to watch him while I was racing.  BIG, HUGE thanks to Bella for keeping the pup company all day!

We started out with a group of 35 women.  19 Pro, 1, 2, 3 women... and 16 Cat 4. The officials asked if we wanted to race separate and only a few people raised their hands... so we were back at it with Pro, 1, 2, 3, 4 women all together doing 4 laps around Donaldson.

The race started with a full-on sprint.  I knew immediately this would be unlike any other race in the series.  We must have dropped 6 women in the first kilometer of the race.  And it didn't let up.  On "Golf Course Hill" we were out of the saddle still going strong.  I knew we wouldn't keep this pace the entire time so I wanted to stay with the pack as long as possible.  After the first lap we'd averaged 23.8 mph!  The 2nd, 3rd, & 4th laps all were a bit slower.  We settled in and people took turns at the front trying to break away.  I found myself moving back & forth quite a bit from rear of the pack, to the middle, inside... then outside.

Now that this was the 3rd time racing this course, I had a pretty good feel for where I wanted to be in each section... what potholes to avoid, what bad surfaces mean get on the white line or double yellow.  Every once in a while one or two girls would try to make a break for it... and the whole pack would surge to speeds I never thought I could sustain.  We catch them then sit back in.  This continued the entire race until about 2 miles to go.

At this point everyone started conserving energy for the finish.  This is when I marked my former teammate Elizabeth Brady.  She was ahead of me by 1 point in the omnium.  The person who was in 4th was dropped on the first lap so she and I were both shooting for it.  We traded places quite often and I knew it would all come down to who had better positioning at the end.

The bigger pack of Pro, 1, 2, 3 women (there were only 6 in the previous Sunday's race at Donaldson) kept the pace strong & fast all day.  By the end of it we'd averaged 21 mph for nearly 29 miles.  I have NEVER gone that fast!  With 1 mile to go two groups started to form & the paced picked up.  One on the white line and another in the middle.  I didn't want to take the chance of getting stuck so I sat in the middle pack toward the outside.  We hit the 1k to go sign and picked up the pace again.  People started blowing up all around us and it was "interesting" trying to get around them.  Once we reached the 200m mark it was an all out field sprint and I shifted into a higher gear and told myself not to leave anything in the tank.

From this point on I wasn't going to let anyone pass me.  I was in the drops and passed riders to my left and right.  Women were leaving their lines completely and crossing over others.  I crossed the finish line and immediately threw on my brakes as some women crashed in front of me... My tires left some rubber on the pavement as they skid around to the right of the crash.  I was ecstatic with how well I rode but also worried about what happened.

I know at least two women were involved, I think maybe three.  I remember seeing two people to my left and a bike to my right as I continued on to cool down.  As I came back there was a girl being attended to on the road.  I don't know what happened or how bad she was hurt, but she was taken away in an ambulance.

This sport is dangerous... like going 30 miles per hour and hit the pavement with nothing between you and the ground except your helmet & some material dangerous.  If this series has taught me anything... it is to ALWAYS be aware of what's happening around you!!

After things calmed down & the Masters racers took off in their race I hung out with Bella & Jake near the officials trailer.  People asked how I did and I thought I was top 4.  But when the results were posted... I placed 3rd among the Cat 4s in the race with a solid 4th in the omnium!  My first podium... one of my major goals for the year was to "place" (ie: 1st, 2nd, or 3rd) in a Women's Cat 4 race... and here it was... 3rd place in early March... I couldn't believe it!  The hard work paid off... the training, nutrition, tapering, racing smart... watching other's lines... staying on the right wheels... it all made a difference.

Now... I need a new goal... 

(I was hoping to have some pictures to post here from the race but none have become available yet... so I'll stick with the pix of the results)


This weekend marked the end of the Greenville Spring Training Series hosted by the Greenville Spinners Club & Hincapie Sports.  A huge thanks to all the officials & volunteers that made the series happen!

So... what happened this weekend?  I went to bed Friday thinking I was a little off.  My nutrition wasn't as good as I thought it needed to be and I felt somewhat lethargic.  The hubby and I were both racing Saturday... 1 1/2 hours apart... so I took advantage of that extra hour of sleep before heading out to watch him race.

The River Falls course in Marietta, SC represents the first race I had ever finished in my first year of cycling last year.  After signing up for the entire Spring Training Series in 2009 I was side-lined by a serious upper-respiratory infection.  This time I came into the final weekend with 4 2010 finishes under my belt.

The loop is under 6 miles and starts with a fast downhill to a quick right hand turn.  The next bit has a short incline followed by some flat sections and another downhill (notice the downhill trend?).  A sharp turn awaits you at River Falls Road where you've got more flat to rolling sections.  Last is another sharp turn onto Gap Creek Rd... and this is where all the descending bites you in the rear... a one mile climb awaits!

The climb isn't that steep, it isn't that long... but when you've got to do it three times in a race... it spreads out the field!  The 1km sign shows up at the steepest section and one you see the 200m sign it's an all out downhill sprint to the finish.

 The hubby finishing up his race

I did a warm-up on the big climb with my teammate Robin, Coach, & another racer, Jenn Young.   That was all I was willing to do given that I wanted to get back to cheer on the hubby!

After his finish we got lined up and expected the officials to keep all the women together.  However on this day there was such a big group of Pro, 1, 2, 3s, that they separated us and dropped the Cat 4 laps from 5 down to 3... Hmm... You mean I only have to climb that hill 3 times instead of 5? OKAY!

Jenn, Robin, & I ready to start the race.

We started off at a pretty steady clip.  The girls who sat in 2nd & 3rd in the omnium were controlling the race.  They tried to get off the front a few times but not many people wanted to get out front and pull them.  As we reached the climb on the first lap... I got dropped... At the top of it I was with Jenn Young and she and I worked together to bridge back to the group about a mile or so up the road.

We hung in until the end of the second lap when we got dropped again on the climb.  This time we were dropped pretty quickly and had to work really hard to bridge back to the lead group... We passed a couple of other girls who had been dropped on the climb and pulled them back with us.  As we caught the rear of the field... I reached out my hand to high five Jenn.  Even though we're not teammates... we were in this together & needed each other to stay in the race!

We only had a couple miles this time to catch our breathe and hold on before the last climb.  The pace was excruciatingly slow before we hit the climb.  And that's when people started to pound it out.  I found the wheel of a strong rider and thought of the Paris Mtn Repeats Trainer class I did earlier in the week with coach.  1 - 2 - 3- 4... 1 - 2 - 3 - 4... Over and over again was pounding in my head.  There was some girls ahead of me... but I was passing some as well.  I heard Steve Sperry yelling for my former teammate Elizabeth Brady to sprint... I realized I need to be sprinting too!  I shifted into my big chain ring, hit the drops and got my rear out of the saddle to sprint to the finish.  I crossed the finish line feeling great and gave a little first pump...

Now... I'm incredibly competitive and annoyingly anal retentive.  Meaning I knew exactly who was ahead of me in the omnium and who was very close to catching me.  Before this race I was sitting in 6th place, 3 points behind 5th & 6 points ahead of 7th.  My goal was to get enough points to overtake 5th place or be close.  My sprint at the end put me in 6th place for the race.  The ladies sitting in 4th place and 7th place in the omnium switched spots and I was now only 1 point out of 5th & 2 points out of 4th!

Great work by Jenn Young to grab another top 10 finish... and Robin & Jeni to finish this crazy beautiful course.

 Hit downtown after the race to celebrate with friends...