The Most Beautiful Ride in the World


There’s a ride out west which bills itself as “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride.” It circumvents Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada and it sure is beautiful. Maybe the title is a little presumptuous but it surely is in the top ten of beautiful rides in the U.S.

Arth-Goldau. Cog Railway

Today I cast my vote for my most beautiful ride in the world. I would not have found it without Ben. I learned a lot about trains and bikes in Switzerland today. Ben and I (but mostly Ben) thought we had a plan but there were many moving parts. And not all went so well. We left Ben’s house at 6:40 a.m. and walked to the train station in Sissach.

Airola, Switzerland

When the train for Zürich came we tried to be aligned with the car that takes bikes. We weren’t. Ben spotted it and we rushed with two bikes, a bike case, and two suitcases. And barely made it.

Airola, Switzerland

Once on board, it was a relaxing train ride to the Zürich Main Station. There we found the DHL luggage drop-off, mainly because I had used it before but had no idea when, how, or why. The cost for day storage was 12 CHF per bag. I loaded both my two extra bags into the empty bike case to make it one bag instead of three. This is beating the system.

Airola, Switzerland
Rolling through town and already climbing

Ben had tried yesterday to make a reservation for our bikes for the train out of Zürich and could not. He assumed the app or website was not working properly but it may have been because they were sold out of bike reservations. But it didn’t display that way.

Tremola Road

In Zürich, we rushed over to the track and Ben asked a conductor about getting our bikes on the train. She told him he needed a bike reservation and there were none available. Ben said he had been trying but their app wasn’t working. After some back and forth she told him to see the conductor at the end of the train. (The exchange was not this pleasant though.)

Now the end of this train seemingly was 200 meters away – at least. Ben was running to reach the conductor. I was in flip-flops and couldn’t run without them falling off. I got on my bike and rode down the platform. I hope that was OK.

Water water everywhere. But no fountains on Tremola Road.

The conductor took our bikes and put them in a freight car on the train. We took a seat and the conductor came by at which time we paid 5 CHF for the “reservation” which we did not have. The cost of a bike pass was 20 CHF so now I was in for 25 CHF to be able to take my bike on a train. I had paid 30 CHF for a companion pass to be with Ben.

St. Gotthard Pass, Switzerland. Cobbles up and beauty down.
St. Gotthard Pass
CREDIT: Thomson Bike Tours, Weekly Newsletter, 12 Jun 2020

We had to transfer, somewhere, I was just along for the ride. Ben said to disembark and we got off and then transferred to another train. This train to Airolo only required that bikes be hung on one of the two hooks in each car. The train came into the station and we looked for a car with room for our bikes. As the cars went by the bike hooks were all full. We went to the last car as did four other cyclists and neatly put six bikes in a space for two.

Once the train started rolling we felt safe. But Ben mentioned that if they saw the bikes they could put us off at the next stop, which was a couple of stops short of our destination. Two conductors came by. I could not hear or at least understand what they were saying. Ben said they laughed at all the bikes and said it wasn’t the record – they once had 47. Or maybe we have 47 on this train.

Tremola Road

Some of the riders on the train were road cyclists headed to see the Tour de Suisse, as we were. Some were enjoying a beautiful summer day to go mountain biking. But there were lots of cyclists on the train whether they be of the slick tire or knobby tire variety.

We exited at Airolo, which is in the Italian-speaking portion of Switzerland. I met a couple who saw the cookie decal on my bike. He asked me if that was a Phil Gaimon cookie. Who knew someone in Switzerland would know about the cookies? It turns out that the young man was from Switzerland but has ridden Mount Palomar and Mount Baldy in Southern California, as I have. His friend, or girlfriend, was from Russia.

Airolo, Switzerland. Young Swiss man with his Russian girlfriend.

We did not have water in our bottles and would make a critical mistake. Seemingly water is free (and good) everywhere in Switzerland. We found a fountain in town but it was turned off. We found a second fountain and it too was off. What was up with that? We began the climb with no water.

Turning onto Tremola Road we faced a stretch of cobblestones. They were beautiful in design but require, of course, more effort. I had read about this climb once and thought there was 1-2 km of stone. Boy was I wrong. It was cobbled for all 14 km (9 miles) of the climb.

I had gotten sick midweek in Luxembourg and it was hanging on me. I was sick. My legs may have been dead from all the work too. I had nothing. Perhaps the answer would be revealed later.

We may have been 10 km in when I spotted a bathtub in a pasture with a pipe over it and cold running water. I asked Ben if we could drink the water coming out of the pipe and he said sure. We filled out bottles and it was good. The cows agreed.

At the summit

Near the summit is a four-kilometer (2.5 miles) stretch of 24 hairpin turns (or switchbacks). Some riders were riding in the gutter, a paved concrete section that was smoother than cobbles, but when I tried it I found I was too tired to hold a straight line. I was afraid I would hit the curb and go down. I moved back to the cobbles.

At the summit, we found a restaurant. Many people were here, not just cyclists, although there were plenty of them too. I had told Ben that when I reach the top I only wanted a Coke. Two Cokes, actually. But I saw some kids eating pasta with a meat sauce and it looked delicious. I ordered it and it was. I would have eaten a local bratwurst too except there was too long of a line.

Pasta at the top

Ben was on his phone checking train schedules and the progress of the last stage of the Tour (actually, it had not yet started so we were checking estimated times of arrival). These races publish an estimated time, a fastest expected time, and the slowest expected time.

We decided we would follow the route and ride to Hospental where the course turned left, sharply. From there we could go right (or straight) to catch our train without being on course. But it would be tight to make the train depending on how fast the Tour de Suisse was riding.

I could not miss the train. My suitcase was in my bike bag. I was sick. I wanted to be on the first flight to the U.S. tomorrow. If I missed it I might be able to go to the hotel with my bike and the clothes on my back. Tomorrow I would have to go back to the main station and retrieve my stuff then get back to the airport, where I was staying, in time for my flight. The thought of managing this was blowing my mind.

We finished eating and on the initial descent, I had hit 75 kpm (47 mph). Had I been riding and displaying miles I would have hit 50 mph. Or tried. But my mind and computer display were in kilometers. In Hospental we had found our position on the corner and waited for the Tour de Suisse to come by. After an hour, it did, with Hugh Carthy (EF-Education First) with solo breakaway and a 2:00 lead which he would hold to the end.

It was here that my bike was in the wrong gear to start, having descended in a 50:11. I decided to change gears by hand cranking the bike which is when I saw it. When I spun the wheel it went a few revolutions then stopped. The brake pad had been rubbing on the wheel. No wonder it was so hard climbing. All the jostling of bikes probably caused it but I should have checked it in Airolo.

As soon as part of the peloton had come through, we planned our escape. Ben said it would be 32 km and we had one hour. We would have to average 20 mph and would have no time for stops. That would normally be a very tough ask but we also knew the road went downhill.

However, we did not plan for a headwind – a vicious headwind. Ben did better on the climb, much better, than me but was having a problem with the wind. I took the lead most of the way and let him sit in my draft.

We went through Andermatt, a beautiful mountain town. And then for the next 20 km, the scenery just would not stop. Unfortunately, neither could I. We didn’t have time.

We saw white water rivers with the glacier turquoise water blasting down through small canyons under stone arch bridges. The scenery was breathtaking. But we knew not to stop, and besides, by the time we saw the perfect place we were already 200 meters past it and would have to turn around.

We kept the speed up and Ben made one final check – seven km to go (4.2 miles). And we had 20 minutes. I knew an easy day I could do those in 16 minutes. Of course, we would have to get to the station and find the right track. I rattled off each K-to-go and we pulled in with 10 minutes to spare.

Old train in Wassen

Ben was worried about this train as it might be full of cyclists from earlier stops. If we missed it we would miss getting my luggage from the train station. It was a train where no reservation was needed or apparently accepted. Just first-come, first-served. Look for empty bike hooks, and we guessed right for the car.

Ben and Barry at the Airport

What a day. It was my most beautiful day on a bike. I’ve never seen anything like that from Andermatt to Wassen. And going up, wasn’t as scenic but it was epic – a 14 km climb on cobblestones. Wow!

EPILOGUE – June 25, 2019. I was at the doctor’s office and had a very bad bronchial infection. She examined me and asked if I was exhausted. I pulled out my phone and showed her Tremola Road.

“Well, two days ago I biked up this 9-mile cobblestone road in Switzerland. Then I went 24 hours without sleep.”

She replied, “I take that as a yes.”

Of the great climbs I have done, many or all call for a do-ever. But none more than this one. I was sick and weak the day I climbed this and want to go back healthy. It’s more than Strava times. The scenery from Hospental to Andermatt is beyond description. I want to ride it without worrying about a train to catch.

Four-Country Ride


Our last day, and our biggest day. The preparation for this ride started on Wednesday at our team meeting. Fränk Schleck stated that he was going to offer two rides: The planned 155 km four-country ride and a shorter (100 km) ride that would only be able to take in three countries.

Sign of the roosters


To do a second ride, he would offer a guide, probably Glen Leven who is a mechanic for Trek-Segafredo, but no other support, i.e., no motorbikes. But he would need at least three volunteers.

Barry and Jens

Fränk asked us to think about what we were ready for after a week of riding. Two riders were consistently sagged throughout the week when we had time limits. I think Fränk was looking at those two as “volunteers.”


Glen Leven (and Martine Schleck in the shadows)

Even after the rest day, I wasn’t feeling much better. I was better but I wasn’t much better. The decision time was last night at the team meeting. I would love to go long and say I did a four-country ride but my body was telling me to volunteer for the shorter group. And I came to terms with that.


Jens Voigt

But then…


Fränk Schleck, Stephanie Voigt, Jens Voigt

In walked Jens Voigt to our team meeting. “Shut up legs.” And Jens is going to ride with the long group. That conflicted me as I wanted to ride with Jens but wasn’t sure I could keep with the group. But that option was quickly off the table. Fränk announced there would only be one ride. Everyone would start but if he felt someone was holding back the team he would tell them to get in the van, no arguing, no discussion. Having that decision out of my hand, I had to go long.


Jens Voigt – surprise guest at our Thursday meeting

We rolled out of Mondorf-les-Bains and a gap quickly developed back to the two riders. After 20 km (12 miles) just outside of Peppange we stopped as Fränk had gone back to help pace them. When they reached our group they stopped and got in the van.

My goal today was to finish. My strategy was simple. I thought I could stay with Jambo as we had ridden together quite a bit this week. We could form a grupetto of two if we had to as Fränk would not force Jambo, one of the organizers, off the course. But I didn’t have to resort to such a strategy.

Our first border was Belgium. We stopped at a non-descript border next to a farmhouse. The occupants were not thrilled we were there. They opened the door and their house smelled like a thousand ashtrays.


Belgium border

We rolled through a very scenic wooded section in Belgium, but only for 6.5 km (4 miles) and crossed back into Luxembourg. On another wooded scenic road, Fränk had us go from riding side by side (in twos) to one long paceline. And I was on Jens Voigt’s wheel. The speed ramped up as we kept this going for 10 km or more.


Luxembourg-Belgium border

We stayed in Luxembourg and crossed the country, west to east, traveling 64 km (40 miles). We crossed the Moselle River at Wormeldange to enter Germany and pulled over just inside the border. Next to the river in Germany was a bike trail with lost of users on this Friday afternoon. As I was taking a photo a German man (or maybe a Luxembourger on the wrong side of the river) started speaking to me in German. I think. When he saw I didn’t comprehend he asked, “what language?” He switched to English.

“But why no German?”, he asked. “You’re wearing the Luxembourg colors. I told him we were riding with Fränk Schleck. And Jens Voigt.


Source: Dan McDonough (Facebook, 22 Jun 2019)
Sitting: Barry Sherry – Keeling: Jambo (Jim Ray)
Crouched: Paul Lewandowsky
L-R: Carl, Frank, xxx, Dac Mcd, Scott Ireland, Gusty, Bryan Huneycutt, Will Swetnam, Jens Voigt, Margaret O’Rourke, Svetlana Martynova, Julie Trimble, Bob Pane, Scott Hesford

“Jens Vote?”, he exclaimed. I told him to come over and meet them. He said no and kept riding.


Moselle River from German side

We got on the bike path and hammered it for 19 km (12 miles). As we reached France, we stopped and one of our sagged riders joined us for the final push to home. Fränk made sure we rode at the pace of the slowest rider and we would finish the week riding together.


Newly AUTOGRAPHED phone case (by Jens Voigt)

As for me, I pushed through and maybe I shouldn’t have. But I had to, no? I was fearful all day that Fränk would say “you’re holding us back,” and secretly wished he did, but he never came my way. Jens only passed me going up one climb because he was ahead of me on all the others. As crappy as I felt, I never was last on a climb or even second to last.


Frank’s bike

It was a challenging day. I was just hanging on at times. I was breaking the ride into five-mile segments, just trying to get to the next one. There were times I wanted to cry out “I’m done.” But I kept going. And ultimately, I ended the day with the satisfaction of completing the day, and the week, that I set out to do. At the team meeting, I was recognized for powering through and never quitting.


We must be in France

What a week it was. Riding with the Brothers Schleck and Jens Voigt. Separate days in Holland, Luxembourg, France, and Germany and a four-country ride that included Belgium.

Luxembourg American Cemetery

This was a rest day so we would only ride 28 miles. Tell that to your friends who can’t imagine riding 28 miles – on our rest day that’s what we did. And it was easy.

Fränk Schleck, Barry Sherry, Andy Schleck

Fränk Schleck met us in the morning at the bike room at the hotel. Once we were ready, his brother, Andy, the 2010 Tour de France winner, showed up to lead the ride. Like Fränk, he also lives in Mondorf-les-Bains. Can’t lead the ride? Have your little brother, the TdF champion, fill in.

I did not plan on being at the front of our group as we rolled out from Mondorf but found myself there with Andy Schleck. I was at the front for two kilometers until I moved over to give someone else a chance to chat.

Andy asked me how I liked Luxembourg. I loved it I told him and that Frank undersells it. He agreed. It is a beautiful country. Andy asked where I was from and then added he gets to the States a lot, mostly California.


A TdF champion serving espresso. Jambo on the left.

We rolled to his bike shop. It is very clean (Frank says “too clean”). There is a cafe in the back and the former TdF champion was making and serving espresso for those who wanted some.

The shop could have been any American bike shop. That is any clean American bike shop. Andy is a Trek dealer, along with other brands. Shimano, Camelbak, and Bontrager products are on the shelves as are Cliff Bars and Power Bars.

But there is one difference. There is a lot of memorabilia from Andy’s career and also from some of his teammates.

I have a lion


I have a lion

We had decided as a group to add another 4 km, uphill, to our ride. The Luxembourg American Cemetery was only 2.4 miles away. It was very moving. General George S. Patton is buried here. We presumed to be buried with his troops.

Only 39% of the original soldiers that were buried here remain. The other 61% have been repatriated and are buried on American soil in the U.S. And here the rain came, but only for a short time.

When we left we were in rain but by the time we got back to Andy’s shop (retracing our route) it was dry. Although it looked like we would be in rain for a while, this was the only time we were in rain and it lasted no more than 10 minutes, It was a very moving and very meaningful day.

EDIT/EPILOGUE – This post was originally titled “Team Andy” because when you get to ride with a Tour de France winner (2010), why not? But from a week of riding in Luxembourg and four other countries, our visit to the Luxembourg American Cemetery was among my best memories. After moving hosting for this site and losing some post which had to be restored manually, the name Luxembourg American Cemetery just resonated. Almost forgot that I rode with a Tour de France champion that day. Sorry Andy. 🙂

Luxembourg the Country


Another beautiful day in Luxembourg. We looked forward to another brilliant ride. One problem. My illness, and I think it’s a cold, got worse. I had a bad headache last night and was feeling like crap. I thought about sitting this one out. But I hoped a bike ride would make it better.

Glen Leven’s bike. Glen is a mechanic for Trek-Segafredo.

You see, I have a history with this. About 10 years ago to the day (actually June 6, 2009) I was sick. Very sick. I should have been in the hospital. Instead I went for a bike ride. A long, hard, bike ride. It did not make it better. But I knew then to call the doctor.


Glen Leven (pro mechanic), Will Swetnam, Frank Schleck

Before rollout, Frank and Andy Scheck‘s dad, Johny, came to meet us. He is the father of the two Brothers Schleck and the unknown brother, Steve. He had also ridden in the Tour de France, from 1965-1973 less 1969. It was a nice gesture and most of our group knew him from last year.


Stadtbredimus – Next to the Moselle River

We followed the beautiful Moselle River and onto some streets and roads. We had a little nasty climb ahead, and it started to rain. It wasn’t heavy, and it didn’t leave the roads a mess, it just refreshing, actually.


Will, escaping the rain (which would last about 3 minutes)

We would follow the route of the Medio Schleck Gran Fondo with one diversion. Gusty, our guide and friend, wanted us to visit his place, a place that Frank, and Gusty, call Gustyland.



We stopped and had a 45-minute snack. Martine Schleck had brought some delicious bread and cake. Gusty’s wife, Donny (sorry about the spelling), served some meats and cheeses. There is always laughing when you are around Gusty and today was no exception. He proudly showed off how he hunts pigs (wild boar) with knives.


Gusty demonstrating his knife skills

The views kept getting better. We were on the switchback of the “last” climb, well, except Frank lies. He doesn’t do it intentionally, he just doesn’t realize that what is a bump in the road for the former winner on Alpe d’Huez during the Tour de France, is a climb for us mortals.


Chillin in Gustyland. One of our moto drivers is standing on the right.

Frank calls out “Last climb! Last climb! Give it your all. Leave nothing here.” One problem was I couldn’t see how far the climb went. Still, I did my best and did leave the small group I was with. It was a small victory.



We came to the overlook at Stadtbredimus. Vineyards and a river view. And Gustyland somewhere in the distance.



Frank said he had good news and bad news. The good news is we were about 10-15 km from the end (his distance measures were off too – LOL). The “bad news” was he was willing to take some riders and go an extra distance.


Stadtbredimus – Overlooking Moselle River. Germany is on the left of the river.

Normally I would be all over that but I wasn’t feeling well. I needed to finish in the pack and call it a day. Frank ended up with perhaps the two strongest riders for the week, both named Scott. As we rolled back towards home, they turned left. I could see a vineyard, a steep farm road, and hear Frank let out the best “Dr. Evil. laugh you will hear.



I was glad with my decision. We rolled on through some beautiful paths and farm roads back to the hotel. The boys came in an hour later looking pretty beat. And today, the ride did make it better.



Today’s ride started in Luxembourg but in just 10 km (six miles) we came to Schengen and the Moselle River where German, France, and Luxembourg come together. We crossed the river and had a 100 km day in Germany.

Schengen – Moselle River, Germany on other side

We were on farm roads when my eyes starting tearing. Or crying. I didn’t know what was happening. I thought it was hay allergies. But it would be a harbinger of things to come.

We were coming into Mettlach. We were on a downhill on a busy street. I was 7th or 8th wheel when one of our riders passed me. Fair enough. One problem was the road flattened out and he lost contact with the group upfront. So I was now in the second group; missing out on the first group and their fun. Maybe.


Our moto – Each ride had two men on motorbikes who kept us safe

There were four of us. We were trending downhill, next to the Moselle River, for 20 km (12 miles). It was glorious. At first only Gusty was doing the pulling or pace-setting and we were riding into the wind. I went up front to help. Our other two riders did not.


All together in Saarburg

Will Swetnam, who started the trip without his bike because of Condor Flugdienst Airlines, finally had his bike delivered to the hotel and he was now on his bike instead of Frank’s. But there was one problem. The battery that controls shifting (Shimano Di2) was dangerously low. He started with 10% life remaining and it dropped to 5%. He could no longer use the big ring up front for power and he dropped off the front group. We came rolling by and picked him up. So Gusty, Will, and I took turns at the front while the other two enjoyed the fruits of our labors.



(Note: I am not complaining. I enjoyed more fruit this week than I deserved but it is nice when one can contribute so others can rest. I did not want Will to help, but he did.)

We came to Saarburg which is a beautiful city. But riding in a paceline we had no chance to take photos. We stopped at a Biergarten where we were served these huge pieces of cake. We were rewarded after a 45-minute break by starting on a climb. Ugh. Lactic acid. And it was an eight-mile climb at that.


Saarburg – Biergarten

Still, we were together for most of the ride but I dropped back to take a photo of three other riders. After the photo, the support van followed them as well as a car with an “L” on its plate. It was from Luxembourg.


Saarburg – The Famous Cake

Surely, I thought, with a Schleck van in front of us clearly marked, this driver would be excited to see Frank Schleck. I was wrong. He was impatient and the horn blaring as he went by should be discredited to Luxembourg and not Germany. Maybe he thought we didn’t notice.


Frank, Margaret, Scott I – Merzkirchen

But once he got by then I was able to pass the follow van and join back up with the group. When asked where I was I said simply I was caught up in the caravan of cars. Like a pro.

We reentered Luxembourg at Remich, again crossing the Moselle River. We had an easy roll in back to Mondorf. It was a 100 km day on the bike. It felt good except for those watering eyes would lead to a sore throat at dinner. This was not going well.

Luxembourg City


On the schedule, this was a rest day as we had ridden 100 km in France and 100 km in Holland the past two days. Fränk Schleck proposed we see Luxembourg City.

We had two non-riders in our group for the week but Fränk found some “city bike” rentals for Svetlana and Jackie to ride. We had four cars, four people in each, and drove to the outskirts of Luxembourg City.

Fränk (or Gusty) led us down a very pretty and heavily wooded trail next to a small river. When we reached the old city, the streets were cobbled. Frank pulls up and stops at a bike shop. The owner knew Fränk, and I wondered throughout the week what percent of the country knew him and Andy. What stood out was the owner was wearing a Livestrong bracelet.

Bike shop

Those Livestrong bracelets were a fad. They were fading long before Lance came out and admitted doping but the number of people wearing them dropped precipitously after that. It is rare to see a Livestrong band supporter now and I didn’t think we would see one in Luxembourg. We did a fist pump.

A bike with a view

We made out way to a glass viewing elevator which would give us a great view of the city. Bikes permitted.

Lunch in town square

Lunch was in the general plaza area. Unsure if it was lunch or a snack, I ordered a Coke (Zero) and a banana split. There was no time for shopping but this rider was awed by the beauty of this old city which is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Fränk assisting Jackie

As we were getting on our bikes, Fränk was first and just started to pedal away. A waiter came over carrying a cell phone. At first I thought one of our group left their phone on the table. But then I realized the waiter had recognized Fränk and was coming for a picture. Fränk had just pulled away but I am sure he would have gladly posed for a photo op with the waiter.

Fränk and Jackie

When we returned I went for a ride in France to give her a second chance. This time was better than Saturday’s ride.

Amstel Gold Route


Our group, Rooster Racing, drove from our base in Mondorf, Luxembourg to The Netherlands, to ride part of the course of the Amstel Gold Race, Holland’s most famous race. One (at least this one) envisions Holland as this flat country of windmills, canals, and tulips. Well, that may be true in the north, I don’t know, but in southern Holland it is hilly. Damn hilly.

Bikes in the Schleck van

We boarded a 17-passenger bus for the 3-hour ride to Valkenburg. Upon arriving we parked in a train/commuter parking lot. The Schleck van had all our bikes onboard and we only had to reattach the front wheel to our own bikes. Today’s route would be 100 km while the actual course for Amstel Gold is two and one-half times that.

Before rolling out, we took a moment to recognize (American) Fathers’ Day. There were seven of us: Gusty, Bob, Paul, Carl, Bryan, Fränk, and me. With four children, I had the most, plus include four more grandchildren too. Maybe I don’t belong in this group. None of the others had grandchildren.

Father’s Day: Gusty, Bob, Paul, Carl, Bryan, Fränk, Barry


But today’s Father’s Day was even more meaningful. Will Swetnam had the honors of writing Bethany’s name on my calf and today I would ride in honor of my daughter. In addition to making me a first-time father, I was here because I was riding for her.

The Roosters’ motto is “Do Good, Ride Hard, Live Well.” We each had a minimum of $1500 fundraising for the charity of our choice. And I chose the one that would benefit Bethany.

Margraten, The Netherlands


Fränk Schleck, made it a point to emphasize that in the Netherlands that where a bike path exists one must ride it instead of the street or road. That would be our riding today – on and off bike paths. We had only ridden 3.5 miles when the road turned up. This was the Geulhemmerberg. There was clear separation in our group. With one exception, our riders were younger than me and stronger, and I was usually about 2/3 of the way down on big climbs.

Mheer, The Netherlands


We waited at the top for two of our riders. I may have been 15 seconds down but a couple of riders were 2-3 minutes down. Once we regrouped we came to a church celebration in Bemelem. It was part parade, part Mass, and part funeral although I doubt if it was a funeral as we would hit others like it throughout the day.

Bemelen, The Netherlands

We had to detour around the small village. Fränk would talk to the policemen and I wonder how many recognized him as a former pro cyclist or more importantly, the winner of this race, their race, in 2006. It was his “coming out party” (winning the 2006 Amstel Gold Race) as he told us.

Mheer, The Netherlands

The terrain, not just the hills, but the course itself is especially dodgy. The streets are narrow. There is a lot of road furniture including speed bumps and bollards.

Will Swetnam, Paul Lewandosky, Barry Sherry

Being urban, or suburban, many residents don’t have garages and park on the street. The roads that aren’t urban often are farm roads with narrow bridges and sharp corners.

Norbeek, The Netherlands

We had four steep climbs on this course. One was Keutenberg with has a 22%-24% pitch. Another is the Cauberg, in Valkenburg, which is a steep city street. In the race, it is often used up to as many as four times. We only climbed it once.

After the first big climb (which may or may not have been the Loorberg), Fränk tagged two riders and made them ride in the van(s). Our bus driver was contracted by law so we did not have time to spare to ride three hours each way and bike for more than four hours (or so). They would have to be sagged until the end of the route.

Will Swetnam’s bike did not arrive with him in Frankfurt so he was riding Fränk’s bike. Yep, set up for a skinny pro racer. When we came to the second big climb Will was up the road but I eventually caught him. We weren’t racing but I pulled away. We crested and were about 300 meters from where the group had pulled over when Will went speeding by. I had sat up to wait for him and he smiled and said, “I had to do that.”

Margraten, The Netherlands

On the remaining two climbs, Keutenberg and Cauberg, I didn’t give Will a chance. I did feel bad, just a little, that he was riding the bike of an Amstel Gold winner. But hey, he was riding a bike of a former Amstel Gold winner.

Fränk Schleck

We had gone through the small village of Eys. The course turned sharply onto a farm road with a narrow bridge. Then a nasty climb – the Eyserbosweg. At the top where we all gathered, Fränk said that during Amstel Gold that if you’re not in the top 30 when you come to that bridge you have no chance of winning. It was a very interesting insight that put this course into perspective for us.



The two riders that had been sagged had been dropped off at the base of the Cauberg. They got to ride up it and wait for us. We rolled in, met them, and we all finished the course together.


Farm Road

When I ride, be it a cancer ride or an MS ride, and see someone has a name written on their body or their bib, I ask them to tell me their story. New to this group, I thought someone would ask me who Bethany is and why her name is on my calf. No one did.


Sausage snack before returning to Luxembourg

However, at the team meeting this evening, Jambo (Jim Ray), one of the two organizers, put me on the spot and said that he saw the name Bethany and asked if I would mind sharing with the team her story. So I stood, choked back a tear, and said it was Father’s Day, she made me a father, and I am riding in Luxembourg for her health to find a cure.


For Bethany

Thank you, Jambo, for asking me to share that. Today was a very special ride.

Roosters in France


I love France. In five times of coming here in nine years, I never experienced any road rage. Until today. Early in our ride a car did not like being behind these cyclists and went by with its horn blaring. Damnit France, you went and screwed up.


We rolled out of Luxembourg and only went two kilometers before we were in France. We began a climb up a gradual hill for perhaps one km. Some of our group got dropped, a harbinger of things to come. We waited at the top of the climb which allowed me to talk to some teammates and guests that were with us.

Entering France – The border is not guarded although the guardhouse remains


Joining us was a young (20) rider from Canada. Or the States. Couldn’t quite figure it out. Although Alex Lambert told me he was a Canadian citizen so we go with that. His dad, Alain, joined us also. Alex is a Cat 2 racer from Tuscon but is spending the summer in Luxembourg racing in Europe. Fränk is not coaching him but brought him over to expose him to European racing.

Donny with the moto


We had two motorbikes with us who helped us navigate intersections safely. Gusty’s wife, Donny (I hope that’s right), also rode.

Barry, Alaine, Alex


We went through some small villages and on some farm roads. As we came to a turnoff from a busier road (think rest area only little), Fränk said we could pull in there for a nature break. I saw what I thought were port-a-johns but they were recycling bins. Still, some of the guys and one woman found enough privacy for a nature break. I did not.

Rodemack, France


As we came into Haute-Kontz we turned to ride alongside the Moselle river. It was pretty here and I wanted a picture but we were riding in a group. We turned off the river road and went up a back road that got a little lumpy. I was halfway up when I started to lose contact with my group. Behind me was the second half and I was content to drop back to them.

Moselle River at Contz-les-Bains. I went back later for this photo.


Fränk Schleck started yelling “bigger gear, Barry, get a bigger gear.” Well, a bigger gear hurt. I wanted to spin easily and drop back with the second group. “Bigger gear, Barry!” Reluctantly, I put it in a bigger gear and I pulled myself back up to the lead group. But it hurt. I could also feel “pre-cramps” coming on, knowing that if I went over the limit I would be in a world of hurt.

Although we were on a different approach coming back, we were on the same ridge opposite the one we had started on. It was Mile 40. I was sitting fourth wheel on a 500-meter climb and got about 150 meters from the top and popped. I was on the right and waved my teammates past me. I just needed to spin slowly and finish the climb, and maybe rejoin them on the descent.



But I couldn’t quit. I couldn’t quite because young Alex came in beside me, put his hand in the small of my back, and was pushing me while pedaling. Here I was, wanting to quit, and Alex wouldn’t let me. With me giving it my all and Alex’s help, I made it over the top where I could keep pace the rest of the way.

Alex Lambert – gave me a helping hand


I teased Alex about not letting me quit but his helping hand was just enough. Another day riding in France but the image is now gone. And oh, a dog barked at us too. This is not the France I love.

Jackie, Margaret, Scott I., Scott H., Danny


Dinner that night was a bar-b-que at the table. Pork and chicken were served and we grilled the meat at our grills on the table (one grill for 4-5 people). Scott Hesford stood up and held out his finger. Danny pulled it. Scott unleashed the loudest and longest fart which would have been pretty funny. But he looked behind him and a couple was sitting at a table right behind his butt. That made it hilarious. He brought embarrassment to the Roosters but it would not be the last time. What a group.

So this is Luxembourg


I rode in the morning in Frankfurt, which was really a bunch of wooded bike trails near the airport. I never did find Center City Frankfurt. In the lobby of the Airport Hilton, I met Julie Trimble then went to breakfast and met Dan McDonogh and Scott Hesford. We all assembled in the lobby of the hotel before heading over to find the bus. 


Frankfurt Airport

But because I had assembled my bike yesterday in Germany, Dan said that was even better because the bus was short on storage space under the bus. We kept it out the case and rolled it onto the charter bus for Rooster Racing for the 2.5-hour drive to Luxembourg from the Frankfurt Airport.

We arrived at the Park Hotel and Fränk and Martine Schleck were there to greet us. Fränk told me that this day, picture-perfect and sunny, was Luxembourg, 270 days out of the year. Do you think he was lying?

Bike on the bus

While others were standing around waiting for their bikes to be assembled, I was able to grab mine and go for a spin. I asked Fränk where to go and he told me to turn right, “but it’s a busy road,” and go about two kilometers and make a right. There were two cars in the two km (1.2 miles). Ha! Busy indeed.

First Rooster Team Meeting
The pavement in Luxembourg, thus far, has been perfect. Traffic has been light and kind. Looking forward to a week here.

Dinner. Dan (in black), Jim Ray (Jambo) and Svetlana Martynova


Although we had met some people on the bus, we would meet the rest of the team at dinner. Our hosts were the Schlecks, Fränk and Martine, plus Fränk’s trusted sidekick, Gusty. Our team mechanic was Glen Leven, a team mechanic with the pro team, Trek-Segafredo.

Mondorf Parc Hotel

Our riders were Dan, Julie, Scott (met at breakfast), Margaret O’Rourke, Scott Ireland, Bryan Huneycutt, Paul Lewandosky, Bob Pane, Will Swetnam, Carl Bond, plus two non-riders: Jackie Hartman and Swetlana Martynova.

Fränk performing a secret Rooster ritual – the Buffalo. Also: Svetlana, Dan, Julie, Scott H.

I would have to know everybody’s name and I was very nervous about remembering them. Since my memory-loss accident last year in Ohio, I have had problems remembering simple things like names. I was quite nervous about the week.



I rode every day in Finland, from Friday through Wednesday. This lends itself to one post, a lengthier post, instead of many.

9:00 p.m. – time for a ride

On Friday I built the bike late after arriving from the U.S. via Iceland and went for a bike ride at 9:00 p.m. – because Finland. Actually, I arrived in Helsinki and drove to Forssa to visit our Finnish daughter (Laura Vainio was an exchange student who lived with us in 1995). I had the bike built as Laura arrived home from work and then began and afternoon and evening of visiting and eating so that was the reason I didn’t get wheels down until 9:00 p.m. That and I knew it would be OK.


Karolina and Kole Andersson, Barry

Laura was excited to have arranged a bike ride for me on Saturday. I met Karolina and Kole Andersson and Johanna Nikander. They had mapped out a “Forssa Loop” ride which would take us (mostly) through beautiful countryside. Johanna is Laura’s sister-in-law and the Anderssons are friends.


Countryside near Forssa

Karolina is a FIBA (international basketball) referee and the two of us chatted the entire way. I intended to ride with each person equally but I had no clue how far the route we were riding was. When Karolina said that Johanna and I were turning and she and Kole were going straight, I felt like a jerk because I hardly said a word (yet) to the other two.


Karolina and Johanna on the road

Karolina and I are officials. I don’t know basketball and I think she doesn’t know soccer, although she may. But you didn’t need to, to discuss officiating. Her philosophy is the same as mine and she faces some of the same challenges I do in dealing with other officials.

Johanna and I rode to their summer house/cottage on the lake and were met by her husband, Jarko, plus my hosts, Laura and Samoli, and their kids, Oskari and Olivia. Oskari and I went to sauna and then swimming in the lake. When we ended, Laura went to offer me a ride back in the car but I told her I would bike home. Of course, I had to find my way first, but I did.


Johanna and Jarkko Nikander

We rode mostly on country roads where there was little traffic. Near the city are wide bike paths. Samuli said it is “recommended” that cyclists ride the paths and not the roads. Laura looked it up and said it was the law that where there was a bike path the cyclist couldn’t be on the street. I guess I violated the law. A lot. If it’s the law it is not strictly enforced like it apparently is in the Netherlands.

On Sunday we had mapped out a ride, albeit short, because I was leaving for Nurmijarvi in the early afternoon for soccer. Just as I was leaving Forssa, I saw a cyclist heading in the other direction. In Forssa I saw plenty of people on bikes but few cyclists. And I knew she was a cyclist.


Astrid Snall

At first, I thought it was cool I saw a cyclist. And in 20 seconds or so, I decided I would turn around and see if I could ride with her for a little while. When I turned she was already 250 meters up the road (street). And I thought with traffic lights I would not catch her. But I kept her in sight and slowly (as in 5-7 minutes) closed the gap.

That alone should have told me what I needed to know. But I got closer then pulled beside her. I knew I was violating all social norms. A man approaching a woman. A much older man approaching a much younger woman (I had thought she was probably in her early 30s when she went by). Approaching someone with an earbud in. Anyone approaching a Finn (sorry for the stereotype, kids).


Oskari and Olivia (front), Barry and Samuli (back)

I saw her and she was much younger than I had thought. But I told her I was from the U.S. and asked if I could ride with her. She said sure then stated she was going to Pori, about 90 km (55 miles) away. We rode on a bike path until it ended then on Highway 10.

Astrid was good. I didn’t struggle so much to keep with her than I did “work hard.” I was sweating. She was not. When she told me she had competed in a triathlon yesterday (she won by more than three minutes), I told her that I had ridden with a couple of triathletes the day before. And to my surprise, or maybe hers, she knew them.


River in Forssa

After I returned I told Laura the story of how I approached a young woman to ride with me. Laura was horrified. “Oh no, you didn’t,” she exclaimed. I did and I told her that the mystery rider also knew Johanna. So I had Laura call Johanna to try to figure out who I rode with. It took about three seconds for Johanna to say that was Astrid Snäll. It was more in the form of “Oh, my God, I can’t believe you met – and you rode with, Astrid Snäll. Turns out she is a top-ranked runner and triathlete in Europe. But she was very down to earth and let me ride with her until I had to turn back.

On Monday I went exploring and found a train museum with handcars. I made Oskari and Olivia join me on Tuesday with the handcar. The car was built circa 1900 and was quite a workout to keep it moving when the track turned up (a 1% – 2% grade).

Air was a problem. I did not bring a hand pump instead planned to buy a CO2 cartridge when I arrived. The local bike shop in Forssa was only open Monday thru Friday and when I went on Monday, it was 11:45 and he was closed for lunch. Karolina had a pump I used on Saturday and on Tuesday I rode over to Johanna and Jarko’s place and they let me borrow theirs. I didn’t have a plan if I had a flat on the road in the middle of nowhere. But I made it out of Finland with no flats for which I am grateful.


Bike path near Tammela

As for differences or similarities to the U.S. (or to Virginia):

  • Johanna says drivers hate cyclists in Finland: SAME
  • I never had to worry about glass: DIFFERENT
  • Karolina says some drivers have road rage: SAME
  • Many more bike paths near cities: DIFFERENT
  • Wave to cyclists and they don’t wave back: DIFFERENT
  • Peaceful feeling out on the road with the wind in your face: SAME