TDFChallenge: Into The Mountains
With 16 stages down and 4 to go, Pez caught up with Destination Cycling’s Tour de France Challenge team in the stage 17 start town of Saint Jean de Maurienne – two days ahead of the race.
Pez: You have survived over 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) to date including the long, flat stages in the north, 100,000 feet of vertical climbing, two mountain stages in the Pyrenees, and now two more in the Alps. How is the team holding up?
Joe Tonon: The team is holding up well. Everyone is tired, that is obvious by how quiet we are a mealtime. The stages in the mountains make for really long days, not just for the riders but also for the staff. Tomorrow is our last true mountain stage; I think everyone is really looking forward to getting through that.
The group rides over the Izoard. This ain’t no picnic, but then no picnic was ever this fun.
Rob Kantor is really enjoying himself on the Tourmalet. He is. Really.
Pez: A lot of time is spent on the bike. What keeps you motivated?
Rob Kantor: Pastries, today the soigneurs showed us a wonderful box of pastries at the base of the climb. We had to summit for them. Needless to say, we rode that climb well.
Mark Nebeker: I really have no idea. I do know that once I reached the top of the Galibier I actually thought I might have cured my bicycle addiction. [Mark was seen reading a French cycling mag at dinner; so the jury is still out on the addiction.]
Climbing the Col d’Izoard.
Pez: How do the Alps compare to the Pyrenees?
Joe Tonon: The roads in the Pyrenees tend to be much more rough. They are usually surfaced with chip and seal whereas the roads in the Alps are paved and much smoother. The Alps wind back and forth, often above the tree line, and are lined with spectators, campers, and vehicles. It makes for quite a spectacle but also challenging for our staff.
Josh Powers: The Alps are easier to spell. [Besides being the coach on the team, Josh also provides a fair amount of humor in the group.]
Tour des Fruits from Montйlimar to Gap.
Pez: What is the funniest or strangest thing you’ve seen on the road thus far?
Erin Berard: Workmen painting apples for Stage 14: Montйlimar to Gap. They actually had a specially build machine just for the purpose.
Josh Powers: Germans hanging out by their campers in Speedos.
Soigneur Brian Pedersen working magic on tired knees.
Pez: How is life on the support staff?
Brian Pedersen: Things are running smoothly. The Alps are definitely tough on the route support staff with the winding roads and crowds although they offer plenty of comedy! The heat during the trip has been challenging on the team, together they drink just under 180 bottles of water and CLIF SHOT Electrolyte drink per day.
Erin Berard: The key to a trip like this is to minimize morning and evening van transfers to and from stage starts and finishes. We are lucky to have been able to ride to and from our hotels most days. This means more time for recovery.
Joe Tonon: Massage immediately after each day’s ride is critical to the health and recovery of the guys. During long mountain stages, massage is given priority, which means some days we eat dinner as late as 9 PM. Actually, Joe Berkeley is planning to adopt our Danish soigneur Brian Pedersen and take him home to Hull, MA.
Pez: What would you suggest to someone who is considering doing the Tour de France Challenge in 2007?
Joe Berkeley: Sign up now, hire Josh as a coach, and start training tomorrow, uh, today.
Mark Nebeker: It’s a big deal; this is the premier event in cycling. You have to approach it with respect. You also have to be prepared and set your expectations appropriately. Coming into this event I had an idea of what this experience would be like. During the past 20 days I have realized both my biggest fears and my greatest joys with regards to this event.
Joe Tonon: You have to be prepared; we are doing an event where the top men of the sport feel as though the course is killing them. The team is doing amazing well. They are fit, healthy, and motivated.
Josh Powers: Compact gearing is a good thing to have, especially in the mountains. It allows you to spin more and get through the climbs with less effort. With a power meter you will be able to better focus your training.
Soigneur Brian Pedersen getting ready to pass out bottles on the Col du Tourmalet.
Stay tuned for an upcoming PEZ exclusive, “TDF Challenge 2006 Rolling Updates” filed from the road throughout the Tour. Hear what the riders have to say ‘straight from the bike.’ Scheduled publication dates include: July 3, July 10, July 17, and July 28.
Follow the TDFC team updates (with photos) at: DestinationCycling.com
Ready to try this epic ride? Here’s How to Ride the Tour de France Challenge in 2007
Registration is open for the Tour de France Challenge 2007. Destination Cycling’s exclusive COMPLETE TOUR package covers everything a pro rider would wish for and more over the 26-day trip: hotels, meals, transportation, full team kit (biking and casual apparel), accessories, plus all mechanical, massage, and medical support.
In 2007, Destination Cycling also will offer HALF TOUR packages. Choose either the first or second half of the TDF route. Visit www.destinationcycling.com for more information on how to register and reserve your place on the team!
Are you a cycling-challenged CEO who seeks steeper climbs?
Check out the CEO Challenge 2007. CEOs will have the unique opportunity of riding actual Tour De France stages, competing against each other on one of the Tour’s most famous hill climbs, and watching the Tour live. For more information and to register, visit CEO Challenge