France with a side of Germany


I was warned. My Whoop band showed a recovery of just 10% and was the seventh day in the last eight I was in the red. My warning was to not engage in heavy training. I ignored it. I had to.

Whoop. Six days of poor recovery.

I was antsy. My bike was missing for one week in Europe which means I hadn’t ridden in one week. Today was probably not the day to go long but I had to.

Fränk with some quick instructions
Breistroff-la-Grande, France

It was our first day of riding with Rooster Racing but we wouldn’t roll out until 11:00 am. At dinner the night before one rider, Bill, asked me a question “As a veteran of this group.” He said that he wanted to ride early and wondered if that was allowed or would be looked down upon. I told him that I was headed out around 9:00 with Alonzo and that he could join us.

River Moselle Sierck-Les-Baines, France

We rolled out at 9:00 a.m. and went about 400 meters before leaving Luxembourg and entering France. We stopped for a photo op. I had designed a route that would take us along the Moselle River.

Moselle River

We came to a “road closed” sign but went through to see how far we could get. In fairness to us, we weren’t 100% sure that it was a road closure sign. And we got to the safety of a bike path that took us over the river.

Bill and Alonzo

We followed the path on the other side of the river and were still in France. Without notice or signage, we entered Germany, and as quickly as we entered Germany we crossed the bridge back into Luxembourg at Schengen. We climbed the hill for the direct route back to Mondorf. Partway up the climb a policeman routed us on another road. The main road was closed for a triathlon.

Bike path in France

We started on an alternative route but Wahoo wasn’t finding an alternative. We stopped and then went back to the policeman. He wasn’t local and checked his phone. We decided to go back to the French town we came through and rode back to start arriving at 10:45 a.m.

Sunday morning ride

At 11:00 we were greeted by Fränk Schleck who went over our riding rules and itinerary. We started out on the same route that I had just ridden and rode to France.

Rooster Racing

But we took a different route than four years ago and found some great bike paths. We ended up at the same place at Schengen as I had ridden earlier and climbed a long hill to lunch.

Will pitching in to change Alonzo’s flat (tubeless)

I did not have a good day on the bike. Being off the bike for more than one week had taken its toll. Also hurting was that we went out early for 21 miles before the 47-mile ride and did not have a chance to refuel before the second part of our ride.

Lunch stop

For the first 20 miles or so I hung near the front. But the rolling hills were beginning to take a toll on me. I could feel cramps coming on.

Julie and Barry at lunch

On the way up the climb to lunch I cramped. I dropped behind the group I was riding. Fränk saw this and came back down the hill then pushed me for about 200 meters. I couldn’t figure out if it was cool or embarrassing. It was both.

Dan and Lisa

This was not a good thing. Fränk was sizing up all the riders and it did not matter that I rode 50% farther than the others. He saw that I could not hang with my group on this day.

Lunch was these very thin pizzas. Will and Alonzo are ready to eat.

Lunch was a very thin pizza with an excellent view. After lunch, we followed a nice path that was flat or downhill to Mondorf.

Never forget who I ride for

I was feeling better and a bit recovered after lunch. The path back was nice and I had it marked as a Strava segment. I thought I might get a PR but if I was going to it was because I earned it. I went to the front and picked up the pace. And I got my PR.

Apach, Germany

I felt pretty good at the end of the day. I did have the cramping problem right before lunch which would define my week. The main group rode 47 miles and the three of us rode 68.

Will. Either pushing or hanging onto Brian’s saddle.

Three Country Ride Part Deux


Three years ago Ben Z. and I went for a three-country ride. I asked him to come up with one again. He did.

Train station, Laufen, Switzerland

We took a train to Laufen for the start. My train ticket was 13 CHF. My bike ticket was 20 CHF. For a country that is cycle-centric, or maybe it isn’t, I think their train bike passes cost at least twice what they should be.

Welcome to France. I think. I think I can also read this sign. Speed limits in towns is 50 kph (31 mph); in the country it’s 90 kph (56 mph), and on super highways it’s 130 kph (81mph).

Laufen is near the French border of the Alsace-Lorraine region. We rode about 15 km before coming to a French sign. Ben pointed out another sign which noted that Swiss soldiers were not allowed to be on this road in uniform.

Ferrett, France

The road turned up and Ben rode ahead. We quickly established that on this day I would be first down the mountains and he would be first up. We went through some French villages although we were in the outskirts of a much bigger town, St. Louis, when I suggested we stop at a bakery.

Ferrett, France

We both got a chocolate-strawberry croissant then rode to a shade location to eat. We ended up next to a school where students were practicing a dance routine. Never quite figured out what kind of school that was.

Bakery in St. Louis, France

We found our way to the Three Country Bridge that connects France and Germany but looks at Switzerland. Close enough.


Ben led us through Basel, looking for a road back to the town and the climb we did three years ago. We made some sketchy moves in traffic, i.e., probably not riding where we should have.

Three-Country Ridge

But we got through Basel and back into Germany until crossing back over at a dam on the River Rhine.

Hello Germany

It was hot, with temperatures in the low 90s. I carried two bottles and was going through those fast while Ben had just one.

Three Country Bridge that connects France and Germany

We looked for water – easier in Switzerland than France or Germany. I didn’t feel I was getting enough and I know Ben couldn’t have been.

It wasn’t all pavement today

We began the last climb which would take us over the “hill” to Sissach. It was quite a formidable climb. Ben took off and 2-3 times pulled over until I dragged my butt up to him. I was in a granny gear and wasn’t going to work any harder. Or couldn’t work any harder.

Kaiseraugst, Switzerland

But at the top Ben was lightheaded. His wife had biked up from Sissach (quite impressive actually) and he had planned lunch at a restaurant up the hill from the summit. A second summit.

Rheinfelden, Switzerland

Ben said he was so light-headed couldn’t control his bike. He rested and gathered himself and then we descended, with me being the fastest. Weight wins.


On the descent, I hit 75 kph which is 47.5 mph. Had I known I would have pushed it to 50 mph. But it was my fastest speed of the time I was in Switzerland.

Switzerland. France. Germany. It was a most excellent trip. Thanks Ben!

Me. Ben. The last day I wore those ripped shorts.

I Love France (and You Too Switzerland)


Once upon a time, I thought I’d use this day to circumvent Lake Geneva, a distance of about 110 miles. However, I realized the bike rental location I was going to use wanted a two-day rental at 40 CHF per day. Plus the weather forecast called for a 90% chance of thunderstorms. The ride was off.

Geneva Train Station

Well, the big ride was off. Staying one block from the train station, I found a bike rental location called Geneva Roule which was on the other side of the train station. For 25 CHF I rented a BMC road bike for the day. I thought that was a good deal. Actually, it was a great deal.

Geneva Roule

I did not know where I was going. I was negotiating 100% by “feel” and just a little knowledge. This can be dangerous. Or fun. I knew the train station was north and west of the Rhône river so I looked at the sun and headed south. And east.


There are many bike lanes in Geneva. Some are marked along with bus and taxi lanes and many run the same direction as the trolley tracks. Be very careful my friends.


I crossed a bridge and then started my ride following Lake Geneva. I reasoned if I stayed close to the lake I could not get lost. My original ride plan which would take me around the lake was simply using the roads that were hugging the lake.

Geneva – Rhône River

I was on city streets and saw there was a bike path next to the lake so I jumped on it. At Vesanaz the road peeled away from the lake. I went through a construction area and dropped most of the traffic as I continued on the back road.

Geneva – Bike Lane painted leaving traffic with 1 1/2 lanes instead of two lanes

On the road out of Geneva the bike lane is a bit higher than the regular lane and a bit lower than the walking lane. Each separated by an angled “curb.” Or sometimes the pedestrian lane was simply divided by paint.

Geneva – Bike and Pedestrian lanes using angled curbs

And then it happened. I was going through Hermance, Switzerland and was going up the road, a slight climb, with some gravel on the road and a park with a soccer field to the left. Maybe it was Chens le Pont or Sous le Cret. Or maybe even Lagraie. Those are small towns within two kilometers (one mile) of one another.

I think the Province/Region sign is behind this construction sign
Welcome to France

It just seemed French and no longer Swiss. And I noticed a road sign, D 20.


French Road Signs
I am in France!

I think I was expecting a welcome sign. A Bienvenue sign. I doubted there would be passport control. But I was riding and had this moment — I am riding in France. And it was great. I was smiling.

I liked Italy. I like Switzerland. But there is just something about France. I love riding here. From my first time with Trek Travel in 2010 and then again three years ago when I did a solo trip. I love it here.

Commune de Nernier, France
(Is this private property?)

I had angst yesterday traveling from Tirano, Italy to Geneva. It was a long, but beautiful, day on multiple (four) trains. I worried about being stuck in a smoking room in Geneva (I wasn’t). When I arrived I didn’t know where the hotel was. But getting on the bike and riding in France, that just made everything better.

Commune de Nernier, France

In Chens-Sur-Leman I passed a bakery and cursed myself for not bringing those couple of 2€ coins I still had left. They were in my pants I left in the bike shop and would be so better used stopping and enjoying a chocolate croissant.

Always use SPF 1000 on your feet

As I was riding on a beautiful country road I saw an old church and diverted to it. There I discovered a community called Commune de Nernier. What a neat old village right on Lake Geneva. It was gated and I don’t know if I was allowed to bike in it but I did.

Commune de Nernier, France

I was just so happy riding for part of a day in France. If I had any doubts about how much I love riding in France the smile on my face said it all today.

Commune de Nernier, France

I returned to Geneva and used some time to explore parts of the town. It is a great city and I don’t want to diminish how much I like it here too by raving about riding in France.

Geneva – Rhône River

Looking back, I had a week of climbing some classic cols. That brings a satisfaction, especially Stelvio, unlike anything else. But riding in France today — pure joy!

Geneva – Rhône River

Col du Lautaret


My trip last year was my cancer recovery/celebration tour. That trip to France was part about the cycling and part about the viewing of the Tour de France. We had one major climb on that trip – the Col du Tourmalet. Of the 18 kilometers to the top, we climbed 14, having been stopped four km from the top. On two days, no less, once from each side.

This year’s trip was all about the climbing. I had four bucket list climbs to achieve: (1) Col du Tourmalet; (2) Mont Ventoux; (3) Alpe d’Huez; and (4) Col du Galibier. Having accomplished the first three, I needed only the Galibier.

La Grave is just 17 miles up the road (literally) from Le Bourg d’Oisans, the base of Alpe d’Huez. I stayed at the Hotel Castillan, an older hotel with a great view of the glacier across the road. The rooms were cheap – even cheaper if you got one without a private bath. They did have common shower areas (men’s and women’s). While the hotel wasn’t a 4-star hotel in accommodations, the staff was wonderful.

The glacier view from my room in La Grave

I chose La Grave as it would be a great starting location for my bike ride up the Col du Galibier. However, last night I checked the weather forecast and it did not look good. The high temperature for La Grave was forecast to be just 10℃ (50℉) with rain, heavy at times, moving in about noon. Up to one inch of rain was forecast. La Grave, at 1,135 meters (3,724 feet) is significantly lower than the Col du Galibier which sits at 2,642 meters (8,668 feet).

I got breakfast at the hotel, packed my bags, then checked out. I grabbed my warmer cycling clothes. I had only brought summer riding gear with some spring/fall accessories. I did not bring winter riding gear.

Depending on which direction one crosses the Galibier, one has to first summit the Col du Telegraph or the Col du Lautaret. From La Grave, it would be the Lautaret. At 9:53 a.m., I started my ride. I was cool, or cold, but dry. That would not last.

The roads to the summits at Lautaret and Galibier were both open

Light rain started almost immediately as I left La Grave. At 4 km I thought about doing the prudent thing and turning back. But I didn’t. I also knew that I was climbing the entire time so my return time would be four to five times as quickly once I made the decision.  

I kept climbing and the weather kept getting worse. The winds and rain both picked up and it was cold. On the Tour de France broadcast later that day the announcers on EuroSport were saying it was the worst weather they had ever seen for the Tour. And they weren’t on the climb to the Galibier.

A van from Thomson Tours passed me and pulled over. When I reached the van the driver asked me if I needed anything but I politely declined. I always remembered his kind act. I wasn’t part of his tour or any tour and he just stopped to offer assistance.

A summit sign for my collection

I sensed I was getting near the summit and I saw many campers pulled over in anticipation of Thursday and Friday’s stages which will go through here. I saw a camper with a Colorado flag. I had seen it on the slopes of the Tourmalet and then met the owner (renter) of it in St. Gaudens. With rain coming down hard and cold too, no one was stepping outside to say hello.

I continued 1,000 meters to the top then stopped and took a picture. Although I had a full jacket, arm warmers, Under Armour, full-length gloves, shoe covers, and leg warmers, I was freezing. These were not my winter clothes.

It was decision time. The rain seemed colder and I was soaked. I knew the farther up I climbed the worse my descent would be. And I became concerned for my safety. I turned around. Once I started downhill, I could not wait for the descent to end.

I was freezing as I was cold and soaked. Shaking at times, I descended as fast as I could to get back to La Grave. Of course, the faster one goes the colder it gets from the wind chill but the sooner one gets back to the start. I had a hard time controlling the bike I was shaking so much. The roads were wet and treacherous and there were many switchbacks. Once I reached the tunnel that goes into La Grave I felt a sense of relief.

In La Grave, I went back to the hotel, and although I had already checked out, I grabbed a clean towel from their cleaning cart and ducked into an open shower stall. I quickly got out of my soaking wet clothes and changed to dry clothes. I did not stop shaking for 40 minutes.

Still very cold but dry, I got in the car and decided to drive up to the Galibier. I figured that may be the only way I would ever see the summit. I knew the rain was very cold as it was hitting me but didn’t realize how cold it was until it hit the windshield. The raindrops were forming a splat pattern. This was snow.

I normally don’t make wise decisions when riding, especially when I’m tired. But today was one of my wisest. I was thankful that I made the decision to turn back.

On my drive to my next hotel, which was at the summit of the Col du Lautaret, I had been so cold I didn’t even notice that I had just biked to it. Back at the summit of the Lautaret, I decided to keep going up the road to Galibier. The snow was falling heavily and the road was soon covered. Driving an unfamiliar car with a stick shift, I was getting scared just being on this road. I looked for a spot to turn around but any open space was already occupied by campers. So I drove carefully to the summit.

I saw one guy on a bike trying to make it up but on my way down I didn’t see him. He must have wisely turned around or gone over the edge. Hopefully, he turned around. While it would have been hard pedaling up in the wind and 2″ of snow on the road, it would have been far worse descending.

I never want to be defeated by a climb but was sure happy I didn’t attempt this. Foolish and perhaps deadly.

I made it to the summit of the Col du Galibier, but not the way I would have chosen.

I came to France to ride the Col du Tourmalet, Mont Ventoux, and maybe more than anything else, Alpe d’Huez. Anything else, including Col du Galibier, is just icing on the cake. I don’t need more icing.

Only later did I learn that on Sunday, 200 cyclists had to be rescued from here.

While some pictures of me and my bike at the summit of Galibier would have been nice, perhaps it is a better story to tell of the day I was turned back by snow. July 19, 2011.

Alpe d’Huez


The first, and probably last, beautiful day I have had in France. Forty-seven degrees (9 C) at the start, Brian Hutchins and I rolled downhill from our chalet for about six miles to the base of the climb in Le Bourg d’Olsans.

Bridge behind our Chalet – Raging small river

The climb is beautiful. There are 21 hairpin curves and each is marked with a sign. On the signs are the names of one of the winners of a stage of the Tour de France that finished at the summit. The lower section seemed is steeper than the upper section. The contour is basically a ramp to a switchback which is flat, followed by the next ramp.

Morning in the Alps

We passed many cyclists and got passed by many. Probably got passed by a few more than we passed. They cheat.

A view of the valley from the Alpe

Near the top, they were setting up barricades about 3km from the finish already. It was surreal to ride through them. Barricades. For us. And while it is still four days before the Tour comes by, every spot where one could stop and park a camper had already been claimed.

Campers on the inside of a switchback

At a curve in the village of Huez, was a large contingent of Dutch fans. This was the famous Dutch Corner. They had one week’s supply of beer and were already partying even though the race didn’t come through until Friday. They had their music BLASTING and were having a great time.

<--This way UP This way DOWN -->

Unlike the fans in the Pyrenees, very few fans on this Alp cheered as we went by. However, in contrast to even the Tourmalet, there may have been 100 times as many cyclists going up the Alpe. If they cheered everybody they would soon lose their voices.

Dutch Corner at Huez

Brian and I rode together most of the way, but once we got inside the barriers I went ahead and I reached the summit maybe 500 meters before he did. I’m not bragging or anything. For years Brian was one of the fastest players in our lunchtime Ultimate game on the Mall. He’s younger than me. He’s faster than me. But the truth is I ride a lot more than he does. And I wanted to get a photo.

Brian (L) Reaching the Summit – Actually the ski town

At the top, I was able to wait for him and get a picture of him coming to the summit. Maybe I should have let him go first and take my picture.

Finish line on Alpe d’Huez. Brian (L) and Barry (R)

Actually, it wasn’t the summit but the ski town. We would continue another kilometer through a tunnel and one more climb to the actual finish.

Lunch at the top. This was the restaurant where Brian and I ate lunch

After the climb we did a little shopping and went to lunch. Then came the fun descent back to the valley. Neither of us ripped it. We stopped at a few locations for photos and just to admire the view.

Barry climbing Alpe d’Huez

Col du Tourmalet (to the summit this year); Picture with the Devil; What the hell (I can say that), a second picture with the Devil; A TdF Route directional sign; Mont Ventoux; and now Alpe d’Huez. If I do nothing more in France, I will still be very happy.

EDIT – “Unless you’ve actually ridden up this climb on a bike you don’t realize how horrendous it is. It never gives up. It is relentless. And once you even get to the little town halfway up, the town Huez, it still goes up. What really smacks you in the face once you look up – you can see the chalets above us and say ‘Oh my goodness me do I have to go up there?'”Paul Sherwen, July 25, 2015, NBCSN

Thor de France


Yesterday I had a problem with a loose spoke on my rear wheel and the wheel was out of true. I blamed the wheel rubbing on the brake for my dragging up the Tourmalet and really suffering up that climb.

The local bike shop in St. Lary opened at 9:00 a.m. so Adrian Register and I decided we would see if they could true the wheel before today’s ride. They couldn’t (the wheel was cracked.) Since we didn’t get on the road until after 9:00 a.m. by the time we reached Lourdes we knew our original plan of a 70-mile loop ride would not occur.

We wanted to ride and to see a stage finish and by the time we got rolling, we knew our best course of action would be to ride out and back. We would have to keep an eye on the time to be back by the time they closed the roads at 2:00 p.m.

Team RadioShack Car in Lourdes

A real surprise to us occurred less than 10 km from Lourdes. We were on a flat part of the course when I spotted the tell tale signs of evil. Freshly painted on the asphalt was the Devil’s pitchfork (or trident). I looked up and saw him and stopped. Photo time.

Barry with the Devil (Didi Sefnt)

Many people come to the Tour and hope to see the Devil. Getting a picture is an extra bonus. I got a picture yesterday and now, another one. I wonder if he recognized me from yesterday? I told Adrian no matter what happened, I was happy. My day was complete. My Tour was complete.

The Devil (Didi Sefnt) with Adrian Register

We rode out to Argeles-Gazost where the road turned up. Steep, but this was not the climb up the Col du Soulor. We hit a plateau and went through a small town. I got laughing as I passed a house where some kids, probably ages 10-12, we’re yelling out “hello” to passing riders. They were practicing their English. So I greeted them with a cheery hello as well. And they were pleased.

Barn near Argeles-Gazost

We were watching the time and it was shortly after 1:00 when we turned up the climb to the Soulor which would lead to the Aubisque. If we continued we would be stuck in place so we decided to turn around and get back to Lourdes.

At the start of the climb up the Soulor

At Lourdes we were able to ride inside the barriers until the 1km flag. At that point the course was closed. We walked our bikes for the final kilometer but it was very slow going through the massive crowds. We found the team buses and our plan was to be at the chute where they pass through although we couldn’t get close to that.

Meanwhile, back in Lourdes, Adrian on a breakaway…

Back in town, we took up position on the barriers to watch the caravan go by. It was quite comical because seemingly anything thrown to a French kid would bounce off their hands and into mine. It helped growing up playing sports where we used our hands. And as I did last year during the Tour, anything I caught I handed it to a kid. I’m not a jerk. Usually.

The caravan coming through Lourdes

After watching the caravan go by we moved to the 1K “kite” (generally known globally by the French name, flamme rougue, or red flag). Here we could watch them fly by and watch the last few hundred meters of the race on TV.

The flame rougue two hours before the race in Lourdes

There were a number of Norwegians on our corner but Thor Hoshovld had to overtake two French riders to win. I knew the Norwegians would cheer when Thor made his break but it seemed like everyone was cheering when Thor went ahead with 2k to go.

When we saw Thor fly by, we made our way to the team buses to see most of the riders come back.

Big screen TV at 1km to go

It was a different way to see the tour but got us close to many riders. We heard Thor win but couldn’t see him. We were in the bus area where the riders would be going to their team buses.

Fränk Schleck

We ended up next to Leopard-Trek bus. We saw Fränk Schleck come out (or just before he went in) and sign some autographs.

And I got a picture with the Devil.

Leopard-Trek roster painted on the team bus
Andy Schleck, Fränk Schleck, Fabian Cancellara, Oliver Zaugg, Bruno Pires
Jens Voigt, Dominic Klemme, Fabian Wegmann, Robert Wagner, Linus Gerdemann
,Davide Viganò, Daniele Bennati, Giacomo Nizzolo, Maxime Monfort, Wouter Weylandt
Jakob Fuglsang, Anders Lund, Martin Mortensen, Martin Pedersen, Brice Feillu
Will Clarke, Stuart O’Grady, Stefan Denifl, Tom Stamsnijder, Joost Posthuma
BOLD = Riders at the 2011 TdF

Tourmalet 2011


The route for Stage 12 today would be similar to last year’s stage over the Tourmalet. That happened to be my first time watching le Tour and we looked forward to climbing the Tourmalet. In contrast to today’s chilly or cold weather, last year was a bright and sunny day. When we reached our viewing location in La Mongie, a ski village about four kilometers short of the summit, we were told no more cyclists were being permitted to go through to the top.

Hourquette d’Ancizan

While it was disappointing not to make the climb to the top, we did have a great viewing location with lunch while we waited for the Tour. I have no estimate of the crowds of this year versus last year. The weather today wasn’t nearly as nice but it is also Bastille Day.

Last year I was with Trek Travel with a specific destination including departure time. This year I was riding solo, actually double, as I met up with Adrian Register in St. Lary. Adrian and I had planned out a full day of riding and viewing. We would leave St. Lary then head over the Tourmalet to Luz Ardiden to watch the finish of the stage. It was more than 50 miles one-way so we would have a century ride ahead of us.

Beware the barbed wire

We would be leaving early enough to beat any road closures so this time I would be able to ride up the Tourmalet. Unlike last year when the Tour went over the Col d’Aspin the peloton would go over a ridge parallel to it called the Hourquette d’Ancizan. The Hourquette is a less traveled road, very narrow, compared to the main road that went over the Aspin. Both roads get you over the mountain. 


We began the climb of the Hourquette. It appeared to have been recently repaved for the Tour. It wasn’t a smooth asphalt but clearly was new pave. Main roads have markings on either side at the edge and a center line. Narrow back roads have only the markings on either side. “Really back roads” don’t have any markings. The Hourquette had no markings.

Adrian at the Hourquette

Adrian and I started early, shortly after 7:00 a.m. so we could get over the Tourmalet before it closed to all traffic. While we had ridden to La Mongie, I never reached the summit and never felt comfortable telling people I had cycled up the Tourmalet. I hadn’t. Nor could I buy one of those Tourmalet jerseys. I mean I could but I wouldn’t feel right about it.


At the summit of the Hourquette four cars pulled over to allow an oncoming car to pass. When they did, a car beside me pulled sharply to the right – right where I was precariously perched on the side of the road with a sizable drop and no guard rail. I held onto the car, even grabbing the mirror to steady myself. I heard the passenger yell at the driver. No harm.

Adrian being chastised on my behalf, I think
But it was in French

It was a very nice 10km (six miles) descent down the Hourquette. At the end of the descent we stopped as some free ranging cattle were moving. Apparently, they get frightened if you look at them, a challenge I suppose, and I took their picture. Oh oh. They went stampeding by but did not charge us. The Gendarmes were not amused. But then again, they never are.

Didi painting the road

We had another four miles of descending to the Village of the Creepy Dolls (St. Marie-Campon). Then the climb began. The ascent of the Tourmalet went slower than I remembered. And was more difficult. At the end of the second snow shed I told Adrian I had to stop. There, painting on the road, was the Devil! I had to get this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Posing with the Devil

Only a few hundred meters after the Devil encounter, I spotted the Trek Travel tent on top of the restaurant in La Mongie. It was the restaurant “we” ate at last year. Adrian had jumped in our group and Marquette, our wonderful Trek Travel guide, made sure he could join us. I told Adrian that I wanted to stop. At the tent, I fit right in wearing my Trek Travel jersey. One of the guides, Shaun, even offered to take and store my (Trek) bike. 

Shaun, from Trek Travel

I laughed. I told them who I was, that I had been on the trip last year, and was just stopping for water for my bottles. Then filled it with energy mix. And ate three bananas. And took some energy bars. I was good to go. This Trek Travel stop was my oasis in the desert.

Trek Travel. Sorry I didn’t get your name.

I’m not sure if the last four km were steeper than the rest of the climb or if it was the cumulative effect of climbing but I was suffering. I cramped when I got out of the saddle and Adrian rode ahead. When I reached the summit I could barely get off the bike.

Barry – with proof that I made it to the summit of the Tourmalet

We both had to dismount and walk through the crowd of cyclists that had already gathered at the summit. After a few minutes and some photo taking, we mounted and headed down the other side of the Tourmalet on our way to Luz Ardiden.

I stopped after about 500 meters. Something didn’t feel right and was making a sound. I discovered that my rear wheel had been rubbing on my brake. Crap. No wonder it was so hard getting up the mountain. My brakes were on!


I opened the brakes to stop the rubbing and we only went another couple of kilometers before stopping and watching a herd of llamas go by. After a discussion of the amount of time it would take to return from Luz Ardiden, we decided to return to the top of Tourmalet and watch the Tour from there.

View looking towards Lourdes

We froze. We were perhaps the only people on the summit without jackets. And it was cold. We were woefully underdressed if not dangerously underdressed. The barriers were in place for the last 70 meters to keep the crowds back and designate the King of the Mountain points. Between the barrier and a stone wall which was about 1.5 meters high we squeezed in with our bikes and at times, crouched down to let the barricades block the wind. It was a perfect viewing location. And it blocked the wind.

Restaurant at the summit of the Tourmalet

But then – the Gendarmes. One came over and told us we couldn’t be behind the barriers that were erected for keeping people behind the barriers. We ended up sitting on the wall.

Adrian at the Tourmalet

A great tradition of the Tour de France is the publicity caravan. It is a parade at the speed of the Tour. One of the vehicles in the caravan was advertising Vittel water. Their float was a giant water bottle with a person sitting on it with a long sprayer in hand. On hot days it is great to spray the crown but today was cold. Everyone, except Adrian and me, were bundled up and did not want to get wet. I really thought that common sense may prevail but he looked at the small crowd and sprayed us. Jerk.

The Caravan

As the people on the floats in the caravan threw items, two young French girls jumped down between the wall and the barrier to pick up some of the items that had been thrown. Watching them, we reasoned once the Tour came by, if we jumped down behind the barrier the Gendarmes couldn’t reach us to make us move. And as the first riders came up the climb, we moved back in behind the barrier. Best spot in the house.

Our viewing location – between the barriers and the wall But on the other side of the road

I understand that a number of my friends saw me on the television broadcast that day. I did not. But I was there in person. Shivering.


One of the floats in the caravan was the L’Equipe newspaper. As they threw papers I grabbed two even though I could not read French. As the race came over the top I handed a newspaper to Stuart O’Grady. Pretty cool that he took it and put it in his jersey. Actually I held out a newspaper for anyone to grab and it was Stu who grabbed it. And I saved a paper for my descent too. It helps.

Frank Schleck

Once the road was reopened after the Tour went by, we first descended to La Mongie and stopped again at the Trek Travel location. There I borrowed a spoke tool and tightened up a loose spoke which helped greatly. The wheel wasn’t true, but much better than it was. At Shaun’s insistence, I kept the tool and promised to return it to Trek Travel in the Alps.

José Joaquim Rojas

On the way home we decided to take the Col d’Aspin instead of the Horquette. Adrian says it was easier from this side but I’m not so sure about that. 

Col d’Aspin

On the day it was cold, wet, and miserable, but sure full of memories.

The view from Col d’Aspin

As I came into St. Lary at the end of the day, I found a pizza shop.

American Pizza – Pizza with French Fries

Race Notes: First the last four kilometers of the Tourmalet were about the same as the rest of the climb. My suffering was the cumulative effects of the entire climb.


The Devil’s real name is Didi Senft.

Going Back to France


It’s a cold and rainy day with temperatures in the high 40s (9 C). Not much better I can do than to plan my trip to France.

When I left France last year I always knew I would return someday – I just didn’t know it would be this year. Initially, I planned to return to Saint-Lary-Soulan in the Pyrenees and meet Adrian Register, who rode with us (our Trek Travel group) our first day last year.

As I am planning this trip it has become obvious that you cant’ get there from here. “There” being Saint-Lary and “here” being Toulouse. No public transportation so I will rent a car.

But the car will also free me to do more riding. Last year we rode the Col d’ Peyersourde and rode the brakes down the entire time, unable to see more than 50 meters in front of us, and not willing to go faster because of the cold and keeping in mind the roads were dangerously wet too.

Peyresourde on a nice day 

I don’t have any of my own pictures from the Peyresourde from last year other than the obligatory photo taken at the top of the peak.

 Peyresourde on a not-so-nice day

It was very cold descending and we could not determine whether the curves ahead were sweeping bends or hairpin killers. We rode slowly on the descent. I would love to ride the Peyresourde again, this time bombing the descent. But I’m not sure that I will.

Last year I was with a group which had an itinerary and always intersected with the Tour de France. This year I won’t be chasing the Tour and will have more time to focus on riding.

IMHO, there aren’t three more famous climbs in the Tour than the Tourmalet, Mont Ventoux, and Alpe d’Huez. Only once, in 1994, have all three been used in the same Tour.
And I will do all three.

Part of me wants to repeat each and every climb from last year but part of me says to keep those memories and create new ones on new climbs. And so I am planning Superbagnères instead of Pla d’Adet. A different approach over the Col d’Aspin. But the Tourmalet remains. And to the summit this year!



At 6:00 p.m. this evening I rode with 100 other cyclists from Pauillac to a spot in the countryside. This time I wore shorts and carried two backpacks. The distance was only three miles (five km) but traffic was completely backed up. We learned to ride like the French. Simply ride into the left lane and when oncoming traffic approached maneuver very carefully back close to the yellow line.

I went to my bike, and removed my pedals, seat, and Garmin mount. I am sorry to see our riding end. For the six days of riding, I rode 300 miles and climbed more than 29,000 feet. I am sure I rode more on Wednesday than anyone in our group and today our group of eight went “exploring” (i.e., had a hard time following the Trek Travel directions) and we ended up with even more miles. Plus when I arrived at the viewing location I turned around and went riding on my own. I am sure I rode more miles than any of the 25 people in our group this week. On the bike is the one time I feel good.

Au revoir my French kids

We left this morning from Bordeaux with one of the Trek Travel guides, Stephanie, to ride to Pauillac. When we came to the Tour route at Avenson we were required to dismount and walk across the road. On the other side, we waited as the Tour caravan was coming by. This time I was in an excellent position to grab the swag they were throwing. I scooped up three polka-dot caps and saw some young kids. I ended up giving all three caps to the kids. To a child in France, they LOVE getting something from the Tour.

Candy. Gave it to the kids. Key chains. Gave them to the kids. The green foam fingers. Gave to the kids. In turn, their mother taught them to say “thank you very much” to their new Santa Claus. I only kept laundry detergent (true) and the L’Equipe newspaper.

We arrived at the Trek location which was the amazing Chateau Pichon.

Chateau Pichon

Lunch was downstairs through the wine cellars. Both lunch and the location were awesome.

Our viewing location was right on the course and we could cheer and photograph each rider as they came by. Since I kept the newspaper, I was the only one in our group that had the list of riders in order as they were coming, unless they had been passed by the rider behind them.

Lance Armstrong

The most memorable moment was sitting and trying to talk with the locals. Just like soccer parents, they brought their chairs and sat next to the course. They remained seated until Lance Armstrong was coming. Then everybody stood. They truly wanted to see this great champion of their tour. Don’t tell me the French (people) don’t love Lance. They do.

It was well-known this was Lance’s last Tour de France. He had come out of retirement last year and finished third. Bad luck, among other things, had caught up to him and he was well down in the standings (23rd). This would be the last time France would see the Texan.

The roadside locals stood for Lance. It was the only time they stood. They did not for the Yellow Jersey (Alberto Contador) or for second place (Andy Schleck). Only Lance.

L-R Standing: Rich McCrea, Donna Thackrey, French Guy Tom Michaud, Debbie Michaud. On Wall: Dave Thackrey, Mike Bandemer, David Eenigenberg.

Tomorrow I will board an early private train ride to Paris to see the final stage of the Tour de France and to meet Ashley in Paris.

EDIT/EPILOGUE – Fabian Cancellara won the Individual Time Trial (Stage 19). Alberto Contador won the 2010 Tour de France but was stripped of the title in 2012 because he failed a doping test. He blamed tainted Spanish beef for his positive test. Andy Schleck was named the winner of the 2010 TdF.

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