I’m convinced Lycra has some effect on brain chemistry.
There’s something about putting on a cycling kit that makes people want to take a normally pleasurable activity, like riding a bike, and turn it into something completely awful, like riding a bike over mountains and pedaling so hard you keep throwing up a little in the back of your throat.
I don’t know why exactly this is, but cyclists (myself included) love to suffer.
With that bit of knowledge, now I can tell you about my upcoming “vacation”, which will be either horrible, or awesome, or both at the same time. As part of my 50th birthday present, Stef is sending me to France, to ride all of those famous and agonizing climbs I’ve watched for years in the Tour.
Wisely, Stef herself wanted no part of this idiocy. So she’s sending me to France with my riding buddy Steve. Steve normally drops me before we’ve hit the end of the driveway, and he’s riding much better than normal lately. He’s training for some really long and difficult events later this summer. So, in addition to the suffering on the bike, I also get to be humiliated daily when Steve finishes in half the time that I do.
So what exactly are we doing? We’re headed on a self-guided tour put together by Cyclomundo, who specializes in this kind of thing. Basically, they arrange meals and lodging, and transport our luggage from hotel to hotel, while providing us with a cycling route and a mechanic. We’re bringing our own bikes, and our job is simply to ride from A to B.
That sounds easy enough until you realize that we’ll be taking the most deliberately difficult routes possible between those points. We’ll be going over these (and other) climbs:
- Mont Ventoux (people have actually died of exhaustion climbing this one)
- Col d’Izoard
- Col du Galibier
- Col du Lauteret
- Col de la Madeleine
- And Alpe d’Huez (like 6 times. No, really)
The final day of our trip, we’ll actually be racing. It’s an event called la Marmotte, and it’s like a really bad (or awesome) day in the Tour de France. It’s about 108 miles with somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 feet of climbing. Steve said “that might actually be a good practice ride”, so I know it’s going to be insanely difficult.
Since “Schadenfreude” is a real thing, I know you want to hear all about how miserable I am, so here’s what I’m going to do. Each day, as I start riding, I’ll send out a link to a live map on our Twitter feed. Yeah, it will be the middle of the night for most of our readers, but the insomniacs can watch me live, and the map will stay live for 24 hours at least. The map data will look something like this:
Our Twitter feed is also where I’ll be doing most of my bitching. If you tune in, you can expect complaining about how hard it is, complaining about how hot it is, complaining about how my legs hurt, complaining about how the air conditioning is (or isn’t), and any other complaining I can manage to tweet out. See? Complaining my way across France. I’ll also take those tweets and use them to post up a couple summaries here on the blog.
The fun starts tomorrow when I jet off to Paris hoping the TSA doesn’t completely destroy my bike. Be warned TSA, I’m taking lots of pictures showing that I packed my bike in one piece. I’m also bringing my pedals separately in case I open my bike case and find it full of carbon splinters, and then have to buy a new bike ASAP in France. (Although “Emergency Bike Shopping in France” would be a good blog in its own right.)
Wish me luck!