If you gather a bunch of recreational cyclists together to participate in a bike trip to the Tour de France, you will encounter a broad range of skills, strengths, ages, and experience within that group. My three previous bike trips in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>
France taught me that, and this trip was not different. There were some lean and hungry guys, almost professional level. There were quite a few triathlete types, almost as lean and hungry, including the lone female rider. There was one guy who looked about twenty seven years old. There were some guys in their fifties who talked about ?centuries?. The tour leader himself, in his forties, was a former European pro rider. And there were a few of us in our late fifties and early sixties. Some of these silverbacks were also quite lean and hungry, having ridden for years. The co-leader of the tour was my age, actually just younger than me by a day, but he never seemed to get tired. I came to learn that I was the second oldest rider, and by far the least experienced in terms of years in the saddle, miles on the tires, and kilometers on the Cols. So, there was a broad range of skills and strengths, and on this trip I was at the bottom. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>
On this most recent adventure, a six day guided trip to the
Pyrenees with Thomson Bike Tours, the participants were asked to place themselves into one of two groups. The first was the Performance Group, the leanest and the meanest, for those who wanted to climb two or even three major Cols in a day, with total distances of over 100 K. The second was the Sportif Group, which offered the option of shorter daily distances or skipping one of the major climbs. But on this trip there wasn?t a Leisure Group, as there had been on the three previous Thomson Bike Tours I had ridden. I guess that was because there weren?t any fat guys, and there weren?t any riders who had just bought their first road bike last week, and there weren?t any clients who showed up with a fat-tired Schwinn. These were all serious riders, whether young or old, and they were all going to make it at Performance or at Sportif level. I was worried.
On the first day, a 24 K warm-up ride out of the picturesque Pyrenees town of Aucun, a ride that included a rather short but very steep climb over the
Col des Borderes, it was pretty clear that I would be bringing up the rear of the Sportif Group. There was one other guy falling off the back with me, but he was quite young, and not fat, and I presumed that he just had some jet lag issues. Of course we had a sag wagon, after all this was a premium- quality guided tour, but who wants to sag on Day One? So I made it, coming up last onto the