Category Archives: Tdf trip planning

Information on seeing the Tour de France in person, including the process I go through myself each year- figuring out the TdF route, finding places to stay, rental cars, trains & more.

It just might not be my year… time to let go of being Forrest Gump?

The picture may be fuzzy but not the memory. Turning 61 today put me in a reflective mood. I put replays of Tour de France stages on the shop TV, recalling stages I’d seen in person… in this case, Ventoux from this past year, the stage where Froome, Porte and Mollema ran into the back of a suddenly-stopped official’s motorcycle, wrecking Froome’s bike (causing him to run up the mountain on foot, something never seen before at the Tour de France).

The end of Forest Gump? I’ve been there so many times, but it might be coming to an end. Since 2000, I’ve been to the Alps or Pyrenees for every TdF except one (the year Sastre won, and did that really count?). I was there, at the exact spot, where Lance gave “the look” to Ulrich. I was just 50 meters away from the carnage on Ventoux. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. OK, maybe not the last.

This year it likely comes to an end, like tears in the rain. The demands of brick & mortar retail, as well as the finances, likely won’t allow me to go. Some of the biggest suppliers in the industry have gone out of their way to undercut the local bike shop by charging us higher prices than other venues, venues that provide little in the way of support for cycling in general and the customer in particular. Any idea of taking it easier as I, er, mature (if 61 is considered mature) has gone out the window. But that’s just background; it could have been anything that derailed my ridiculous obsession with seeing bike racing in France first-hand.

I haven’t completely given up. I’ve drawn up contingency plans, a shorter trip (just 8 days instead of the usual 13). It would likely be solo, as my son, who’s traveled with me the past 7 trips, has a summer school class he needs to take. It hardly seems worthwhile though, doing something less-than-optimal and wondering if I’d be doing it just because it was an obsession, not something enjoyable.

If you’ve ever thought about seeing the TdF in person, and if you’re in any way compulsive or establish routines that become rituals, don’t. It’s unbelievable how easily you could get sucked in. The atmosphere is incredible. The roads amazing. The people friendly. And the sport itself, the spectacle, well that just blows away any notion of what’s humanly possible on a bike. Doped or not.

Turning 61 today, I figured maybe I would have an easier time giving up on the ‘Tour. More maturity, less obsession, time to move on. An earlier Plan B involved me heading to the Giro d’Italia in place of the Tour de France. The idea being, something different, something happening at a less-busy time for the shop. Even if that could have worked out, this winter convinced me the last thing I wanted to do was head to the mountains in Italy in May, while there’s still a really good chance for extremely-cold & nasty weather. Another way of saying I’m done with winter, and I hoped that writing about it might help. Didn’t work out that way!

(Back on Oct 31 2013, I included something in a blog piece regarding my “Forrest Gump” nature- “Ah, the “Where’s Waldo” thing. That’s because I was there. I was at each of Lance’s Tour de France rides starting from 2000-on. I was at the first USPS training camp that Lance attended. In 2007 I was outside the hotel in Pau moments before Vinokourav was busted for blood doping and his team sent packing. I was there for Lance’s “comeback” TdFs, where many of us had this sense that Lance was trying to prove to people that he could win, clean. I was in France August 25th of last year, when it all came tumbling down. I was in Austin Texas, at Lance’s bike shop, the day his sponsors pulled out. I’m either Waldo or Forest Gump.)

Catching up on Tuesday & Thursday’s rides

Tuesday on the left, Thursday on the right
Tuesday on the left, Thursday on the right
Still more catching up to do; spent some time after returning from France just getting the France stories up. Now time to get back to normal.

Normal was, for me, getting up and doing the Tuesday-morning ride, even though I’d arrived home 9:30pm the night before, massively-sleep-deprived and certainly could have had a reasonable excuse to skip the ride. But, that’s not me. That’s not how I roll. You gotta get back to the routine. So that’s what I did, waking up slightly earlier than normal, and not getting Kevin up, as he’d made it clear he wasn’t interested in doing anything but sleeping for a while. Sleep. He’s a master at sleep. He sleeps more than anyone I know. He hardly needs an excuse to sleep even more! Nevertheless, I let him sleep, while I went about the normal duties of preparing to ride.

I’d gotten a bit out of practice for bay area weather and neglected to use leg warmers (the only time we needed them in France was up on Ventoux), so when it got down to 46 degrees on Skyline, sure, the re-introduction to home riding was mildly rude. The ride up Kings was pretty fast for the first half, pretty easy for the second. Just myself, Kevin (pilot) and Eric, if I recall correctly. Most noteworthy event was Kevin (pilot) getting stung by a bee on the way up. That’s Eric approaching the top of Kings in the left picture. And yes, it felt nice being on a bike that’s about 5 pounds lighter than my travel bike!

The interesting thing for me and travel is that I get hit really hard not the day after, but two days after returning. By Thursday morning I’d fought through Wednesday’s fog though, and younger Kevin was ready to ride. Much larger group, with both Kevins, Karl, Eric, Marcus and Karen. The photo on the right is at the top of Kings, with Kevin (younger Kevin) showing everyone the photos of his brain, with various attached gizmos, taken during one of his three brain surgeries early last month. The ride itself? Moderate pace up Kings (would have been faster but Kevin had a seizure partway up), reasonably good pace the rest of the way. Felt really good to be back into the routine again.

Yet, already, I miss France. I don’t so much miss the Tour de France, at least not after seeing the drenching everyone’s gotten the last two stages. Had we been there for those stages, we would not have been having much fun! But I miss the different food, the pizzas with an egg in the middle, the Fanta & Oasis orange drinks that don’t taste at all like what we have here. I miss being able to use local trains to ride in areas further away, without having to use a car. I miss the ridiculously-late daylight hours. I miss cars that have a lot more respect for cyclists. In an odd way, it feels like I miss… home.

First year I went to France was 2000. Before that, I never traveled anywhere beyond US borders, except for one 30 minute trip south of the border. Since, I’ve been all over the world (although as far as cycling goes, just France). Australia, Thainland, China, Peru, Italy, Greece, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania. I’m sure I’m leaving out a couple more. But only France feels like home.