Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dauphine Liberthday

Before I get to the last few days: Happy Father's Day to my old(er than me) man!

Thursday and Friday of this week, I took off of work as a birthday present to myself to watch the Dauphine Libere as it came through my backyard (on the Saleve) and in nearby Samoens. I was encouraged to hear rider commentary from Thursday that the Saleve -- which we ride weekly or more -- was a tough climb that no one wanted to attack on. I rode my mountain bike up to the summit. About 1 km from the top I ran into Will & Doreen, Barry, Martin (all of whom I watched last year's Tour de France with), and Eric & Katy. I rode to the top to grab Jason and Bill who had taken their mountain bikes to the top via the cable car. We had a great spot, several photographers and film crew stopped at our spot to shoot. This year we were rewarded with cold beers courtesy of Barry who rode up with them (I was glad not to have to ride down to chase down a cold drink this time around). The race was incredible. We were reading feeds on Barry's mobile and at the base of the climb, it seemed there was one break with 3 riders with the pack largely together. By the time they made it to us 6 kms later, the field was absolutely smashed to bits. There were two main packs of about 25 guys, the rest were in ones and twos. I can't recall a race where the riders were so strung out since Lance and Jan were dueling it out in the Tour a few years back. After the race rolled through, we made plans to meet up for Friday's stage -- we planned to ride from Geneva to Samoens then up the Col de Joux Plane. Jason, Bill and I took off mountain biking, but it was simply too wet to continue on the rooty off-camber hills, so we rode back into town. Friday I met up with Eric, Katy, and Barry. Erik and Katy rode out on their tandem (2-person bike) in the pic below. We met up with Will in Samoens. The ride up Joux Plane was tough -- I haven't been there since last year, and know why I don't go out there more often, it is brutal. Right at the start there is one section of 13% (the pic of Barry and me below...notice I am standing while he is sitting -- such is the benefit of a smaller geared compact crank). It evens out to about 10%, and there are only a few spots to recover on the 12kms to the summit. As Barry started to pull away, I thought to myself: how on earth did I ride this last year in a 25 (tooth gear), I am falling off the pace this year on a 27. It was about 3 kms later that I actually looked at my bike and realized I was not in my 27, but was back a gear in my 24! By that time, it was too late, I was cooked. It got cooler and cooler towards the top. It was very cloudy, and there were a few rouge raindrops near the summit. Barry got up first with me in tow, we headed straight to the cafe to warm up -- it was 50 F with lots of wind, and no sun. It was cold! I think the mountain forgot it was June. I was shivering! Fortunately I had a Flemish flag to keep me warm. The riders today weren't as strung out as Thursday, but it was clearly a tough day. Aussie Cadel Evans was leading the elite pack a few minutes behind the break. Levi Leipheimer was about 30 seconds back. (On Thursday Eric was wearing a Rabobank jersey -- the days last rider was a Rabobank guy, Friday the same turned out to be true when he donned his Gerolsteiner kit). On the way down, the shivering continued. Once we got about 4 kms from the bottom, the sun hit my legs, and it felt like I was magically transported to the Cote d'Azur. Barry opted for the Bus de Will back to Geneva, so Eric and Katy and I were on our own for the 55 km ride back to Geneva. Feeling a bit guilty about letting the tandem riders tow on the way out, I pulled most of the way home into a headwind. We stopped in Taninges for a pastry, and made it into Geneva around 7:30. I swiftly showered and changed and went to the pub for a few Guinness with some friends and co-workers, and to watch the Dutch thrash the French in the Euro Cup (there were lots of Dutch fans, or more likely, lots of anti-French fans). My one year anniversary is quickly approaching here in Geneva, and I am speaking today at THIRST -- a summer series of Sunday evening services at Crossroads.