Taking Stock…then Taking Off

Nearly 8 months ago, in a sudden fit of insanity, I signed up for the Etape du Tour, probably one of the toughest sportive races there are out there. Up to that point in my career I had done exactly zero bike races. At that time I identified 3 areas of concern:

1. I’m fat.

2. My knee hasn’t been right in over 5 years.

3. I’m 42.

Turns out there were a few things lacking from this list (a woefully inadequate bike, for example), but let’s take just these three and see how I’ve fared since November.

1. I’m fat. Well, I’m still no Andy Schleck, but since Christmas I’ve come down from 77 kg to what I’m hoping will be 68 kg on race day. 9 kg is a lot of extra baggage to pull up the col du Telegraphe, Galibier and Alpe d’Huez, so although I’m definitely still not at an ideal weight for climbing, it’s a whole world away from where I started.

2. My knee hasn’t been right in over 5 years. This one has been temporarily solved by modern medicine and, probably, building up muscle strength around the knee. The short of it is that I can, for the most part, push my left knee as hard as my right now. Another massive improvement since last year.

3. I’m 42. This one was easy; I just turned 43 since then. Age is not really a factor, I’m finding. For one thing, in most of the cyclosportives I have done in France, guys in my age category are always featured in the top ten. More importantly, I’ve been simply gauging my condition by comparing myself to others in my age group.

When you start out on little adventures like this you really cannot know the fortunes (and misfortunes) that might come your way. Finding my partner in crime, Karsten, was a great move, since we have motivated each other over the months and have done several races together, even though we live at different ends of the country.

I’ve also had the great good luck of finding my step-brother Rob, who has become my online coach and has improved my fitness by leaps and bounds with his simple, effective training tips. Everyone should have a 7-time Ironman in the family!

I’ve also discovered a whole new universe of blog buddies (yes, you!) who have motivated me with both words and deeds (it’s good to know there are others doing the same crazy stuff as you sometimes). Some of these friends might even turn into real live people, if I can find Tim at the Etape next week (look for a guy in a polka dot helmet, probably draped in a boxing kangaroo flag…). Then there are Steve and Peter who I will be seeing in Languedoc later this month, after the Etape when I am allowed to drink beer guilt free…

These next 6 days will be filled with plenty of kilometers, but thankfully not many of them on the bike. We’re off on Thursday for a 600 km drive up to Switzerland, where my budding-artist wife will drag me to an exhibition in Basel, that will be bookmarked by a couple of rides through the (fingers crossed) low hills of southern Alsace.

Then on Saturday it’s to the French Alps for a couple days of anxious recovery rides and beer avoidance. Very, very early Monday morning, if everything goes to plan (ha!), Herr Kaa and I will be in our pens, surrounded by 10,000 of our newest friends, awaiting 3 mythic Tour climbs, a whole lot of suffering, some outstandingly beautiful roads and views, and maybe, just maybe, NO sign of the broom wagon.

Wish us luck!

18 thoughts on “Taking Stock…then Taking Off

  1. Thanks for the kinds words Gerry. I only wish the timing of my trip to France was better and we had the chance to ride E’Tape together. I’m so looking forward to your post E’Tape blog post so I know what to expect when I come over in August. Enjoy the week of taper. You’re going to rock this ride, or as much as you can rock a ride with three of the hardest Cols in the Tour. Even the Tour riders respect this stage.

    PS: Enjoy every second of the art exhibition in Basel with Shoko. You know what they say…”Happy wife, Happy life”.

    • At least we’ll have the chance to see each other in Nice. Anyway, I’m secretly glad I have at least another season to train before going for a ride with you. I’ve had enough punishment for one year, thanks.

      My objective for the race has been upgraded from ‘finish in one piece’ to ‘finish with a respectable placing’. However it turns out, I’m sure it’ll make great fodder for a blog post or two.

  2. You are going to own this course. Show no mercy as you break the will of children half your age. As the gaunt and shockingly thin riders all around you lose their stamina, reach into your reserves of energy and cooly breeze by them. I look forward to your tale of accomplishment!

    • Those are confident words, Steve. I’d be happy to lease, or even rent the course, though. Owning it seems a bit optimistic! Still, one can dream. Yes, it’s good I kept some reserves for this race. If I’m lucky, it’ll be cold and rainy. That’s when the extra ‘graisse’ will come in handy!

      By the way, even though you are not an avid fan (yet), you must have heard that the US teams are not doing too badly at the moment. Exciting Tour so far as well. Usually it’s quite the yawner till they hit the mountains.

  3. Go get ’em kid……you have all the recovery time you need when in Gaspe…..just remember your check list (LOL) and wife….good luck !!!!

  4. Good Luck Gerry!

    It is all getting mighty close now. I’ve even started dreaming (having nightmares?) about it all: Have I trained enough? Have I forgotten anything? What is going to break ? Waking up in the middle of the night in a state of panic about 39 vs 34 tooth chainrings is just not natural.

    I’m sure you will be fine. Your prep had been good and it will show on the day. My training can best be described as “minimal” or possibly “adequate”. I’m still happier on a 10 mille TT course than on an alpine col, but I’m sure I’ll get around. In comparison, you are going to fly along and are quite justified in upgrading your aim from “finish in one piece” to “finish with a respectable placing”.

    Talking to a few of my multi-etape friends, their big advice was enjoy the day. Take in the views, wave to the spectators, talk to the people around you and relish being part of something big.



    • Thanks, Tim. I’ve been following your training a little and it seems, at least on flat bits, you are doing pretty good. I think if you have the legs and the lungs for the kinds of riding you do, you’ll do well on the Etape as well.

      I haven’t been having the same nightmares, simply because I’ve got only one chainring to choose from. well, more correctly, I’ve got a granny gear, so don’t need to concern myself with ratios. It’ll be a blast, I’m sure, no matter how it turns out.

      I doubt this will work, but my bib number is 8124 and I’ll be wearing a white Sidi jersey. Look for me in one of the back pens. I’m sure I’ll be starting near the rear.

      All the best with those logistics, by the way. You aren’t alone.

  5. I’ll be thinking of you, Gerry! Here’s hoping all your suffering, sorry training and slimming, will pay off and you’ll have a really great ride.
    Does Shoko have a website to showcase her art?
    Best of luck on the 11th.

  6. It sounds like fun…painful, agonising fun but fun none the less. At least the longest dragonboat race was only 55 mins, this one may take you a tad longer. Good luck in the race


    • Hey Jim, thanks! It’s a tougher sport, at least for me. Maybe it’s because I can’t slack off and let guys like you pull me along, like in a dragon boat!

      I’ll be thinking of you all this weekend. How’s the team looking this year?

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