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New Year – Looking Back

2 Jan



At the beginning of a new year, I can’t help but look back… at the same time I focus on what lies ahead. 

No, not while I’m riding.  😉

As I think about my plans and goals for 2011, I look back at the goals I made for 2010 – and feel a little smug about the ones I accomplished (8), a little sheepish about the ones I didn’t (3), and something in between for the goals I partially completed (4).

One thing I like about blogging is it gives me a record of the year.  With my memory, I need it!  I love all the posts about our bike tours (Katy Trail and Vermont – Quebec City), they allow me to go back and relive the trips.

I also like the plethora of posts I did on the 2010 Tour de France

Thirty-four posts to be exact. 

For every day of the Tour, including both rest days, I did at least 1 post, and most days, 2.  We’re not talking short posts either; for each stage of the Tour (21 stages – 20 stage races + a prologue race) I wrote a detailed recap of what transpired and my own analysis of it.

For Tour novices I wrote a Tour de France Primer to serve as a guide for understanding the Tour, and bike racing in general.

Why?  Because I love the Tour.  For 3 weeks in July my life is the Tour and riding my bike.  Yep, July is one of my favorite months.  Bike ride in the morning – Tour in the afternoon and evening.  Food in between.  It’s a good life.

If you are interested, you can peruse a summary of my Tour posts here.

I’ll get back to 2011 later…

Party smile

Sojourn Bicycle Tour

2 Dec

Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec

3 Oct

Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec

Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec – Vieux Quebec City

September 10, 2010

If you have spent any time at all on this blog you know I like bikes.

If you were around last July or if you’ve looked around much and noticed the 30+ posts I wrote on the Tour de Franceyou could correctly conclude that I must love bike racing.

Race day – Hotel Frontenac

Put those two things together, mix in our bike trip to Quebec City – add the first ever North American UCI Pro Tour race in Quebec City – and wallah – you’ve got it!

After our bike ride from Vermont to Quebec City we stayed on to watch the top professionals in the world, many of whom raced in this year’s Tour, compete in Quebec City Friday, September 10, 2010 in the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec.

The riders came into Quebec Tuesday before the race via a charter jet from Paris.  We saw them several times riding the course and at the Hotel Frontenac before Friday’s race.

Training on Côte de la Montagne
10 – 15 % gradient on the Côte de la Montagne
Damn, this hurts!

One evening we went to dinner near the Frontenac so walked to the hotel afterwards.  We saw these two young guys with Footon – Servetto also hanging out in the lobby.

Pro bike racers are such nice guys – can you see a pro football player doing this?
Favored Canadian and very nice guy, Ryder Hesjedal (finished 4th in TDF)

On race day, like every other day in Quebec City we walked – no need for a car here. And, like nearly every day in Quebec, that walk took us up the la Montagne – 345 miles on the bike, then 25 miles plus walking around the hilly Old Quebec – my calves – and feet – thighs – had frankly had enough, but we persevered.

We walked to the Hotel Frontenac, where all the teams and entourage of the race stayed. All the team cars were parked and loaded up with bikes (drool). There were several riders inside the large tent warming up and getting ready. It was a sight!
Toy Store!

All the bikes were beautiful – we could get as close as we wanted – it was cool to see the frames and gruppo of each bike. There were people everywhere and a lot of excitement in the air.

Quebec is so geared toward cycling, we expected them to come out to watch and they had. As we walked on past the Frontenac toward the start line there were people starting to congregate. The streets were barricaded and police were on hand.  It was still hours until race time so not too many people to wade through.

Like us, most of the crowd seemed headed for the start – although when we walked up the la Montagne quite a few people were already starting to congregate. It was still a couple of hours until start time.

Ready for the race!

There were lots of people along the barricade but it was easy for us to find a spot right at the front, reasonably close to the start and stage where the teams and riders would be announced.

Shortly before the start of the race.

Although it had been very cloudy and cool, the sky was starting to brighten and it was warming up a bit. There was a lot going on – racers riding by, race officials on motorbikes and in cars staging, SRAM was there as were other sponsors.

Will Swetnam, photographer, works for Graham Watson.

Race official telling me to get back!
I want her job!

When certain riders rode by the crowd would cheer and bang hands against the signs on the barricades – clapping. The people standing next to us were fans of Tommy Voeckler, as am I.

Tommy Voeckler, French Champion, riding for Bbox.

When Canadian, Ryder Hesjedahl rode by everyone cheered loudly – including me – I like him too – what a Tour he had! George Hincapie, another class act, decked out in his stars and stripes US national champion’s kit rode by.

Americans, Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner of Team Radio Shack, also rode by warming up and we cheered loudly. Horner smiled. Neat guy.

The extra cool thing about this event, is that it was a criterium race; meaning the racers did 15 laps of a 12.6 km circuit in Old Quebec (hilly Old Quebec) – 189 km – approximately 4.5 hours of racing.

We had options watching a race of this type (circuit).  We could hunker down in one spot (start/finish) or move around the course to get a different vantage point of the race – say watch them struggle up the very steep (13% grade in sections) Côte de la Montagne ("Hill of the Mountain").

Photo by Francois Thevenin
Training ride.
George Hincapie in the stars and stripes.

Or we could do both – guess which we did.

At the start-
And they’re off!
At the finish
In the middle
Outside a bistro during the middle of the race where we enjoyed;
Brick oven pizza and local beer

When we heard the motorbikes approach, we would get up from our table, walk a few feet outside to the street and watch the lead group race by, then the peloton, then the stragglers, then go back inside for about 20 minutes until they would come by again.
Another good cappuccino

It worked out perfectly. Pizza, beer, coffee and bike racing – a perfect day.
Photo by Francois Thevenin

I will tell you nothing comes close to capturing the SPEED these guys ride at.  Seriously, they go by in a blur.  When we were at the finish, up against the barriers, the last 3 or 4 laps they came so close to the barrier I couldn’t believe it.

When we would see them approaching, I would take my camera and reach over the barrier to take pictures.  Moments, really just a couple of seconds before they approached I would jerk my hand and body back.  If I hadn’t god knows what would have happened – I might have lost an arm.  Or worse, they would have made me leave for endangering the riders!




It was a great race and an obviously difficult one.  I think it would be fair to say a surprisingly difficult race from the riders standpoint.  We saw riders dropping (out) like flies.  Before the race was over 63 riders would drop out – about 1/3rd of the number that started – an unusually high number for any race.  It was obviously a grueling course.

When the race started, there was a break almost immediately of about 13 riders.  A core group of riders stayed away until the last lap. 



We watched the break survive lap after lap.




Just about the time they were caught, Ryder Hesjedal attacked, Damiano Cunego attacked on the leg killing Côte de la Montagne - the same place the 1st attack occurred that resulted in the 13 rider break.

voeckler and jens

(Photo by Francois Thevenin)

It was a punishing attack by Hesjedal to try and claim a victory and fell just short.  He was doing all the work and simply couldn’t maintain the brutal pace.  When the group slowed down momentarily. Thomas Voeckler shot off the front at a turn and because of the indecision and/or fatigue of the group, by the time they reacted – it was too late.

voeckler takes off by  Jean-Francois Lafrance

(Photo by Francois Thevenin)



Here he comes – we were maybe 50 meters from the finish!

The French Champion claimed the win by just 1 second over the chasing group.  Edvald Boasson-Hagen came in second, Robert Gesink was third, and Ryder Hesjedal fourth.

gp winners

(Photo by Velo News)

The evening before the race, who should Mark and I run into at the Chateau Frontenac – but Thomas Voeckler.  Voeckler is one of my favorite racers and has been ever since I first saw him race in 2004.  He is gutsy and as tough as they come.  His first year in the TDF (2004) he held the yellow jersey for 10 days, 9 days longer than anyone expected when he captured it.

No one counts him out any longer.  He won Stage 15 in this year’s Tour (my post on stage 15).  He is tenacious and one savvy bike racer.  I was so happy to get my picture taken with him – he even had to wait until Mark could fix the camera after I inadvertently pushed a wrong button.  Instead of getting frustrated and walking off he smiled and waited – I’m sure thinking stupid American.  Nice picture though!


Thomas Voeckler, Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec Champion, 2010

Sojourners by Bike-Day6/Part 2

28 Sep

Sojourn-VT-QC-August-29-2010 029

~Trois-Rivières to Quebec City~ 85 miles

We left our lunch stop at Deschambault committed to riding the rest of the way to Quebec City – about 45 miles.  Committed, and excited.

Some of you are probably thinking we should be committed for riding 85 miles!

When we rolled away from Angelus Bistro it was just the two of us.  A few of the group were in front and others hadn’t left yet. In discussions at lunch, arrangements were made for a few options of catching the van – around 45 miles and 70 mile points (right before the first ginormously steep hill).

After a few miles, the ride instructions directed us to the Rue de Quai, the longest qaui (pier) in Canada, toward Portneuf Maritime Terminal.  There was a restaurant there that a couple of the group lunched at.  Reading on we could see that once you got to the end of the pier you simply turned around and got back on the road/bike pathway we were on.  We decided to skip the pier and continue on with our ride to Quebec City.

It would save us two miles – hey, two miles is two miles.

Before long we were on Route 138, the Chemin du Roy, “Kings Highway”, one of the oldest highways in Canada.  It follows the north shore of the Saint Lawrence.  Although we could not see it all the time, we knew the Saint Lawrence was just to our right as we headed towards Quebec City.   The route was definitely starting to get a little hillier, but nothing like the 10%+ grade climbs we would see later on.

At mile 50 we turned off the Chemin du Roy to see the Cap Sante’ (Cape Health) historic church.

Cap Sante church
Bienvenue – Welcome!

We didn’t get off our bikes, just stopping long enough to take a few pictures.  The best thing about our stop was it gave Deena a chance to catch up (she had biked to the Portneuf pier).  I was glad to have her riding with us.  It was best, IMO, if no one had to ride alone.  There is safety in numbers and just having someone else to keep you company is nice.  Maybe that comes from years and years of solo riding, but for a tour like this – where you are riding in unknown territory – it’s best to have at least one other person with you.  Besides Deena was a strong rider and could take some turns pulling at the front.

We all took off again on the Chemin du Roy rolling along at a moderate pace, but dealing with strong headwinds.  I continued to feel better and stronger and enjoyed just powering along.

We came to the first of the three steep hills at mile 54.  This hill was relatively short, just over .5 mile and was the least steep of the three.  We did it without any problem.

At mile 61 we turned left off of Route 138 the Chemin du Roy on to the rue des Erables.  We rode on Erables for two miles – a steady and sometimes steep climb through a small village with lots of quaint and unique houses.  No cookie cutter homes here, thank you.

About the time we thought it had leveled off, it continued to climb.  None of these climbs were “categorized” in that they were not singled out on our route directions.  Just a warm up climb that didn’t deserve a mention when compared to what lay ahead.  Oh boy.

We got back on to Route 138/Chemin du Roy and followed the Route Verte 5.  We stopped for a bit to refuel with energy bars and add electrolyte tablets to the water we had left in our bottles.  We couldn’t afford to bonk so it was important to continue to take in nutrition.

We also joked about calling our team, Team Estrogen, and making Mark a full member.  He was unclear about whether he would wear the TE shirt.

The closer we got to Quebec City the more varied the terrain got.  At mile 65 we were warned to watch our speed on a steep downhill which flattened on a wooden bridge.  The next couple of miles were easy with virtually no traffic and very bucolic.

Another picturesque home in Quebec.  No for sale sign though.
Google Earth photo
Gorgeous Google Earth photo

Once again, I was amazed at the Route Verte and the quality of bike roads available.  So amazed, I had to stop and take a picture.  Deena and Mark wait for me just up the road.  This picture epitomized Quebec’s attitude and commitment to cyclists and the use of bikes as transportation.

Route Verte 5 Quebec

We were getting excited as we got closer to Quebec City.  Earlier in the day the first mileage sign we saw for Quebec City showed 122 km to Quebec City.  Over the miles/kilometers we watched them go down – now we were at about 25 km.

Just before mile 70  who should we see, but our fellow Sojourners!  They had pulled off the road to wait for us so we could refill water bottles and grab something to eat.  It was so neat, before I saw them, I heard them clapping and cheering us on.  It was great to see them and gave us a boost to keep going.  We stopped only for a few minutes and then got back on the bikes before our legs started to cramp or stiffen.

While stopped, Montreal Mark warned us the 1st of the really steep climbs (10 – 15% grade) was just up ahead.  We hadn’t been on the bikes a mile when we saw it.  It looked to be a short, but HC (hors catégorie) level climb in steepness.  All three of us – Deena, Mark and I – clipped out and walked up the *hill*.  All three of us made the comment that riding up it couldn’t have been any harder than walking – talk about “feel the burn”!

One down – one to go.  Once it flattened a bit we remounted and rode on.  It felt good to have one out of the way and it was every bit as steep as we had been told. Ouch.

We continued on Chemin du Roy/Route Verte 5 through an area that was part farmland/part suburbia.  Within a mile or so we were back on bike path; sure enough, I can see the path on Google Earth using the data collected on our ride from our Garmin Edge – WOW.

We went from bike path to roadways marked for bikes throughout the rest of the ride in.  You gotta love Quebec’s bikeability.  I do!

We were in what looked to be an affluent suburb of Quebec City making our way towards our next and LAST killer hill – Cap Rouge.  We knew we were almost at it when we passed under the railroad trestle bridge, the Tracel.  It was built in 1907 and is still in use today.  Gustave Eiffel was involved in the building of the Tracel.

Le Tracel, Cap Rouge (Google Earth/A. Konig)

We got to the Cap Rouge hill and started our climb clipped in.  The road wasn’t real wide and there was traffic.  There was also a sidewalk if we needed to bail.  The fear when you are clipped in and your legs are feeling less than dependable, is that you will not be able to maintain enough momentum to keep going, and not being able to unclip you fall over (picture “Laugh In”, the guy on the tricycle falling over).  Every cyclist knows what I’m talking about.  If you ride with clipless pedals chances are you’ve done it at one time or another – it’s not fun and something to be avoided.  And yes, I speak from experience.

We all came to the same conclusion at almost the same instant and pulled over and unclipped.  We walked our bikes up the hill on the sidewalk – I’m sure Betty was happy for the break.  My legs were not.  Walking up that hill hurt my legs less than ginormous hill #1, but more than riding would have.  Oh well, we got past it – that’s what was important.

We continued on following the Route Verte 5 signs as we rode through a beautiful, heavily treed residential area.  There were lots of turns the latter part of the ride, it was great to have Navigator Mark calling them out.

At about 75 miles we started to feel giddy.  I know I was.  Excitement or lack of oxygen to the brain I’m not sure – but who cared.  We were 10 miles away!

The hard part/parts were over – 6 days of riding were coming to a close and we were flying.  We rode along this busy street, backed up with traffic as people were trying to leave Quebec City and we were just arriving.  They were stuck in rush hour traffic going nowhere and we were speeding along almost effortlessly.  I was grinning from ear to ear.

On bikes.  Having ridden all the way from Burlington, VT.  Yes, I had a big smile on my face.

The ride continued on like that until we came to a descent we had been forewarned about.  Again, no exaggeration here.  We rode through the first part of the descent, stopping just in time before we crashed into the cars that were stopped waiting to go.

That got our attention, so we stopped just before the railroad tracks so we could check out the second part of the descent.

What was tricky about this descent was:  1) it was steep, 2) you had to stop at the bottom because there was a traffic light and it probably would be red (Murphy’s Law impacts cyclists too), 3) there were cars coming in from side streets, 4) it was a twisty/winding descent, 5) did I mention it was very steep and you had to STOP or you would end up crashing into a car waiting at the light or end up in the middle of the road.

I wish I had a picture, but I don’t.  I think I was the most nervous about the descent, in part, because I don’t like to crash (and have), hate getting hit by car (and have) and also because I hated the brakes on my bike.  I had to squeeze the brakes so hard to come to a stop my forearms would have looked like Popeye’s if there had been many descents like this one.  I haven’t always been so skittish about descending, in my earlier days of riding I would hit 45mph on my 23c tires.  That was before thousands of dollars of dental work though.

While still at the top, we waited for traffic to clear at the bottom of the hill so we would have more room to stop.  Here we go.

Feathering brakes – so far – so good.  Controlled descent – always what I’m after.

Oops, cars getting in line at light from those side streets that we couldn’t see well from the top.

Light turns red – knew it would.

Squeezed those brakes as hard as I could, I slowed and got into the left hand turn lane to cross the road and get on to the Quebec City/St. Lawrence river bike path.  We were in Quebec City!

A piece of cake.  Ha!

We had headwinds most of the day, but the wind along the bike path in Quebec City made the other pale in comparison.

But we were almost finished, having ridden 80 miles at this point.  All we had to do was follow the path to our hotel, Auberge St. Pierre, and keep from getting blown backwards.

All the other cyclists were headed toward us because of that massive wind which was at their backs and were flying effortlessly.  Show-offs.

We rode along on the bike path, taking in the buildings of Old Quebec to our left and the majestic St. Lawrence to our right.

We stopped so we could capture the moment and while we were stopped who should ride up but our Sojourn buds, Jeff and Joshua!  It was great to see them.

Deena, me, Mark, Jeff aka Team Blue.


The smiles lasted for days and days. With Joshua in the lead, we rode a few more miles to the Auberge St. Pierre.

We had done it!

85 miles
345 miles in 6 days
Burlington, VT to Quebec City, CA
Joshua, Mark, Susan, Deena & Jeff/Sojourn photo by Montreal Mark

For the day, I rode 84.97 miles, avg. speed 12.6, time on bike 6:44, 2,175 ft. elevation gain, avg. heart rate 108 bpm.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about our trip, I’ve enjoyed writing about it.  You think when you take such a memorable trip that the memories won’t fade, but they do.  I like that I can go back and reread these posts or look at the pictures from time to time.  I wish I had done this when we went to Italy several years ago so I could go back and relive the experience.  Guess we will have to go back so I can blog about it!

Beside the 8 posts about the bike tour, check out my other posts about Quebec City too, Quebec City  and Québécoise Locavores

Also, Sojourners by Bike ~ Au Revoir

Still to come, my post about the first ever North American UCI Pro Tour bike race, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec   which we were fortunate enough to watch in beautiful Old Quebec City September 10th 2010.

It was an awesome experience and a great race:  189km race, won by 1 second by the great French Champion, and my new friend, Tommy Voeckler.Winking smile

The day before the race at the Hotel Frontenac.

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