Monday, June 06, 2016

New Venture

  It has been a long time since I posted anything. Life has been cruising along. Towards the end of last summer I started looking into a Cross Country full suspension bike. I looked at a lot of them, Cannondale Scalpel, Specialized FSR, Scott Spark, and Trek Fuel. I was just looking, then I saw a post about KTM Bikes. I knew they made incredible motorcycles, but mountain bikes? I looked a little closer and I was impressed. They were soliciting Ambassadors, on a whim I filled out the application and was surprisingly accepted. Now the tough decision, which bike to buy. I had an idea what I was looking for, but without being able to see them in person let alone test ride one, it was going to be a tough decision. I ended up going with the Scarp 27Prestige 11s.
 This is by far the nicest bike I have ever owned. The first ride was like a first date, a bit awkward and unfamiliar. Between the different wheel size, 27.5, the steep head tube angle, and the rear suspension, there was going to be a learning and set up curve. I've made some tuning and fit adjustments along the way, swapped out the tires, and it really came together.

 Last weekend I put it to the test on the trails at the Virginia Mountain Bike Festival in Stokesville. Read more about that here.
 The only downfall, is after a couple surgeries and injuries I now have a stronger sense of self preservation. This means I am not the aggressive rider I once was, so this bike may never go as fast as it is capable of, but I will certainly try.

 Thanks for reading,

Sunday, August 30, 2015

French Food...

  So one of the best parts of my trip was the cuisine. The food there was absolutely amazing. One dish in particular was Tartiflette. This a very region specific dish that requires a very region specific cheese. 

 This is the dish I had in France. 

 When I got home I started researching the recipe and ingredients.  I quickly discovered the cheese was going to be hard to find. One day I had a chance to stop in Whole Foods and viola, I found it.

  It was pretty expensive, but I figured it would be. I went over a lot of recipes and settled on one that was close to what I had.


  It's not a complicated dish. It's basically potatoes, bacon, onion, creme fraiche, and reblochon cheese. And I have have to say it turned out better than I expected. It was very close to what I had in France.  

  We even have some left overs. 

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Saving the Best for Last...

  So I have told the story of my adventure to France, but now it's time to reflect on the new friends I made along the way. We had a very diverse group which included 3 Americans, 3 Aussies, 5 Brits, a Canadian and a Fin. That is not including our 3 British guides.

  The first folks I met were Dustin and James, the other Americans. I met them at the airport, they are both originally from Oklahoma, but  now Dustin resides in Portland Oregon. Two great guys and two very strong riders especially James, he was able to hang with the big boy s the whole trip. Dustin showed his power when he attacked 3k before the sprint and we never saw him again.

 Next group was the Aussies. I seemed to get along best with these guys. I spent some time on the Col du Grand Cucheron suffering with Jarrod. I got stuck on the Glandon with Richard, we had some good talks that day. I rode up the Galndon with Mark for quite a few kilometers. I like the way these guys think. There way of doing laundry was taking there kit into the shower with them, they also pretty much lived on beer and ice cream.

  Miriam was the woman from Canada. What a strong rider, also an Iron Man competitor. She offered a lot of great advice, and I learned quickly, to listen to what she had to say.

  Anna Maria was from Finland, she was coming off an illness, but still proved to be a very strong rider, and a fun person to hang out and chat with.

  The Brits were also a great group. Alex, Rachael's sister was the reason I even went on this trip. Alex has done 4 Etapes, plus several other trips to the Alps and Pyrenees.  Her tenacity was the most impressive. Steve, was another veteran of these trips, and was also another guy I spent quite a few kilometers suffering with. Thomas was a very strong rider, who was perfectly happy hanging back and riding a little with everybody. Neil came on for the tour part of the trip, Neil is a beast, he was crushing these Cols like they were mere hills, he was also my room mate for much of the trip. Last but by no means least was Ian. Ian came for the just the Etape,  but I got to spend a few hours stuck in traffic with him, and he's the kind of guy you can't help but like, I wish he had been able to come along for the whole trip.

  Now for our guides and hosts. John is the main man at Alpine Cadence.  John is one of the most amazing cyclist I have ever seen. His style of riding was definitely something to see. Martin was our support. He had the job of driving the van with our stuff from place to place, also offered endless support whether in the form of water and food, or some entertaining banter. Our other guide on this journey was Nick. Nick was a very strong rider who was very happy to hang at the back and give words of encouragement to those of us that were not having our best days.

 I only hope to have the opportunity to cross paths with these folks again in the future. They all contributed to making my trip all that more enjoyable.


Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Riding in France, Part 2...

   Once we got back to our Gite it was time to celebrate. Everyone shared there individual story over beers and dinner. Plans were made for the next days "recovery ride". The talk was 80km of flattish roads. We had a delayed start because I had to go to town for brake pads to go with the wheels I was borrowing. Our recovery ride was anything but. It was hot, some of us ran low on fluids, but a stop at the store for water and ice cream made the 61 mile 3100' of climbing day feel better. This would be out last day in Albertville. In the morning we would be riding to our next hotel.

  The day would see us tackling the Col de Madelaine and the Col du Grand Cucheron. With our final destination in Allevard. The Madelaine was one of the most scenic climbs, though it was not easy. The climbs are marked  every kilometer counting down and giving you the gradient for the next km. When I saw 9% then 10% and another 10%, it was a relief to 6%. That's when you know you are not in Delaware anymore.
It was yet another hot day but there was a nice lunch to be had before the descent.
After lunch it was a 20k descent followed by 20k of flat before the last climb.
 By the time we hit the last climb it was really hot, and it seemed to take its toll on a lot of us. I was hurting, but managed to recover a bit before the end. On our roll in to town we hit a detour. They were tar and chipping the road. The detour entailed back tracking a half a km, then a short steep climb followed by some rollers and down a very rustic road to put us back on track.
   The hotel was nice, the food was great, and it was still Hot, with no A/C, but the next day was going to be Awesome. We had a nice 80km ride to Alpes D Huez. We stopped in Bourg d'Oisans before the climb. Since we were staying on the top, there was no need to hold back. Alpes D Huez is not the hardest climb, but it is for sure the most Iconic. The first 5-6km are pretty steep, but then it eases up to a more reasonable 6%.

  After we gathered on the top, we made our way to the hotel. Le Caribou, was our home for the night. After a shower we all found our way to the deck to watch the tour.
It really doesn't get any better than riding Alpes D' Huez, staying on the top, and drinking a beer while watching the tour. This was truly turning into the trip of a lifetime. Later that night it stormed. Thunderstorms in the Alpes are awesome, plus it really cooled things off. The next day we woke up to bright sunshine, cooler temps and this view,
  We were above the clouds, pretty awesome. It did take away from the view of our ride that morning, but it was still cool.

 Today was when we start following, or I should say proceeding the tour. The plan was to climb the Col du Glandon from the other side. I'm not sure if I was getting more fit, or if it was the cooler temps, but I felt incredible that day. Don't get me wrong there were some really tough stretches, but I never seemed to struggle. I caught up with Richard and next thing I know, we were being stopped. They were shutting down the roads. Are you fucking kidding me, I am having the ride of my life and I have to stop? We were warned this could happen, but Man... We managed to sneak our way through a few check points and eventually made it to the summit. Thinking we were home free we started the descent. It wasn't long until I realized why they didn't want people riding, there were lots of pedestrians about.

  We made it about 6k before we were stopped again, this time until the race was through. It wasn't all bad. Martin was there with the van, which had all our stuff in it, there was a food stand, beer, and TV to watch the tour until it came by us.

Plus the weather was good and the view wasn't bad either.

 We watched the tour on TV until the leaders went over the top, then made our way to seem them come by.
  Finally 20 minutes after all the riders came by, they let us go. It was a long day, but Totally worth it.

 Our next stop was the village of Le Chambre, which would be our home for the rest of the trip. The good was the location was perfect, the bad, was the hotel wasn't the best.

  I was really excited about the next days ride. It was stage 19, the stage I raced in the Etape. Our plan was to ride what may be my favorite climb.  Des Lacets Mountverier.

 It is only 3.4 km, but it averages almost 9%, and it ties into the Col du Chaussy , which we had to ride the last 10k of. It was fun, since we were all very competitive while riding it. We then made our way back to the hotel for front row seats of the tour that day.
 My balcony gave me an awesome view of the race as it came through.
 The GC leaders rolling through.

  The next day was my last riding day, so it was go big or go home. We all decided on an early start to avoid getting stuck on course. The climb that day was Col de la Croix de Fer. Like all of the climbs in the Alps, the average gradient is very deceptive. There was some descending and flat, which means a lot of 9 and 10% for all 28km. We managed to get to the top quicker than expected and avoided the road closings. We got back to the hotel in time for lunch and to watch the tour ride the climb we just did.

  We all celebrated the end of our trip that night with Pizza and beer. I have to say it truly was a trip of a life time. I met a lot of cool people and rode some of the most unbelievable roads and climbs in the world. I can't thank the guys from Alpine Cadence enough. John Thomas, Nick McLoughlin, and Martin Rowe. These guys made everything seamless. I also want to thank Alex Mant for inspiring me to take on this adventure. I just hope I get to do a trip like this again in the not so distant future.

Thanks for reading

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Etape du Tour and riding in France Part 1...

 It has been a very long time since I wrote a blog post, mostly been training for my latest adventure.

  A few years ago I heard about Rachael's sister Alex riding an event called the Etape du Tour. I kept saying that one of these days I would come over and do it with her. That day came this year. I registered for the event way back in November, then signed on with Alpine Cadence to handle the logistics. This was going to be a trip of a lifetime. I was going to ride the Hardest stage at this years Tour de France, then get to ride some of the most iconic climbs in the French Alpes.

 Training for something like this is tough, we have no big mountains around here, so I just tried to ride a lot. Long miles and as many hills as I could find. I worked pretty hard and on July 16, I was as ready as I was going to get.

 This was the first of several places we would stay on the trip. It was a Gite ran by a lovely Scottish couple. Despite not having A/C, there is no A/C in France, this was my favorite spot. They were great hosts and the food was out of this world.

 After arriving and assembling bikes, we kind of chilled out. On Saturday we did a little ride then headed to the Finishing Village to get our bib plates and goodies. They had a wall with every registered riders name on it, you can imagine the size of it with 15,000 names.

 They gave us this very handy cue sheet, it was nice to know where the water stops were and how far it was to the tops of the climbs.
  With 15,000 riders signed up, they started you in groups of 1,000, I was supposed to start in pen 10, I managed to get into pen 3 with Alex. Since the time cut offs started with the first wave of racers, being in the back put you in a pretty deep hole right from the start. 

 Finally our time came and we were off. It wasn't long before we hit the Col du Chaussy, 3km in, I tried to go easy knowing it was a long day ahead. I felt pretty good on the first climb, I just hoped I wasn't burning too many matches early. About half way down the first descent my front wheel started feeling weird while braking. I carried on through the only "flat" stretch of the race, and checked it at the stop before the climb up the Col du Glandon and realized it was warped and starting to crack from the heat build up while descending. I knew there was a Mavic neutral support at the top, so my only hope to finish was that they had a wheel I could use. By now it was starting to get quite hot. Despite drinking vast quantities of fluids I was struck with cramps. This was bad, I had a long way to climb and my legs were locking up. I would stop, get off, stretch, walk a little, then ride until the cramps came back, then repeat the process as necessary. 

 This was taken during a cramp session on the Glandon. It was a beautiful climb despite the difficulty. 

  I finally made it to the summit and found the Mavic support. They actually had 1 front wheel left. The problem was it was flat, and the guy could barely get the valve stem adapter on to put air in it. This process took about 30 minutes, I wasn't complaining since this was my only chance to finish. I finally was able to hit the descent. After about 10k into the 20k descent my back wheel started doing the same thing. It got so bad I had to stop about 6 k from the bottom and remove the brake pad and finish the descent on just a front brake. Knowing I wouldn't need it for the last climb up La Toussier. 

  The last climb was brutal. It started steep and it was very hot. I was battling cramps once again, but I knew I was close to the end so I  pushed through. Luckily the last 3k eased up a bit and i was able to finish strong.

    So seeing how there were 13,500 starters and only 9788 finishers, I was happy to cross the line in the top 4500. It took me 9:00 but I figure I lost 45 minutes with cramps and wheel issues. This was without a doubt the hardest thing I've ever done on a bike, and I still had 7 days of riding in the Alps ahead. How the hell was I going to recover and pull that off? What was I going to do for wheels?

 To be continued,


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Lots Of Riding And A New Adventure On The Horizon...

 I am now just over 4 months post surgery and things are going well. I still have days where it doesn't feel great, but for the most part I'm feeling a bit more normal. I've been riding as much as I can, and I am really enjoying my new mountain bike.
 I like it so much I've decided to sell my Ti Lynskey. $3000.00 if you know anyone interested.

 My sister in law Alex started riding 5 or 6 years ago and has done several rides in the French Alps and Pyrenees. One such ride is the Etape du Tour.  This year I am joining here in France for the Etape, plus the tour package with Alpine Cadence. I am super excited about this trip, it should be an awesome adventure. To think we will be riding the most famous climbs of the Tour de France, come of them before the tour itself comes through.

 The only thing I need to do now is get in shape so I can enjoy the ride instead of just suffering through.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Back Ridin and Back to Work, But Still a Ways to Go

  I am A Free Man. Well, not really, but I no longer have to go to PT and the doctor released me and I am back to work. But most important is, I am back on the bike, even the mountain bike. I still have a lot of work to do to get back to 100%, but I am able to do most of the things I love. Still no climbing, that is another 6 weeks away, but I will get there.

 I finally got to take my new mountain bike our for a ride. So far so good. I have to say Carbon is sweet, I haven't had something that stiff since I was 18. Looking forward to plenty of multi park rides as soon as my fitness shows itself again.

  Lauri and I have also been making progress on our Mason Dixon Trail project. We had one horrible stretch, poorly marked and over grown, but we got through it. Our last section was my favorite so far. It took us from Havre de Grace to the Coniwingo dam, and most of it was trail through the Susquehanna State Park. We are now 78.5 miles into the 196 mile long trail. Our hikes will be harder to come by with me back to work,  but we will make it happen. It is all new territory from here so it should be fun.