Posted by: Jennifer Sage | April 14, 2009

I’m not as big a wimp as I make myself out to be!

When it comes to riding my bike, my favorite activity, I am a fair-weather athlete. I hate, hate, hate being cold, so I tend to avoid any situation on a bike that might cause me to get cold. (I also hate excessive heat – but that’s another post).

Here’s why. As long as I can remember, I get colder than almost anyone I’m with – whether skiing, hiking, cycling, camping, standing around at an outdoor concert, or even in bed! My husband Jeff kicks off the covers and begs me to allow him to open a window while I’m shivering under the down comforter. When I get chilled, I start shivering and cannot stop until I really load on the warmth. That can mean hours in some cases.

There’s something called Raynaud’s (funny they call it a “disease” – it’s really just an annoying condition) and I’m sure I have it. They call it “allergic to coldness” – which is a perfect description of me! The coldest I’ve ever been has been riding my bike – after getting chilled from rain or wind, and/or sweating on a climb then having to descend in the cold, my fingers will get so cold they no longer work and I cannot brake effectively. Two fingers on each hand turn a gross, yellow-ish white (as in the photos on the Wikipedia link for Raynauds). Jeff says it looks like a corpse’s hand!  On top of that I shiver and shake so much while trying to descend, that seriously, I cannot hold a straight line. My jaw hurts from chattering, my neck hurts from tensing, even my back is shivering. Ugh – not a fun experience!

Even when I’ve dressed for the occasion, or so I thought. The first time I did the Triple Bypass it was great weather (only a few sprinkles of rain). The second time a few years later, we were caught in a torrential downpour in Keystone after 80-miles with Vail pass still ahead. I had to abandon when I could barely hold the handlebars (and I had full raingear too). I wasn’t sad about it either.

That is why I rarely venture out if it threatens to rain or sleet or be super windy with temps in the 40’s or 50’s – because it can quickly drop to 30’s here in the Rocky Mountains. It’s not just about adding more layers – for me it’s a very thin line. I also have to watch out for overdressing, because I sweat easily and then freeze even more.

So when yesterday’s weather report called for increasing cold and possible rain, I first resigned myself to having to Spin indoors again. But by late afternoon, it warmed up and was sunny and beautiful. Jeff and I were at the tile store finalizing our tile selection for the new house, and when it got to 5 pm I said, “Are we done yet? Because I’m going to go for a ride! It’s gorgeous outside and I’m burning daylight!” 

Hey, one must have one’s priorities!

So I ran home, geared up, and jumped on my bike and rode from 5:30 – 7:36 pm. My  bike computer wasn’t working, so I don’t know the distance, but I felt FANTASTIC. The last half hour I pushed it hard into a headwind to make it back before dark.

Pardon the poor quality photos – they’re from my iPhone. Below is the climb to Cordillera, which finishes on the top right of the hill in the distance. Not too long (maybe 4 miles total), and very gradual where I was taking the photo, but steep for that last mile. I was quite happy with how strong I felt on this climb – my first outdoor climb of the season.

cordillera-climb-from-below1

In the photo below is the 9% section. Descending here in the shade was the only time I was cold.

cordillera-climb

And here is my view from the top. I’m so proud of myself for actually riding with snow around me!

my-climb-april-13-09

Most of the rest of the ride was flat, heading east to Eagle-Vail and back to Edwards.

I came back so thrilled that I was able to ride AND able to stay warm. Temps were in the mid-40’s when I got home, but by that time my internal engine kept me warm. Jeff came home and I was smiling ear to ear and bragged, “See! I am not as big a wimp as I make myself out to be!”

What did I wear? I have to admit, most of the cyclists I saw were wearing far less than me. I had booties on which really helped (no other cyclist I saw had booties). I had leg-warmers of course, and on top, had a first layer polypro liner tank-top, then a regular jersey, then a thicker long-sleeved cycling jersey (over arm-warmers of course) PLUS my windbreaker. But I think the biggest difference was a recent purchase of Cannondale gloves that have a removable lobster-claw “windbreaker” that goes over the long-fingered padded gloves. For the first time ever, my fingers did not get cold. I’ve had many long-fingered gloves, but none have worked this well.

I even brought a neck gaitor for descents just in case, but didn’t need it.

So laugh at me if you want, but now I realize I can ride in the “sorta cold” weather. I am sooo proud of myself for this first little step. 😉  I’ve raised my cold threshold (or rather, lowered the temps I can ride in) but where that line is exactly, I don’t know. Yesterday that threshold was 45 degrees and sunny…but if it threatens to rain/snow, I’m a little worried.

Warm rain I can handle, but the cold Rocky Mountain rain, we’ll have to see about that! But next month we’ll be climbing in the Italian Dolomites for stages 4 and 5 of the Giro (during our Giretto), and it could potentially be quite cold, so I’ve got to get this riding-in-the-cold-thing down.

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Posted by: Jennifer Sage | April 14, 2009

Training for the Giretto April 5 – 11. Plus a Hut Trip!

A big week of on-the-Spin-bike training, but nothing outside (riding) due to uncooperative weather – although I did get out to ski and snowshoe. Heck, I guess that’s what happens when living high in the Rocky Mountains! It can be a sunny 60+ degrees on one day, then 35 degrees the next with sleet and snow. And when it rains, it’s a cccccold rain!

Sunday April 5: I included this long Spin in the previous post, but my weekly calculations actually go from Sunday to Saturday, so this 2.5 hr ride is in this week’s mileage.

Monday April 6: My husband and I are building a house (in this economy?? Well, it was started a year ago, so yes!) and had to drive 2 hrs to Denver to look at tile. Made for a long day! My plan for an early morning Spin in my basement was thwarted by the snooze button… 😉

Tuesday April 7: Went 30-min early to my Spin class (Z2), then taught a 60-min strength class (Z3/Z4). Afterwards, I stayed and worked out with Samantha for an hour – mostly upper body and core, a few leg exercises.

Wed, April 8: I did a Lactate Threshold Field Test in my early morning Spin class. These students first experienced a field test last December. I’ve been promoting this for awhile, but still only had about 50% (9 of 18) wear a heart rate monitor and test themselves. For the others, it’s just a fun, hard Race Day Class. We ride 10 min easy to warm-up, then push hard for 5-min, then easy for 10, then the “time trial” field test begins – a 21 minute effort (to start the stop watch of the HRM one minute into the effort, for a total 20-min field test), all done in the saddle at flat road cadences of 90-ish rpm. This is at the highest sustainable effort you can maintain for 20-minutes, and is a good estimate of lactate threshold.

For myself, since I climbed hard the previous night, I lent out my HRM to a student who really wanted to find out her LT. I didn’t determine my own LT, but I did ride at that hard pace (Z5a). It felt very good to push hard, and I feel my fitness improving – it’s a great feeling! Now I’ve just got to figure out a good time to be able to do my own field test when I’m rested and can get an accurate result. I’m doing it next week with another class, but I won’t be rested.

Oh, yeah, then I stayed and rode another full hour in Z2!

THEN, I went on an overnight hut trip with my bookclub girlfriends, to Vance’s cabin, normally a 1.5-hour snowshoe. It’s not that difficult, but we got a little off-course, and ended up going 2 hours. There’s only one hard hill, most is rolling. The hut is pretty rustic, but we don’t rough it on the eating front! Kari brought shrimp tacos and lots of margaritas, and we had several bottles of wine (only 4 of us)! Being afraid of waking up in the cold, I took the bunk closest to the wood stove and got up every few hours during the night to stuff it with logs!

the-girls-at-vances-cabin

me-snowshoeing-to-vances

hut-trip-april-09

Thur April 9: The next day, it was snowing, and quite a bit colder. After relaxing a bit with a breakfast of lox and bagels & coffee, we cleaned the cabin & left. It starts with an uphill (yesterday’s downhill to the cabin) but then it went pretty fast – about an hour & 20 minutes. That’s Rita hiking in front of me in the falling snow.

Thursday night, I tried to go in early to Spin 30 minutes prior to my class, but had a man come in early with his two sons who had never taken a Spin class, so I spent a long time with them setting up the bikes and explaining proper form. My class was over various terrain, but I kept my own intensity below threshold.

Fri April 10: Taught my 6 am Spin class (mostly climbing, Z3-Z4) and then stayed and rode an hour in Z2.

Saturday: Big day! Weather kept me indoors, so I called Samantha and said “Come ride 3 hours with me!” We were only 20-minutes on the bike when a brand new instructor came in to practice for her first class a few days later. “Great!” I said. “Practice on us, and it will help us pass the time!”

Stephanie taught a great strength ride (I kept my intensity Z3 and lower) for an hour, then Sam and I stayed another 2+ hours, making a grand total of 3 1/2 hours! My HR averaged around 128 (Z2).

We drank a full dose of Endurox, and I had no soreness and felt great the next day.

Total: 12.5 hours Spinning
3.5 hours snowshoeing
1 hour weights/core (note to self: need more core work)

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | April 13, 2009

My training for the Giretto – week March 28 – April 4

I am a little behind in posting my training for the Giretto – life has been getting in the way! This crazy event is only 3 weeks away, and I’ve only been out on my real bike once, so I guess I’m taking our goal of showing how effective indoor cycling is to outdoor riding to it’s highest level. Not that I don’t want to be on my bike, but I am a self-proclaimed wimp and we’ve had snow, sleet, rain, and just plain cold. Today it’s 44 degrees and partially cloudy, so I’ll be riding indoors once again tonight.

The last week of March, I was in Jamaica for a Spinning certification and to help out with a Spinathon in Montego Bay. But I didn’t get out that Wednesday due to a horrific blizzard and a harrowing drive on my part. Check it out on my other blog. I didn’t ride that Thursday, Friday or Saturday…but made up for it in Jamaica when I finally did get there over the weekend.

Usually traveling to places like this hacks your training plans….but this one really helped it!

Saturday March 28: on a plane all day. No exercise.

Sunday March 29: The GoodFit Spinathon – without a doubt the most fun I’ve ever had on a Spin bike! I led two 1-hr sessions in the morning and the final hour, for a total of 3 hours at a pretty high effort level (in intervals the first 2, then mostly climbing the final ride). Insert 2 hours of relaxing on the beach in the middle.

Monday, March 30: I led a Spinning orientation.We were one bike short, so for the final ride, I did not ride. Therefore, I only got 1 hour in for the day, during our “form ride” where I show them how to properly perform each movement. A few hard sections, but mostly fairly easy.

Tuesday, March 31: I had to ride – just had to even though I was in Jamaica! Fortunately I had Natalie of GoodFit and a few of her friends/students who also wanted to Spin. We put some crankin’ music and rode 3 hours in the evening at a pretty good clip. Lots of climbing, lots of Zone 3 & 4.

Wednesday, April 1: on a plane, then in a car, all day. No exercise.

Thursday, April 2: I went in 30-minutes prior to my Spin class, then taught for an hour. Moderate flat road the first 30-min, then a strength ride to Z3/4.

Friday, April 3 (my birthday!): First I taught my 6 am Spin class, a hard strength ride (Z3/4), then stayed and rode easy for an hour. A few students stayed and rode with me.

Saturday, April 4: No Spinning. Skied in 8-10″ of heavy, new powder, which was like mashed potatoes. Very challenging skiing – my legs were burning!

Sunday, April 5: Got up early to spin 2.5 hours easy in Z1/Z2 in my basement while watching the video The Long Way Round, about Ewen McGregor’s and Charlie Boorman’s epic motorcycle ride from London to New York across Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, etc. Then went out and skied and had a birthday barbecue at Blue Sky Basin. Hmmm, I ski really good bumps after a few glasses of wine!

Total this week: 10 1/2 hours, all on the Spin bike.

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | March 25, 2009

Training for the Giretto – Tuesday and Wednesday

Tuesday I taught a Spin class at 5:30, so to get my “miles” in the saddle, I went in 50 minutes early and rode at an easy pace. The class itself was fairly hard. I did one of my favorite profiles, which I created to go with the  Run Lola Run soundtrack. It’s a fun profile that alternates seated flats with climbs, and true to the theme of the movie, you get to come back and do it again (and again and again), each time a little differently. Check it out here on my Spinning blog.

Following my 1 – 3/4 hr ride, I went to the weight room and worked upper body and core, with just a few lower body exercises thrown in. Full hour workout.

Then I went out to Taco Tuesday night at our local Agave restaurant and scarfed down 3 greasy tacos and lots of chips n salsa! Oh, and soup, too.

This morning I had my 6 am Spin class where I did my “Going to Jamaica” ride. A very fun playlist of reggae/ska or reggae-inspired music. The first part of the ride was flat roads with cadence surges against a realistic gear. That burns the legs, and is quite anaerobic. Then we had 3 climbs of 6-10 minutes each with a little break.

I pushed it fairly hard during the class. I then repeated the exact same thing an hour later as I was subbing a Spin and Core class. But this time, I “faked” it a little, as I didn’t want to cook my legs too much, and kept my HR much lower. So I got a full 2-hours of Spin in today. After that I led them through 30-minutes of core work, plank, back exercises and stretches. It felt great!

Going to Jamaica tomorrow! Spinning is sending me to teach a certification and possibly some continuing education. I land at 2, and if possible I’ll try to get in an hour at the club where I’ll be doing the training, but I’m also planning on some beach time. Friday is the certification (all day, with about 2 hrs of riding), and if we get enough people signed up, Saturday morning is the continuing ed – a 4-hr session, with about 75 minutes on the bike. If it doesn’t go (not enough people), I’ll have to find time to ride on my own. But the beach will be calling as well.

Sunday they are hosting a Spinathon, a fundraiser for a local school. I’ll be leading 2 hours of that, so I’ll get my 2-hours in. I probably should have volunteered for 3 hours! Monday nothing is scheduled except R&R, but again, I’ll try to ride (Spin) as much as I can as Tuesday I’ll be on a plane all day.

Not sure how much I can keep up on this blog while there. Think of me on the beach…. 🙂

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | March 23, 2009

Sunday and Monday training sessions

Yesterday, Sunday was supposed to be a 1.5 hour Spin. I could have easily done it on my  bike as the weather was still nice (amidst reports of an impending storm), though a lot more windy. But I promised a friend I’d ski with her. I tell ya, living in the Rocky Mountains near a ski resort can make it hard to be laser focused on one sport…

So we skied all afternoon, and it was a quintessential spring day, with slushy soft bumps. We hooked up with some other friends (3 of us used to teaching skiing together in Vail) and sought out the best and steepest aspects we could find – meaning the skiing was hard and fun! Not much stopping to rest, although my legs forced me to take a break here and there.

And the Apres Ski went on a little longer than planned…(that’s yet another sport to partake in around here). Needless to say, there was no coming home and getting on my Spin bike! Here are the girls after skiing and a few margaritas.

 

Tamara, Joni and Jennifer after a day of spring skiing, March 2009

Tamara, Joni and Jennifer after a day of spring skiing, March 2009

So the legs got a workout, but not really the rest of me.

Early this morning I had to sub a Spin class, so my planned day off was actually spent on the bike for an hour. I tried to keep my HR below threshold, though I didn’t sleep well last night (like only a few hours)  and my heart rate reflected that. A nap will be de rigeur this afternoon! The importance of getting good rest when increasing training volume cannot be overstated. Fatigue, in the form of not enough sleep, wreaks havoc on the body almost as much (or more) than from physical exertion.

So get your sleep if you’re training!

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | March 22, 2009

My first outdoor ride this season in the mountains

Today I rode outside for the first time this year up here in the mountains. A month ago we were in Las Vegas and rented bikes for a fabulous ride to Red Rocks, so I can’t count this as my first ride of the season. But I can count it as the first outdoor ride of my training program for the Giretto! And right on track, too.

My husband is building us a new house in Eagle Ranch, Colorado (he’s a builder by trade. Hmmm, building and travel, our two primary income sources….I think both have been a little hammered by this recession!)  Eagle is about 20 miles west of Edwards, where we live now, and 30 miles west of Vail. I haven’t seen the house in a month since the drywall has been started, so I rode to Eagle today to check out the house and to get my ride in. It was a fantastic ride, mostly flat, and the weather was in the mid-50’s, low 60’s, so pretty mild for this time of year. (Got a winter storm warning for tomorrow, so timing was perfect)

The ride was 45 miles total. Slight downhill on the way out, but a good headwind. Coming back I felt great, and added another 6 miles to the ride once I got home (it’s 19.3 miles door to door to our new place). Heart rate was on average 10-15 beats below my threshold (High Zone 2, low Zone 3) – a good aerobic workout. I was only at or above LT for the short gradual climbs on the way back. Total time (including a few short stops, but not including the stop at the house) was 2 hours, 51 min.

My legs feel a little tired and back a little achy, but overall I’m amazed at how good I feel! I’m very pleased with today’s ride, and how strong I felt. 

This is how much of the road looks like west of Edwards along the Eagle river on Highway 6.

ride-to-eagle2

Me and Rosie at the front of the house. Jeff was there working with the drywall sub-contractors all day (poor guy, he was jealous of my ride).

riding-to-our-house-in-eagle

And if I can brag for a moment, this is what my amazing husband’s creation looks like!

eagle-ranch-mar-20-09

The rest of the week will be indoors on my Spin bike. Next weekend I’ll be in Jamaica for a Spinning training, so it may be 2 weeks before I can get back on my bike. But I’ll be sure to get a lot of hours on the Spin bike in between sitting on the beach in Jamaica. I’m going to help with a Spinning marathon fundraiser they’re doing at the club where I’m doing the certification. Should be a lot of fun!

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | March 20, 2009

Using indoor cycling to train for an epic outdoor ride?

Some people might think it’s crazy to use indoor cycling to train for outdoor riding. And I’m not talking about setting up my road bike on a trainer or a computrainer that measures my wattage. It’s not that I wouldn’t like a computrainer, or at least a power meter. I would. But more on that later.

I’m talking about a Spinning bike, or similar.

A purist cyclist would say, “I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Spinning class. Nothing they do would help me on my bike!”

And in many cases, they would unfortunately be correct.

I teach Spinning 4 times per week, and some of you know, I am a Master Instructor (MI) for the Spinning program, which means I certify instructors, teach Continuing Education and present at fitness and Spinning conferences. In fact I recently came back from presenting at ECA New York a large fitness conference in NYC.

As an MI since 1998, I’ve traveled all around the country training instructors. And I’ve seen some, well, I have to be blunt here….I’ve seen some real shit that is taught in so called “Spinning” classes. Crazy, psycho Spin. Classes that have no resemblance to anything you’d do on a real bike. Aerobics-on-a-bike. Dangerous and just-plain silly moves. Instructors who know nothing about cycling, and little about physiology and training principles pushing their classes to pure-exhaustion. Legs blurring so fast it’s like the roadrunner. Jumps so fast they hardly touch the seat.

And their students love it. It’s a sad but true state of affairs about the fitness industry in the US. [Don’t get me going…I’ll have to stop there on that subject, or I’ll be writing for pages.]

It’s not “real” Spinning; that’s not what we teach in our orientations. But it doesn’t matter, instructors invent stuff on their own to be more popular, or because their students want them to “kick their butts” to the other side of town. The purist cyclist would be right, those types of classes would do little to help, and may even hinder, one’s cycling technique and performance.

However, a properly designed and taught indoor cycling class that mimics what you would do on a road bike outside can do great things for your outdoor training. There needs to be a focus on specificity of exercise, as it relates to speed of movement (i.e. a realistic cadence), resistance (what a real hill would feel like), gearing (you can only mimic gears so much) and of course, the movements/positions themselves (i.e. no squats, hovers, pushups, crazy twists and turns, super high cadence, isolations, one-legged stuff, etc). And there needs to be a solid understanding of training principles.

[Note: I write frequently about proper Spinning on my indoor cycling blog.]

In fact I wrote an ebook targeted to cyclists on how to maximize one’s potential in an indoor cycling class. I truly believe that anyone who takes any indoor cycling classes (Spinning or otherwise) who rides a bike outside can benefit from this ebook. It’s called Keep it Real, and I’ll talk more about it in another post, but for now, check here for more information. I also believe that it should be required reading for every single indoor cycling instructor. It’s far more informative than anything in the industry, including what is offered through the Spinning program. [Note: I wrote two continuing ed workshops for Spinning, one on cadence and resistance, and one on “Contraindications” – what NOT to do in Spin class. But this book goes much farther than the two of them combined.]

This passion of mine to bridge the gap between indoor and outdoor cycling led me to Gene Nacey, founder of Cycling Fusion, who, as it turns out, has the same vision. Yes, indoor cycling done right can be a fantastic way to train for outdoor riding! Read his manifesto here.

So here I am, committed to the Giretto, or Little Giro, Gene’s brainchild. He thought it would be fun to train for an epic cycling event using indoor cycling (fun?? maybe he needs his head examined. Or maybe I do as well!)

This will be Lance Armstrong’s first ever Giro, and ours as well. To celebrate, and to give us even more purpose, we’ve turned this event into a Livestrong event, raising money to find a cure for cancer. [Would you consider sponsoring me? Any little bit helps!]

This past week, I taught four 1-hour classes, and on each day, I rode an additional 30-45 minutes. This morning and last night’s class I rode at an intensity that was perhaps too high (threshold and above) for half of the class. Once a week of high-intensity intervals will be de rigeur of course; I just have to make sure I manage my intensity better in the other classes.

Tomorrow will be my first outdoor ride for my training (though much will be done indoors, riding outside is important as well). It is supposed to be very warm up here in the high-country near Vail, Colorado, so I’m planing on a 50-miler. I’ll even post photos!

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | March 19, 2009

The Giretto – riding the first 5 stages of the Giro? Crazy!

Yes, it’s crazy, and I keep telling myself how crazy it is every time I get off my Spin bike to train.

Yes, Spin bike. Most (but not all) of the training for this event will be indoors on a Spin bike. But more about that later.

What is the Giretto? It means “little Giro”, and 5 of us crazy passionate cyclists have committed to riding the first 5 stages of the Giro d’Italia, in advance of the pro teams. Most importantly, Gene Nacey, the founder, has managed to get it accepted as a Livestrong event, so each rider is raising money for Lance Armstrong’s foundation, Livestrong, to find a cure for cancer. Our goal is to grow this into a much bigger, annual event. But being a part of the inaugural event is pretty outstanding!

The Giretto is 415 miles. The first day is a flat time trial on the Lido, near Venice. Only 20.5km. The next 4 days are 156, 200, 165, and 1125 km; essentially four centuries in a row. Stages 1, 2 and 3 are flat (well, stage 3 has some rollers), and stages 4 and 5 go up into the Dolomites.

I will be using this blog to post about my training and preparation, and as PR for this event. I plan to share with everyone the joys and sufferings of committing to an epic ride like this with only 2 months to train!

The first thing I can tell you is the amazing power of setting a goal. The day before committing, my goal was to “get more fit for cycling season”. That’s pretty ambiguous and a goal like that doesn’t light you on fire. My tours weren’t looking very promising in this economy, so the original goal of training for a PB on Alpe d’Huez was fast dissipating.

But the very day I committed to this event, EVERYTHING changed! It was like a fire was lit inside of me. My mind-set changed. My attitude changed! And of course, my training changed, but I look at every extended ride on my Spin bike with excitement, and not drudgery. I teach 4 classes per week, and am either going earlier or staying later to get more time in the saddle (for a 1.5 – 2 hour ride). Hoping for my first road ride this weekend. By the end of April the goal is two back to back 100-milers.

Gene Nacey, the founder of the Giretto and of Cycling Fusion, has the same passion as me – to bridge the gap between indoor cycling and outdoor cycling. He read my eBook Keep it Real in your Indoor Cycling Classes and realized that we are both spreading the same gospel. That you can use indoor cycling classes to train for outdoor cycling IF you keep it specific to outdoor riding. This means that many, many of the Spinning or other indoor cycling classes that you find out there will not only NOT prepare you to ride outside, they may actually hinder your performance (the ones that are more like aerobics-on-a-bike). Better to know how to do it right and what to avoid, and take advantage of all the fun benefits of Spinning classes. 

Gene knew that he wanted me on this event. And it didn’t take long for me to say yes.

Now we need to recruit more riders! Please consider joining us. Contact Gene through his website for more information, or me at info@vivatravels.com. 

Keep checking back for training information on how to prepare for 400+ miles in just 8 weeks of training!

If you really cannot join us this year on the Giretto, perhaps you’d consider sponsoring me? Every little bit counts! Click here to make your donation – no matter how small!

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | November 4, 2008

Designing a Tour to the 2009 Tour de France

By now, if you follow anything about the Tour de Fance, you know that next year’s Tour is rather convoluted as it snakes across the southwest, into Spain and Andorra, skirting the Pyrénées, flying up to middle France and into Alsace, zipping into Switzerland and briefly through Italy back to the French Alpes, completely ignoring many of the big cols around Alpe d’Huez, but then hightailing back down to the south of France to ascend The Giant of Provence, Le Mont Ventoux, on the penultimate day before TGV-ing it up to Paris for the finale. Phew! If you’re planning on following it, get ready for a little chaos!

From a Tour Operators perspective, it’s a potential nightmare! As I explained in my post a few weeks ago, I was up at 2 am for the TDF route announcement, poised to call hotels near the routes. I had a good idea of the route, thanks to a website which had posted a pretty accurate expected route based on his “spies” in Europe. And he was very close! But I am quite happy with what is shaping up to be two exciting tours, with as minimal shuttling as possible, while still experiencing what I think are some of the most exciting stages of the 2009 Tour. But fitting the pieces of this puzzle together didn’t come without some challenges…

I described what a Tour Operator goes through when planning out a tour to the Tour de France in this post last year. This year it was similar, but I’ve noticed a curious difference; I think hotels are becoming more and more greedy, and less and less willing to take your group if you plan on staying less than 3 nights, or unless you pay your deposits immediately. It used to be they’d take deposits of 30% sometime in January or February, now many seem to want 50% NOW, or else you don’t get the rooms, and sometimes it’s not even returnable. 

The type of tours I like to run are the ones I’d like to take; where you aren’t jumping into a bus everyday or two with long shuttles to the next hotel, often without a chance to shower before boarding the bus. You may even have to leave the stage early to make it to the designated bus departure point (and miss out on the excitement). Exhausting. Not to mention the fact that these large buses daily are expensive, so to finance them, and to keep the costs down, you’ll be on this tour with 40-50 other people, sometimes more. Many of the “Official Tour de France” Tour Operators operate their tours like this (because it costs so much to be an “official” tour operator that they have to go for high volume), with so many people on each tour that they have no choice but to stay in chain hotels on the outskirts of towns. 

Stay tuned and I’ll be posting here what I think are some very exciting tours to the Tour! On one tour we’ll see two stages in the Pyrénées, and on the other, we’ll see two in the Alpes plus experience the ascent up Mont Ventoux. And we’ll provide opportunities to climb Alpe d’Huez for those who want to come a few days early to experience this right of passage for cyclists.

We’re still waiting for a few final confirmations, and once we do, the goods will be exposed right here and to everyone on our mailing list. Email me at info@vivatravels.com if you want to find out as soon as it’s released, or sign up for the Viva Travels mailing list by clicking on the link to the right. This will not be a Tour de France you’ll want to miss!

Posted by: Jennifer Sage | October 28, 2008

A fellow cyclist and his family needs your prayers

I have been following Fatcyclist’s blog for about 9 months and barely a day goes by that I don’t click on his link in my reader to see what fun or whacky cycling adventure he’s been on or whether he’s written another hilarious open letter to some unwitting manufacturer of cycling clothes or products. Also, Elden Nelson (Fatcyclist) has shared with the universe of blog readers his family’s painful journey as his wife has gone through the stages of cancer. He’s shared the ups and downs, the very tough times, the happy and joyful moments, the moments of hope, and even despair, the wonderful things that people from around the world have done for them through donations of time and money and love, and he has also shared some of the very painful decisions that he’s had to go through, especially this morning. Please go read his blog post of this morning.

He doesn’t even know most of his readers (although he’s no doubt made thousands of friends from around the world in this process). This is one of the most amazing things about the internet, and about blogging, and that’s the amazing sense of community that can be created from people out there in the ether.

I met Fatcyclist at Interbike last month, and I was more happy to have met him that even Lance!

 

Fatty and Me

Fatty and Me

Well, this morning I opened up his blog and I am a different person as a result. Please, go read Fatty’s post today, and contemplate on life for a moment.  You probably won’t be able to read it without crying. Here is the comment I left – I share it here in the hopes it can inspire you to think about how you will go through your day today, after reading about what he and his family now must go through.

Who out there in the blogosphere has shared so much of himself, of his family’s trials, of his own personal grief and tough decisions, and with so much compassion, as Fatcyclist? No one! And who has gathered such a wide fan base because of this sharing and compassion? Fatcyclist! You are truly an amazing human being Elden.

Your time with Susan yesterday was a gift to you. And you are such a gift to her, and to your children. And I want you to know you are a gift to every one of us reading your posts. I can’t imagine a single one of us walking away from reading these posts, especially this morning, who doesn’t transform our own sorrow for your family’s experience into doing something nice for someone or being kinder as a result, and into saying more prayers about everything, not just for you and your family, but our own families or people we’ve lost touch with. That’s the effect you have on me, and I am sure, on the world.

Hospice is a transformational experience. You will meet people you swear have hidden their wings and halos and you will know you have done the right thing.

WIN NELSON FAMILY!

I wrote that very fast this morning, and only partially expressed my feelings. What I wanted to express was that as a result of reading Fatty’s blog, I am a different person, and I am blessed for having found his blog. Even though I only met Elden that one time last month in Las Vegas, I feel like a very close friend is dealing with cancer. And judging from the emotions in the comments from people all over the world, I am not alone in feeling that.

So whatever you believe in, however your beliefs transform themselves, please send your prayers, your good vibrations, your positive energy, whatever, send them to Elden and Susan Nelson and their three young children in Utah. Whatever comes from this in the next few days/weeks/months, at least Susan should feel a sense of peace and an overwhelming surge of love from around the world.

WIN SUSAN!

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