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!

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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. 

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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.

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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

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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.

 

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“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.

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Time zone changes are a challenge for me. I was wide awake at 3:30am. WIDE AWAKE.

Breakfast in the hotel was surprisingly good – Huevos Rancheros… Southwestern style! After lunch we had a quick skills session followed by some stretching before heading out on the road for a challenging 100k ride. We discovered that drivers here are much more courteous and respectful of cyclists than they are at home. And most roads have WIDE bike lanes. Very nice. The dynamics of our group aren’t working as well as I’d like but so it goes when you’ve got three guys who know one another, a married couple, and lone dude. All are good riders, and like to ride, but all have clearly “learned’ group riding from different folks; and they’ve learned to do things differently than we do. But when Mike, Bjug and I ride together it’s awesome.

The scenery is amazing. And somewhat overwhelming as you’re always wanting to look at the sights but you need to focus on riding. The ride today included a stretch of 17km where we averaged 55km/h – killer fun.

Post-ride we stopped for lunch at Local Johnny’s. Wow. So good. It’s a café connected to a bike shop. Why don’t we have nice things like this in Toronto????



Back at the resort we had a few hours of free time. Originally we were going to do a mountain hike but as our ride took longer than planned it was post-pines. This allowed up to spend some time around the pool relaxing. For a single guy into Cougars this place would be heaven. Arbonne (a vegan skin care company) is having their conference here. Fifty women to three men on the pool deck. We were bit high in the waiters priority list… (Check out Bjug’s dry martini, in a plastic cup. The first one came full of ice!)



The Saturday night special dinner at the resort is prime rib. It was quite good. And the warm lava cake with ice cream for desert was over the top rich and yummy. 

Post-dinner we retired to our room and watched Strade Bianche; Zdenek Stybar is a machine! It was all we could do to stay awake for til the end. Riding, sunshine and a delicious meal tired is out!

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We arrived at Pearson at 6am for our 8:10 flight. Plenty of time you say??? Nope. What a totally ridiculous setup. We walked the length of the new terminal lugging our luggage, standing in lines, and doing all of the checkin process ourselves. Even custom is done on a machine! All this automation resulted in us sprinting to make it to the gate before they closed it. Not the way we wanted to start this adventure. (And Bjug was trying to “smuggle” Allen Keys but got caught by security, adding to our delays. Who knew that Allen Keys were a security threat and not allowed in carry on baggage?!?!)

Once on board all was good. We had a tailwind and arrived early. That’s where the second round of delays started. Arriving early meant there wasn’t a gate for us. So we sat for twenty minutes in the plane waiting. 
Finally deplaned and down to the baggage claim area. Ninety minutes later and the bags show up. Another 20 for the bikes. 
But eventually they all arrived. Intact!
A forty-five minute drive to the resort past all kinds of great scenery and we could finally start to unwind. Checked in, bikes built, burger and beer on the patio, and then an easy ride. Or at least that was the plan. We started at cruising along at 30km/h which crept up to 40, and then with a tailwind and a downhill we were coasting along at 55! My body was not ready for that but it was amazing to be outside and riding. 
We’ve all heard, “…but it’s a dry heat” in relation to Arizona. And it’s true. My mouth and throat were crazy dry. Like I’d slept all night with my mouth open. I kept drinking just to try and wet my mouth but it was a losing battle. 
After our ride we assembled and wen out for dinner to The Spitted Donkey. A nice southwestern restaurant in a building and setting that looked fake. In fact most of the buildings look like they’re a movie art and not real; with the boulders and mountains and cactus, etc. 
And much like Chinese Food is just ‘food’ in China I suppose that the restaurant was just a local resto, not a “southwestern restaurant”. Either way, dinner was yummy. 
Bed at 9pm and ready for a 100km ride at 8am.
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Hello riders and welcome to the 2015 season! We’re readying our first order of club clothing. Please have a look at the options available and get your order in by sending an email to ride at etobicokecycling.com. (Press Escape if the images take over your screen when you click on them…)

Size charts are here: http://champ-sys.ca/custom/cycling/size-chart

Pricing, includes tax:
Short sleeve jersey: $75 to $260 depending on options
Long Sleeve Jersey (summer weight): $90.00
Long Sleeve Jersey (spring/fall weight): $110.00

Wind Vest: $75.00
Thermo Vest: $125.00

Bib Shorts: $95 to $165
Bib Knickers: $125 (lycra) or $140 (fleece)
Bib Tights (warm): $135.00

2015 ECC Bib Tights PROOF

2015 ECC Fall Vest PROOF V-2

2015 ECC Jersey for Fall PROOF V-2

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