Category Archives: Ride reports (not Tu/Th)

Ride reports for everything *but* the Tuesday-Thursday morning ride

Riding well despite anti-EPO drug!

I approached today’s ride with a bit of apprehension, based on this week’s bloodwork showing that the stuff I’m taking to lower my too-high platelet count is also depressing my hematocrit level (as is expected to happen). For those not in the know, keeping your hematocrit level high is what doping is all about in competitive cycling. That EPO stuff you hear about, the stuff Lance was using, artificially raises it above your normal level, which allows your blood to carry more oxygen to your muscles. Normal hematocrit levels run between 39-48% or so. You don’t want to go too high, because your blood gets sludgy and your heart may decide it’s had enough and stop working. My hematocrit had been around 43-44% since the beginning of time, but has been gradually dropping due to the anti-EPO I’m taking, and on Friday’s test, came to 38%. Yuck.

So as I began this morning’s ride with Kevin, I wasn’t sure how slow I’d be on Old LaHonda, but figured it wouldn’t be terribly fast. Turns out I didn’t have to worry; Strava showed 22:19 which is my faster time in well over a year, and if I’d just been 4 seconds faster, it would have been a two-year best. Strange thing, that. I don’t know that this is a trend I’ll be able to buck much longer though; it’s likely my dosage is going to be increased soon, which will drop my hematocrit even more, and at some point, something’s gotta give. Either that or my body is re-wiring itself.

Just another great day for a ride in the SF Bay Area. Mid-70s, so a bit cooler than France, and no fancy French pastries or cheap huge bottles of Orangina, but the Pescadero Bakery does a good stand-in.

Tunitas? Well, we didn’t attack Tunitas like we did Old LaHonda. Seems like we both ran out of gas at some point, but a nice ride up the hill.

A great ride backward is even better! Gorges du Nan revisited

Going back in time, only in reverse. Guess that makes sense if you go back in time, right?

Exactly two years ago today, Kevin and I rode part of this ride in the opposite direction, descending through the Gorgues du Nan and thinking maybe this would be a better ride in the opposite direction. Today Larry and I proved that right. Or maybe wrong. Not sure. It was a much shorter version of what Kevin and I did in 2015, when we took the train to the beginning point and rode back to Grenoble afterward; that ride was 54 miles with about 4000ft of climbing. Today’s ride was a much shorter version, just 23 miles (we drove to the start/finish and drove back afterward) and 3400ft of climbing. Partly shorter because rain was threatening to move in this afternoon, and partly because Larry, well, let’s just say he doesn’t have many opportunities to climb much in Texas!

That’s Larry on the ground, at the top of the main climb. He’s not exactly dead, nor could he claim to be alive at this point.

Whether the ride is better in this direction or the other is up for debate; clearly the Gorges du Nan section, with its cliff road, is the payoff, and descending it puts it at the end of the ride, vs the beginning if you climb. The best case for climbing it is that you have more time to experience the insanely-built road than if you descend, and we climbed at a speed that allowed a lot of opportunity for viewing the gorge. 🙂

We started the ride in Cognin les Gorges, giving about, what, 300 meters or so before you hit the base of the hill? And when I say hill, I mean it in the meanest-possible way because this is a relentless uphill journey without any descents or even flat spots on the way up. Over 3000ft up, 3000ft down. Consider this a “compact” ride. It goes UP for about 9 miles, and it goes DOWN for about 9 miles. We did find a little village with water about 1/2 way up the climb, which was a good thing because Larry goes through water very fast. Fortunately, we were climbing at a rate where water wasn’t an issue for me, despite the fact that I’m drinking about twice what I used to do to my meds.

The views on the way up are stunning, the road surface pretty good, and the cars… well, maybe we saw 5 or 6 the entire time we were on the mountain? France is pretty amazing that way, once you get off the main roads and onto the fun stuff.

The descent doesn’t favor high speed, as it’s got a lot of corners with decreasing radii and quite a few that are even banked the opposite of how they should be, but after that long climb, it’s a pleasant relief for most. Me? Yeah, I would have liked to have climbed more, but I’m kinda nuts that way.

Post-ride Ice Cream

At the end of the ride Larry and I stopped at the same place Kevin and I had lunch before riding back to Grenoble. Two beers, a panini and ice cream later, Larry was fully revived. I chose Orangina over beer, and a Salami sandwich (but did go for ice cream too). Our last ride in France, so it made sense to celebrate a bit.

Tomorrow morning we take a train at an entirely-reasonable hour (9:15am) to Marseille for the Tour de France time trial, arriving back around 9pm. Then pack up and leave the next morning for Paris, to see the finale, and head home on Monday. I love being in France, and it’s great the Mike F, Becky and Kevin can take care of things in our Redwood City store while I’m gone, but it’s my business to get people to enjoy cycling like I do, and that’s best done in person, in a bike shop. That’s the point to Chain Reaction. –MikeJ