DuVine Alps to Paris: Day 5

After a fun couple of days in Jausiers it is time to leave and move to Les Deux Alpes. The trip is roughly two hours of winding mountain roads. Still worried about getting car sick I sat in the front seat. It helped, but it didn’t eliminate it completely. I guess this is the new normal for me post-concussion.

Our ride today was an “easy” one with only one Cat3 climb. In the blazing sun. Without any wind. And barely any shade. Wow. It was a hot one. But the descent more than made up for it with stunning views and vistas at every turn. And there were A LOT of turns.

  

 At the bottom of the valley is Bourg d’Oisans. A great town that really comes alive for Le Tour. It is at the base of Alpe d’Huez; the holy grail of cycling climbs.

We stopped for lunch on a nice patio in the shadow of the Alpe… And talked about it, and how we were going to conquer it in the morning. Oh yeah!

A few brave souls decided to ride from lunch back to the hotel in Les Deux Alpes.  It’s a very challenging climb up to the village and as I was already toasted from the last three days I opted for the van. Happy me. 

We watched the final 50km of today’s stage in a TV in the hotel bar before heading out on our own to explore. 

  
Dinner was a group event at the hotel restaurant, filled with great food, nice wines and lots of laughs. So much so that we were piloted asked to leave as they were trying to close up for the night! We’ve got a great group on this adventure. 

DuVine Alps to Paris: Day 4

After a restless night – the time change coupled with a sore back – we woke early for a big day of riding before watching the pros finish at Praloup. 

The ride took us up Col de la Bonnette – the highest pass in Europe at 2802 metres. It was a long, 23km, and tough, 8% +, climb. Thankfully the scenery was spectacular so we were able to mostly ignore the pain in our legs and lungs!

  
At the top we quickly took some photos, bundled up, and headed back down. It was a perfect morning for riding which made for an extremely fun descent. Smooth pavement, quiet roads, and awesome switchbacks. Oh yeah. 

Today’s stage of Le Tour finished at Praloup; roughly 12km from our hotel.  We rode through the valley and climbed up to 3km from the finish. 

  
The roads are closed to cars and bikes four or more hours before the race comes through. This meant we had to get there early and then pass the time on the side of the mountain. In the blistering heat and sun. Thankfully DuVine took care of us with food, drinks and tents to shelter us. Awesome. 

Haven ridden up the climb we knew how hard it was. But when the pros came by they made it look WAY TOO EASY. But that’s why they’re pro.

After the race passed we got back in our bikes and headed back to the hotel. That’s when the rain started. It was the hardest rain I’ve ever experienced. Hard in the sense that it hurt when the drops hit my face. A lot. But it made for an exciting ride as the pros were also riding down to their team busses. Weaving through the cars and pedestrians while drafting two Katusha riders was a definite highlight for me. 

Once we all showered and cleaned up we headed back up Bonnette for dinner at a restaurant described as being, “at the end of the world. Truly.”

And that’s exactly where it was. And it was amazing. Dinner, drinks, lots of laughs and then sleep. Perfect. 

DuVine Alps to Paris: Day 3


An early wake-up was required as I had to catch a train from the airport and get downtown. Much like Toronto, Lyon has a rail link that cost roughly $22 and runs every 15 minutes.

After an easy trip downtown, I collected my tickets for the train trip to Gap. While waiting for the train I watched a steady flow of commuters get off their trains and head into the city. I was struck by the number of people carrying or riding scooters.


Onto the train and out to Grenoble for a change of trains. At the station I ran into Brad – my friend from the Belgium Cobbles trip. He informed me that the train engineers were on strike and we’d have to take a bus to Gap. Boo.

The two and a half hour bus ride gave me motion sickness. Boo.
Once in Gap we were met by Arien and Krysten – our DuVine guides. They drove us to our hotel where we had a quick lunch under a tent.  A great start!

After lunch we went for a ride. It was overcast and threatening to rain but looked good. So off we went to climb Col d’Allos. A nice 14km climb. As we approached the climb it started to rain a little. And then a lot. And it kept raining. All the way up, and all the way down. I loved it. No one else did. I hit the climb hard and didn’t let up – finished a few minutes ahead of the next guy. It was so much fun. I felt like a pro on a breakaway.

Once back at the hotel and dried off we had a nice group dinner before retiring to bed, resting up for the big day tomorrow.

DuVine Alps to Paris: Day 2

After an uneventful flight where I managed to get about four hours of sleep I arrived in Paris to clouds and rain. Hopefully it’s the end of rain for my trip!

  I made my way through the terminals, security and customs in record time achieving what I hope is the first of many KOMs! At customs the woman didn’t even look at me; she just stamped my passport and waved me away. 

I made my way to the Air France lounge and settled in for a couple hours of watching planes and people.

At the scheduled boarding time I made my way to the gate… Only to find that none of the fates displayed any flight info! Ten minutes after boarding was to start I discover they’ve changed my gate! Over to the correct gate, onto the plane and then a quick flight to Lyon – highlighted by the howls of joy from the tree young children sitting in the row behind me. The flight was very turbulent and the kids enjoyed it like a roller coaster. So did I!

At the Lyon airport I walked what felt like 5km from my gate to the hotel… Through the maze of concourses, escalates, and elevators. I was full sweat by time I arrived at the hotel. Fun!

  Some emails, dinner and a drink and then time for sleep. Day two is in the bag.

I hope that once the tour starts it will start to feel like a vacation. Fingers crossed!

DuVine Alps to Paris: Day 1

My 6:30 flight was cancelled and I was rebooked on the 9:25 flight. This meant I would miss my connection in Paris to Lyon. Air France took care of that and booked me on a later connection. Although everything was resolved it’s not the way I wanted the trip to start. 

My anxiety about the trip was already high enough!

Once at the airport it was a seven minute journey from the self-check-in to the Air France Lounge. Wow. Super easy tonight. Dinner, a couple of beers, and I passed the two and a half hours watching planes and people.

When it comes time for boarding chaos breaks out. Scheduled to start at 8:20 the gate agents announce that they will start boarding only when the line-up area is clear. No one understands and the line grows. Several announcements and 45 minutes later boarding begins. It’s ridiculous how rude most passengers are to one another and the staff. And how airlines have created this culture by charging so much for checked baggage. No one wants to check anything so they try to being more than they are allowed on the planes. Yikes!

At 10pm we finally pushed back and my flight to France began. 

Carefree Road Cycling Camp: Day 6

Our final day of riding. It was a whirlwind of a week with lots of laughs, good times, and great miles under our tires. The final ride was from Apache Junction to Tortilla Flat, which meant piling into the vans for a 90 minute drive to the starting point. The drive was oddly quiet, perhaps because all of us were reaching point of exhaustion, and with the return home in sight, our thoughts had started to drift to real life again.

Day 6 - Hitching Post 1Arriving in Apache Junction we parked, unloaded the bikes and got ready to roll out… but not before fixing a flat I’d suffered at the end of yesterdays ride. New tube in and ready to go, except for the flat new tube for me. Another quick change and ready to go! We rolled out in a single pace line keeping a steady 28km/h speed. It was quite enjoyable rolling along as a group. Rolling hills gave way to a few steep kickers, before transitioning into a terrific descent. And that’s when the group pulled away from me as I stopped to check my headset. Loose. And while I was attempting to tighten it I noticed my front tire was going flat. Again. Again. Boo. I tried to fix the headset but it wasn’t to be, and my day, and week, of riding was over. The sag wagon picked me up and I was officially a spectator.

As we drove I took in the sights but was terribly disappointed in missing out on the final ride of the camp. At the bottom of the descent, in the “town” of Tortilla Flat (population 6) we reviewed the rest of the ride plan before the group set off for what was later referred to as “an amazingly awesome climb and descent. Just perfect.” Not what I wanted to hear but I was happy for the other to have experienced it.

Day 6 - Tortilla FlatThe “town” is really just a few buildings in the middle of nowhere. I have no idea why so many people make the trek to visit it, but the three parking lots were overflowing, and the lineups in each business were huge. One of the many mysteries of life I suppose.

After experiencing all that the town had to offer we retraced our route back to Apache Junction. Bjug and Katie headed off first, while Miriam, Chris and Ryan left a couple of minutes later. This proved to be a great motivator for Chris as he put his head down and set a blistering pace as he chased down the two lead riders. I called out the time gaps at each stop we made which really seemed to spur him on.

Arriving back in Apache Junction we found a table at The Hitching Post restaurant. A real cowboy bar, complete with a hitching post out front to tie up horses. At least three cowboys rode up and tied up while we were there, complete with hats and spurs. Very authentic, and very cool.

With a few hours before dinner we retired to our room to start packing up, disassembling our bikes, etc. Hard to believe that the trip is almost over.

Day 6 - Buffalo Chip 1For dinner we headed to Buffalo Chip. We’d be warned that “you only go to Buffalo Chip for the entertainment; no one goes for the food.” But happily the food was pretty good. But the entertainment was definitely the highlight. Live amateur bull riding, and a country band playing covers, with a lively crowd dancing on the large dance floor. Good times were had by all.

Eventually dinner, drinks and bull riding came to an end and we headed back to the resort for bed.

It’s been fun. Tiring but great fun.

Carefree Road Cycling Camp: Day 5

An early morning wake up before making the 90 minute drive to Prescott. Arriving at our departure point we were presented with a lovely panorama of mountains. They looked beautiful until Ryan said our lunch destination was on the other side!

Day 5 - Prescott to Jerome

After riding for 10k or so the climb began in earnest with a quick set of turns and some rapid gains in elevation. The surroundings were very similar to Ontario with pine trees, rivers, squirrels and snow.

Up and up we went, enjoying every second of it, and knowing that down the other side was lunch, and an epic descent.

Day 5 - Prescott to Jerome 2

At the summit we took a moment to refuel before letting gravity work for us, instead of against us. Sweeping banked turns, incredible vistas, and warm sunshine is the story of the descent. And then we were in a town perched 5000 feet up. Weird. Jerome was a mining town of 10,000 people in its heyday. Now there are about 400 who cater to tourists.

A quick lunch break and then we were back on our bikes for the final 2500 feet or so of elevation loss. It was amazing.

After bottoming out in Cottonwood we pointed out wheels towards Sedona and the red rocks. The route was boring but the scenery was unbelievable. Truly breathtaking. Thirty kilometres of it. Wow. And then we were in Sedona. I’ve run out of adjectives to describe the surroundings but trust me, it’s awesome.

Day 5 - Cottonwood to Sedona

Carefree Road Cycling Camp: Day 4

Day 4 - Cresting Golden EagleThe camp is filled with tired faces and bodies. It’s been a fun but taxing few days. And the ride today really pushed most of us to our limits in terms of training stress. The first 40k of the ride was mostly downhill, including a really fun and fast straightaway where we pushed along at 50km/h for 15k or so. But every bit of descending is countered with an equal amount of climbing. Into the town of Fountain Hills the route changed from gentle rollers to punchy climbs. The “highlight” being an 18% wall that really sucked the life out of the legs.

The rest of the ride was a gradual uphill climb. 40k at 2 – 4% weaving through Scottsdale and back to Carefree for lunch.

Our lunch stop for the day was The Grotto Café. Another great spot. Ryan and Sara have really got the lunch spots dialed in.

As our ride took longer than expected our schedule for the afternoon was a bit scrambled. However we had time for Mike and I to get a Compex massage, and to relax for a while.

Day 4 - El EncantoFor dinner we went to El Encanto: a local Mexican restaurant with a cool open air dining area. The food and service was excellent. Continuing the trend of my travelling companions spilling drinks, Bjug dumped a pitcher of frozen margarita on the table. (For those keeping score, Steve spilled multiple drinks on our trip in 2012 to Le Tour.)

Post-dinner Bjug, Mike and I hit up the hotel bar for a little wind down at the end of a long day.

 

Carefree Road Cycling Camp: Day 3

“An easy ride out to Bartlett Lake with some climbing” is how it was described. Not quite. We rolled out under perfect blue skies again and headed for the lake. 8km uphill to start, and the 20km downhill before turning back and doing it in reverse.

The downhill had the most climbing of any descent I’ve done. It was tough and I did a 20 minute stretch of 310 watts. On a downhill. Yikes!

As I neared the bottom a very large bug hit me square in the right lens of my glasses. At 65km/h my glasses won but it was shocking.

At the bottom took some photos before starting the return climb. Ouch. It was tough. And my lack of fitness and extra weight were an issue. Eventually we all made it to the top and began the easy rollback to the resort. Another fun ride in the books.

After a terrific lunch at the resort we headed out for a hike up Black Mountain. This mountain dominates the Carefree/Cave Creek “skyline”. An hour up, sweating like crazy, some pics at the top, and a super quick descent. Near the bottom Bjug spotted a Gila Monster. It was huge and very cool to see.

In the evening we went to Bryan’s BBQ. Yummy.

And as all adults do, we went to bed at 8:51pm. It was a tiring day.