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.

Riding with a Pro with a purpose: Part 2

Our newly assembled team would be riding for the dZi Foundation a nonprofit that provides raw materials and training needed to help underserved communities in the remote regions of Nepal.

In mid July, I joined Scott on one of Studio Velo's memorable cycling trips in the beautiful Pyrenees of Spain. We rode everyday and after a bit of R and R around the pool, would sit down to one of Chef Ritchie's infamous dinners. Despite his demanding schedule,Scott was even able to take time out to  wipe the Nair on and take the hair off. 

I had five days of great rides with Scott, Colin and the gang. This was my second time to the Pyrenees and it is just as beautiful as I remembered it. The climbs can be steep and challenging while the rolling rides along the Costa Brava coastline are stunning. One thing you can always expect when riding in this area. The roads are great and in general the Spanish drivers are quite courteous. Along the way you can anticipate finding a little cafe bar  for a caffeine boost or a small local restaurant for some great Spanish food. 

On Friday afternoon we loaded up the car with our Cyfac Absolu bikes for  the race, said our goodbyes to everyone and headed north for our 7 hour drive to Orelle, France, host country to our 3-day pro-am race. 

We had a long six plus hour drive from Girona, Spain, to Orelle in the French Alps. Broke up the drive with a couple of stops for some of that fine institutionalized "home cooking" at the ubiquitous Auto Grills. We reached our destination around 12:30 am and to our surprise we were some of the first to arrive. Our teammates Thomas ,Craig and Chris together with the rest of the teams were flying in to Lyon from London on a chartered flight and they wouldn't reach Orelle until after 2am. It had been a long day and a comfortable bed was pretty appealing. The next morning we all gathered for breakfast with the exception of Thomas who was noticeably MIA. We planned an early warm up ride, but first we had to find and wake up Mr. Newmeyer. Needless to say he was totally sound asleep having not gotten to bed until after 3am. I think he was still half asleep when he got him down to his bike!

Riding the "Tour de France" with our Pro Craig Lewis

What would it be like to compete in the Tour de France? Whether one is a casual or serious rider, we all have had that dream as we watch the best in the world compete on the cycling world's center stage. Unfortunately for most of us the chance to compete in that arena is only left to dreams.

My dream, and those of my four amateur teammates, was realized this summer as we were invited  to compete in Les Trois Etapes a grueling three stage race in the French Alps consisting of 10 six person teams ( five amateur and one pro ) racing for a sponsored charity.

Our challenge would be to race some of the classic Alpine climbs of the Tour de France including Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier, Alpe d'Huez and Col de la Madeleine. In three days we would cover more than 200 miles and climb over 25000 feet. Each team would have its own support car with a two person crew, team radios and complimentary masseurs. To enhance the experience there would be rolling road closures and television camera crews to record the event.

Our team consisted of five Studio Velo riders: Scott Penzarella, Thomas Newmeyer, Craig Parker, Chris Maddox and myself.

Our assigned pro would be Craig Lewis, member of Columbia HTC that won the team time trial in the 2011 Giro di Italia, who currently races for Champion Systems

Our story is as much about our adventure as it is about doing something amazing on the bike for ourselves and our friends in Nepal. We hope you enjoy the read. This is a multi-part blog, with more content and photos coming daily. 

Enjoy our Endless Ascent. 

Studio Velo Spanish Adventure: Day 6 - to arrive in this world

To wake in Catalunya, in the Spanish countryside with coffee brewing and your breakfast being whipped up by a professional chef, is to have arrived--in my estimation.   After breakfast we were off on a twenty minute jaunt to start our ride start in the countryside.  While the 9 women on the ride were rearing to go, Colin was fluttering around looking for this, looking for that--hairbrush, mascara, foundation--and we ladies had fun harassing him. 

Most of the menfolk had been tasked with dropping a van at the ride destination in Roses for the benefit of beaching and beers post ride. Colin, Steve, Marni, Rachael, Petra, Sandy, Mo, Nina, Deanna, Jasmine and Sarah set off at a very civilized pace through some beautiful back country roads.  The landscape was open and wild, and was very reminiscent of the hinterlands of Mexico.  Given the similarities, the Spanish must have felt right at home when conquering the Americas.  Despite thousands of years of civilization, it is heartening to know that such truly wild (except for us riding through on a finely paved road) expanses still exist.

As Colin and Scott had warned, the creamy dreamy pavement of Spain gave way instantaneously to a bone rattling, kidney disheveling descent just about the moment we crossed the border into France--similar to the way that the pavement disintegrates on Sir Francis Drake the moment you cross into Samuel P. Taylor State Park.  After the not insignificant climb, we felt we deserved better.  My brakes were howling like a tortured hyena.  It had gone from bad to worse by the time we got to the bottom where we regrouped at the old fashioned water pump conveniently placed in the middle of precisely nowhere.  This clearly used to be “somewhere”, for a critical (and beautiful) piece of infrastructure such as this was surely an important crossroads in days of old. 

While waiting, the antique roadie who had crested the climb with us flew by in a rather precarious state.  He was covered in blood, fairly pouring from his helmet, down his face and front.  Petra attempted assistance with a hearty “Hey!!  Are you okay??” but to no avail.  He rode off into France, never to be seen again. 

We hooked up with the rest of the crew at a cafe in a beachside town in France, and began another big climb, reunited once again.  The pace had inexplicably picked up again now that the men were back...alas, these were gorgeous climbs and one was always assured of having inspiration to try harder, or a friend to endure with should the legs fail to respond.  Lunch back in Spain was fabulous, though too large for the ensuing--you guessed it--CLIMB.  This climb was accompanied by a fierce, hot, hellish headwind that made me want my mommy.  Fortunately, Ron was there and offered his wheel to Nina and I for the entire suffering duration until at last we were in Roses where Ritchie and beers and the beach and my bikini awaited.


Again, “Esta es La Vida”.  This is the life.

Tomorrow:  Last day :(  we ride Roca Corba outside Banyoles.  Apparently the local Spanish and French pros train here.  Maybe I’ll be at the cafe....







Studio Velo Spain Adventure: Day 5 - Mare de deu & Chocolate Cake

While the hardcorians opted to ride up to the monastery, 50% of us were more of the relaxarian type.  We hit the beach in Sant Marti de Empuries.  Mark, Petra, Mo, Sandy, Jerry, Rachael and Marni, set off properly outfitted with towel, sunscreen, book, a fistful of euro and an eye for the nearest chaise/umbrella combo.  Within 200 yards of the parking lot after a quick 20 minute drive, we found our paradise and set up shop.  10 euro each felt like the best money ever spent for this view of the Med.  Families with children frolicking in the surf, lovers strolling in their own amorous universe, tan and rotund old men, topless ladies of varying shapes and sizes--all were represented.  

After a difficult couple of hours reading, daydreaming (about not being on a climb in 100 degree heat), we collectively yawned, stretched, and decided it was time for lunch.  A quick stroll up behind the multi-hundred year-old church and voila--three beautiful restaurants to choose from.  I suspected our choice would be the “fleece the tourist” variety, but it was utterly delightful and we spent a full two hours perfecting this new level of “I’m On Vacation”.  After lunch and a quick walk around town, it was back to our spots for a full-on snooze-athon. 

With all the work we had done, we clearly deserved a nice dinner, so after a couple of hours back at the villa (how I do love saying that--“back at the villa”...), we headed into Bascara for Chef Ritchie/Chris’ only night off.  Bascara is at the confluence of France and Spain and the cuisine is reflective of the location.  Our dining room held one beautiful long table with high-backed chairs and a view out onto the narrow town streets. 

Ritchie/Chris ordered white, rose, and red for us to try, and the tapas began to flow freely.  We had calamari, bread, grilled local veggies with goat cheese, clams, and mussels.  We had our choice of turbot (white fish from the Med), fillet of another white fish from the North Atlantic, grilled rib-eye, or braised pork.  I chose the pork and was not disappointed.  Ron had the rib-eye, and therefore I had a taste of that as well.  Also fabulous. 

There had been the equivalent of a whisper campaign all week regarding the chocolate cake at this place.  When it came time to order dessert, Scott implied that there were only just so many of those crown jewels available, so you had better really want, and furthermore DESERVE to have this chocolate cake.  The other options were orange cake, local ice cream (torrone--hazelnut), flan, a goat cheese/honey dish and maybe one other that currently eludes me.  The orange cake was drizzled with heavenly chocolate, was moist and beatifically orange-y.  While the chocolate cake was indeed good, I have to saw that mine was better.  Scott later admitted that the shortage in the house was actually on the orange cake rather than the chocolate, and that he and the waitress were in cahoots to herd us into choosing appropriately.  

Properly stuffed, we headed back to the villa and retired to dreams of more climbing the next day.

Tomorrow: RocaCorba.  Apparently it is going to be a torture-fest for our final send off.