France: Cool doors

I’m starting a photo series called My Bike in Front of Cool Doors. It’s a social experiment to see how many people unfollow my Instagram after seeing the 18th photo of my bike in front of a cool door.

Saint Dizier, France

France: Espressos, pastries, chocolate

As the days wear on, the early race jitters have faded and I’ve relaxed into a pace I think I can sustain for the duration of the race. Knowing there will be no rest days until Istanbul and terrain of unknown (but significant) difficulty ahead, I’ve opted for a somewhat conservative start, leaving time to stop for many an espresso, pastry, and photo opportunity, even while cycling for most all of the day. It’s becoming clear that in a race like this, time spent on the saddle means more than pace alone. If putting a bit less power in each pedal stroke during a rainstorm with a headwind allows you to bike an hour longer before keeling over, you’ll cover more miles by days end with less soreness the following morning – a worthy tradeoff.

Espresso
Espresso, Europe’s preferred sports drink
Pastry
This pastry cost me about $2. In San Francisco it would cost $7 and contain numerous barista mustache hairs.

The rains and headwinds that slowed my progress in the first three days have fallen away, with temperatures warming as I head further south. The town of Tournus proved a great place to stop for lunch and an espresso as I approached Lyon:

I gave myself ten minutes for this aquatic chocolate break… many more miles to cover before dark:

France: Bridges

Cycling along a river is a delight, until you have to cross it, which can lead to complications…

I decided not to cross this bridge:

IMG_4980

Conveniently, this river had a bridge that hadn’t crumbled into it:

France bridge

France: Approaching Mt. Ventoux

Today’s soggy weather along the 150 miles from Lyon to Bedoin inspired new games to play. Rules: Every time a truck passes at breakneck speed and splashes you with puddle water, you shout “THANK YOU SIR, MAY I HAVE ANOTHER!” I made it to 12 points before declaring myself winner and quitting. Eventually the rains parted and my progress was rewarded with a sunset over vineyards and the first glimpse of Mont Ventoux, “the Beast of Provence” which I’ll be summiting tomorrow. Ventoux claimed the life of one of Britain’s great cyclists, Tom Simpson, in the ’67 Tour de France when he collapsed one kilometer from the summit, though cause of death was a combination of heat exhaustion and amphetamines, neither of which will be part of my ride. Looking forward to the stage ahead as I forge into the Alps. À bientôt!

First glimpses of The Beast of Provence in the distance. It will offer the first challenging climb tomorrow.
Fleeting daylight brings color over vineyards – a welcome finish to a long and rainy day.

France: Summiting Mt. Ventoux

Many sights, miles, and vertical feet in the past two days. Yesterday began with a rigorous climb out of Bedoin to tackle the notoriously steep south side of Mont Ventoux and reach the Transcontinental’s first checkpoint at its summit. In just 13 miles, the road rises 5,300 vertical feet, which has you straining against the pedals, often standing out of the saddle to keep the bike moving forward. Sustaining that effort for two hours makes the legs a bit wobbly toward the finish. After descending from the peak, 40 miles of afternoon riding brought me to a good stopping point in the small village of Laragne-Montéglin. With a bit of gas left in the tank, I was torn over whether to keep riding into the night but with the promise of colder mountain air, steep climbs, and more sparse and expensive accommodations up ahead, I decided to hedge my bets and get some rest.

The striking natural scenery along the road up Mt. Ventoux is marred only by discarded energy gel wrappers of cyclists past. Multi-lingual graffiti appearing every few feet on the tarmac appears to equally encourage and discourage you from continuing the ascent:

Descending Mt. Ventoux at high speed still took over a half hour. A cold breeze meant sporting several additional layers:

Having defeated Ventoux in the morning, it only seemed right to take the rest of the day off, but this is a race after all and with many competitors pulling further ahead, I knew I needed to make moves. I spent much of the afternoon recovering while spinning a steady pace through purple lavender fields, offering a complete sensory overload of sights and smells. As evening struck, inclines once again grew steeper as a series of canyons welcomed me to the foothills of the Alps:

France: Alps day

Today’s 90 hard-earned miles led me up into the Alps, past vineyards, turquoise lakes and rivers, hilltop castles and medieval towns, and then up steep switchbacks over a mountain pass that runs along the Italian border. I’m enjoying the new cuisine already, as I write in between bites of ravioli. Truly a day to remember! Rest should come easily tonight.

The colors of the water in this region really puts Gatorade Glacier Freeze™ to shame…