The Three Day Tour
The first four days really flew by and were just a type of Pre Tour to our real Tour de Suisse. To be honest I had never ridden that far, that fast or climbed so many mountains on the bike in my life. Over the first four days with the guys we covered over 300K or 180 miles. I will sum it up by saying I came to understand there were four ways we rode each day and this format would stay with us through the EPIC three day trip to come. The four ways were:
- Super easy chit chat pace-sub 35kph/21mph
- Climbing at the best possible speed you can sustain but primarily hard/kill or be killed
- Descending- as fast as possible. No holding back unless there is traffic but who cares as we’re going the same speed. This is my big weakness and I was frequently sent off early so there was no waiting at the bottom. It got better over the Tour where I was comfy flying down the Alps at 65KPH. Faster than most, slower than others.
- The Train-on the flats 40-50KPH depending on who was at the front. I must have missed a memo before going the Tour. The boys like to race the flats. Good news is that they all had excellent skills and we rotated beautifully keeping the pace up for hours on end. It still was intimidating the first few days going 45KPH for hours but the speed is actually not important as the power meter was keeping us honest.
Day five had us riding from the ski village of Leysin (homebase) to Luzern, Switzerland and we measured we would be riding about 160K today. Please remember this is not flat and in the first few hours we have to climb some mountains. The scenery is just majestic with small Swiss chalets dotting the lush green countryside and it goes on forever. The boys were all in good spirits and most of the talk had to do with the Epic day ahead in two days. The Epic day was planned at 300K/190 miles mostly rolling. This was more than twice my normal mileage and certainly not after all the previous days. But I digress. We had a great start and with each day we met blue and sunny skies. The long miles offered very little chit chat as we primarily climbed hard or rolled the flats with fast ‘threw and off’s’ as AJ puts them with one rider at the front for five minutes at a time. We were doing 43KPH in the first two hours of this ride and I was nervous I was going to blow up as we still hard over fours to go but I just ate and ate and drank and drank. Our morning breakfasts were typically coffee, espresso’s, muesli, chocolate croissant or ham croissant. We had our driver, Chaps, driving behind us with spare wheels, food and lots of water. It was cool in the morning but heated up quickly especially giving the pace. During the ride I ate Clif Shots, Mars Bars, Snickers, Clif Bars and bananas but the key was also using the electrolye drinks as it was pretty humid. We stopped very infrequently and this day had us lunching in Interlaken. We went to a shop and I ate the best lasagna ever. Each meal ended with more espressos and cake for everyone. I have suffered in the past with fueling issues on much more modest training loads so I promised myself I would just eat whatever and whenever I could and as the weakest rider in the bunch this was crucial. I did not want to end up in the SAG car with Chaps. No offense to Chaps. He is a lovely guy with a thick British accent and a penchant for loud Hawaiian shirts. Great bloke and he kept calling me Old Boy. But, he called everyone that. On the road again we headed up to Luzern which is just a lovely old Swiss city with great shows and restaurants. I wanted to go for a run (mind you we clocked 6:20 in the saddle) but once a tri head always a tri head. Camp counselor AJ put a kabash on that and said if I was to run it should be the next day as it was going to be short and easy at 140K or about 4:30 of “easy dude” riding so we are ready for the final Epic day. I listened to him and we all went out for an expensive and long dinner (Risotto and Pizza-my fave) then followed by drinks at a roof top bar. Fricking killer views of Luzern. It was one of those moments where I am thinking, ‘what am I doing on a rooftop bar in Luzern Switzerland and riding my bike to god knows where’. Surreal. Chaps and I roomed together and he was just hilarious and we got on very well despite his snoring.
We got a late start and had a nice breakfast in the hotel. I had three cups of coffee as I still was suffering from jet lag. I was so happy today was an easy day. We were supposed to keep the intensity down for 140K until we got to Konstanz, Germany. How cool is that? Riding to another country. Well what the heck is going on here? Kill or be killed again. I sat in the group a lot today taking very short pulls. We were flying through these tiny towns. I couldn’t even soak it in as I was just trying to hold the wheel in front of me. I ate a lot at about 3 hours in and wanted to get to Konstanz and go for a run so I started attacking (breaking away) from the group. They had been getting ancy at this point anyway so I took n two energy gels and went to the front and held 50KPH as long as I could. I lasted about 15 minutes solo and then the group caught back on. Seriously this was one of the most fun moments of my life. I had the Foo Fighters on earpiece, pedaling as fast as I can through beautiful empty streets of Europe and loving every second of it. I must have missed another memo that Teague was a protected rider today as he had been in the back of the group, most of the ride decided to attack on his own. Dang it here I am totally shelled after 120K today and now we are still rolling at 45KPH. It’s all I can do to concentrate on the winding roads and downhills AND those DANG roundabouts. I gave it what I could and we made it to Hotel Stadt in Konstanz. YES, my first time in Germany. The boys went for beers and I went for a run along the Rhine River (AJ said I was fucking crazy dude, we have to ride 300K tomorrow) BUT I figured I was screwed no matter what so off for a trot I went and then AJ and I found a masseuse to give us a rub for 4 5minutes. MUCH NEEDED. Oh man what a great dinner again with the guys. Great group. Pizza and more risotto and then off to bed for the Epic day. I was nervous to be honest. I had already ridden every day for six days and faster and longer than I had ever gone and now tomorrow I was going to be going 200 more miles, at that pace? I don’t get nervous before training often but I ain’t going to lie. I was nervous. More chaps snoring and we were up but BAD NEWS. Everything is closed so no coffee before the Epic ride starts. The boys were not happy. I put on my Agents hat and went and negotiated with a shop employee to open early for us. Voila we had double Illy Espressos in no time.
Away we go and the weather had been perfect for us for six days and now we were riding right into dark ominous clouds. The rain started coming down and the chill started getting into my skin. Shit, all this in the first hour and a half. I am screwed. I don’t do well in the cold and can barely imagine finishing this ride in the most perfect conditions. Chaps saves me. He comes up to me and hands me my vest out the window. How Pro? Two hour sin and the speedo tells me were are doing 40-45KPH like always. FML. How will I make it? The cold and wet is in my shoes and head. I am suffering and have the chills. Oh only 220K more to ride. AJ tells me we are stopping soon and in half an hour we stop and all get geared up. I put on my Pearl Izumi rain jacket and full finger gloves. I am happy. Off we go. I didn’t think I was going to make it really. I thought I could make it a little further to lunch and then call it a day. But at the same time I had an urge to finish this thing and the theory of GROUP THINK really comes in to play here. I was with this group for the last week every minute of every day and they wanted me to be with them so I trudged on. I didn’t take many long pulls at the front and sat in the middle a lot as well. The sun came out and we were nice and warm and passed so many great little cities and towns like Bern and Wit, pronounced Vit. These were quintessential European towns with the architecture you think you see only in movies. But shit we are doing 25 MPH through the towns and around traffic circles so it is all a blur. We stopped for a proper lunch inFribourg and I was dead. I mean I wasn’t happy and didn’t feel ike sitting on my bike anymore. We were 210K in and had another 100K or so to go. But then lunch came. I quickly downed two bottles of water, two coffees, a quiche thing and a piece of pear pie. I didn’t even taste it. I just inhaled it. Then we got going again. At this point Chaps tells us he had a slight altercation with the support car. But, it was OK. Just a fender bender. Needless to say no one on the Tour has wrecked or even had a flat. It’s been epic. We did our compulsory easy 20-30 minutes post lunch pace to let our meal digest and sit in and then it was up and go get them. After an hour or so I was the third wheel and Thomas the Train (freak of nature/uber strong/semi pro dude) peels off the front and as he drops back I hear him say, “I will go back and get him.” Certainly he didn’t think I dropped. I hadn’t dropped at all ever. OK maybe a few climbs but we were on the flats and I was good to go. After another hour Thomas is gone and we all stop. We waited and waited and it was at this point I heard AJ say something that made me nervous. He said, “I’m totally knackered mate. I feel like crap. This is farther than I have ever ridden. I reckon tomorrow’s going to suck.” Great just what I needed to hear. He was also looking through his pockets for his phone to call Thomas. But Thomas gave me his own phone hours before in case I got dropped. Which I hadn’t, I remind you!!!! AJ did pull half of a croissant out of his jersey pocket probably from four hours ago. That was funny. Like where di this come from. The Train found us. He did indeed go back looking for me and we all teased him that he was going to look for his imaginary friend. I didn’t tease Thomas at all at this point as he could drop me just by looking at me. But he took it all in stride and had fun with it. We got riding again and as I peeld off the front during a turn and Thomas was passing me I handed him his phone and said, “Here take this, you might need it.” YESSSSS that felt good and he had a good old smirk on face. Touche. Then he ramped it up to 45KPH again and ouch!! We rode on and I was making it and actually feeling good. In the last 10K we had a 3K climb up a mountain and then a steep and fast descent into Montreux. We made a right to head up the mountain and they took off. I couldn’t chase them up the mountain. It was 8:30 into the ride and I was dead. Music went on and I climbed as best I could holding about 210 watts. I got to the top and saw Lake Geneva. I was there!!! YES I made it. Fast forward to Van Halen and down the mountain I went. Fast and furious. Get me to that fricking lake for a swim. After ten minutes of fast downhill I saw the guys up ahead waiting for me. They came back a bit for me. How nice. I got as low as I could, gave them a hang loose sign and yelled, “ GO USA!” I don’t know why but it seemed appropriate at the time. We finished together right in front of the Montreux Casino with Lake Geneva a step away. We did some photos and congratulations and off to the lake we went for a swim. Holy shit I just rode close to 200 miles in one day. That awesome feeling of doing something super like your first tri or first Ironman came to me. It was a very good day!
The swim was quick and then we changed into street clothes and went to the Montreux Jazz Festival again. I quickly downed water, a cinnamon waffle thing, a plate of pad thai and a plate of fried shrimp and rice. We all hung out, enjoyed the show and ended up in bed at 12:15am. A very very very long day.
The next day wasn’t too bad considering I ate every 30 minutes. I even manged a 2K swim and then we all headed out AGAIN on the bikes. The boys did 70K and I got in 40K and it was ugly. I was wrecked but made it home. We all went out again to the music festival and to the Jersey Presentation by AJ. We each got a UCI Cycling Vest and a note categorizing us in the group. Thomas got the Best Overall and Imaginay Friend award. That was great. AJ and the group awarded me, Best Singular Performance of the Tour, for riding more than I ever have. Merci boys. I ended the night in a beautiful hotel overlooking Lake Geneva and eating my final bit of Swiss Chocolate. The tour was over. I am heading home. We all agreed to meet each year for this and next year will be longer and harder AJ promised. I told him to go fuck himself.
-thanks for reading, really! And to the guys on the trip. You made it great. Thank you!