Tour de France

Nick, a friend of mine whom I normally rope into fun adventures, and I happened to be in Amsterdam towards the end of the Tour de France. As Paris is a mere four hours away by train from Amsterdam, we decided to hop on down and catch the finale of the Tour! Random doping issues aside (and ripe for another post), the finale was a fantastic spectacle and well worth the trip.

The 20th and final stage of the tour is is a 85.5 km / 53.1 mi flat ride into Paris followed by eight 7.5 km / 4.6 mi laps up and down the cobblestones of the Champs-Elysées. People start staking out the best sight-lines about 9 AM or so, in similar fashion to tailgating at major events, with the exception that once the race gets in, you don’t have to move (and indeed you can’t, given the crowd that surrounds you). It was raining off and on, so Nick and I decided to hit the Musee d’Orsay for a few hours and then find a space about 2 PM, when the Caravan arrives. We found a nice spot at the upper NE corner maybe four people back, which gave us great sight lines and enabled us to take some great pictures (and a lot more bad ones!).

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About 2 PM, the Caravan arrives, which is a huge parade of the Tour sponsors. While cars decked out in flowers are not to be seen, there are a number of cars, vans, and semis weaving about up and down the course. At one point, the Caravan managed to get stuck, leaving the Aquafina clown stopped near us have a bit of fun.

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After the Caravan arrived, we stood in a densely packed crowd, anxiously awaiting the peleton, to arrive. After a wait of nearly two hours after the Caravan ended, about 4:40, the peleton arrived! The peleton takes surprisingly long to travel up the Champs-Elysées. It is proceeded by a large contingent of lead cars, as then the peleton of 130-odd riders arrives!

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The peleton then arrives, and in just a few seconds the riders have cornered and gone. I managed to get a number of photos as they passed; on the first round, I happened to get a great (albeit slightly blurry) shot of Alberto Contador, who was in (and kept) the yellow jersey. Check it out… he was even on a custom-painted yellow Trek Madone! It looks to be an amazingly sweet ride… and you know that they had that pre-made in case Contador was in the lead!

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I also caught a number of other good shots. Here is one of my favorites, which is a shot of a José Ivan Gutierrez in a breakaway of about 8 riders passing in front of the photo pool. I happened to catch the rider just as the flash of another photographer was going off, which made for some spectacular lighting conditions:

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For those interested, I was taking the shots using a Nikon D70 and a 70-300mm F/4.5D lens, shooting using continuous auto-focus and alternating between aperture priority (when we had a bit more light) and shutter priority (which was better, as it prevented some of the blurrier shots), and continuous shot mode. When the peleton would come about, everyone would raise their cameras up and start shooting… this generated a ton of bad shots, but hey, it’s easy to delete shots in the 10 minutes between laps.

After the tour, the crowd dispersed, and Nick and I headed to an amazing French restaurant, Le Coupe Chou. I remember eating at the fine Latin Quarter restaurant when I was last in Paris in 1999, and noticed that even back then they had a website. It’s still as charming and tasty as ever!

Incidentally, for those going again — I highly recommend staying at the Hotel Belfast, which is a block away from the Arc and right next to a RER and Metro stop, making it super convenient for both the Tour as well as getting about in Paris.

All in all, an amazing experience… I’m glad we were able to go and see it. Now, if only I can convince Mary Kaye to go with me again for so we can follow the full tour! 😉

RAMROD 2007 Trip Report

Ruben at RAMROD 2007 MBGood evening ride fans,

I took some time off yesterday in the middle of a busy month to ride in the RAMROD 2007 event. Typically RAMROD is (Ride Around Mt Ranier in One Day), however due to the road closures from rainstorms this past winter they modified the route to be 3 out and backs starting from Enumclaw, up to Sunrise, down and up to Crystal Mountain and then up and back forest route 70.

The ride is advertised at 143 miles and 10K feet of elevation gain.

The ride start was at 5am in the dark, but with so many riders and the sky just starting to grow light there was a lot of safety in numbers and an endless chain or red blinking real lights from 300 (of 850) riders who started at that time. The slight uphill climb from Enumclaw to Mt Ranier was not that bad but you really didn’t need a jacket after the first 5 miles as it gets warm enough from the climbing.

The ride up to Mt Ranier and the arrival at the top is just gorgeous. Sunrise is a long 20 mile climb to get to the top, but the last mile is flat to slightly downhill pointing straight at Mt Ranier. After the endorphin high of 2 hours of climbing, (and being slightly out of breath at 6,000 feet) you feel fantastic free-wheeling into the food stop. The ride down was even better with a 20 mile ride down averaging 25-35 MPH the car traffic was light and all you really had to worry about was the crush of bicyclists still climbing up the mountain. If you only do this as your one hill of the day its worth the ride.

Ruben at RAMROD 2007 2A photo from the peak wearing Pastry Powered:

The climb up to Crystal is less notable only in that it is 6 miles of up, and 6 miles of back down. The road was really chewed up and I did lose a water bottle on some of the bumps coming down. The cruelest climb was Route 70 which was 10 mile out and back. At mile 5 of that section there is a 12 % grade and when you get to the top of it you think “Hey, I am done” but then you see a sign that says 12% grade downhill and you realize that not only do you have to go down, but when you turn around you will have to do a 12% grade coming back. Heading back towards the highway I didn’t have the heart to tell all the people heading out what they were getting themselves into.

The ride back to Enumclaw ended up having lots of headwinds, but by that point you just find a group of people to draft, and socialize with, and talk about your next ride. Its slightly downhill all the way back to Enumclaw so that compensated from some of the headwinds. I caught up with several people at the finish line including Mitchell (Linda’s husband) and several other riders, ending the ride at 3:20pm. After 10+ hours of riding I was done. :)

The most dangerous part of the trip was the drive home because I almost fell asleep at the wheel with some extra long blinking and fighting to stay awake as apparently I was more tired then I thought.

Food notes:
The food on the trip was excellent simply for the slight variety at every stop. Each stop (at the top of each climb) had the basics of Bagels, cookies, peanut butter, fruit and cream cheese. That said one stop had the little brown potatoes, another was entirely of chocolate croissants, another was a deli food sandwich and sodas, and the Finish line had an ice cream truck where you could pick out your bar of choice. (I chose the Oreo ice cream bar.) Given that my watch indicated I had burned 14,000 calories it was OK.

I highly recommend the ride and the support, and I look forward to when the route changes to actually circle Mt Ranier, which is when I will try to ride it again. Also, wearing the jersey people are starting to recognize pastrypowered.com from the other rides. :)

Yours,

-Ruben

P.S. I have video of the view of Mt Ranier as you circle the top and ride in if you ever want to see it.

Hills of NE Seattle

Hills of NE Seattle MBThank you Anthony for the ride suggestion.

This was tiring but high value in that it got my legs to do strenuous hills over very short distance. The best part is I now have no more fear of climbing 65th or 70th in my bike in either direction as I have now done them several times over a single ride and even on my double (although I kept thinking a triple might make it little nicer 😉


Reflections on One Day STP

5:25 AM, I left with a pack of riders for my third STP, sporting the ever popular Pastry Powered jersey. About 13 and a half hours later, I pulled into Portland, exhausted but triumphant. 204 miles, 18.8 MPH average moving time, 10,000 Calories burned, 1 broken spoke. The day started early, and I found myself in a paceline towed by some BBTC riders and then by some Byrne folks. In both cases, the team was rotating in the front, leaving the bandits like me behind to sit in. While I know what I’m doing, I wasn’t sporting my Wines jersey but my PPTM colors, so no reason for them to know that I knew what to do. And hey, I’ve got 160 miles to go or so…. no problem sitting in for me!

The morning progressed without much event until near Centralia, when I broke a spoke. Fortunately, I was able to make reasonable time and get into Centralia, where the fine folks from Gregg’s got me a new spoke and trued the wheel for the everyday low price of two PB&Js — turns out they hadn’t had any time to get some food for dealing with all the riders pulling in!

The afternoon I went a bit slower. Pacelines were a bit harder to find, so there was a decent amount of solo riding. This was fine, as I could keep to a good heart rate and still push the gears and hit about 20 MPH pretty easily. About mile 125 or so, I started to feel it — I had only done one century so far this year (Flying Wheels), and while I had nearly twice the miles under my belt this year as last year, it was lots of 40 and 60 mile rides and 3 hour races. So about hour 7 or so, the legs started to hurt. Badly.

I ran into another Wines teammate in Castle Rock and rode with him for a bit, and then at St. Helens ran into a guy I worked with at Real. We rode together with another co-worker of his, until I caught a paceline he was unable to. However, a few miles to the end after the paceline had disintegrated he caught up to me with another group, and we all rode in together — exhausted, but exhilerated!

STP 1 Day HRMHere’s my HRM… fairly consistant heart rate and speed, which is good.

I was talking to another 1-day rider who left at 4:45… apparently, leaving earlier means you’re on some bigger, and faster, pacelines. Apparently he found one that was led by a well organized, rotating paceline with two riders acting as sweep, preventing anyone from entering the group — but also allowing everyone to sit in and enjoy the pace between 23 and 25 MPH. He made it down in under 10 hours, if I recall properly.

All in all, a good experience… although we’ll have to see if next year I try for 1 day again, or just put a big pastry cart on the Bianchi and do more of a fun ride!

STP Recap: GPS Stages of Grief and Irony

2007 MB STP LaMarcaDenial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. We hit them all (and decided to add the 6th stage which often occurs in breakups: Revenge) as we mourned our lost GPS data.

Overall I have to say it was a very very very good STP for team Pastry Powered. None of us got injured (although the sad hit and run – Greg/Ebeth – I heard it might have been a .83 guy?), and I only heard about Anthony’s flat just outside Scapoose, OR.

Leaving at 5:30 is WAY different from leaving at 6:30. First, you’re at the tail end of the “bell shaped curve” for the 1 day riders. Most of those who leave that “late” are actually fast one day riders, and hooking onto one of their pace lines is hard. But you’re at the front end of the two day riders. This became VERY apparent as we went passed Centralia.

Erik STP SunriseOne bonus of leaving early – you get to see a gorgeous sun rise over Lake Washington as you head south on Lake Washington Blvd. AND you actually can find good food at the REI and Spanaway rest stops, and the other rest stops aren’t nearly as crowded and (at least the first stop) the port a potties are less “used.” And you beat more of the heat. All in all – worth getting up for an earlier start.

Joanna and Linda left very early – Linda even before the 1 day riders. Joanna bypassed the start. The rest of us met up by the espresso stand around 5:15 and kept an eye out for Erik – who apparently left around 5:25. I guess there were so many people we missed him (or maybe because we were looking for a pastry powered jersey). Looking at what GPS data I have, we left in the 5:35 wave.

One huge negative – the Dan Henrys (the signs on the ground) where INCREDIBLY hard to see as they used eco-friendly red paint which didn’t show up well on the black pavement, and I think it wore off since last weekend. It made it hard to find the route until we hit Oregon (I think the Portland club marks the route down there).

We saw our first injury just as we got on the University bridge – not sure what happened (it has just happened), but reading the cascade bulletin boards – she was apparently being taken away on a backboard later. :(

We bypassed the Seward Park stop, and made good work of the hill there. I saw the unicycle on Rainier Ave. I never did see the skateboarder, but I heard rumors he made it.

At some point down in Tukwila a chain of very fast riders passed us – and I could just tell Ruben wanted SO bad to pace them! So I told him “but it’s PRETTY – go follow them and I’ll see you at REI” and with a bit more convincing (good husband), he was off. That became one of our code words on the ride: “oooh pretty” meant a nice pace line to follow…

We stopped at REI which had yummy tortillas with peanut butter, fruit and small Odwallas – very helpful for me who was having a lot of tummy upset from some antibiotics I was taking. Ugh. I didn’t want to eat. That made it harder later in the day when I was just simply running out of energy.

Not a lot to say about the next stretch, including the “Hill” – which quite frankly I did better this year than last. I actually managed to pass a few people!

At the top of the hill, Ruben discovered his GPS wasn’t recording since REI. At first there was Denial – “NO I DIDN’T HIT THE BUTTON.” Then there was Anger – he got pissed off that his tech got screwed up… Bargaining – “I’ll go back and re-ride that part of the route, anything, just to get the data” (and yes, Ruben thought about it). Depression – not much more to say there, and … well I’m not sure he’s accepted it yet. Ruben said there’s one more stage if you’re breaking up with someone – Revenge. So they started thinking about ways to get revenge on the tech. I believe Anthony came up with the best: “I’m going to turn you on and put you in a box with the LID CLOSED!!!” I was laughing so hard I was crying.

Erik and Joanna at STP - REIBy Spanaway, it was starting to get warmer and the group fragmented a little bit. We still hadn’t caught Joanna (who apparently did see Erik at the REI stop around 7am)… Ruben, Anthony and I left Spanaway first… then Greg, Elizabeth and Rich did a bit later. Ruben spotted Joanna in the line for the port a potties in Yelm, which is at mile 72.

The Tenino trail was nicer this year than last – hotter, but fewer people trying to do side by side lines on those squeezed in small bridges. Anthony had left yelm a bit before us, Ruben and I stuck together and took turns out in front up.

By the time I got into Centralia (the century mark), I was sick of “non food nutrition” – I could not get myself to eat another sportsbean or drink more Accelerade – my usual nutrition of choice on long rides. I needed a latte and a turkey sandwich, which we found at the student center in Centralia. (They were also showing the Tour De France in there. )

Oh let’s not forget the creamsicles – I think Anthony had 3. Joanna was the next to arrive, all Smiles! She knew she was done – well given she only had ridden 150? miles for her own training this season – making a century on the first day was really impressive. Elizabeth and Greg must have followed shortly after, but we didn’t see them – they found a spot on the other side of the “compound” but we eventually all got back together in one place. Then Rich came in.

We got a chance to all touch base and meet up with our heroine Joan. Someone was giving out packets of the Anti-Chafe cream (it was also in our packets from the packet pick up)… so I ran to the bathroom and lathered up. I figured I had used the Chamois Butter in the morning and it was probably all worn off, so I might as well. Now you know how they say you should never try something new on “race day?” – I have never felt this more than 20 miles down the road. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Anthony left first, Ruben and I left like 15-20 minutes after him. Megan thinks she saw one loan Pastry Powered shirt on the overpass – I think that was Anthony. Elizabeth and Greg also left, Joanna and Rich got a ride to Kelso and Joanna sacked out in blissful sleep.

I was dog slow those next 20 or so miles, even drafting Ruben (who 25 lbs lighter is much less of a wind-break if I must say so). The cross and head winds were just killing me, even though it’s largely flat all the way past Chahalis. At mile 120 I suddenly felt like I had a blister that had popped right where my leg meets my butt cheek. It was so painful I had to ride sideways a bit. I realized it was that (@)*#$ Anti-Chafe cream- which I would recommend no one uses. I think the Tea Tree oil in it is an irritant.

I did find some mole skin in my first aid kit (not just the ouch pouch – I got a new one from REI- small and well stocked). I was able to use that on one side (both sides were hurting at that point). We blasted through Napavine. I think that’s where I noted the Napavine Jail (1913-1935 – right on the train track to stuff the criminals on the train). At Winlock we stopped for more water and to see if the volunteer Gold Wing riders had any more mole skin (nope). It was really HOT and humid, and we did feel some drizzle as we left. I took a picture of the espresso stand we tried to get espresso from last year, but forgot to get a picture of the egg! That’s 2 years in a row I’ve missed that damn egg. (Who knows how I can miss the world’s largest egg.)

We stopped at the Vader store and I put the mole skin I had on my butt. We also ate a really yummy chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich. Ruben ate an Egg. That just sounded nasty. But I have to give kudos to the Vader store for having a misting thing up… that felt awesome.

Somewhere in there a really really sweet family had a lemonade stand set up – REALLY refreshing lemonade and water… Oh it really really really really (did I say really?) helped. Kudos to those guys.

Ruben with OarWe made it up and down the rolling hills – my legs were sore, but still functioning – in fact since it was cooling down I was doing much better. Ruben was still as strong as ever. I caught Ruben and his secret of how to get up hills – he found an Oar on the road – a truck pulling a boat had just recently gone by. We had heard it bouncing around. A few blocks later he found the oar in the road. I figure that’s his secret of how he gets up hills.

We did one more stop in Castle Rock at 5:30 – they were just about to close down the stop. The Lexington stop was closed by the time we got there. Ruben and I made it into Kelso and the hotel around 6:30 that evening. I don’t know what time Linda made it in, but it was before us (starting early and taking no stops was her strategy). Anthony was probably there 30-45 minutes before us). He had powered his GPS with a nifty battery powered charger once it got down to 1/4 of his battery power left. I found that my GPS unit made it all the way to Kelso – all 13 hours and didn’t run out of battery. I think that’s the longest it’s ever gone.

I should also mention one other person: Ruben’s friend/co-worker Scott wound up riding with his friend Sally. They were also staying in Kelso. When we arrived in Kelso the front desk at the Red Lion first surprised me by saying that they had overbooked – I thought they were going to tell me I didn’t have a room. On the contrary, they upgraded us to a suite. Ruben had already invited Scott to shower our shower, so we invited Scott to share floor space… and he joined us for dinner.

We washed off the salt and jumped into the pool, then met everyone for dinner at Azteca. Ruben and I went on a walk afterwards to find more moleskin for my poor butt for the morning.

Elizabeth and Greg got picked up in Castle Rock – it was just getting a little dark and given the headwinds Ruben and I were hitting, they made the right decision.

I think we all slept like a rock.

In the morning Joan drove Elizabeth and Greg back to Castle Rock to get the good breakfast grub and continue on their journey. Rich and Joanna left from Kelso around 9:30. Linda left much earlier apparently, we saw her at the finish line alllll cleaned up. We had our crappy breakfast at the Red Lion hotel (Rich and Joanna’s choice of Shari’s would have been better, we decided the only thing the scone (pastry) would power would be a gas powered car – it had to be a petroleum by product).

Anthony, Ruben and I left close to 10am… We stood out in front of the Red Lion acquiring signal with our GPS units. Anthony had re-set his GPS back to 0 (the other data saved in memory), and I told him “it’s all one ride!” His comment “two days, 2 rides”. Ruben… well his GPS once again crapped out on him by not charging the battery the night before. More of the 6 stages of grief ensued, but acceptance came quicker this time.

I bumped into one of my softball cohorts on the approach to the Longview Bridge into Oregon. I didn’t even know he was riding. He’s a group health “medic” on the ride. His first ride – he was all smiles.

The Longview bridge was uneventful, save for the plethora of water bottles on the expansion joint on the downward slope. Anthony, the king of found treasure, had a field day. He missed the walky talky that dropped off of someone though.

Route 30 was hot, noisy and windy – as always. Worse this year was that we had a headwind. I don’t know which is worse: a tail wind when it’s sunny and hot, or cloudy weather that’s cooler but with a headwind. This was the worst of both – a headwind and 80 degree cloudy weather.

At Goble we heard rumors of the hit and run accident further up the road. There was some talk that the road was closed for a while but that cyclists could get through. I didn’t know much more than a cyclist was hit. Later we found out the cyclist was hit by a guy who had once been convicted of murder, it was a DUI (at 9:20 am?!?!?!?), I hope they throw the book at him. I’m pretty damn steamed. (There was also talk on the cascade site about a guy in a white truck in Vader backing out of his driveway recklessly and hitting cyclists. Very nice considering it’s the one time of year Vader gets any amount of tourism. )

Anthony kept to his own pace, the wise man that he is, Ruben and I kept finding pretty drafting lines and I pushed myself a bit harder than I should have. In the end it was fine, but I think I’m more sore than I would have been had I held back. We passed Rich and Joanna at one point.

We stopped at St. Helens and I jammed on the cookies there. Rich and Joanna showed up next (NOT missing it this year like they did last year). Erik sent me a text message to look out for him and yet when Ruben and I took off, I thought to look for him AFTER he had passed us. Suddenly he came up from behind and said “HEY Great Jerseys” or something like that.

Apparently he had passed by Anthony near Scapoose, he was changing a flat but was in the ditch. Given the noise was so bad on 30, Erik couldn’t hear Anthony call to him.

Bat WomanWe all connected back up at Scapoose where we got a very long rest. Check out the pictures of Ruben and Anthony! Rich bought a Creamsicle. Oh here’s where we saw the “Bat Woman” – it was a woman dressed in black lycra pants, and black tank top, with OBVIOUSLY manufactured breasts practically falling out of the top. She had tatoos on her back. I think Anthony came up with the term “Bat Woman.” I actually managed to snap a shot of her when I was trying to get Rich coming into the rest area – here’s the shot:

This also prompted the discussion about other folks we’ve seen on various rides, including one woman on a couple of cascade rides completely decked out with scary Hello Kitty paraphernalia.

Joanna took off and Anthony asked if we’d regroup once more. I told him that I KNOW Joanna will wait for us – it was her idea to cross together in the first place last year.

Ruben stuck with me through most of the trip, even though he could have ridden MUCH faster. One of the other running themes between us was every time a rider would pass him, he’d say so only I could hear – “I could take him”… This would happen over and over “I could take him,” “I could take HIM” etc. At one point on the trail, a guy passed us and Ruben said under his breath “I can’t take him.”

Once in Portland, there was this train paralleling our route. The train was going pretty slowly – maybe 20 mph… probably waiting for a track to change. So I told Ruben… “You could take that” – and Ruben did. He raced the train and managed to “beat it” … Then the conductor slowed the train down and started waving – he got a wave from both Ruben and from me. Then he sped up and took off.

Other than that, the last 14 or so miles were pretty uneventful, until the last major HILL – very short, very steep and very very very annoying. There at the top was Joanna, waiting patiently for all of us to meet up with her. I put Maltby at the front of my bike at this point, so he could ride in with us.

Group Shot

The rest of the ride was pretty annoyingly slow because the BULK of the 2 day riders arrived at the same time.

Still, they announced a few of our names (including Rich – and they butchered the pronunciation of Chappaquah)…

Joan, Paul, Megan and Josh were all RIGHT on the corner smiling and waving to us. Linda and Mitchel joined us in the recovery area for a bit, we got our requisite swag (Whole Food Green Bags!!! WOOT!), and headed over to Eric Koldingers for a quick shower. (Most of us rode our bikes there – Greg was kind enough to drive the van – I think Joan had had enough of the behemoth after 2 days in it :)) After that we had a great dinner at the New Old Lompoc, where I was fully embarrassed by the generosity of my fellow riders – thank you all – I will be silk screening stuff for all of you with the gift card!!!!

When we got home it was my turn to go through the stages of grief. I uploaded my GPS data only to find it lost 22 miles of mapping data from the beginning of the ride! I am still not to acceptance yet. I am still thinking revenge.

ARGGGGHHH!!!!!!!

The final tally did say between 15.4-15.6 mph average which is slower by a bit than last year (I did 15.7). However, I met my own personal challenge of making 150 miles in a day – a huge feat given that I had only trained to really make 120 or 130. Next time I will train for further distances and think “it’s only 50 miles more?!??!?!” Training for 100, vs training for 150 IS different. We trained for 100 each day.
Anyway, lesson learned.

I have to once again than Joan, Paul, Megan and Josh for helping to ferry us and our stuff. I have to thank Eric and Kirsten for letting us crash and trash their place and shower in real porcelain. And I have to thank Linda for her fore thought to book extra rooms in Kelso!

Next year?

P.S. Scott did the STPTS – he biked home from Portland on Monday. I heard from Ruben he did it in just over 11 hours? Amazing.