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.


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.