Morzine: The Depart

The update from the Depart is all about the pictures. Wall to wall cyclists, everyone you can imagine.

Each member of the Lampre team accepted a prize for being the leading team on the tour, before the stars came out to the delight of the cycling fans, crammed shoulder to shoulder, jostling for position.

Beware the tour Skoda Yeti!

When I ran around Morzine on my first day in town, I wasn't quite sure how I'd find somewhere to do a VO2 session on the bike. It all seemed rather hilly.

I'd been on the lookout all week, and finally settled on the perfect stretch of road for a VO2 MAX session. I'd ridden it on my big ride on Saturday, and scoped it out on the way down to Lake Geneva. A nice long flat stretch, with enough straight to be able to turn safely.

So I felt fully prepared for a good session when I set out this morning. Little did I know that the Tour de France Publicity Caravan, not the impossible terrain, would be my downfall.

Viva la tour town - Morzine

There is something special about a tour town.

When we arrived in Morzine on Thursday afternoon, it was alive with downhill mountainbikers. They rode around the streets all armoured up (but without their helmets... go figure...). Some of the local businesses had strung yellow cloth from their balconies and doors, but apart from that it seemed a world away from the hustle and bustle of the Tour de France.

Not for long, though, as the town transformed before the Avoriaz 'arrivee' on Sunday.

Morzine-Avoriaz: TDF Stage 8 Aussie Gold

After persevering with french commentary on TV for a week, at last, the tour was in town.

I don't know about anyone else, but I could hardly contain my excitement. I couldn't wait to get on my bike and ride the climb before the tour passed through.

And although we were hesitant to dwell on it too much, for fear of jinxing him, we were keenly aware that Cadel Evans was well placed to take the yellow jersey from unlikely tour leader Sylvain Chavanel. He was only 1:25 behind, with thirty seconds on the next best notable contender, Andy Schleck.

It was going to be a good day.

I wouldn't get out of bed for that... oh, wait....

The morning after my wayward brick session, we drove to Lake Geneva where I planned to finish off my brick with a run along the waterfront. I knew I probably wouldn't get the whole 18ks I was supposed to do in, after all, it was tour day. We had limited time for running, there was riding to do.

I hitched a lift with Vennessa, and on the way she lamented that how her plan to complete the Run Like Crazy marathon with me was fading fast, and told me the story of how she came to the realisation that she might need to reset her goal to something more achievable.

The wayward brick

The schedule for my last big brick session was 130ks on the bike and an 18k run. Although my program had been designed to get all the hard work done before I left home, I was looking forward to chalking up another long day in preparation for what is always a long day.

Things went a bit wayward though, through my own grand plans, advice from a friendly local, and a turn in the weather.

Exploring a new town

We got to Morzine after a long day in the car. First order of business - a long run of course!

It wasn't an ideal time to tackle a long run. It was stinking hot and I'd been sitting in the van all day in transit from La Grave. We'd driven the long way to see for ourselves what the Tour riders had in store on Col de la Madeleine a few days later. Let's just say it was frightening enough in a car.

So, armed with a map of our new home town and my phrase book in case of emergency, I set off in search of 24ks of semi flat terrain. It turned out to be an ideal way to explore.

Another day, another country

We rode in to Italy today, climbing up Col Sastrierre form Cesana on the French / Italian border.

Tour trivia - Lance Armstrong won here in 1999. Needless to say, the Athletic Powerhouse's ascent of Sestriere was a little different. There were no crowds lining the mountain pass, it was a bright sunny day, I hadn't been riding for five hours before tackling the climb... oh and I probably took twice as long!

Of course we sought out a pizza slice and a proper Italian coffee at the top but were ill equipped to order it - we hadn't learned any Italian in preparation for our trip, only basic French! Lucky for us, "pizza" and "espresso" are fairly universal.

In the swim

So I knew there'd be some differences in training in another country, but I was looking forward to pretending I was an elite athlete, finalising my preparation for an international Ironman race at altitude.

Apart from the obvious difference of riding on the right hand side of the road, the pool at Alpe d'Huez was my first such experience.

Alpe d'Huez redemption

After my VO2 session on the bike this morning it was time to finish off what I'd started on Friday with a climb up the Alpe.

The last time I'd ridden Alpe d'Huez I'd only done half the job in my failed attempt at the Alpe d'Huez triathlon. Last time, it was blisteringly hot. The heat radiated off the rock walls at the bottom of the climb. This time, the cooler mid-morning held the promise of a much more pleasant experience.

Flat out

I found a great location for my run speedwork today.

We'd been hunting for a flat since we arrived in La Grave. Short of going down to Bourg d'Oisan, the next best thing was a little road we found down by the river. Not a bad view, hey?

Well, as it turns out, looks aren't everything.

The Cols of Alpe D'Huez

I had some unfinished business on the Cols of the Alpe d'Huez Triathlon course. I've never admitted it here on the Triathlete Chronicles, but this is the only race I've failed to finish. I was pulled from the bike course by a Frenchman who purported not to speak English and bundled into the sag wagon.

Adding insult to injury, although I promised to write a Chronicle about my experience, I failed at that as well. In many ways, this is understandable. But it's regrettable, because I look back on that experience with a range of emotions. Mostly, I feel the vulnerability, sadness, and shame of failure. But there are also glimmers of defiance and desperation that often accompanies the persistence I hoped to show.

Being back at the Alpe, I'm reliving it like it's yesterday.

Travel hopefully

There are many quotes about travel, but one of my favourites is by Robert Louis Stevenson:

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour."

It pays to travel hopefully. After all, a lot can go wrong when you've got a cab ride, a flight, an adjoining flight, a cab ride, a car hire, and a 800k drive to get to your destination.

There is a lot ahead for the Athletic Powerhouse. There are physical challenges that require mental toughness. I didn't expect that the very act of travelling to prepare me for what's ahead but as it turns out, I've arrived more hopeful than I imagined.