Category Archives: My 2014 Le Tour Challenge

The Last Stage

Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, right, nudges out compatriot Kirsten Wild, centre, and third-placed Leah Kirchmann of Canada, to win La Course in Paris. Photo: Laurent Rebours, Sydney Morning Herald

You’re right! This is not a photo of the final stage of The Tour de France. But it is the winning sprint of the first women’s race connected with The Tour since 1989. Hours before the men arrived on the Champs Elysées, the women raced 89 km on the streets of Paris. And a Canadian placed third!

It’s Sunday 27th, the final stage of the Tour de France and my @mapmyride LeTour challenge. This last stage of the Tour is always one of celebration in the peloton, with lots of chatting, photo ops and even champagne on the road into Paris. No real racing happens until the sprinters approach the circuit on the Champs Elysées.

I ride my last stage for fun, enjoying the beautiful day and thinking back over the past three weeks. It seems so long ago that I set out on that first stage July 5th, hoping to ride 10% of the Tour distance. I reached that goal on July 24th. The next day, I earned the 250 mile badge with a PR of 25 km/hr average for the whole River Road route, a 3 km/hr improvement in 3 weeks. I also recorded my 100th ride since joining Map My Ride. So a lot happened.

No wonder time seems to have moved slowly.  Thinking ahead, it feels like summer is rushing to an end. The winds have shifted. Already, the trees are hinting at Fall. I need a new goal to make time move slowly again and there are lots to choose from.

Hills, for sure. I’ve been avoiding them because the ones from the River Road rise sharply and I have never learned to stand and pedal uphill.

Teaching my right leg to take as much of the work as the left. Despite all the rehab and physio, my right leg is still quite happy to let the left do the hard work.

Bike handling. Technique in general. After falling off my bike, trying to dismount at the end of tiring rides last year, I’m continually amazed at how smoothly I can come to a stop now.  But I avoid any routes that involve stopping and starting again.

So for the next 3 weeks, I’ll tackle some hillier terrain and hone my technique. Then maybe I’ll make up a Vuelta Challenge. In the meantime, there is LeTour to finish.

I spot a cyclist off in the distance and sprint past them to the finish. 


Like Sixty

When I own up to turning sixty this year, people often say,  “Oh yeah, but sixty is the new forty.” It’s not true, I’m not going to lie. I remember forty and sixty isn’t the same.

But it is not stopping me from pushing a few limits, either.

When I started the MMR LeTour Challenge I set a goal of 10% of the Tour distance. Then along the way I got the 100 mile virtual badge and I realized that the 250 mile award was only another 50 or so km more than my original goal. So I’ve set my sights on that.

I used to have some hard and fast rules about cycling. Not in the rain. Not when the temperature dipped below two digits celsius.  Not in heavy wind.

This past week, rule one and three got broken. Because I had been away for 3 of the past 5 days, I had no choice but to squeeze in a ride on a rainy day. I studied the radar and found a gap between two bands of rain.  It was sunny when I headed out, so I was feeling pretty smug about nailing the weather prediction.

At the far end of my route, ominously, a Disaster Mitigation Services truck drove on past me. There were some seriously dark clouds blowing in. When I turned to retrace my route, it was sunny in the distance and I figured the storm had passed north along with the truck. Not so. When the storm hit, it was pretty spectacular, a torrential downpour with 50 km wind gusts coming at me from all sides, water sheeting and pinging off the pavement.  Rain and sweat splashed onto the inside of my sunglasses while I tried to hold my line and look for a safe place to get off the road. Then just as suddenly, it was over and I was still upright.

I rode on, feeling kind of chuffed. Going…. like sixty.




Trivial Pursuit

Remember this Game? It was invented by Canadians in 1979!

Today when I was cycling the River Road, I noticed something on the pavement ahead that looked worth avoiding. As I got closer, I could see it was a small, empty box.

The colour and graphics triggered a long ago memory.  It was a Trivial Pursuit box, one of the two that held the question cards. It’s amazing that such an unremarkable graphic image from so long ago can stick with you. It has been at least 25 years since I’ve actually played.

Trivial Pursuit was a board game invented by two Canadian journalists, Chris Haney and Scott Abbott. There were different categories of questions such as History, Science, Art. The object was to move along the circular track and spokes, correctly answering questions and collecting a wedge for each category. Then you went to the hub and answered a final game winning question. I have to say, I was never very good at science and I don’t remember winning very often!

I can only guess that someone lost badly at Trivial Pursuit today.

As I cycled on up the road, I rolled on over dozens of question cards, scattered all over the road. Further on, there was another empty question box and more cards on the road. Obviously, someone had let the cards fly out their car window before ditching the boxes. Another km and there was the big box it all came in but nothing more, no board or plastic wedges.

What amazed me when I got home and went looking for a picture of the game, is the number of variations that were developed over the years, including an app! I always thought Trivial Pursuit had disappeared into obscurity except as a token Canadian question on Wheel of Fortune.

When I finished my ride, I drove back to get a shot of the cards all over the road, but they were already blown onto the shoulder by the cars driving past.

Made me realize how close I must have been to seeing the cards take flight!


Eight Days A Week

How can you resist a road with that view? River Road at Trent University, where my rides began this week.

I have officially ridden my bike for eight days in a row. That’s a record for me.

Now I’m looking forward to two days off to attend a Conference at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

I’ve learned a lot on the River Road this week. While most people pass me like a vehicle, which is what you’re supposed to do, especially on a marked scenic and bicycle route, Coca Cola trucks do not.

There was a great article on my twitter feed this week about the 19th century health scare that told women to beware of the dangers of Bicycle Face. You can imagine my bicycle face when the truck ran me off the road as I turned into this corner at Lock 23. There wasn’t even on-coming traffic. Grrr.


Lock 23 Trent Severn Waterway

I also learned that I really don’t like being passed by other cyclists. Most of the time, there is nothing I can do about it. Today, a couple passed me going up the bridge to the rowing club just as I was setting out. But once on the road, I had them in my sights and realized I could pass them. So I did. The thing about passing people who have already passed you right at the start of your ride, is that you have no choice but to keep booting it. Now you are in their sights.

I improved my course record by almost half a minute! Up to now, I’ve been excited about a couple of seconds.

The River Road, is the cottage and cycling all rolled into one. The Trent Severn Waterway is in view the whole way from Trent to Lakefield and it is so beautiful. On the other side of the road, there are meadows and farms and a rail trail bike path. People swim and fish and picnic, bird watch and even just sit by the river and read.

For now I keep riding this road because the sight and smell of the water takes me back to summers at the cottage, and fellow cyclists who give me the wave remind me of boat trips with my Dad. I’ve been remembering him a lot this week.

Soon, I will need to tackle some hillier routes.

My First Mechanical

OK. Now what?
OK. Now what?

Yesterday I had my first mechanical. I don’t have a team car that follows me around to change my tire or give me a new bike when something goes wrong. But I do have a wonderful live-in mechanic, so I’ve never bothered to learn how to do anything more than fill my tires with air. I cycle with my phone in case anything dire happens, and more importantly, to Map My Ride. But in all the years I’ve been cycling, I have only ever had one flat tire and I was in Warsaw at the time. Amy Quirk at the garage just loaded me and my bike into her van and brought me home. Kind of like a team car, I guess.

When I got in my car to head over to the River Road for my Stage 5 ride, there was my beautiful new Specialized Ruby sitting on the passenger seat. And all I could do was wait for my mechanic to arrive home. Fortunately, I didn’t fall far behind the pack. I did manage to get in my ride, but without the rain and cobbles the Tour riders endured.

New goal. Learn how to take care of my own bike!


The Le Tour 14 Challenge

I’ve taken up Map My Ride’s Le Tour 14 Challenge. Not because I’ll appear anywhere near the top of the leaderboard, or have much hope of winning a prize… but you never know!

When I first started using this app to track how far I was going on my various rides, I knew it might be the beginning of a slippery slope. It is far too easy to get sucked into watching the numbers and not enjoying the ride. But the day I got an email saying I had a Personal Record on the River Road North course, I was hooked.

I’m  taking up this Challenge because my hip replacement has given me new life on the bike again. And riding Le Tour 14  is going to get me out on the road most every day. By the time the challenge is over, I’ll be just 3 days short of my six month recovery milestone.

My goal is to ride 10% of the total 3,664 km between the Grand Depart in Yorkshire, England on July 5th and the final sprint on the Champs Élysées in Paris July 27th. So it seems fitting, or perhaps ironic, that my current rank  4,836 is just about 10% of the 44,720 who’ve joined the Challenge.

It would be fun to set up routes to honour the challenges of each stage in some way, but my July schedule imposes different rest days than the Tour Riders, and I’m still not doing many hills, or Côtes, as they are called in the Tour.

I only just noticed that when this photo in The Guardian caught my eye.

We’ve always called the steep hills around Warsaw cols. There’s the Col de Warsaw and Col de Sawmill. Turns out they’re just Côtes. Maybe that will make it seem easier next time!