24 December 2013

A Holiday Tradition

Christmas Goodies

As my faithful readers may know, I have a love of bread and pastries (specifically baguettes and tarte au citron). But not just any sort; bread and pastries are one of those items which are only worth eating when homemade, fresh and delicious. And Christmas is the best time to enjoy the best of the best. I enjoy visiting my favorite patisseries and depot de pain while in France, I also enjoy the tradition right here in Denver, Colorado. Far more rare but worth the extra miles to make the trip, the best ingredients make the best Christmas Goodies, and so seeking out your favorite local bakery is worth the investigative effort. This year I have a new bakery to add to the list.

Les Delices de Paris

Les Delices de Paris is yummy, small and quaint, it is tucked away in a corner strip mall in Denver (600 S Holly St #101, Denver, CO 80246). You will be greeted by the owner with a French accent and delighted with the sights and tastes. Les Delices de Paris would be considered a traditional carry-out patisserie, specializing in cakes, tarts, quiches and delicious full butter croissants. I have my dear friend Olivia to thank for introducing me to this bakery.

A slice of Paris in Denver
real butter croissants
A true patisserie with Christmas specialties
My traditional choice has been Trompeau Bakery, also in Denver, the smells smack you in the face at this place which specializes in breads and croissants. But Trompeau Bakery expanded to a much larger site two years ago and bigger is not always better, yet I am still a patron. They now bake bread for many of the local restaurants in and around Denver. In my opinion their pies, tarts and cakes don't match Les Delices De Paris, but the baguettes are good. The Pajama Baking Company (1595 S. Pearl St, Denver) also makes a tasty (if chewy) baguette and an excellent ciabatta bread.

Again the quality might be the result of the specialties at a pâtisserie versus a boulangerie.

Boulangerie: a bakery where bread is sold.

Pâtisserie: a bakery which specializes in pastries and sweets. Pâtisseries employ a master pastry chef with special credentials.

Depot de pain: Bread Depots are locations in smaller towns where breads, baked off-site, are delivered daily for convenient pick-up by locals. 

Preferences for taste in bread are highly personal, but the best baguettes are considered to be crispy on the outside and fluffy, soft and porous on the inside with a warm yeast smell. They should also be very very fresh. Good bread, without preservatives, is intended to be eaten the day it comes out of the oven.

Here in Denver - we are a long way from being the best. Ridha Khadher (owner of Au Paradis du Gourmand, 156 Rue Raymond Losserand, Paris 75014 , 14e Arr.) recently won the coveted award of Best Baguette in Paris 2013. He may now bake his bread for the President of France for the next year. Did you know a true baguette should measure between 55-70cm long and fall within the acceptable weight of of 250-300g.
I will never look at a baguette the same again
Home of the best baguette in Paris 2013
An unassuming storefront houses the best baguette in Paris at Au Paradis du Gourmand


And now for our traditional Christmas goodies from America - good old fashioned home baked Christmas cookies.

Mine
And my sister-in-law Missy's home baking. Nothing is better than a tray of homemade cookies.
Happy Holidays!

Pedal Dancer - related stories from the past:

The Baguette
A White Christmas in Denver
Christmas Eve at the French Bakery
Recommended Bakery: Trompeau Bakery
How to order a Coffee in France

21 December 2013

Recommended Reading: Cold Cold Cyclocross

When is it too cold to race cyclo-cross? 

Pat Malach of CyclingNews.com asked this question over the past weeks and today wrote several opinions in an attempt to answer the question on so many people's minds.  With recent SRAM equipment failures in extreme cold temperatures and cases of frostbite to racers, this is a topic worth reading about.

The time has come when cyclocross races will definitely be canceled due to weather and humans will no longer sacrifice themselves to test equipment to its breaking point.

Read: When is it too cold to race cyclo-cross?

The SRAM recall announcement by VeloNews last week: SRAM recalls all hydraulic road disc and rim brakes

Some good clean - and cold - weekend fun in Colorado
Junior racers line up braving the cold to race cyclocross.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at PedalDancer®

18 December 2013

USA Pro Challenge Stage 7 - Decided

2014 USA Pro Challenge, August 18-24, 2014

Dates & Host Cities of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge have been decided

See the Host Cities 2014
Stage 1: Monday, Aug. 18 – Aspen Circuit Race
Stage 2: Tuesday, Aug. 19 – Aspen to Mt. Crested Butte (climbs, mixed terrain)
Stage 3: Wednesday, Aug. 20 – Gunnison to Monarch Mountain (mountaintop finish)
Stage 4: Thursday, Aug. 21 – Colorado Springs Circuit Race
Stage 5: Friday, Aug. 22 – Woodland Park to Breckenridge (long road, climbing at end)
Stage 6: Saturday, Aug. 23 – Vail Individual Time Trial
Stage 7: Sunday, Aug. 24 – Boulder - Golden (Lookout Mountain) - Denver (3 laps)

Official Press Release Update 12-18-13: The host cities of the final stage have been selected: Stage 7, Sunday, August 24th : Boulder - Denver

Stage 7 Description: Beginning in Boulder, which served as the Stage 6 finish in 2012, the race will travel through Golden, which saw record crowds as a start city in 2012, and finish with three laps around the State’s Capitol, which has served as the finish location every year of the race. The day also incorporates an incredibly challenging and fan-favorite climb on Lookout Mountain.

Race Organizers gave the fans 1 month to vote and select the general route of the final stage of the 2014 race. Given the choices of various starts and finishes involving Boulder, Golden, and Denver - the final route will include a variation of all of the given choices.

This is good news; these three cities should be involved in the race. I hope the major road repair currently taking place on Hwy 93 between Boulder and Golden is completed soon, not just for this race, but for the commuters and the residents of both counties.

Final exact route maps of the USA Pro Challenge will be released in spring of 2014. Exact timetables, spectator guides and CDOT reports of street closures are typically released 2-4 weeks prior to the race (race dates: August 18-24, 2014). 

HOST CITIES OF STAGE 7 - 2014 USA PRO CHALLENGE
Read more: 
Pedal Dancer USA Pro Challenge Guide Page: USA Pro Challenge Fan Guide
Official Website: USA Pro Challenge

16 December 2013

Colorado State Cyclocross Championships

The Champs have earned their spot on the podium

This past weekend, races filled two full days in Castle Rock, Colorado, as racers fought hard for a podium spot. Except for those at the back, who raced hard enough to compete but took time for a hand-up of beer or sausages and pancakes. We had below freezing temps (-14 F, -25 C) just over a week ago in Colorado, but this weekend brought sunlight and just the right amount of mud and snow to make the good course challenging and fun.

Full Results from the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado website: Results Castle Cross Colorado State Championships 2013
Results - Day 1 
Results - Day 2 

Pedal Dancer Photos from Castle Cross Colorado State Championships 2013:
Photos - Day 1
Photos - Day 2

For the past four years I have been showing up at cyclocross races in Colorado. I had a few friends who raced, I also had the desire to learn more about photography. Over the years my friendships have grown and my curiosity behind the lens continues to grow with each race. The cyclocross season runs from September to December and the number of racers continue to grow year after year with an amazing level of competition.

This past weekend marked the first time that some of the local sports photographers grouped together in a new joint effort on a website where racers could go and view the shots taken at the races. "I always see the photographers out on course, but I never know where to see the photos," this is the comment we heard a lot when we announced our new site RacerShots.com to the racers. We then heard many thank yous.

We thank the racers themselves, the organizers, mechanics, volunteers, announcers, and family and fans who show up to the races. Through our varied styles and shots, it becomes very evident that the cyclocross community in Colorado is one cool sport to be a part of.

Thanks to John Flora who had the idea of organizing the photographers into this new collaborative effort. RacerShots.com is a portal, with the purpose of getting our photographs in front of the racers and increasing our individual exposure. I have to admit it gave me a great sense of relief knowing I didn't have to stress about getting all the angles and all the highlights of every category. I had confidence, as I scanned the course seeing the photographers scattered about the various corners, I knew they were getting their signature shots.

Please view my photos via the new RacerShots.com website listed under - Pedal Dancer (of course), and then view the shots from my fellow photographers who devote their time to capturing the exciting sport of cyclocross. More photos (and photographers) will be added in the future (check back when GreenCurry posts his fabulous shots from the weekend), so be sure to stop by again.

And congrats to all the new Champs, and to those who raced their best. 

Photos by Karen at PedalDancer®    click any image to enlarge

Single Speed racers

The dominant Georgia Gould

SM Open category men take on the run-up

um, is that a unicorn?

A tough push in a tough race

styling

junior podium

beer handups

Michael Robson in the lead

mud and snow and dirty bikes

Santa! Or the Grinch, or both.

The CX race season isn't over yet: 2013-14 Colorado Cyclocross Calendar 

Anyone planning to travel to Colorado this year for USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships will be lining up against these men in various categories in January.

call up line up in the SM Open category

07 December 2013

I disagree with Chris Froome

"Chris Froome believes that a repeat Tour de France victory in 2014 will help to restore cycling’s credibility," reports CyclingNews in a typical headline today:

Second Tour win would bring credibility back to cycling, says Froome

Wrong.

Why do they bother feeding us such lines when any sportsman of any sport, and particularly those who have learned that seven Tour de France wins equates to cheating, would accept that headline as valid? I am sorry Chris Froome, as much as I respect your ability to bury yourself in your SRM power meter and climb to the heavens, you really should not win the 2014 Tour de France.

It would be much better for the sport if someone else won

I say this based on the idea that the same horse should not win the Kentucky Derby every year, or the same football team usually does not win the Superbowl every year.  Luck and statistics. It stands to reason that if the route changes, one's teammates change, and the human body changes in optimal fitness from year to year - that the likelihood of the same man being victorious in a game with high variables should be grim. If it happens, marvelous, but at this point in the sport it does not assure credibility.

I want to see a different winner every year

Yes the journalists need to talk about something preseason, and yes the fans need to know who to select for their fantasy teams come game day, but the sport of cycling would be much better off to share the spoils among varied riders and varied teams. Every time one rider rises far far above the peloton in terms of results, we will cry "big budget" and "doper" because we have learned from the past. For the next eight years I would be very happy to see eight different men win the Tour de France. Then I might believe that the credibility of cycling is beginning to be restored.

May the best man win

It is not necessary that the best man be the same man, it is preferable that the game be played fairly. After a year when I believed the sport of cycling to be in utter disrepair and in need of complete rebuilding; I have accepted that the race will go on with slow painful changes. I would be happy to see Chris Froome show up to race his best and bring his elusive teammate Bradley Wiggins right along with him regardless of the one GC man preference.

Quality competition remains the goal, and as much as I cheer the dominant athletes Michael Phelps or Shawn White's repeated wins, for the health of the sport of cycling, it is perfectly okay if neither Froome nor Wiggins ever won again. Once is gloriously enough.

Chris Froome   2013 Photo by Karen Rakestraw at PedalDancer®

17 November 2013

An Urban Cyclocross Race

What a ton of fun!

Someone had a crazy notion to place a cyclocross course down by the railroad tracks. What a fine idea that turned out to be. Forget the smell of the pines and crisp mountain air you might associate with Colorado - today's race had dust in the air, the rattle of passing trains, and the smell of bacon and beer.

The Mile High Urban CX Chaos took place today on one of the best courses I have seen and certainly one of the most fun to photograph, with nothing of true beauty in the background, suddenly everything became interesting as the focus was placed squarely on both the people racing and heckling.

I missed the last two categories of the day, but I really enjoyed seeing the morning and mid-day categories featuring men, women and juniors competing on cross bikes, fat tires, singlespeed, and adaptive hand cranked bikes. Honestly I didn't take too many photos today because I was having a great time with my friends cheering and heckling the racers.

A new friend asked me, "Do you even heckle the kids?" "Absolutely" I replied, it is cyclocross (although it's done in a supportive heckling way).

Album of Photos from Urban CX, or the slideshow. More photos at 303Cycling.com Thank you to Deirdre Moynihan, Primal Wear, and The Natural Way team for race design and organization. We all experienced a great atmosphere where racers wanted to hang out in support of the other categories.

The skyscrapers of downtown Denver in the background
In an area of new urban growth down by the railroad tracks
They hand built the secteur pavé, a cobbled hill ... in Denver
It made us all feel like we were in Belgium
Did I mention the tandem mountain bike on course
The place was crawling with photographers
And lots of small but fast cyclocross racers
With a new exciting category for adaptive bikes & athletes
A great day of racing through sand
And air
And dirt
In such an odd, but perfect, backdrop for a bike race
 
Colorado State CX Championships are December 14-15. Also remember Colorado is playing host to this year's Cyclocross National Championships in Boulder, January 8-12, 2014. Colorado CX Race Schedule or at Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado (BRAC).

05 November 2013

Announcing the 2014 Amgen Tour of California

Live Presentation today at 12:30 PST

Watch the Press Conference live today at 12:30pm PST

We can all watch the host cities announced today - Watch it Live online. Exact route details will be announced in 2014.

What is new for 2014: Amgen has resigned as title sponsor; many of the same sponsors have returned for 2014 with some added new sponsors; Ride 2 Recovery will offer four non-competitive cycling events; AEG Global Partnerships continues to organize the American Tour stage race; and the exact dates and host cities for the 2014 race will be announced today.

AMGEN TOUR OF CALIFORNIA
Here it is:
Route map of 2014 Amgen Tour of California
2014 Amgen Tour of California dates: May 11-18, 2014
9th edition of the race

• Stage 1: Sunday, May 11 – Sacramento
• Stage 2: Monday, May 12 – Folsom (Individual Time Trial)
• Stage 3: Tuesday, May 13 – San Jose to Mount Diablo (mountain top finish)
• Stage 4: Wednesday, May 14 – Monterey to Cambria (coastal)
• Stage 5: Thursday, May 15 – Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara (vineyards & mountains)
• Stage 6: Friday, May 16 – Santa Clarita to Mountain High (mountain top finish)
• Stage 7: Saturday, May 17 – Santa Clarita to Pasadena
• Stage 8: Sunday, May 18 – Thousand Oaks (repeated climb)

The Pedal Dancer Fan Guide to Tour of California, intended to help you plan how to see the race, may be found here: TOUR OF CALIFORNIA

www.AmgenTourofCalifornia.com

04 November 2013

Route of 2014 USA Pro Challenge

Much the same host cities with different routes and a big unknown

The route of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge (dates: August 18th - 24th, 2014), the professional cycling American Tour in Colorado, has been announced. In year four of the race we will see a repeat of many of the favorites with a yet-to-be-decided finishing stage. That is right, the actual route of Stage 7 remains to be decided.

Read the updated Pedal Dancer Fan Guide Page for 2014 at: USA PRO CHALLENGE

Let the People Decide

Apparently in some sort of gimmicky public relations marketing ploy, a desire to let others promote the race for them, or a state of total confusion because Boulder is possibly back in the mix this year (and there is no controlling any race which involves Boulder County) - race organizers are sending the vote to the people. Well this should be interesting.

Here are the 6 stages that were decided upon:

Stage 1: Monday, Aug. 18 – Aspen Circuit Race
Stage 2: Tuesday, Aug. 19 – Aspen to Mt. Crested Butte (long climbs mixed terrain)
Stage 3: Wednesday, Aug. 20 – Gunnison to Monarch Mountain (mountaintop finish)
Stage 4: Thursday, Aug. 21 – Colorado Springs Circuit Race
Stage 5: Friday, Aug. 22 – Woodland Park to Breckenridge (long road, climbing at end)
Stage 6: Saturday, Aug. 23 – Vail Individual Time Trial

Here is the we-haven't-a-clue stage:

Stage 7: Sunday, Aug. 24 – ???  (I didn't type those question marks, the race organizers added them in their press release, giving an extremely original feel to this announcement)

Here are the choices the good people of this state (and other states) can decide upon:
  1. Denver Circuit Race similar to the final stage of the 2013 race
  2. Start in Golden (2012 Stage 6 start city) and finish in Denver
  3. Start in Boulder (2012 Stage 6 finish city) and finish in Denver
  4. Start in Boulder and end in Golden
Here is where and how the good people can vote:
Login at www.prochallenge.com/PickStage7  (oh you mean they want my email in order to vote? ... oh now I'm catching on to this pop-culture marketing ploy). [Voting closed]

The unknown of Stage 7

In a twist of tradition the race organizers have decided to place the unknown on the actual race route, because who will be wearing the classification jerseys in this race will be decided by day three. So they might as well get the people invested in the race before it begins.

I'd vote for choice #1 but there is already a circuit race planned for Aspen and Colorado Springs in 2014 (so this is likely a "no" unless they want to advertise the race as a climber's circuit race). Also I don't think the riders liked that circuit too much in Denver last year. My choice would then be either #2, #3, or #4, simply because I do think it good that a stage race actually finishes - somewhere. I don't really care where, and I am thinking maybe the organizers don't care either and that is why they are letting the people decide.

...We did a good job on six stages, let it go at that, who cares about Stage 7 - the winner will already be decided after Stage 6 and maybe even by Stage 3. Let's put it to the people, go have a beer and start collecting all those emails for our sponsoring partners.

But decide we must (I mean you must)

I won't be voting. It's a combo of not wanting to be such a sucker and also knowing that based on the popular TV shows The Voice and Dancing with the Stars, the American people do okay in voting for entertainment. I want to be surprised.

That said, Golden is a smaller city, yet quite united and already proven to give fantastic support to this race through hosting stages in 2011 and 2012. They know what they are doing and would be a good choice (although the morning light in Golden is horrible for race photography, if you want my opinion on how not to select a stage start).

Boulder gave it one go in 2012, for one stage, and you'd have thought they gave birth to a nation from all the labor pains and controversy before and after. It is a shame because Boulder, Colorado is scenically spectacular and would certainly highlight the cycling lifestyle in a positive way, but the city is in constant controversy among it's residents over both this race and the recent flood recovery priorities. If the route could depart from South Boulder for Golden it might work.

Why not start in south Boulder, ride over the wall (Coors Classic), through Golden (with a quick climb over Lookout Mountain), and then into Denver. Finish, podium, party, home.

Update: Stage 7 was decided! The route will travel from Boulder, up Hwy 93 to Golden, up Lookout Mountain and in to Denver city center for a circuit. Excellent.

Stage 7 optional host cities for the 2014 USA Pro Challenge
THE GOOD NEWS

Crested Butte and Gunnison are on the 2014 route - let's hear a huge hooray! These cities are the best of mountain scenery, great riding, and united people. This is fantastic news.

Aspen is again the starting host city for 2014, with what appears to be an exact copy of the 2013 Stage 1 starting route. The host cities of Stage 2 have been used before, but we may see an alternative route from Aspen to Crested Butte. A 104-mile route would take the riders through Paonia and over McClure pass (over dirt section) into Crested Butte from the west. Which means we might see a year without Independence Pass, which has seen decreasing numbers of increasingly partying fans over the years.

I am guessing at this departure route from Aspen because what stands out as unclear is the route of Stage 3 from Gunnison to Monarch Pass. Monarch Pass is only 41 miles away from Gunnison (and that is way too short), so a good guess is that the peloton will leave Gunnison north over Cottonwood Pass through the towns of Buena Vista (sprint location again?) and/or Salida and climb the east side of Monarch Pass for the mountain top finish. This is a perfect length for a stage at 109 to 115 miles. This mountain top finish stage also falls on a Wednesday (boo).

Colorado Springs will again be involved in the race. These central stages will help avoid many of the damaged roads from the 2013 Colorado floods and bring the race back to a major Colorado city. It is hard to think of this road stage race without thinking about how many towns and people's property still lay in ruin.

Wonderful Breckenridge plays host again. The route is pretty straight forward along Highway 24 and 9 into Breckenridge over Hoosier Pass. At 89-miles in length, we will probably see another repeat of the circuit around the town of Breckenridge to add mileage and drama before the finish line.

The Individual Vail Time Trial is back, but this year it is on Saturday!

Who will win?

Let's wait until after the 2014 rider transfers are complete, the Giro and Tour de France have passed. We need to see who comes to the Tour of Utah in 2014 and which teams are selected for this race - and then we can talk about winners and losers.

I think it strange that all the race promoters provide us with is average temperature, town elevation and population. Who cares about that? We want stage length, elevation gain, major climbs, total climbing and grades. And most importantly - who is racing.

When the Grand Tours announce their routes there are fly-over maps, climb profiles galore, and riders sitting in the front row of the presentation looking very nervous. That is all good stuff, anticipation is half the game for fans.

Where will you see the race?

I highly recommend going to Aspen the weekend before the race starts to see all the fun and ride on the roads with the pros (plus the pro riders loved visiting Aspen where the mood was excellent last year)! I also recommend staying over in Crested Butte or Gunnison if possible. Maybe schedule a half work day on Friday so you can see the finish in Breckenridge. And of course the Saturday Vail Time Trial.

And that is it. Come visit Colorado in 2014.

Final route details will be announced in spring 2014

Update December 18, 2013: THE PEOPLE HAVE DECIDED

USA Pro Challenge Stage 7 - Decided

Official Press Release: The host cities of the final stage have been selected:

Stage 7, Sunday, August 24th : Boulder - Golden (Lookout Mountain) - Denver (3 laps)

Stage 7 Description: Beginning in Boulder, which served as the Stage 6 finish in 2012, the race will travel through Golden, which saw record crowds as a start city in 2012, and finish with three laps around the State’s Capitol, which has served as the finish location every year of the race. The day also incorporates an incredibly challenging and fan-favorite climb on Lookout Mountain.

Race Organizers gave the fans 1 month to vote and select the general route of the final stage of the 2014 race. Given the choices of various starts and finishes involving Boulder, Golden, and Denver - the final route will include a variation of all of the given choices.



Official Website: USA Pro Challenge

28 October 2013

The Triathlete's Garden

Last winter a triathlete moved in a few blocks away 

He bought a large home in the Washington Park area of Denver with a landscaped front yard. The first time I was introduced to him he presented himself as an Ironman athlete who most certainly planned to train and plan for more races that coming summer. He listed off his target races, mentioned that he was a single Dad with shared custody, and generally chatted about how much he enjoyed training.

All the while he chatted, I kept picturing that big home with the garden. Why had he bought that house? Sure it was four blocks from an excellent location to get in the running miles, but it was possibly too much to manage solo. I have always thought there should be a kind of designated housing for Ironman athletes. Some sort of complex with big garages, bigger kitchens, comfortable beds, a nice bath to shave the legs and no gardens to tend.

I watched that garden die over the summer. Weeds growing tall between the dead branches not removed in spring and plants not tended to in summer.  I pedaled by that garden on my cruiser bike to and from yoga and zumba class, watching it wither in neglect. A clear sign that the owner had other priorities. The training must be going well, I thought as the weeks passed, surely his A, B, and C races had come and almost gone by now.

Then one day in mid Fall that garden got ripped out. The occasionally mowed grass patch remained but the flower beds were torn up. Gone. There is no place in a triathlete's life for flowers. No putsing in the garden for an Ironman. Life is about a strict schedule of run / bike / ride, laundering of lycra, concocting kale smoothies and selecting recipes from the Feedzone cookbook.

Sometimes we learn our best lessons from watching others. I watched that garden throughout the spring and summer months as I myself headed out on long bike rides, traveled to week-long stage races, and spent hours writing on a computer. The garden became a symbol of a lifestyle. I confess I am a garden putser, so my own garden survived the brutal months of life as a road cyclist/fan. Now I too am paying the price.

"No I won't be at the race this weekend, I am painting my garage." I've been saying that for 2 months now, because it took me eight full days (there goes the weekend) to prep (the worst part of all!) and paint my garage and house trim. Add to that some gutter cleaning and repair, fence mending and painting, patio and brick repair - and you have a "former" cyclist who is happy to barely make it to yoga class twice a week.

I have always said we can be really good at three things at a time, with an additional two things marginally okay, another one or two half-assed, and then sadly neglectful of the rest. Yet most of us attempt to try to master about 6 things and fake all the rest, hoping no one will notice.
  • full time job
  • home-owner (with a well-maintained home)
  • parenting
  • married or "in a relationship"
  • athlete on a training schedule (with "goals")
  • healthy eater 
  • consistent dog walker
  • blogger/photographer (person with a time consuming hobby like bike racing)
  • community involvement/volunteering 
  • social critter (friends and extended family)
  • remembering to call your Mother
If you are successful at all eleven of these responsibilities - well I don't know you. Nor do I want to because you are too perfect and will only make me feel completely unaccomplished. I didn't even mention relaxation, or church (church - are you kidding me - it falls during the Cat 35+/4 race), or house cleaner/toilet cleaner or person with enough extra time to twitter their life away or read everyone else's posts on facebook.

I admit I am part of a new social subculture of people who are "facebook fakers". I am seriously expecting our formal greeting to be officially changed to - greeter: "How are you?" reply: "I posted it on Facebook." I live in fear of someone responding to me, "Well, I posted it on facebook, you didn't read my post? I am clearly not a priority to you." Oh but you are you are, I missed your post because it was buried under the hundred's of other political / must see video posts by other friends who are of no more a priority than you. I promise.

I simply cannot keep up with everything.  My garden is still growing! And my house is painted!

Do I get some brownie points for that? This is why I suggest not having a dog, child, wife, husband or mother; never signing up for that epic cycling event; and never owning a home or garden. Life sounds downright miserable at this point so perhaps giving up documenting a life on Twitter, Facebook or on a blog is a better choice. I gave up on the latter - blogging.

You see this was a long story about why I have not been blogging much lately. But hey - my house is now painted and I felt that wonderful all over body buzz (on par with having completed a century ride) after working the ladders for 9 straight hours yesterday. I hope that paint job lasts for three years, because next year I plan to ride my bike A LOT.

I want to go to France. They have this bike race called the Tour de France and it happens every July. Right smack dab in the middle of the summer!

I think I'll blog about it.

Juggling life's responsibilities, it's our shared human experience.

23 October 2013

Route of the 2014 Tour de France

THE route was announced!

Yes, I say that in a high pitched squeal. The route of the 2014 Tour de France (LeTour.com) was announced today in Paris, France. Yes, the promo video was released, yes the exact stages were announced, yes the Directeur Sportifs are now scouring their rosters for proper good domestiques.

Saturday July 5th to Sunday July 27th 2014, the 101th Tour de France, 3,656 kilometres in length.

Update 06 June 14:  Cycling is a team sport, or is it (Wiggins not going to race the 2014 TDF)

THE route
Start: England  |  Finish: France
Route Map of 2014 Tour de France.  Photo © A.S.O. click image to enlarge
THE 21 Stages

THE start village

Yorkshire is impressively spectacular landscape! (Also read: Tour de France 2014 stage 1 to be permanently signposted). Certainly the days preceding Stage 1 will be great fun, with team presentations, interviews and the worlds best cycling on local roads. Tickets for the Festival of Cycling, 4th – 6th July 2014, will be available at the beginning of November 2013, read more at www.festivalofcycling.org. There will also be a sportif event for amateur cyclists to ride on course.



THE climbs

Climb By Bike already has most of the 2014 climbs (with profiles) listed out for us: http://www.climbbybike.com/race.asp?Race=Tour2014 , including the top 10 ouches (hardest climbs of the 2014 Tour de France):
  1. Planche des Belles Filles
  2. Col de Palaquit
  3. Col de lIzoard
  4. Risoul - Station
  5. Port de Bales  
  6. Col du Portillon
  7. Col de Val-Louron Azet 
  8. Le Pla d'Adet  
  9. Col du Tourmalet 
  10. Hautacam
View down the Hautacam.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®
THE cobbles

Here are the 9 sections of cobbles to be included on Stage 5 of the 2014 Tour de France. Can you say Carrefour de l’Arbre(!)

9 sections of cobbles in 2014 Tour de France.  click image to enlarge
Cobbles of Carrefour de l’Arbre. Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®
THE opinion

I like the 2014 route. 

I like the emphasis placed on the planning and selection of riders by the Directeur Sportifs, on the expertise of the sprint coaches, on the importance of a team of well-rounded road racers, on the daily tactical decisions as the race situation changes, on the likelihood we will see much more of Marcel Kittel, Peter Sagan, and the French and Belgium riders who are masters at road stages. I also like the selection of nine new stage cities.

Nothing is more exciting as when I first glance over the route; imaging the challenges, the logistics, which riders will excel, how the teams should be built, and where the team buses will need to squeeze through. I love imaging the terrain and the toughest climbs. I love imaging where I would like to see the Tour de France.

My first impressions of the 2014 Tour route:
  • 4 countries! (England, Belgium, Spain and France)
  • Obviously intended to attract maximum number of fans  
  • Excited about three stages in cycling crazed Britain 
  • One could chase all the stages in the UK and be content never to hop the pond
  • Happy to see le Tour visit Ypres in Belgium; though sad remembrance of WWI
  • 9 sections, 15.4 kilometers of cobbles in Belgium/France
  • Long distances between stage starts and finishes this year
  • Requires very well orchestrated team support staff
  • Not a lot of big autoroute driving for the overworked bus drivers
  • Hard route on the media and the caravan personnel
  • Tough planning for cycling tour operators
  • Scarce multi-night stay overs 
  • We'll know who brought the best team by the Vosges mountains
  • I've always wanted to go to La Planche des Belles Filles (big stage)
  • They are flying through the Alps this year 
  • I liked climbing the Col de lIzoard, but it is in the middle of nowhere
  • I know nothing about Risoul, except it is 14 kilometers of steepness
  • They are bringing the TDF through the heart of tourist Provence - they rarely do that. 
  • I am not interested in a rest day in Carcassonne 
  • The stages through the Pyrenees are perfection! 
  • The climbing stages are shorter, so they may go harder with daring break aways
  • The penultimate stage is the only individual time trial (54km), followed by a long transfer
  • The area near Bergerac (location of the ITT), along the Dordogne River, is lovely
  • Only one day in or near Paris dashes all those weekend tour packages
  • Return of the classic afternoon finish on the Champs-Élysées - good!
Most excited about
  1. Tour start in England (this is the 4th time the TDF has visited England)
  2. The Pyrenees! And Stages 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20
  3. Etape du Tour on July 20th - Stage 18, Pau-Hautacam!
I would not want to be a tour operator or a bus driver for this Tour de France

And yet I can so clearly see how I would bring a group of cyclists from the Etape du Tour through the final stages, that I want to begin the planning right now!

The caravan approaches on Pla d'Adet on Le Tour day in 2005.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®
It's all about the teams and one very strong man

This year's route puts a whole knew emphasis on recent rider transfers. The 2014 Tour de France will be decided in the team selection. Looking at this route, I think the teams need to decide who their GC man will be ahead of time and solidly support him; quite risky. They won't be looking to load their team with 4 climbers (back to the drawing board for team Garmin-Sharp), and see whose form comes through. Two climbers (alternates) pacing the GC up climbs should do just fine (6 out of 21 stages are mountain stages with 5 high altitude finishes).

The teams will also not be looking to fill the ranks with time trialers - there will be no team time trial in 2014 and only one individual time trial which happens to be scheduled for Stage 20, out of 21, and is 54 kilometers long. Which means we will again witness skinny GC contenders no longer fitting their ideal TT bike fit, slipping around on their saddles trying to make up 40-second time gaps, when minutes could separate riders by the end of the day, and the outcome of Stage 20 could very well determine the final Tour podium. Oh the suspense.

There will be plenty of opportunities for glorious stage wins by the sprinters. Teams will need to give any prominent sprinter a good solid lead out. So if a team intends to support a sprinter, they will devote 3 out of 9 men to the task of winning stage victories. Or a sprinter will need to be excellent in taking advantage of other teams and also expert in placement.

Count it out: one GC, two climbers, one sprinter, two leadouts - traditionally that would leave space for 3 extremely hard working domestiques. Instead, I think for 2014 the D.S.s need to select and train a 4 to 5-man team of all-rounders who can act as domestiques, initial lead-out men, and form the protective train in the long distance stages (9 out of 21 stages are flat). We all know these five riders are often the most vulnerable to crashes and DNFs so they better be cross-trained as multi-taskers with good bike handling skills to avoid too many take-outs in the first crazy week through England and Belgium.

Which team will we all be watching in July?  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®
This is why I think the 2014 Tour de France is about a good solid road racing team and an experienced GC contender

Tour Organizers have thrown in variety galore, and with visits to England, Belgium and a quick bypass through Spain, the riders and the fans will never be bored; with the winner being determined at some point in the last week. Plus I love when they include cobbles into the mix of the Tour de France. Paris-Roubaix is after all a race in FRANCE! Plus I like seeing the recon reports of Contador, and the likes, training on the old cobbled roads.

Still the 2014 Tour de France has five mountain summit finishes planned - that says a lot right there. If it weren't that so much time damage can be done during a climbing stage, I would think it possible for a someone other than a pure climber to win the Tour de France, but that is unlikely. We can look for the GC contender who makes it safely through week one, stays healthy through week two, and climbs well in week three; reserving enough energy for the long individual time trial and stepping onto the podium in Paris.

THE contenders

As with all the other tour previews, I can throw out names like Nibali, Rodriguez, Contador, Quintana, Froome, Chavanel, Costa, and Valverde. I can talk of the battle between Sagan, Kittel, Cavendish, and Greipel. But I am looking forward to that solo-breakaway that sticks, that epic triumph, that new young-gun who steps into the limelight. That glorious story that makes the Tour de France the very best Grand Tour. And motivates me to wake up ungodly early every morning during the month of July.

This year I am most interested in the Best Team standing on the final podium in Paris.

Preliminary startlist for the 2014 Tour de France via ProCycling Stats 

THE language lesson

Vosges [vohzh] (link to hear how to pronounce)

THE geography lesson 

The 2014 Tour de France will visit three mountain ranges in France:
  1. Vosges
  2. Alps
  3. Pyrenees
Mountain Ranges in France. Map via http://www.france-pub.com
THE presentation

I just love the formality of the French language translated into English, from the letour.com website comes this report of today's route presentation:

In front of more than 4,000 spectators, including some who are pretenders for victory, the route for the Tour de France 2014 was unveiled at the Palais des Congrès in Paris.... 

The most surprising thing for me at the presentation today was - man, Marcel Kittel (6'2", 1.89m) looks huge in a suit, either that or Mark Cavendish looks small in his cashmere sweater:
The usual suspects lined up in Paris today: Froome, Costa, Kittel, Cavendish, Riblon.

Video: Parcours 2014 en 3D / The 2014 route in 3D by tourdefrance