Report from France
MEA and I arrived in Geneva and were picked up at the airport by Santana. We went immediately to dinner and enjoyed a wonderful evening of Suisse food and entertainment. We got back to the hotel and I built up our bikes from 11PM to 1AM.
The next day we hooked up with BF member Colotandem and his wife. We did a killer ride to museum and back drafting off the tandem. It was mostly z1 or z5 / z6. Colotandem reminds me of VanceMac - total monster. We also toured a Suisse chocolate factory and learned how they made chocolate and got a lot of tasting.
Friday, we loaded up our luggage and bikes and we crossed the border into France where we had the choice of 3 rides - 80/40/16. We opted for the 40 mile ride to hook up with the river barge / hotel. Needless to say, we passed all the tandems on the 40 mile and 16 mile ride even though the 16 mile tandems were bussed ahead of us 24 miles. We rode temp / team time trial the whole way - 43 miles
Saturday, was an easy ride on a back path along a canal and then through the Burgundy vineyards. I love these Fred rides and I tried to be social but it is not in my nature when on a bicycle. We toured a French 16th century hospital and learned about medicine as practiced in those times and saw the evolution of hospital care as it evolved over the decades. It was pretty scary stuff. We then visited a Burgundy winery and had a killer tasting of wines - just magnificent.
We had a very fast flat ride back and once again MEA and I did a TTT - 44 miles. I got back to the ship and sat in a cold bubbling tub of water on the sun deck.
The river cruise ship / barge is wonderful. And it is a perfect way to move along the river to new points of interest and cycle. Mount Ventoux is on Tuesday.
Hermes - Great report! I'm sitting here just bubbling over with jealousy. :) Drink some wine for me!
Envious of the whole package... perfect combo having the barge follow your cycling routes. And of course, the location.
Trip sounds wonderful! This topic definitely needs pictures! :thumb:
Hermes sent me some video footage of the barge.
Originally Posted by VanceMac
Pictures or it didn't happen Hermes. Of course I refer to the chocolate factory.
That was a good video. I remember when it was happening, of course, but the details were long forgotten.
Originally Posted by Racer Ex
Actually, I kid. Here's the real shot:
Originally Posted by Racer Ex
Hermes, was the hospital the Hospices de Beaune, by any chance? Spectacularly beautiful building, if so...
Yes, it was the Hospices de Beaune.
All continues to go well on our trip. I am writing this from our ship looking at the walled city of Avignon. Yesterday, was Mount Ventoux. We were bussed from our ship to the start of the climb. The mountain looks very similar to Mount Diablo in NorCal but a lot higher. We had perfect conditions for the climb with low humidity, sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70 low 80s. The easy section went fast and the middle section was brutal. The average 10% grade is misleading since I saw a lot of 12%. Once we hit the moon scape it was easier and the last 1.5 kilometers was hard.
I went through 4 water bottles on the climb. The descent was really easy and fast. The roads were in perfect condition, light winds and great visibility. We had 46 miles to go from the summit back to the ship. At the top, the temperature was cool but half way down, it got hot. We rode the last 40 miles at an average temperature of 102 degrees F. The ship was moved to a new location (Avignon) and the elevation change was mostly downhill with some rolling terrain. I had good legs the entire day but especially at the end of the ride where I felt like I had a lot left.
We are taking a rest day today.
Nice, Hermes. I must get to Ventoux one of these days. VAM?
Originally Posted by Hermes
Indeed! Did the climber summit you?
Originally Posted by chasm54
We are docked at Arles, France which is about 30 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. We passed on the ride yesterday but did a fast 40 miles today. It was a loop with some climbing. It is hot and humid today and we burned through 3.5 water bottles each. Riding the French countryside is a blast. We climbed with a small group of fast French guys for awhile and did some TTT on the way back. Arles is an old city and a bit boring. However, we did get some glace when we were finished.
Tomorrow is the last ride of the tour and we pack up our bikes and head off to London.
France done. On to London.
Middle third is indeed brutal Few bends and steep!
Originally Posted by Hermes
Definitely do it. The climbs in France are all as good as they look! :thumb:
Originally Posted by chasm54
^^A pickup in France? Things have changed since I was in that part.
Need to double up on my lottery tickets. :)
Guessing I'll be seeing a few pickup's when I land in the States in just under 6 weeks? Hopefully the drivers in America are as polite as the French motorists...
Originally Posted by revchuck
Depending how you do it and where you go it can be done on the cheap. I spent a month in the French Alps in 2011 and managed it easily on a tight budget. Used Trains and buses for some of it. Mix of hostels, hotels and apartments, many where I could cook rather than eat out...
We are at Heathrow waiting for our flight back to the US. It has been an amazing trip and London was a total blast. We saw two plays, Let It Be and Wicked, and attended a concert performed by the National Orchestra of Wales featuring Tychaitowsky's 4th Symphony in F Minor which was just magnificent. Plus we visited several museums that included the David Bowie Exhibition.
I have lots of photos plus photos being shared by others on the cycling trip in France. I have to sort everything out.
My legs are cooked from all the walking and stair climbing in London. I need a recovery week from the walking.
Have a safe trip back. Looks like you had a great time.
8 days of cycling with one rest day
Average TSS 125
Longest ride 64 miles
Featured ride: Climb up Mount Ventoux
Getting to Europe:
We flew none stop from San Francisco to Frankfort and then on to Geneva via United Airlines. The trip over was wonderful and we slept on the plane.
We arrived in Geneva at 6:30 PM and we were picked up at the airport by Santana and whisked off to dinner. Entertainment included classic Suisse horn instruments and lots of yodeling. The food was good but a little heavy for our taste.
After dinner, I went to the garage of our hotel in Geneva and assembled our bikes wrapping up at 1 AM. We were scheduled for breakfast at 7 AM and we were cycling at 8:45 AM.
There were 71 tandem teams and 8 single bikes. Typically, Santana allows only tandems and we have done three tours previously with them on our tandem – Sonoma, Tuscany and Mallorca. This tour allowed single bikes so we opted to bring our Cervelos. There was a wide variety of ages and experience among the cyclists. Like previous tours, we found some other cyclists to ride with, and many times, my wife and I rode by ourselves and did a lot of team time trial.
Colotandem, a BF member, and his wife from Colorado contacted me on BF and we hooked up on day one. They are mountain bikers and have a mountain bike tandem and the recently got a new Peketa road tandem.
We rode with them along with another tandem to our destination which was a Suisse museum. The museum was part of our tour and featured many interesting things.
We hung out at the museum for about 45 minutes and then it was back to attend a chocolate factory tour.
The chocolate factory was a very small operation but they opened up their process to us and explained the details of making fine chocolate candy. We had to get dressed up in clean room suits.
The best part was the tasting. Suisse chocolate is some of the world’s finest and it did not disappoint.
Here is one of the interesting parts of the tour. All the routes were given to us as a GPS file download so we had to have a GPS device such as a Garmin 800 that would show the route plus detailed maps of Europe loaded into our Garmins. Once selected, the Garmin found the route and we had to watch the route line, ride the bike and sightsee at the same time. Of course, if one was on a wheel, we were paying attention to the pace line.
The courses were complicated that took us on small back roads with little car traffic and through towns with many turns. It would be impossible to stay on the course without GPS guidance. I found this both a blessing and a curse as we got off course sometimes. However, the Garmin immediately flashed off course and we had to turn around and go back.
Santana started each morning with a route discussion and pointed out options and special tours they had set up in advance. Typically, we had three options from easy to more difficult.
We always beat the ship to the destination and got to hang out with other cyclists and get to know each other. And the docking locations offered interesting places to eat and drink.
Planning for Mount Ventoux:
Mount Ventoux is an epic climb and many consider it the most difficult climb in Europe due to the height, length, grade and wind. The Tour de France was climbing it on Sunday and we were climbing the same route they used the following Tuesday. Our cycling started on Friday morning in Geneva. Our training goal was to ride a lot of tempo on the rides leading up to Ventoux and then have an easy day before the climb.
The ship was an integral part of the cycling tour and it served as transportation between cities as well as providing meals and lodging. Santana moved the ship during the day to facilitate lunch and dinner. For example, we had breakfast in one city and met the ship in another for lunch and then in a third for dinner. We stored our bikes on the top deck of the ship that served as a sun deck and a place to work on bikes.
Service on board ship was excellent with great accommodations.
Getting into the EU:
Switzerland is not part of the European Union. Santana managed all the necessary procedures to allow 150 cyclists, their luggage and bikes to cross over the border into France. The cyclists and our luggage were loaded on buses and our bikes were put in large trailers that followed the buses. We were dropped off at various starting points in France with a GPS course to get to the ship. We did the medium course that was 44 miles. Some did the longer 64 mile course and others chose an easier 20 mile route.
Here we are unloading bikes at the 44 mile drop off.
Mount Ventoux is an epic climb in Europe and this would be the apex of our cycling trip.
The sun rises over the giant of Provence with a castle in the foreground and me on the ship with my bike.
I had a light breakfast and took a banana, two sleeves of energy drops and two South Beach bars. I ate the energy drops on the climb and saved the bars and banana for the top.
We were bused from the ship to the base of the climb and used the lower section for warm up. Santana moved the ship to a new location while we were riding. From the top of the climb, it would be 46 miles back to the ship.
The climb up Mount Ventoux can be visualized in three sections. The first is easier with a grade of 5 to 6%, the second and most difficult, is 4 miles of 10% average grade, and the third, the moon scape that is 8 to 9% with the last 1.5 kilos averaging 10%. The middle section is brutally difficult since there is a lot of 12% grade. I was fine with the 10% grade, but I could have used a lower gear for the 12% grade. My legs loaded up on the steeper sections although I do not believe it would have changed my climb time or VAM.
Coming out of the forest (difficult section) onto the moonscape, one breathes some relief only to realize, that there is a lot of climbing left and now the top is visible as well as the road that seems to go on forever.
Today, there was a constant stream of cyclists with people on the side of the road cheering us on. I assume a lot of the people cheering were left over from the TdF and may have had friends doing the climb.
Santana put us out in two waves. The slower riders first and the more experienced cyclists followed about 45 minutes behind. I caught my first tandem from the first group in 45 minutes. I would give this team the most heroic ride of the day. The stoker was cooked and her head was on the handlebar of the tandem. She would get up and try to pedal and then collapse. On the steeper section, he was standing. They made it to the top – a great effort.
Climbing Mount Ventoux for two hours reset what I consider difficult climbing. I averaged 950 VAM for the climb.
On the moon
The following are some of the more interesting shots from the tour.
We cycled past many sunflower fields and we wanted the classic shot riding next to the sunflowers. Colotandem’s stoker provided the pics.
Colotandem and Hermes as a stoker
On one of the climbs, we latched on to a peloton and rode to the top with these guys. MEA posed with them.
I am surprised the wives let them out of this.
At the end of the tour, we were bussed to the Marseille airport to catch a plane to London. More to come…
Great photos and story - looking forward to the continuation!