I’m not in France yet – I leave tomorrow, and it’s a fairly solid trip ahead of me: Flying from Melbourne to Bangkok to Zürich, then a train to Dijon and a cab to a little town called Gevrey-Chambertin. Between flights, connections and the general waiting around that is part & parcel of travel, I’m punting on a 30 hour trip
But this trip started in about October 2010 – almost 2 years ago. A buddy of mine had just returned from a #cycling trip with 5 mates: rather than take an organised bike tour, they had a rented 9 seater van and a local guide. Sounded like the prefect cycling holiday to me: riding with a bunch of friends, going where & when it suited you, not a travel company, and just having a good time.
So I decided I’d repeat their efforts, and started rounding up some friends to ride in July 2011. Easy. Everyone was interested. I hadn’t asked for a commitment, or worse a deposit, just an expression of interest.
Then it was Jan 2011, and I needed commitment and deposits. And everyone vanished like smoke on a windy day. Their excuses were good, things like: “sorry mate, renovating the house”, “love to Nick, but my wife wants me to take her to ..”, and “just changed jobs, I don’t think I can get the time off”.
Sod this, I decided I’ll go alone – I don’t ride a tandem, I don’t need anyone other than myself for company. Did the research, looked around and picked a local tour company – I figured it would be better to travel with a bunch of Aussies rather than Americans who might not be able to understand what I was saying.
So the training began in earnest (or rather, it began in Melbourne. boom boom!). Lots of Km, hills, flat tires, fast weeks, easy weeks, solid weeks, power sessions, indoor sessions, getting rained on, hills, endless sessions on Beach Bloody Road, up in the ‘Nongs. Riding, riding, riding.
And then Saturday of Queens Birthday weekend – 6 weeks out from the trip – that stupid woman who wasn’t looking where she was going, rapidly followed by an ambulance, hospital, lots of drugs, and a very bemused looking neurosurgeon almost laughing at me when I said “I’ll be right to ride in France in 6 weeks won’t I?”
14 weeks in a body brace (I can show you a photo if you’re really interested), a month or so of fairly painful physio and in late November I was ready to ride again.
I’ve been riding with one particular mate for almost 20 years, and he had the pleasure of escorting me for my first ride back. Apparently he could see the grin on my face from about 300m away.
The first couple of months were hard: getting your fitness back at 48 1/2 after almost 5 months of no exercise isn’t easy. But for all the pain, the wheezing, sore legs (every cyclist has sore legs, pretty much all the time), pounding heartbeats, and exhaustion, each week was a tiny bit easier than the one before.
I did a lot of riding in January in Byron Bay, and the local guys up there were kinder to me than they’ve been in the past – they had some long waits on the tops on climbs for me to catch up.
January became February, and then it was March and I needed to book a trip. David & I found a Canadian based tour company with a week-long roll through the French Alps, lots of climbs and a couple of looks at le Tour de France. Then we’re doing some ‘independent riding’ and tracking The Giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux
It was sometime in March I was starting to notice I wasn’t always dangling off the back of the bunch on Saturday morning club rides as my fitness slowly returned.
Tour booked, the training increased, and things kept improving – slowly. I could have blogged endlessly over the last few months about rides, climbs (Donna Buang was amazing!), and general effort. But I know there are precious few people who read this blog, and I didn’t want to drive them away with boredom. I’ll share one statistic (that I’m a little proud of): If it hadn’t rained really heavily Thursday three weeks ago, I would have cracked 1,500Km for June – for me, that’s a shed load of riding.
I’ve got to thank Rob Crowe at Ridewiser for the brilliant training program that’s kept me very busy for the last 8 or 9 weeks. There have been times when it’s felt like every minute of the day has been determined by Crowie (Wednesdays have been riding in the morning, and an ergo session in the evening), but it’s made a huge difference to my preparation: I think just having someone I have to report in to each week as made me get out of bed & go riding when the “feels like” temperature has been hovering at 4 degrees.
I did my last pre trip ride this morning – an easy roll around Kew Blvd with a couple of the boys from Maccabi Cycling Club, and a coffee in Chapel St and home to pack. The bike is in it’s traveling case, I’ve picked my cycling kit for the next 10 or 11 days or riding, and it’s all done.
All through the last few months a little voice in my head (I’ve got quite a few up there) has been saying to be “are you really going to make it this time?” Well, I’m still in Melbourne as I write this, but I’m not worried about getting to France anymore.