A Good Idea…

At least it seemed so at the time. Now I’m not so sure.

The last night’s dinner after a week long bicycle trip is always a festive affair. Especially if the riding has been good and the riders all enjoy each other’s company.

That was certainly the case in Annecy in France last August at the end of 44|5’s High Road Northern Alps Tour. Our guides chose a really outstanding restaurant and we enjoyed delicious food and a few glasses of wine to celebrate. After 7 days of major climbing rides (I did 45,000 feet on that irritating rental bike I wrote about, and four riders did over 50,000) we all felt like celebrating.

The conversation flowed like the wine, and after the dessert a digestif appeared, ordered and paid for by those troublemakers Tom and Doug. I have dubbed them ‘The DC Boys’ and for reasons too complicated to relate here they call me “Rico” or “Rico Suave”. I’ve been on multiple tours with these two and they are good company at dinner but I don’t see much of them on the rides: they are younger and stronger than I am.

The talk turned to what tours we wanted to do next, but the DC Boys were adamant: They were going to the Dolomites in 2019. They told John and Gerry (44|5’s owners) that the DC Boys would love do the trip with them, but if 44|5 couldn’t make it work they would go with another tour company.

Since 44|5 is based in France, putting together such a tour would be a lot of work, and what if it didn’t sell? Here is where the wine and the digestif came into play.

I think I was the first one to declare that if 44|5 came up with a Dolomites tour and the DC Boys did it I would join them. Katy said the same, and pretty soon Lyle and Lauren decided they could make it work too. So right there 6 potential customers had pretty much committed themselves, a year in advance. I had been to the Dolomites in 2011 and I knew how hard the climbs were, but I was feeling a post tour satisfied glow, aided by a few mood improving glasses of excellent wines. Another trip by an older me (8 years older) seemed like a fine idea, especially with such good traveling companions.

So 44|5 got to work. They knew a local contact in Italy from some of the Gran Fondo rides they had done there. Last October they did a road trip to scout routes, restaurants and hotels. More repeat customers from previous tours signed up, including my fellow SBC members Bill and Margaret (Club members know those two will have to wait until 2020. Stuff happens). There were 10 clients signed up before New Years Day.

Starting 2019 Diane and I had a very mediocre 4 months of tandem ‘training’ for Malaucene. I did not think our trip would be a success. But our month of May in France went superbly, better than I could have hoped. We rode more tandem miles and climbed more than on previous trips. We even set a couple of tandem PR’s on Strava. So when we returned to California in early June I felt good and was ready to climb everything I could to get ready for a very hard tour in late August.

But for whatever reason, my summer training did not go well. I went to Mammoth a couple of times, and did Rock Creek Road, but one time was awful (the other was a bit better). I went to Bear Valley several times and did both sides of Ebbets Pass with Pacific Grade. That ride is almost as hard as some of the Dolomites climbs. But Strava is merciless: it tracks everything you do and I can see that I am climbing slower than in recent years. I think age is catching up to me.

On paper this is my most ambitious tour ever. I’m pretty certain I will be doing some sagging. There have been tours where I was the strongest rider, or among the strongest. That is not going to be the case on this trip. 5 or 6 or possibly 7 of the other guests are clearly stronger, and I might be able to keep up with the others. Or I might not, especially on the very long days. I tell myself it does not matter, it is a vacation, and that I am still a fairly strong rider, etc. All true. But I’m starting this tour with a few doubts and a little apprehension. Take a look at the profiles below and you may understand why.

I also tell myself that it is better to do one epic bike tour too many than one too few. Perhaps this one is the last one, perhaps not. Two years ago in the Pyrenees I surprised myself and rode pretty well. Last year in the Northern Alps I was fine when I wasn’t hating the rental I was forced to ride after Air France lost my bike. So that wasn’t one tour too many.

But if the Dolomites prove to be that ‘one too many’, perhaps it is because ‘one too many’ at that dinner convinced me that it was a good idea. Blame the digestif.

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