TDFChallenge: Underway In Alsace
Destination Cycling is leading a group of guests on the Tour de France challenge – riding every stage of this year’s route. “You have no right to be here, in this country, in July, on these legendary roads, participating in the Tour de France Challenge. You’re over the age of 40. You have a family, a career, a house, and a stack of bills that need to be paid…”
In the words of TDFC Guest Joe Berkeley –
You should be at home, in the basement, fixing the broken sump pump. Or up on the roof sweating while you mend the pesky leak around the chimney. Or painting the long-neglected porch.
The guests quickly learn to work together on stage one’s circuit around Strasbourg.
But for once, you look at the long, grim list that never gets any shorter and say, “the hell with it.” In September of 2005, you decide you want to do the 2006 Tour de France Challenge. The idea of riding the entire 3,657 kilometer course sounds insane, so you have to plot and scheme.
You get the permission from the boss, then the boss’s boss. Next, you see the most important boss of all, the spouse.
When they all say yes, you’re like the barking dog that finally caught the car. Now what?
Well, you just can’t show up and expect to ride the Tour without training for it, so you hire a coach. Joshua Dean Powers knows what he’s doing, as he road the Tour last year, and coached Kevin Mahaney, a regular guy if you can ignore an Olympic silver medal in sailing and a successful career in business, to the finish line.
Coach Josh Powers guards his stuff enroute to France.
Coach Josh makes you buy a Powertap SL so he can monitor your progress. Then he creates a regimen that doles out a three week to one ratio of punishment to recovery.
To get the workouts in, to keep the job, to stay married, you get up at 4:00 am to ride the bike. During the coldest months, you become an intimate friend of that wretched contraption, the trainer.
Sure they all look the same after a while, but can you ever get tired of riding through picturesque European villages?
Everywhere you go, the bike goes with you: on the vacation, on the business trip, even up the freight elevator at work, so it may sit behind your chair, the ultimate workplace prequisite.
You read that A-Rod of the Evil Empire has a mantra that he repeats to himself before he steps into the batter’s box. Without the benefit of a mental coach, you write a little mantra for yourself. It goes like this:
“Shut up and ride.”
The Destination Cycling Tour de France Challenge is fully supported- you just ride your bike… and try to recover.
The mission statement propels you through the torrential rainstorms, the cold winters of Boston, through the bleak northwesterly winds and the cackling northeasterly gales.
The Powertap, the homicidal bastard on the handlebars that measures every pedal stroke, informs you that you are now 14% stronger than you were when you started the program. Weight is down to 156.5 lbs. Power is up to 341 watts for an 8 minute effort.
Wine, wine, all around… but not a drop to drink. There’ll be plenty of time for that after you’ve completed the 20 stages.
You get on the plane. You get to Strasbourg, France. You meet your teammates, the others over the age of 40 who put the ho-hum, and the humdrum on the shelf for one glorious month, for once in a lifetime.
It’s odd to be part of a team after ten months in the isolation booth of training. But if you’re going to complete this Tour, you have to work together. You couldn’t survive alone.
On Friday, the 30th of July, the day that the great Jan Ulrich and the amazing Ivan Basso, as well as countless others, were suspended from the Tour for suspicion of drug use, you ride the prologue route, as well as the first stage, from France to Germany and back in 5:44:35.
You take care of the first ride in a business-like manner. The team finds a rhythm quickly, and the vibe is good.
Always good to know you’re going in the right direction.
The roads in France are different than those in the States; smooth, narrow, and less predictable. Sidewalks appear in the middle of the road, and you run one over by mistake. But it’s not that tall, so you ride it out.
Coach Josh, as you would suspect, can ride forever. He sits up on his bike pretty as a picture. Erin monitors morale from the van. Joe Tonon, our director, joins you on the road as soon as things are smooth in the vans. Patrick on the staff keeps up the good cheer.
As a guest on the trip, you take your pulls, but in all other respects, you are a protected rider. Your bike is washed and maintained. Your food is prepared. You have a bag of gear in the van, with your name on it. You never take it out of the van, because you might forget to put it back, and it will do you no good in the hotel.
When you need water, you raise your hand and the ultra fit Jimmy whisks your empties away and supplies you with cold, full bottles. Coach Josh is the shepherd, and he makes sure his flock is drinking and eating plenty. Collectively, nine riders go through 130 bottles today.
The karma among the teammates is good. Paul, Alberto, Rob, and Mark are all happy to be here, all looking forward to doing a good ride. When the day ends in a parking lot on the edge of Strasbourg, you get out of your cycling clothes as quickly as possible and clean up with baby wipes. Bryan hands you a recovery drink that you must consume within the next 20 minutes. Preparation for tomorrow starts today.
Summer camp for 40-somethings: ride your bike across the whole Tour de France route in 3 weeks.
The only pet peeve tour Director Joe Tonon has is this: if there’s something wrong with your bike, tell Brian the mechanic at the end of the day. You can’t slow down the team in the morning, when there’s no time to fix it. If there’s something wrong with your bike, tell Brian today.
Soon, you’ll know everyone’s life story, and they’ll know yours. So you pace yourself. Conserve your energy. Hush your inner wise ass and celebrate every moment that you’re sitting on a seat on a bicycle in France. It’s time to shut up and ride.
Joe Berkeley is riding the Tour de France Challenge to benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation. To make a donation, visit
Joe’s campaign here
Preview the Stages before the Pros!
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.’ Tentative publication dates include: July 3, July 10, July 17, and July 28.
The TDF Challenge team rides the THE DAY BEFORE your favorite pros. Want to get the insiders’ guide to each stage? Follow the daily 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
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