“Sweetheart, let’s go to France!” Women swoon when these words are spoken and that was Laura’s reaction when I presented them to her. Or that’s how I try to remember it anyway. It may have gone more accurately like this.
I was signed up for Breck Epic, the week-long mountain bike stage race that twists throughout Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, most of which just slicing through the lower atmosphere. I need not remind you that there’s very little oxygen above 10,000 feet, which is where they have located basecamp — you only go up from there. Rising in reputation and difficulty over the span of it’s nine years, this years event stacks up a who’s-who of professional mountain biking. Breck Epic is a beast of a race and not for the faint of heart. It fell during the middle of August where I had a window in my summer calendar. My sweet loving Laura, a veteran of Breck Epic, and other friends describe it as one of the most stunningly beautiful races, well, ever.
I was then presented with the opportunity to come to Haute Route Pyrenees with my dear friends at inGamba. They suggested that I bring Laura along and we do this with the entire group, the only hiccup being that Breck Epic and Haute Route are exactly the same time on nearly opposite ends of the northern hemisphere. A conundrum. but as I am seasoned, read spoiled, to the inGamba lifestyle we happily gravitate towards France. A few hours of scenic riding fueled by an exquisite meal or three per day, seeing sights and experiencing the unique culture just behind the traditional tourist curtain, inGamba is a way of life and it’s a way of life in which we graciously take part.
But I still have something of a competitive drive despite my recent retirement and I like to pedal my bike speedily, so the prospect of Breck Epic was still quite alluring. My fitness is on an ever decreasing trajectory since “professional cyclist” followed my name, and the prospect of me only eating salads and again suffering through the agony of VO2 interval is pretty slim, I don’t see it ever coming back.
So in reality the conversation may have been more like, “Sweetheart, I really want to go to Breck Epic. Are you sure you want to go to France?” Need I mention that women swoon over the prospect of a trip to France?
With suggestions coming from both Laura and inGamba, it’s no mystery, fair reader, that I now find myself in the sunny beach town of Biarritz in the southwest corner of France with the Pyrenees looming on the horizon.
…the plot thickens like a fine roux! It was only in the 72 hours before flying to Europe did I learn that Haute Route is basically a stage race for amateur cyclists. In effect, a multi-day grand fondo. This may sound either incredibly easy or foolishly hard depending on your fondo experience, but s’il vous plaît keep in mind that Europeans take their grand fondos seriously. It was a stage race that I wanted and it’s a stage race that I’ve received.
Stage races? That’s old hat for me. Spend time with Laura? Heck, we’re inseparable. I suspect many of you have ridden with her and know that she’s startlingly fast. The nuances of a trans-Pyrenean bike race, trying to stay fresh and limber, well-fueled and well-slept, all criss-crossed with a week of romantic European travel with your girlfriend has nothing but entertainment written all over it.