FINIS - The Trois Etapes Race of a Lifetime

The Trois Etapes charity race was a special and successful event in so many ways. What started out as an idea early in 2012 became a reality this past July. It gave the riders who were fortunate enough to participate an opportunity to race 'like the pros' and do it with a charitable goal. 


In the end we were all winners raising over $1.5 million for the participating charities. This is no small sum for the numbers involved. 

Personally I want to extend sincere thanks to my teammates: Thomas Newmeyer, Scott Penzarella, Craig Parker, Chris Maddox and our pro Craig Lewis. They all stepped up big time both as competitors and fundraisers. I also want to extend a very personal thanks to my good friend Scott Penzarella and the team at Studio Velo


As background, Studio Velo kick started my cycling journey 5 years ago and it has been a great ride ever since. Our dZi/Studio Velo Endless Ascent team would not have become a reality without the SV commitment. Lastly I would like thank Jim Nowak , founder and President of the dZi Foundation, whose tireless efforts over the past 12 years has focused my attention, and those of countless others, on the remote village people of Eastern Nepal. 

Together the EA (Endless Accent)  team and our supporters raised over $130,000 for these wonderful people.  Thanks to everyone who got involved !


Bill Keller

ETAPE THREE: " THE DESSERT'

Col de la Madeleine.                                  

This would be our last stage which was anything but sweet. We would have a 20 mile flat section before attacking the timed GC section of the Madeleine. A 12 mile climb ascending almost 5000 feet.


Today it was my day to step up  and duplicate the great riding that my  teammates had put down the past two days. I was determined not to disappoint them. As was the protocol from yesterday, each team could send out two of its riders early with the rest of the team following shortly thereafter. Craig Parker and myself along with Jim Nowak from dZi set off.


I had my game face on right from the beginning and was determined not to let anyone pass me!  The rest of our team was sent off a short time later.

 

Scott and Thomas, our indefatigable leaders, had a chance to get their photo taken along the way. I've never known Scott to pass up a photo opportunity!

 

 

 

As my trainer Jason told me going into this event, you are going to have to turn yourself "inside out" to reach your maximum. He also said when your at that point float like a feather. I now know what he truly means. This was definitely the hardest ride and effort I have ever put down. About 3 miles from the top, I got the final inspiration I needed from Thomas,Scott and Craig Lewis who were closing in on me yelling " GO Bill ". They shortly reached me and joined in to give me their moral and physical support. I will always remember Thomas leaning over and relating the little train that could story:


" I think I can. I think I can. I know I can. I know I can. " The final two miles, with Scott and Thomas on either side rooting me on and watching me dig deep, will remain an unforgettable moment for me. We crossed the finish line together. I had given everything I had for the TEAM !

When the rest of the team reached the summit we had quite a bit to celebrate. A great event. A great day. A great climb. What more could a cyclist ask for? 

ETAPE TWO: " THE MAIN COURSE "

     Col du Telegraphe - Col du Galibier - Alpe d'Huez



Day two was going to be the main event or in the words of the race director the main course of a three course meal. This stage would cover about 70 miles with a net elevation gain in excess of 10,000 feet. Once again it would be a TT trial climbing two Cols the Telegraphe and the Galibier. In addition riders would be able to ride individually for time up Alpe d'Huez. This is the climb that gave Carlos Sastre the Tour win in 2008. Turn 17 was renamed in his honor and he would be returning to that climb for the first time since his victory. For today's and tomorrow's stage the 5th and 6th riders were allowed to leave a few minutes early and reconnect with the team along the way. Our plan was for Chris to, once again, be the 4th rider up the Telegraphe and then either Craig or myself would slot in as the 4th for the Galibier.

Craig Lewis and Scott took a moment to pose for the camera before the start of the race.


Craig and I left early and road up with Jim Nowak, founder of the dZi Foundation, who had been invited by the organizers and Carlos Sastre to ride today's stage. Our team met up with us at the top of the Telegraphe where we took a quick break with the rest of the teams, shed some jackets and refuel. 

Chris had done a stellar job yesterday and this morning, but not without a price. He was visibly tired and it was time for either Craig or myself to come forward. Craig took off his jacket and said he was ready to step in as number 4. The Galibier was going to be a tough climb , an ascent of almost 4000 feet over 12 miles. Craig was up for the challenge and put in a spectacular effort up this difficult but beautiful mountain. Scott put it best: " Craig dug deep!"

In the end it all distills down to teamwork and this photo describes the essence of camaraderie.


When Chris and I reached the summit of the Galibier we were greeted by our teammates who once again finished in a respectable fifth place. Great job team!


ETAPE ONE : " THE APPETIZER "

Col de la Croix de Fer - Col du Glandon

We awoke to a spectacular day in the Maurienne valley.  After breakfast we all changed and met down at the team car for some photos and getting our bikes ready.  It was a very festive mood with 60 plus riders , camera crews, logistical staff and the star of the show Carlos Sastre, 2008 Tour de France winner and lead pro for the Trois Etapes event.Each team would set out at three minute intervals. Our Endless Ascent team would be team number nine today so while we waited our turn we took the time to take some photos with Carlos Sastre and acknowledge a couple of our sponsors.

We knew that going into this race that our strongest riders for the three day event would obviously be our assigned pro, Craig Lewis, Scott and Thomas. It would be up to Chris Maddox, Craig Parker or myself to step up and be the all important 4th rider. Whilst we were all willing, we knew that it would only be determined once we were out on the road and whoever felt the best. Our start time was rapidly approaching so while some of us were dancing with "butterflies" Craig Lewis sent some tweets and our team captain,Thomas, checked with our team car for any last minute instructions.

The moment of truth was upon us as we were called to the line and told we had one minute to our start time. For me, it was a very nervous moment. "Was I ready? Had I trained enough?" What I did know going into this was that I didn't want to let down my teammates. Before I had a chance to question anything else we were told to GO !


And we were off. Craig Lewis and Scott set the initial pace and the rest of us tucked in behind. My race was nearly over before we really got rolling. My nervousness must have got the best of me for a moment as I caught some gravel and almost went down. I caught myself but not before my heart rate shot up about 50 bpm. That cured me of the butterflies and I was quickly back in our group.

  

We continued a fast pace for a couple of miles, and it soon became evident that Chris was the stronger of the three of us and it would be up to him to fill the 4th spot. Craig and I said our goodbyes as the four pushed on towards the summit. We would conserve our energy and vie to race anther day

.

Craig and I let off on the throttle and decided to conserve our energy for the next 2 stages. As we continued to climb we rode through a number of small villages and passed various riders from other teams. 


It took us about one and a half hours to reach the summit where we were greeted by our teammates. It was great to see them and find out that they had finished fifth on the day.


Cyfac custom bikes, race radios and pre-race nerves...

We all met down in the staging area where we had a chance to see our chase car, check over our bikes and test the race radios. Check  out the beautiful race machines produced by hand one at a time right here in France:  Cyfac Absolu frame sets, equipped with the latest Shimano Ui2 and Mavic's lightest (clincher) climbing wheels, the R-sys SLR.  Boy were we ever being spoiled. Not event the best pros are riding bikes so fancy. 





While everyone got ready, Craig Parker primed his engine ( the big quads! ) and waited to launch his beautiful Cyfac machine. Our goal for today was a training ride on the Col du Telegraphe. This beautiful +2500 feet climb winds through a dense forest with captivating views of surrounding peaks around every turn. We were ready to ride, particularly Thomas who was now wide awake and raring to go.

The weather couldn't have been better and it felt great to get out and stretch the legs.



Nick, our Australian chase car driver, followed us to the top keeping other vehicles at bay , taking photos and keeping us hydrated. He was a great addition to our team and brought that element of Aussie humor that we all appreciated.

It took us about an hour to reach the top of the Col where we all took a little break and had some refreshments. We descended back to the resort for lunch and late that afternoon we gathered with all of the other team riders and event organizers to watch the Olympic road race from London.


Afterwards the organizers reviewed the logistics for the start of the race and the racing format which would be a team time trial with each team receiving the time of its fourth rider across the line. This would be the format throughout the three day event which meant that teamwork would be the key to success as each team would be only as good as its fourth rider. We followed the group discussion with dinner and a massage then on to bed for hopefully a good nights sleep as we had a lot to focus on for tomorrows start.