It was January 17, 2010, and I decided to go for a bike ride. It was in the heart of winter but was a comfortable 41℉ (5℃) for a winter ride. It would be my first ride since November 8, 2009, when I rode 20 miles (32km). I had a radical retropubic prostatectomy at Johns Hopkins the next day and this would be my first time back on the bike.
I was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. I immediately set three goals.
Plan a “recovery goal” trip to France
Ride. And ride more.
I spent almost six months researching my cancer treatment options. In August 2009, I asked my primary doctor at George Washington University Hospital if I could delay my treatment. He asked why and I told him I wanted to race the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb in New Hampshire in late August. He laughed and then said, “Sure, it will be the best thing for you.”
Living with cancer was very stressful. The only time I “didn’t have cancer,” i.e., when I never thought about having cancer, was when I was on my bike. I found peace on my bike and wanted that peaceful feeling after cancer treatment. November 9, 2009, began Part II of my life – Living Cancer-Free.
A cancer diagnosis, or any serious health concern, will force someone to take a look at their life, what they have done, and what they would like to do, the proverbial bucket list. For me, I always wanted to go to France and see the Tour de France. So while I made my doctor appointments including four “second opinions” (five separate doctors), I also signed up for a Trek Travel trip to France in July 2010. And I bought trip insurance.
I wanted to get back on my bike as soon as possible. I would be riding in the Pyrenees in France including the ascent up the Col du Tourmalet, from both sides, as this was the 100th year anniversary of the first time the Tourmalet was crossed in the Tour. I needed to be able to ride.
I rode. Slowly. I was in pain. A lot of pain. Although all stitches had been removed two months ago there was an indescribable pain when I sat on the saddle. I thought I might never be able to ride a bike again.
But slowly I was able to build on that winter ride. In mid-February, I did a slow ride with the Potomac Pedalers group and actually felt pretty good. In early March I rode The Hills of Ellicott City (Md.) and then on April 3, I took some friends to Altoona, Pa. for my personal “Breakaway From Cancer” ride. This would be a Metric Century ride with some of the best climbs in the area. I felt good.
I went to France. Although I would discover on the Tourmalet that there was lots of healing and recovery needed to come, I generally felt good. And I fell in love with riding in France. My first time was in 2010 and last month I rode in France every day but one while I was in Luxembourg because it was France. I’ve now been to France six times to ride since 2010.
And today I pedaled my 100,000th mile cancer-free.
I am here. I am cancer-free. I rode in France. And now, 100,000 miles. Life is good.
During this time I rode in 10 different countries besides the US: Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, France, Finland, Germany, Holland, Italy, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. I’ve ridden in 29 different states.
I’ve also ridden in 20 separate cancer fundraising events and five events for Multiple Sclerosis. I raised $25,000 for these worthy causes.
in 2019 I rode on New Year’s Day. Then I rode again on January 2 and had the thought to ride every single day at least 10 miles in honor of my 10-year Cancerversary. I rode throughout the winter in snow and ice and in the summer in the heat and humidity. And that continued in 2020 and 2021. The streak only ended when a foot of snow fell on January 3, 2022.
During this time I’ve climbed a number of mountains. In France I’ve been up the famous Col du Tourmalet, Alpe d’Huez, and Mont Ventoux.
Mileage by Year
5100 (my first 5,000-mile year)
4205 (Knee replacement and TBI)
5175 (needed for 100,000 miles
List of Mileage by Year
In Italy I climbed the famous Stelvio Pass and froze in the rain on the Gavia Pass.
In Switzerland I climbed St. Gotthard Pass which is an 8-mile cobblestone climb. Also I rode across the Swiss Alps solo.
Summary. I flew from Washington-Dulles to Zürich, Switzerland on Sunday, June 11, 2023. My luggage, including my bike needed for a Swiss cycling vacation, contained Apple AirTags My bike never made it. For five days I tried in vain to get someone, anyone, from British Airways to see what I could see – my bike’s exact location at Heathrow. None did. I was unable to ride in Switzerland. I was reunited with my bike on Saturday, June 24:, 2023, in Luxembourg.
On Sunday, June 11, 2023, I flew from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Zurich (ZRH) through London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR). Although a million-mile flier on American Airlines, this was my first experience flying British Airways.
The check-in at Dulles was quick and efficient. I had two bags to check, one suitcase, and a bike case/bag. They tagged them both as Priority and sent them down the belt. Both bags contained an Apple AirTag. My key tag, normally with my car keys, was in my luggage and my bike has an AirTag inside of the downtube.
When I arrived London, I got through passport control plus additional security and made my way to the British Airways lounge. Finally able to relax I opened the FindMy app and saw that my keys and my bike were both at Heathrow. So far so good.
When I arrived at Zurich I waited for my luggage. My bag seemed to be one of the first bags on the carousel and I grabbed it and waited for my bike. And waited. I went to the Oversize Luggage door but nothing came out. I was avoiding turning on cellular service and paying a high daily fee and instead tried to log onto free Wifi at the airport. One problem is to get free WiFi they will send a code to your phone – which has to be on WiFi or cellular service to receive the code. I turned on my cell service.
I opened the FindMy app and saw the keys (luggage) were with me. I did not see the bike and had to expand the map so I could see Great Britain and there I could see it. My bike was still at Heathrow.
This was to be the first week of a three-week cycling vacation in Europe. While Week Two would be in Luxembourg with my Rooster Racing group, Week One was on my own in Switzerland. I rented a house in the Alps near Wassen for riding in the high Alps.
My first day would be a visit with my friend, Corinne, and her family in Zürich. I had hoped to arrive at her house by 14:00, assemble my bike, and then ride halfway around Lake Zürich in part to slam my body into European time but also to not bother Corinne or her husband as they were both working from home remotely.
I went to the Lost and Found (Luggage) at the baggage claim and approached the woman who would take my claim. I told her my bike did not make it. I showed her my claim ticket and when she asked for a description I showed her a photo of the case. While she offered some excuse about where the bike could be I showed her my live look at the Apple AirTag and told her it was still at Heathrow.
Surely I was not the first passenger to show her an AppleAir tag being tracked by the FindMy app. Yet she seemed surprised that I knew where my bag was while her system did not. I am not sure if she was a British Airways employee but more likely an airport employee who dealt with missing luggage and forwarded that to the airlines. She offered the usual nothing assurance that most bags come on the next flight or within 24 hours.
Surprisingly I was calm and thought my bike would be on the next flight. I gave my location address in Zürich to the lost and found agent content that my bike would be delivered later in the afternoon.
I checked the British Airways flight schedule and saw that they have five flights per day between Heathrow and Zürich. The next flights would be arriving at 14:30, 17:50, and 22:30. While I would probably miss Tuesday’s ride in Zürich at least I’d have my bike when I headed for the Alps on Wednesday.
At 19:06 on Tuesday, June 12, I checked the FindMy app and saw my bike was still at Heathrow. I had little hope that it would make the 19:45 flight and arrive Zürich on Tuesday. Also, I took to Twitter in the hopes that a human at British Airways would see my plight and get my bike on the next plane. It got no response.
My thoughts shifted from my bike being merely delayed to it actually being lost and I might never see it again. I could not relax. I did not sleep well and at 7:20 am on Wednesday, June 13 I checked the app. The bike hadn’t moved. I knew then it was not on the 6:50 am flight and had little hope it would be on the 9:20 flight.
At 9:00 Corinne offered me her phone to call the local British Airways desk in Zürich. I talked to a very nice but useless man. He was just a guy on a phone in Zürich and not at the facility at Heathrow. He told me that he would “add a note to the file.”
The agent had urged me to check the progress at the British Airways link they gave me for my case. The only thing of value in that link was a location to change where my luggage should be delivered. On Wednesday morning I changed it to Wassen, Switzerland, to the house in the Alps that I had rented for cycling.
I said goodbye to my friends and arrived at Wassen at 16:00. Even before finding my house I checked the status of my bike. It was still at Heathrow.
Twenty-five years ago I worked with a high school foreign exchange program. One student that I placed was 17-year-old Ben from Sissach, Switzerland. Ben and I kept in contact over the years and he was at the center of this bike vacation.
When I couldn’t get a bike reservation online for my train from Basel to Frankfort, Ben went to the desk at the train station in Basel to buy it for me. He arranged his work schedule and took two days off work to join me at the house in the Alps.
On Wednesday I informed Ben not to travel to Wassen. I had no bike and no one at British Airways was responding. Ben canceled his plans.
With a house in the Alps for cycling and no bike I felt captive by the house. I checked on the location throughout the day and no movement. My tweets were ignored or answered by a bot.
Despite paying for a house for three nights, I needed a change where I wouldn’t dwell on missing my bike. I booked a hotel on Lake Lucerne and went on the British Airways site to change the delivery location to Beckenreid.
With no movement by Thursday, Ben invited me to visit him and his family in Sissach. It was close to Basel where I would catch the train and I gladly took him up on it. I went to British Airways and updated the delivery location to Luxembourg which was my next destination upon leaving Switzerland.
On Friday, June 16, I was enjoying breakfast when I told Ben I had to check the status on my FindMy app. I was shocked to see my bike had moved from the south end of the terminal to the north end. It was moving!
I also checked email and text and saw that British Airways informed me they “located” my item. Well, I knew the location for five days. Sigh.
I missed all my planned Swiss cycling vacation at the same time worried whether my bike would ever be returned. For four days I tweeted BA, eventually adding American Airlines (because I booked with them) and even included Heathrow Airport. I could not find one person willing to look at the location I had and retrieve the bike.
Maybe American or Heathrow got someone to look. It was within 24 hours after including American and Heathrow on my tweets that the bike was located. When it was located they sent it to Zürich even though I had updated the location information to Luxembourg. Maybe logistically it was easier since BA has two daily flights to Luxembourg, 8:40 and 17:20. But that meant even more handling for my bike.
My first human contact came on Friday, June 23. I was sitting with my team at the Hilton Airport Hotel in Frankfurt when I received notice of a tweet. The sender was Julia Buckley, a CNN reporter based in London. She offered to help me get my bike back by working with the BA Press Office. While the offer was greatly appreciated, the bike was already in transport.
I still believe in people and think there are good people who work at BA. I think they cut a lot of personnel and replaced them with bots or AI. An automated response is designed to look human and often carried a human’s name. It’s quite deceptive really.
I love my AirTag but it was both a blessing and a curse. It was comforting to know the bike was still at the airport the entire time but I was checking on the status 3-4 times a day and was frustrated that it was still there and BA never lifted a hand.
My return flight on July 4 was scheduled on Finnair from Helsinki to Copenhagen; BA from Copenhagen to Heathrow; and BA to Heathrow to Dulles. On July 3 British Airways notified me that my London-Washington flight had been canceled. However, they booked me on Virgin Airlines, two hours later.
I awoke on July 4 to a text from BA that my flight from Copenhagen to London was canceled. They did not rebook me. At the airport in Helsinki, Finnair couldn’t check me in because of the missing connection. I was able to call BA in London and they rebooked me on FinnAir directly to Heathrow at 16:00. Eight hours in the FinnAir lounge was a small trade-off knowing the British Airways would not be touching my bike on my trip home.
No one at British Airways reached out to me about this horrendous experience. In what I believe was my last cycling trip to Europe it was ruined by not having a bike.
The Rev. Bob Morley once said, “The best things in life aren’t what you’re doing or where you’re at but who you’re with.” This perfectly describes my riding in Finland.
Four years ago I was here and rode every day because I was riding every day in 2019. My Finnish daughter, Laura, even arranged for a 50km ride with her sister-in-law and some friends and it was a glorious time. I hoped to repeat it but it did not happen.
This time I did not seek out riding but let the rides come to me. I arrived from Frankfurt late at night on Saturday and stayed at the Helsinki Hilton Airport. My Finnish daughter, Jenni, (yes, I have two Finnish daughters) picked me up at the hotel and took me to her house.
We were enjoying the company Sunday morning and I wasn’t necessarily in a hurry to build my bike up and go for a ride. Nor did we check the weather. Jenni suggested a ride so I built up the bike and we were out the door around 11:00 a.m. It was sunny.
Jenni got a new eBike in April and was looking forward to a ride where we could ride at the same pace. And I was looking forward to just riding. We didn’t ride far before the sun that had been shining quickly disappeared behind a cloud. Not long after that it started raining. And it was a steady rain.
Despite the rain, we rode. Jenni was in charge of the route and picked a gravel road for about two kilometers. I didn’t mind riding on gravel except for what it was doing to my bike. It was trashing it. It was a sandy mix and there was grit everywhere. But I was with the right person. Where I was didn’t matter.
Jenni and I found a longer route on Monday it was sunny and a gorgeous day to ride. We were almost back to her place when the chain popped off her bike. Maybe it caused a bit of panic but I assured her that I could “walk” it back in place. And I did.
While Jenni went to work on Tuesday, I had mapped out a ride to the Helsinki Airport to pick up a rental car. It was an enjoyable ride about 80% on bike trails. I could have made it 90% but purposely added some country roads because given a choice between a bike trail and a lightly traveled country road I prefer the road.
That afternoon Jenni and I went for a final ride before I left for Forssa. I left my bike case behind and took just my bike with me.
When I was with Laura we did a lot of family activities. My first day we went site-seeing in Tampere. At no point was I yearning to ride. If it happened, it happened, but I didn’t need to ride. And the weather wasn’t cooperating like it did in 2019.
But we had a window of opportunity and I wanted to ride with my Finnish granddaughter, Olivia. We went on city streets although many had adjacent bike trails or bike sidewalks. I wasn’t always sure where to ride. But Olivia was the trail blazer and I just had to follow her directions.
In downtown Forssa we went by the river. The road we were on wasn’t as much gravel as it was clay. It was wet and my tires were sliding like on ice.
When Olivia and I got back to the house we had ridden 15 km. She wanted more and we went back out until we had 25 km. Oh my god. She’s just like me. I love this kid.
To fulfill my role as a guest taxi driver and exchange grandpa, I took my bike out of the car and stored it in the garage. So on Saturday when I went to visit friends in Turku, I did not have a bike with me.
My friends, Chris and Eeva, said they’d like to ride from their house to center city in Turku. It sounded great to me except I had left my bike behind in Turku. It wasn’t a big deal as they had two teenage sons and I could ride one of their bikes.
It was better this way. I could wear comfortable shoes and not my bike shoes that clip into the pedals but are pretty difficult to walk around in. Chris brought a cable to lock up the bikes while we went to lunch. I would have been very nervous leaving my bike behind with just a cable lock. I was much less nervous leaving their bikes with just a cable lock.
So four of us including seven-year-old Selma followed a bike trail into downtown Turku. It was about 8 km (5 miles). Some of it was almost single-track. And Selma held her own.
Going back was a bit sketchy because instead of retracing our ride we followed city streets. Selma had to know when to be on the sidewalks and trails. She did have her parents to help. And I wasn’t always sure. But what fun! She handled her bike really well. It may have been my slowest ride of the year but it was sure enjoyable.
My last morning in Forssa I was able to slip out for a 50 km ride. The weather didn’t look promising but I beat the rain. This ride and my trip to the Helsinki Airport to pick up my car were my only solo rides in Finland.
The country is beautiful. Mostly flat. Heavily forested with lots of lakes. It is a great place to ride but the riding was overshadowed by even greater company. “The best things in life aren’t what you’re doing or where you’re at but who you’re with.“
Today would be our final day of riding with only a short window tomorrow that I already nixed. My recovery on this trip has been too little so a day of rest, but with travel, is what is in store for tomorrow.
The routes were announced as 90 and 130 km. The 130 km would leave at 9:30 although 9:30 never really meant 9:30 much to the chagrin of our 29-year Marine veteran. (And he was right)
We rolled out with apparently only Brian, our guide, and Alonzo, having the routes on their bike’s computer head units. I had requested three weeks prior to this trip to have GPX files to upload before we arrived but none were sent. A couple of times during the week we were sent files in the morning about an hour before we rolled. I did not have files for France, The Netherlands, or today’s ride. Yesterday was a rainout and the ride to Andy Schleck Cycles was an old route ridden by Will. So basically we only had the Germany route in advance.
We left the hotel and went up the first hill at a comfortable pace. My left shoe wasn’t clipping in. Before the ride, I walked through some cedar chips to get to the support van for water for my bottles and suspect that a chip was stuck in my cleat. I went to the front and asked for a stop when we made a turn. We made a turn but did not stop. I quickly stopped and shook out the offending tree piece then remounted and had to chase up a grade to catch the group. I caught them but not without using serious effort. In cycling terms, I burned a match or two (of energy).
It was an up-and-down day. My Wahoo recognized the roads and displayed the climbs as I rode them. In all, we had 21 summits on the route and missed a 22nd when we turned off right before the summit. It was a hilly or rolling day to be sure (4700′ of climb over 65 miles).
The first real climb we had come to left the river Moselle and climbed high up the hill. I hadn’t recovered yet from my effort 10 minutes earlier and immediately was dropped. Or dropped back because I didn’t want to go deep this early in the ride. Brian said we all ride at our pace and I accepted that. There would be two or three climbs like this and I felt I was holding back my group of strong riders. If I had the map I might have told them the truth. I prefer a group ride of one where I can stop and take photos, something I can’t do sitting in a group.
Our guide for the week, Gusty (Goose-ty), was hosting us for lunch. His son, Pet, was riding with us. Incredibly skinny and small, he looked to be 5’5” and no more than 100 pounds. He looked very young, maybe 13-14, but was 18 years old.
It was fascinating watching Pet’s recovery as we rode. We dropped him once and he may have been 500 meters behind us. We stopped and when we resumed he took off up the next climb like a bat out of hell. He could fly uphill but didn’t yet develop endurance muscles. I also heard it was only the third or fourth time on a bike. I figured if he was behind me I could stay in the middle between him and our group.
Pit appeared to be tiring or maybe we were just running behind schedule. Brian and he made some adjustments to get to his house and cut our ride short. Amazingly we beat the second group although we were riding 30-40 km farther and left just 30 minutes later.
Gusto’s wife, Dani, had set up a nice lunch spread. The one food I really wanted, small sausages, were gone by the time I went through the line. But I got two Cokes so it may have evened out.
When we left Gustyland we rolled out as a group. On the road Alonzo and Danny went to the front and took off, presumably to break up the group to see who would follow. I didn’t want to even if I could have and I’m not sure that I could have. They developed perhaps a 300-meter gap on us when we came to the fork in the road. Will’s head unit said to turn left whereas Brian’s said to turn right. We stopped and waited for the third group on the road, headed up by Gusty for the correct turn.
On one long grade, I was pulling along without realizing Paul was on my wheel. He passed and thanked me for the pull and I reciprocated by grabbing his wheel. We passed Pit and tried to get him to join us but he couldn’t. Of course, as soon as the road turned up he flew past us. Again.
One final grade and this time the three of us were together. The van, driven by our mechanic, Jean-Claude, passed usandthen pulled in front. Paul encouraged Pit to follow the car but he wasn’t ready to. I thought Paul was going to but in the end, it was just me.
And I took off. Jean-Claude seemed quite pleased that someone was drafting his car. We passed maybe 6-7 in our group hoping that each one was envious of my drafting. We reached an intersection catching the first group and as I passed while he braked, we did a “low-five” hand slap. Drafting isn’t easy and the driver and both have to trust one another. And we did.
It was literally all downhill from there. We rolled into town as a team (or a group that wants to be a team) and I rolled out of town. I wanted a photo of the town’s entrance sign that I tried to take yesterday in the rain. And I had to go to France one last time.
At dinner in the evening Gusty shared how he met the Schlecks (hunting). He stated that he doesn’t live a luxurious lifestyle but in his own words makes up for what he doesn’t have materially with a big heart
We would learn later that the first group was delayed when one of the rental bikes wouldn’t shift due to a discharged battery. Fränk rode to his place, got his gravel bike, then rode both back to the hotel so that Lisa could ride his bike.
Our Germany ride would be different than the last time four years ago. And it would be much better.
Fränk announced that we would be riding in the same groups as in Holland and then Gusty and he had a somewhat spirited conversation in Luxembourgish. I was luck to have my Google Translator nearby.
Gusty: Wait, you said in Holland that I could take the cool kids
Fränk: Well it seems I changed my mind
Gusty: Please don’t make me ride with the loser group again
Fränk: Fine. I can roll out with them but if you catch us after I give you three minutes then we will just roll as one group
And with that my loser group rolled out with Fränk. We headed for the bike path that we rode back from the winery (lunch) on Sunday, down into Schengen across the Moselle River into Germany. I was consistently in the top four with a gap to the others. I enjoyed riding with our second guide, Brian from Ireland. We gapped the group a couple of times. Oops.
I also noticed that as we climbed my right foot was slipping. This was the sign of a loose screw in my cleat which was confirmed at the top of the climb.
I had been following the GPX file Fränk had sent out when at a fork in the bike path he turned right whereas the map had as going left. Unless you saw the group turn you would not have known the direction to follow. I announced that I would wait for our stragglers to make sure they made the turn. As I stood waiting the second group came by. I wondered if it looked like I had to stop to walk. Oh well.
We had a beautiful descent to the River Saar. We jumped on a bike path and eventually came to a SAG stop hosted by our mechanic, Jean-Claude. I borrowed a screwdriver and he was insistent on helping. I missed the refueling at the van but grabbed a Coke and two pastries for my pockets as we rolled out.
The second climb turned up leaving Saarburg. A ski lift ran above our heads. Bob and Heather usually rode together but Bob went up the road without her. I followed him at first but decided to do a U-turn and ride with her. She had walked in Holland on a climb and while not as tough today it seemed right helping her.
The food stop or rest stop was at the top. Both groups assembled and when it was time to leave we rolled together as one. I think, I know, Fränk really wanted to ride with his original group. We had a couple more climbs when a Strava segment popped up on my Wahoo. I do not remember riding here four years ago but I did since that is how I was able to star the segment.
We had a controlled descent to the Moselle River and found the bike path on the Germany side. We rolled together to the last rest stop and Fränk took off with three riders. This was a private ride by invitation only. Not that I would have wanted to join them.
The rest of us so headed up out of Schengen and made our way over to the bike path that we rode on Sunday. I took the lead this time and stayed there 90% of the time. I was on pace for a PR and didn’t want to get it by sitting on someone’s wheel.
It was a great day on a bike. Of the 6-7 rides I did four years ago here and the 3-4 so far this year, this was my favorite route. Unlike four years ago we did not stop for German Chocolate cake in Saarburg. What we did was much better than cake.
Although I track much of my ancestry to Germany, I haven’t studied enough to know where exactly my ancestors came from. But my DNA matches this region, the Rhineland-Palatinate. This was not lost on me as I pedaled through here wondering if 300-350 years ago my ancestors lives in this very place.
Today was a scheduled rest day for the Roosters Racing group. In Rooster tradition it meant a ride to Andy Schleck Cycles in Luxembourg (city). This was sort of the gift shop exit at the end of every ride at Disney.
Without a GPX file, Will downloaded the route we took four years ago. We headed out a farm road that was marked closed and ignored the barrier, On a bike this is often the case as a bicycle may be able to squeeze by whereas a car cannot,
We were probably 3/4 of the way on this road when a car came and stopped us. The road was fully closed. They were putting down new asphalt so we turned around and looked for an alternative.
And we came to a second road closure. This time it was tree trimming. I suggested to Lisa and Julie that they should proceed to talk to the young tree trimmers and perhaps they could be more persuasive than Will was. And they were. We walked our bikes around the trucks.
Andy Schleck was not expected to be at work today. When we arrived at the shop the Roosters gathered outside. I stuck my head inside the door and said hello to Andy. I then told Dan that Andy was indeed here at work.
Most everyone in our group went shopping. I did not although I eyed up some sunglasses that were 50% off. But my Apple Pay was tied to a credit card they did not accept and I didn’t even think to bring a credit card.
Four years ago our group came to the shop then went to the Luxembourg American Cemetery. I really wanted to go today but it was not in the group’s plan. Very disappointing.
On our way back we would hit another road closure. And we would tal our way past it by again walking our bikes. So that made it two out of three.
The afternoon was a wine tasting. The bus would pick up riders for this event. I am not a wine drinker and respectfully declined. Instead I kept riding, into France and a loop back to Mondorf.
My Whoop Band recovery score was just 18% today. In fact, five of the last six days it was in the red and yesterday, it was 34% which landed it in the yellow zone by one percentage point. I was tired and did not need the Whoop Band to tell me this.
The group left by bus and I took a shower. When I finished I sat down on the bed. I woke up 90 minutes later. I needed that.
Refreshed, I went for a walk searching for Coke Zero. I ended at Hoffman Pâtisserie in Mondorf and bought an ice cream cone too. Now all set for tomorrow.
Andy Schleck came to our dinner tonight. He didn’t come to eat but to bring merchandise some of the group ordered. I told him that I saw the latest documentary on GCN called Rivals – Contador vs Schleck. He asked me who I thought was better, him or Alberto Contador.
Ugh. So I said “ you, of course” and Andy replied, “No, Alberto was the better rider, but I am the better person.”
We left the hotel in a motorcoach that pulled a custom-enclosed bike trailer. I can’t imagine any bus company in the U.S. having such a trailer. But this is probably not uncommon in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, or Belgium.
Once we arrived in Valkenberg we were delayed as one rider forgot shoes and was taken to a bike shop for a quick shopping trip. Other riders had to walk carefully the dog poo that seemed to be everywhere in the park where we were waiting. This was not unlike my first impression in Arreau, France in 2010. Americans do better at curbing their dogs than Europeans.
Fränk announced the seven names of the riders in Group A. He paused and then said that it wasn’t based on ability but just broken out that way. The pause seemed like he protested too much and I sure didn’t believe him. Oh well, it really didn’t matter. The nine riders in the group not called Group B would be led by Brian and Gusty. I was in this other group.
I was feeling bad about this arrangement while at the same time understanding that based on yesterday’s riding this is where I belonged. True, I added 33 kilometers in the morning and went farther than anyone yesterday but that’s not really an excuse. I cramped and Fränk helped push me up the last climb.
At the base of the first climb today I passed a guy on what looked like a cargo bike. It had two front wheels with a cargo area and the cyclist sat on the saddle like a traditional bike with one wheel in the rear. I could see a child riding up front. As I went to wave I could see the “seat” the child was in was a small wheelchair.
No matter how I may feel be it soreness or cramping, I am healthy and pedaling a bike. That little fellow may never get to enjoy the pain and suffering we willingly undertake to enjoy the freedom and exhilaration we get from pedaling our bikes. That was my lasting image of the day that trumped everything I did on the bike.
After seeing him I never once cared about why I was or was not in a certain group. I would enjoy the freedom on the bike and the beauty of the countryside.
I did not know how my legs would respond to yesterday. How could I forget my HotShot cramp drinks? My simple goal was to achieve three PRs since the Strava program shows three segments without clicking to see the full route. It’s nice to show those first three lines with PRs.
And with that, I was very successful. Although I had already secured three PRs on minor climbs it was the big climbs that I really wanted PRs. Before we would come to the first climb, Will turned a corner and dropped his chain. In doing so the chain severed the Di2 wire on his rear derailleur. Although he was going to try riding in one gear, the derailleur was stuck between two gears so kept shifting from one to the other. Just 500 meters farther he was able to jump in our SAG wagon.
Our group was delayed by construction and a detour. We were further delayed by a flat on Goosty’s bike.
The first major climb was Eyeserbosweg. I climbed it and had a PR. Our second one was Keutenberg. Depending on your body type this may have been the toughest of the day with gradients in the earliest portion of 22%. I hit the climb and was eight seconds down. I kept at it and brought the time back for a PR and then descended back down the climb for photos and to shepherd some riders.
The Cauberg was the last major climb and true to form I set a PR. On all of these, it seemed I was consistently fourth behind Bob, Carl, and Doug in my group. I was not racing except against myself. On some of these, I started last wheel and may have been higher than fourth. But on all, there seemed to be a major gap to the remainder of our group.
I asked Dan who the oldest Rooster was. He mentioned Margaret (73) but he was referring to all time. On this trip once I confirmed my age (67) he said I was. I don’t know who’s over 60, if any, let alone 65. While I may have been down just a little bit, all day long I was above the line in our group and always AGE GROUP WINNER!
Back at the bus at 5:00, we had a spread for lunch. Our bus trip back to the hotel would get us in at 9:00. Dinner was served. I made the decision to skip dinner. I haven’t been recovering the way I need to and food in my stomach at 9:00 was not the best thing.
All in all, I had a great day in Holland. Our group was shorted a little on distance due to our mechanicals. But even with a poor recovery from yesterday, I rode well. I am healthy. I am on a bike. Peace.
MyStrava Times (2023 vs 2019) Cauberg: 4:15 (4:19) – Well that wasn’t much improvement Eyserbosweg: 5:34 (5:50) – A bit better Keutenberg: 7:14 (11:30) – Massive improvement