A Sunday Century, Rounded Up

The other day on the bike I got an idea to ride down to Béziers from here, some 150 km away. Without thinking, I mentioned it to John on the phone and, within minutes, I was committed to something I hadn’t even mapped out on Google. John, in turn, invited two friends, Erik and Anne, along for the ride. Word to the wise; keep ideas to yourself till you consider the consequences!

So it was that on a cool, sunny Sunday morning, John and I left the Roman city of Nîmes for the Roman city of Béziers (it’s a common kind of city in Languedoc). We made very good time to Prades le Lez, north of Montpellier, where we met Erik and Anne. We made one stop on the way to enjoy the view of Pic St. Loup from Saint Vincent de Barbeyrargues. This, as some of the old timers to this blog will know, is my old stomping grounds.

From now on, pretty much every photo you see was taken because we stopped to check out where we were. This is one of the very few disadvantages of having so many small, car-free roads – it’s easy to forget where you want to go. Here’s the crew on our first question of direction, minus the blogger.

Anne, Erik’s wife, has apparently designated herself his directeur sportif for the upcoming season and has encouraged him to do one of the Etapes du Tour next year. It has been agreed that Anne will be our support for Act One next year and we had a good chat on the ride about how much hurting there was going to be, etc. Does anyone else out there talk about suffering on a bike while suffering on a bike…?

As we neared noon Erik informed us that he was about to get cranky, so we stopped at a little grocery store just before they were closing for lunch, bought a baguette, some ham, cheese, and drinks, and had a nice little meal in front of the village church.

Further on down the road we crossed the Hérault River, with John pulling us along, as was the case most of the day.

More directional ponderings.

Both old school and new…

Here is a particularly lovely tree-lined road…

…where I finally got my backside in a photo (thanks, Erik).

Thanks goodness for Google Maps.

A nice village castle.

A cave cooperative in the same village, I think. Most of the wine growers in Languedoc are small time and cooperatives are the way they can afford to sell their goods. Some of these are very well known and have great quality wines, according to my budding wine expert buddy, John.

One last shot before we hit the outskirts of Béziers. A well-oiled machine, don’t you think?

And finally our train on the way back home. That’s a dog, not a bear, by the way. The French love their pets and of all the many people who stepped over this blissfully ignorant beast, nobody once kicked it!

Overall, for a spur-of-the-moment idea, I’d say it was a great success. For late October we had pretty astounding weather – high of 25 and not a cloud in the sky, and having great company makes 156 km fly by without too much pain. I contemplated riding around the block for 4 km to bring the mileage up to 160 (and therefore a real century), but rounding up is allowed, isn’t it?

20 thoughts on “A Sunday Century, Rounded Up

  1. Nice one! Are those custom bike hanging racks on the trains? Bit civilized if they are.

    Down our way, Perpignan, you just have to throw them in the corner of the local Rattler. Mind you we are getting the one euro flat fare come Christmas thanks to that nice M. Bourquin.

    I have my own views on the heinous crime of rounding up but hey! :~}

  2. You don’t have the new TERs down your way? Barbarians! Yes, they are hooks for bikes. I haven’t seen one of those old ‘rattlers’ on our line in a couple years. Must have shifted them all down your way..

  3. I throw ’rounding up’ absolution your way (you and my wife would make a good Distance Measuring Team). That sky/weather looks like what we have been blessed with for the past two months. It has been much more than we ever could have hoped for. Congrats on the ride and thanks loads for the pics.

    • I like to think of myself as an optimist, which helps make centuries out of 98 mile rides. The weather has turned nasty now, so we were lucky to get that last big ride in. I hope yours continues.

  4. Hey Gerry – Does talking to oneself about suffering while suffering on a bike count? Because, I do that all the time….well, except when I ride with my wife, but because I feel so guilty riding easy with her, I ride some more just so I can suffer. I thought everyone did? Are you saying some people actually look at the scenery and not their heartrate, power output and speed, stop to eat….instead of wolfing down some disgusting energy bar so they don’t lose time, can hold a conversation with a fellow rider without timing their words as they exhale and just basically ride their bikes for pure enjoyment? Wow, looks like I’ve been doing this riding thing all wrong for the past 30 years.

    Love the post. By the way, with all the stopping and starting, did you record it as “Long Distance Interval Training” in your log book…..?

    Enjoy the Ride….Rob

    • I for one appreciated those stops, since I could look at something more than John’s butt (not that there’s anything wrong with his butt…). So yes, it seems there are riders out there who do it for pleasure. That world seems so long ago now.

      We’re hoping to get one more big ride in before the days get really short – another century (rounded up!) to the Starbucks in Marseilles – the only one in the whole south of France. Now the rain just needs to let up for 24 hours and we’ll be good.

  5. Nice! I am a wee bit jealous, okay I am a whole lot of jealous. It has turned cold with rain here. There is one statement I do not comprehend…”suffering on a bike” ???
    Keep grasping life by the handle bars my friend.

    • That was then, this is now. While I write this Eastern Languedoc is experiencing a ‘vigilance rouge’ – heavy rain and thunderstorms. And if you don’t understand suffering on the bike yet, I think we have to take another trip back to Ventoux!

      How are the Etape plans coming along, by the way?

  6. Well if you are ‘suffering’ on a 150K ride …you sure about two stages of Etape??? Maybe it is semantics but I find if I am ‘suffering’ I stop. I have this motto: No pain…NO PAIN. When I am on a bicycle I am free and I train and enjoy the pain but also enjoy the time I am on the bike and say ‘good morning’ to everyone I pass with breath or out of breath and at Rob – I do enjoy the scenery along the way …I just love to ride, I am a little freakish about that, but with age and experience you learn to enjoy what comes your way or in this case what goes by. And Ventoux…just a bump in the road…
    I am still considering Etape and leaning towards, I still have two weeks to decide, would be great to ride with you and John, will Eriks wife allow him? lol It will be stage 1 not sure I am in condition for 2 maybe in a year or two but then,,, may do the Ventoux triple and/or we could make Etape an annual thing…

    • Hi Roger – I hope you detected the little sarcasm in my writing. I actually do enjoy the easy rides with friends, while taking in beautiful scenery wherever I ride in the world, even if it’s a local route I’ve ridden 100’s of times, which happens after riding for over 30 years. That said, I still race competitively so training hard with purpose comes with the territory. Enjoy the Ride….Rob

    • Yes, I think it’s just semantics. All of us ride because we enjoy it or none of us would do it, I imagine. Your ‘pain’ is my ‘suffering’.

      Good choice on the Act One, I think. It’ll probably be the ‘easier’ of the two, but still will have more vertical gain that a Ventoux triple.

  7. I am not being critical just philosophical. And yes Rob I do detect your sarcasm, after reading your training ‘blogs’, for which I learn alot, I think you and I are very much alike. We enjoy what we do. We train, learn, but we also enjoy…I know too many that compete and I am convinced they do it to complain about what doesn’t work. lol. And there are rides where I pull out my mountain bike so not to leave my fellow riders behind so I can enjoy the company on the ride. I am not competitive in the racing sense but train as if I were so a climb like Ventoux and century rides are far more enjoyable… I just love being on a bike! …and winter is aproaching, sigh.
    Maybe one day you me and Gerry can do an impromptu century ride and we can discuss Gerry’s ‘suffering’. 😉
    Okay Gerry, you are doing everything you can to convince the guy from the flat lands to avoid Etape du Tour, got anything that says ‘hey big guy you can do this’? Mont Ventoux scared the living daylights out of me for I had no idea what a mountain climb was all about, if I find a 10% grade it is 3 meters long. Not sure if I should jump in or wait a year and get stronger…Rob feel free to comment. Would really like to ride with you guys… in southern France, would really like to live to ride in southern France. Until that day …cheers!

    • Hi Roger – I’m always up to ride with anyone that has a love for the bike. I’m sure you can be ready in time for Etape, but Gerry is right to provide a word of caution, as it will require a significant training commitment. I often challenge athletes that come to me for Ironman coaching or any training advice for a significant endurance event by telling them to be careful what they wish for. If you’re not well prepared, these big events can really chew you up on race day. And if you make the journey across the Atlantic, you’ll want to put in a respectable performance, and you certainly don’t want to pull a DNF. I’m coaching a guy my age (55) right now that wants to ride some of the epic climbs throughout Italy next summer. These climbs are even harder than Mt Ventoux (and many of the high mountains in the French Alps). He’s starting his training now, which provides sufficient time to train between now and next summer (even with our Canadian indoor winter season). We’re also integrating a revised diet plan, as the food he eats today will play a critical role in performance next season (check my blog post on this topic at: http://www.nofinishlineblog.com/2011/10/off-season-nutrition.html ….Note: he also wants to lose some weight). As long as he remains committed to both the training program and the new diet plan, I know he’ll do fine. So if you sign up for one of the E’tape races, you would be wise to make the same commitment. Because as you said, European mountains are very different to what we train on over here and the climbs in the 2012 E’tape edition are pretty significant. Hope that helps a little in your decision making process. Rob

    • Roger, how’s this: Hey big guy, you can do this!

      Seriously, I have no doubt you can, since you were strong on Ventoux. That being said, Act One next year will be 30 km longer and 1000 meter higher than the one I did this year, and I really, really ‘suffered’ on the Alpe d’Huez (the last climb) this year. If you go back and look at the videos from that climb you’ll see the carnage for yourself. People walking their bikes in their socks (a very uncool look ;-), sitting at the side of the road, heads in hands, lying anywhere they could find a place…as Aussie Tim would say, many ‘broken souls’. I finished well up because I had lots of respect for what was coming the whole year – trained my ass off, lost weight, and even gave up beer for a period (if you know me you’ll know that’s commitment!). Here’s the article from Act One. Read all the comments at the bottom, too. They say a lot about what the Etape is all about:


      I think your plan is great and I love to see people setting goals like this (it makes me feel like I’m not crazy…). Now, onto your flatness…I hereby hand you over to Coach Rob, who is very free with his (excellent) advice and I’ll bet he can solve this little hiccup for you!

      How’s this for encouragement? I’ll buy you a beer at the finish line!

  8. Okay this is encouraging: People walking their bikes in their socks, sitting at the side of the road, heads in hands, lying anywhere they could find a place…as Aussie Tim would say, many ‘broken souls’. Oh and let’s not forget giving up beer in order to prepare to be a people walking their bikes in their socks, sitting at the side of the road, heads in hands, lying anywhere they could find a place…as I would paraphrase Aussie Tim , many ‘broken souls’…without beer!
    Giving up beer you are one sick cookie…

  9. Hydrate and carb up… BEER…two birds, one stone. Still on the Etape fence, if not 2012 definately 2013, mainly business, bidding on a huge project and finance, but will keep in shape for I do not want to lose what I have… any suggestions Rob would be helpful. Indoor: climb stairs (34 flights of ten, two at a time, four times) and do squats, ride a recumbent, thinking of a Lamond trainer for winter…what else can I do?
    You guys are great!

    • The Etape will be here, I’m sure. 2013 is the 100th Tour de France, so will prove to be something special. I’m guessing they’ll either go very traditional with the mountain stages, or completely change the game and do something radical. I’m leaning towards ‘traditional’, so expect some nice, famous ones for that year (as if Tourmalet, Aubisque, Madeleine and Croix de Fer aren’t famous enough…).

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