In mid-April I once again found myself headed to Europe for a business trip (this time to London, or more accurately, Slough). It had been an intensely difficult problem to try and decide what I should go and do after my meetings finished, because while we are on the tail end of ski season, cycling season is up and running now (the spring classics are in full swing) and the cliffs are warm and dry enough to climb also. Too many options! After much consternation I finally settled on a cycling adventure, and after exploring my options I settled on a plan to participate in a Gran Fondo (Italian for "big ride") that was being held in St. Tropez, France on the weekend after my meetings.
I would love to do more cycling-related travel, but a big problem with it is how expensive and cumbersome it is to take a bike on a plane (bike boxes are huge and airlines charge up $175 each way for them). So, with this prompting, in mid-March I obtained a Ritchey Break-Away frame which has couplers in the the middle that allow the entire bike to be broken down and stored in a regular piece of luggage. I built it up a week before I was due to depart, and thus equipped I boarded a plane in Seattle and headed for London.
The two days of meetings went fine, it was good to see the crew that we have been working on this project with over the last year or so as I have gotten to know them pretty well and they are fun to hang out with. We had dinner at a pub beside Windsor Castle one night, but didn't manage to spot the Queen so that was a shame. Friday afternoon the meetings wrapped up and I rode trains and the tube to Gatwick Airport, where I would be catching a flight to Nice, France early the next morning (really early, 5:55am).
I arrived in NIce at 9:00am the next morning, and after a series of buses and a train I finally arrived at my destination of Cogolin at 12:30pm, and made my way to the Hotel. My hotel turned out to be right across from the "Place de la Republique" where the finish area for the next day's Gran Fondo was set up, so that was a fine stroke of luck. After checking in I spent 30 minutes building my bike up, and then headed out for a ride.
I wanted to go really easy since I would have lots of opportunity to go hard the next day (the Gran Fondo was 161km with 7,500 feet of climbing) and I didn't want to add to my state of ill-preparedness for such a long ride by putting in a hard ride the day before. From Cogolin I rode the 10km to St. Tropez where the start of the Gran Fondo was, and explored the town a bit. Here is a shot of the port:
I had planned on doing an entirely flat ride, but after looking at the map I noticed a nice little climb that I could do that would take me through a few villages and make a nice loop back to Cogolin. I headed along the coast a bit and then up a climb to the village of Ramboulet, where I stopped to take a picture of me and my busher looking out at the Mediterranean:
I then continued up to the Col, where there was evidence of recent French progress in developing their alternative energy resources:
I headed down from the Col through the lovely town of Gassin, then down another really fun descent to the valley floor where I made my way back to Cogolin. Along the way I encountered a nice row of Vespa's that I would like to have stored in my garage:
Back in Cogolin I signed in for the Gran Fondo and picked up my race packet, and then headed back to my hotel room. One other recent acquisition (along with the Break-Away frame) is a Garmin Edge 500 GPS cycling computer. Here is a link to the recorded info for my 40km warm-up ride:
And here is a Google Earth view of my route:
I wanted to give my bike one last check before heading to bed, and upon doing so I noticed that my front tire was flat. Stinker! I have "Mr. Tuffy" tire strips in these tires to protect against flats, so I was a bit worried that I had still gotten a flat. Upon changing the tube however, I realized that it was an old patch that had failed so this put me at ease. I then showered, and climbed into bed, and initially had trouble falling asleep since the walls in the hotel were quite thin and the people on the floor above me seemed to be doing fatigue testing on their door hinges by slamming it shut over and over again. I put in some earplugs which helped a bit, and eventually drifted off to sleep dreaming of the next days adventure.
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