Thursday, August 31, 2006

Day 12- Col de la Forclaz, paragliding

Today we had the option to ride 2 hours and then wait 3 hours to watch the 17th stage of the Tour. Given our idylic lakeside accomodations, we opted out and took a shorter ride up the Col de la Forclaz. This climb was only 7 km but at a 15% grade! The views at the top were magnificant.

After the descent back to the hotel it was lunch time so we did it up with our pal Mark from OR. It was a 3 hour affair complete with two bottles of wine and lake views. Things don't get much better than this.

This was our last day on the road so we wanted to get the most out of it so after lunch we decided to try paragliding off of the mountains! Wow unreal.

L'Abbaye was one of the coolest places we have ever stayed. It is definitely worth a return visit.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Day 11- The ride to Annecy/Talloires

We had relatively short climb to begin today's moderate distance ride. From the top of col de Lascauhx we would have an epic descent into the town of Annecy. An epic descent it was. Glenn had told us this would be the best road for descenidng on the trip. He was right; at least 6-7 miles, banked turns, very smooth road surface. We hit our fastest speed averaging at least 40-45 mph, with burst of 50+.

Annecy proved to be a beautiful city set at the north end of a Lac Annecy with mountains on both sides. The city was complete with great restaurtants off of the canal from the lake. We stopped with a group for another pizza and salad lunch. This was a much bigger town than we were used to. While we thought a bigger town would be nice, we couldn't wait to leave and head to our only 4 star hotel of the trip, L'Abbaye, in Tallories.

This place was a dream come true; a beautiful, swimable lake, gorgeous rooms, lounge chairs next to the lake with drink service, and fine gourment dining. We had the good fortune to stay here two nights....we wish it would have been a week!!!!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Day 10- Ride to Beaufort on Glenn's Custom Tandem

Today was a special treat. We decided to ride Glenn Erickson's beautiful custom tandem from Albertville to the small village of Beaufort to visit the cheese factory. Theoritically this was a rest day, but we couldn't pass up a chance to ride this bike. I was anxious to ride a bike with disk brakes on the front and what a difference in stopping power!

Beaufort was a charming village and home of the Beaufort regional cheese factory. We took the 5 minute self guided much for the cheese factory.

After the "big tour" we were famished as usual so decided to settle in for lunch at one of the cute little local hotels.

This was one of the best lunches of our entire trip. Check out the fresh lake trout!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Day 9- Road to Albertville

Today's ride took us slong the valley with the first major climb of the day to the top of the Col du Cucheron. By this time in the trip the climbs seemed easier. I guess we were expecting the worse every day. The most memorable part of this day was the fabulous lunch in the small village of Raden next to a booming river. We sat down to a four course lunch for three with wine for under 40 euro; pork roast, veggies, salad and desert, along with our standard "pichet" of rose.
The ride from lunch was a bunch of fun rollers where we took advantage of Glen's wheel dragging us into our hotel next to the freeway in Albertville.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Day 8- The confused road to Allevard/Pinsot

We decided to take a little different strategy this morning; skip breakfast and leave early with a plan to eat at the first major town we hit, Vizille. So we rolled out at 7:30am and had a beautiful 40 km descent into Vizille. So far so good. We found the local grocery store and patiserie, at breakfast and then found the rest of our group had caught up. Great..... From here we turned north and road through many hillside villages, climbing on and off. We came upon a "road closed ahead" sign. In the past we continued on since bicycles are usually able to pass. Not this time. The local bridge gapping the river was out and fenced off. We turned around, climbing back up to the beginning of the descent and for the first time we were LOST. Using our very lame broken French we were able to find our way to the "other" suggested route. This was an easy ride through some larger cities finally ending up at the quaint village of Allevard. It was a VERY HOT day and beers and Perrier were in order.

Once again we had a climb to the lovely hillside hotel in Pinsot. What a crazy day.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Day 7- Alpe d'Huez---The Climb of a Lifetime

Most cycling enthusiasts only dream about riding up the great Alp d'Huez, we actually got to do it, and on a tandem. The mountain was buzzing with the tour only two days away. There were hundreds of cyclists climbing the mountain with us along with campers, vans, and other vehicles at EVERY turn. I have to hand it to the Dutch and the Germans; they were out in force and were already in party mode. Check out these two guys at turn 8, about 2/3 of the way to the top, complete with chairs, table, beers and party cranks, cheering us on "allez"!

The climb starts off at over 10% for the first few kms then settles down to around 8-9%. Each turn is marked with a number starting at 21 with the last turn as 1. On the signs are past winners of this stage. The views were spectacular. We actually rode up with a young 13 year old Belgium boy. What a stud. Who says you have to have a fancy bike, the right pedals and shoes. Needless to say he went by us about 2/3 of the way up. I don't think it was fair that his mother brought him fruit and water at every turn!

The views were stunning with mountains all around you. One can only imagine what this place is like in the winter. It took us 1 hour and 38 minutes to reach the top, only about an hour slower than Lance! What a memorable day!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Day 6- Chichillane to Vensoc

Today's ride would take us up two cols, San Sabestian and Ornon and a wicked good descent into the town of Bourg D,Osians at the base of Alpe d'Huez. The first climb was a breeze. We had determined that anything under 8 km was relatively easy. We seperated from the group for a snack along the way in one of the villages; a patisserie and a big beautiful home grown tomato and some fruit.

On the way to our lunch stop we couldn't pass up a shot of this road side greasy spoon in honor of our daughter Kelly:

After a luch of meats, cheese and fruit from the local "Casino" store we began the long gradual ascent up to the summit of the col d'Ornon.

But the descent to Bourg d'Oisan was worth it!

Bourg d'Oisan is the cycling mecca in France, especially two days before the tour arrives to climb Alp d'Huez. They have all kinds of wild things going on. Check out this 10 foot diameter frying pan perched over a real log fire. We never made it back to see the results but it smelled good!

Our hotel was 10 miles out of town but we figured it would be an easy ride....not so...a major 10% grade landed us on the doorsteps of our hotel. We had a spectacular view from our hotel room complete with a waterfall and local vegtable garden.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Day 5- Rencurel to Chichilianne

This day would prove to be one of our toughest with two major climbs; Col de Rousset and the Col de Menee. We continued our ride through the Vercor region wtih it's stunning rock cliffs. The first climb Col de Rousset was more gradual than many of the other climbs we had done and we finally got our climbing "rythum" down making the ascent seem almost easy for once. At the top we were treated to one of the grandest descents of the trip.

A long winding 2800 foot descent was a gas and put us on the northern edge of Provence as we observed the beautiful lavender fields. The temperature climbed at least 10 degrees on the way down putting temps in the low 90's....summer was here in Southern France. We had a typical Williams lunch in the town of Die...check out the local produce on these salads; a nicoisce and chevre (goat)...Yummm!

Thinking all would be easy after lunch it seemed like we climbed the remainder of the afternoon amidst a background of thunder and about 10 minutes of refreshing rain showers before eclipsing the summit of the Col de Menee. The descent to Chichilianne was fast and easy and with the thunder clouds above and the famous Mt. Aiguille in the distance, all quite dramatic. All in all a 70 mile + day with 6,000 feet of vertical climbing!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Day 4- Rencurel---Old Tour de France Route

Day four was an "official" day off. But, did we relax, NO WAY! We decided to ride the suggested "day off" ride that was part of the 2000 TDF. This was a spectacular ride up the rock walled roads and into the pine trees. The roads with "etched" with tour rider names in white paint, "Jan Ulrich, Tom Booden, etc...". The climb topped out at the famous Calvaire de Valchevriere--a memorial to those who died serving the "Resistance". The views were spectacular.

From the summit of the climb we descended down a step grade then back up slighty to the beautiful ski village of Villard de Lans. There were partook in a great pizza lunch.

After lunch we rode the dramatic rock canyons that followed the river west to our turn off before heading back UP to our hotel in Rencurel.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Day 3- July 11- Champagneux to Rencurel

The day started off nice and easy along rolling farmland until we made a wrong turn and found ourselves climbing 15% grades in the countryside just north of lake Paladru. Our goal today was the infamous Col de Romeyere in the beautiful Vercors National Park.
The climb was the toughest on the entire trip; almost 9 miles at 8-10% with hot, humid conditions. But, the scenry was aboslutely spectacular. The high pass road was literally carved out of the rock cliffs. The pictures tell the story.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

July10th- Day 2- Eloise to Champagneux

This was a big day, 74 miles and 6,000 feet of climbing. From the hotel our first stop was in Seyssel for "farmer's market" day. Wow, check out the giant rotisserie trailer and my favorite Frenchman grilling. He spoke perfect English and gave Maria and I some delicious samples of smoked chicken wings!
From here we rode south along the Rhone and climbed to one of the best vistas of the trip complete with a rock tunnel! Our lunch stop was in Chanaz at the bottom of the mountain on a beauftiful canal. From the lunch stop we climbed again this time wtih views of a beautiful vineyard valley, similar to Napa but much more expansive. The remainder of the way to the hotel brought us through lush farmland laden with corn to sunflowers.

Friday, August 04, 2006

July 9- Day 1- Ferney to Eloise

All the anticipation and waiting was over the first "official" riding began. With yesterday's warm up climb under our belt the first "COL"of many on this trip, col de faucille was not too bad. It felt like quite an accomplishment and we had only gone 20 miles! The rest of the day's ride went through beautiful pastures complete with the cows and their bells.