Here we are again at the Tour de France. For us 12 days of riding, hanging around the Tour, eating lots of French food and drinking the local wines as well as hanging it on each other for any minor indiscretion the group decides to take issue on!
Everyone got here ok. A few of the boys came in early to watch Spain win the World Cup in Paris. The one who had the most stress was me as my bike didn't appear at the baggage area in Paris. I was told it didn't make the flight and after 95 minutes of me hanging around, it miraculously appeared! Then the TGV was delayed due to a huge thunder storm for 2 hours. After all that stress, we finally arrived in Lyon. There are 11 of us on the trip this year all fit and ready to ride.
The composition of this years tour is a lot different to last years, where Mitch and I rode the course with a small backpack and took our chances at finding accommodation. There are 11 on this years tour, a fine cross section of the talent from Sydney, Melbourne and Boston USA.
Danny "Pool Boy" Wright. Team: Sydney, Bike: Teschner, FFT rookie. Danny is the inform rider of the tour (just ask him). He has trained hard and can put the hurt into all of us at will. Strengths: good strong all rounder. Weakness: can he back up day after day, and after today's- ride descending.
Kable "Navy Boy" Mitchell. Team: sydney, bike: Giant (pronounced "Geauntay" here in France as it sounds more exquisite) 2nd FFT. Mitch is a very good sprinter and a demon descender. Most organised of us all on the tour. Strengths : sprinting and diving down a mountain. Weakness: Wears a shocking set of white Sunnies
Nick " Hollywood" Blunck (aka Bluncky). Team: Sydney, Bike: Time VRS, 2nd FFT. Hollywood is the fashion policeman and calls the shots on Kit uniform violations
Strengths: Punchy little rider who has been mistaken for Danny on more than one occassion as they look like brothers! Weakness: A big night out.
Jay "Titanium Man" Heather. Team Melbourne, Bike Specialized Tarmac 2, FFT rookie. Jay has been putting in the hard training miles and could be the suprise package of the tour. Strengths. Can ride near the front all day witout putting his nose into the wind (like Johnny Miller), weakness: has he done too much and come into the tour tired?
Damo "Rad Man" Jones. Team Melbourne, Bike: Specialized Tarmac 7 (have they made that many versions-doesn't matter Rad man will be on the latest one) FFT Rookie. The spiritual leader on this years tour. Is the one who can upset Danny. Strengths. Good allrounder who is there in Sprints,
Climbs and everywhere. Weakness: anything to do with bike mechanics (after all he does own a bike shop)
Jamie "Horry" Verco. Team Sydney (although did come into FFT through Team Melbourne bike: Cannondale, FFT rookie. Jamie has also trained hard after getting a glimpse of our riding regime at TDU Adelaide in January. Could be competing with Jay for the title "who has lost the most weight getting ready for the Tour. Strengths: don't know much about Horry yet, but looks like he will hang in there when the going gets a bit tough and the "heads of State" as Spency calls them get serious. Weakness: when the road really goes Vertical.
Pete "Spencey" Spence. Team Sydney, Bike Geauntay, 2nd FFT. Spencey is the resident Aussie on Tour. A former Australian Surf Lifesaving Champ, he is a strong climber for a big (82kg) rider. Spencey will ensure we are adequately decked out in Aussie memorabila as he has cleaned out souvenir stores back home of anything Aussie like flags, blow up kangaroos etc. Strengths; his positive attitude and never say die on a bike. Weakness: white chocolate and still recovering from being beaten by Nicko Williams up Alp D'heuz at FFT 2008!
Jordan "Jords" Reizes. Team Boston USA, bike Cevelo, 2nd FFT, Jordan will come into the Tour on Thursday and knows what to expect. Even more than the Tour Captain, Jordan is very organised
and is the techo support for the IT infrastructure supporting us. Strenghs: will get stronger each day. Weakness: has been see in sickly green Liquigas kit on more than one occassion.
Joe 'Stig" Butler. Team Boston, bike: unknown, FFT rookie. Joe is like Stig from Top Gear as we haven't met him yet so we don't know what he looks like. He must be very brave (or unaware) to come on a 12 day trip with 10 Aussie blokes who will look to exploit any advantage from him on or off the bike. Strengths: unknown. Weakness: unknown.
Jarrod "Buzz" Crosby. Team Sydney, bike Canyon, FFT Rookie. Possibly the Best Aussie Rules player to ever ride a bike, Buzz is a late call up to this years Tour. Buzz did Italy and the Giro on his bike last year so knows all the tricks of touring. Strengths: a strong rider who can kick through little rolling hills and mix it up in a sprint if he wants. Weakness: Vertical Pavement.
Finally me, Team Sydney, bike Cervelo(or colnago, Cannondale, Masi, louis Garneau, Masi, etc etc. Could be the last year as ride captain as Mitch is stepping into Ride Captain shoes and may do the next trip. Strengths. Experience-can still suprise these young bucks every now and again. Weakness: have the years caught up with him?
We have been joined for the first couple of days of the Tour by Ryan "Ryano or Duchess" O'Neill and his new bride, Katie. Team Sydney, Bike: some Korean carbon copy that duchess tells us is equal to or better than a top of the range Colnago or Pinarello. Strength: has an incredibly large physical capacity and on his day is way above all of us in riding ability. Weakness: has a small amount of ticker to apply against his physical capabilities!
Ryano and Katie also have a van and will be moving to Gap tomorrow to enjoy the rest of their honeymoon. I am sure Katie will remember having 9 guys meet up with her in the French alps on her honeymoon for a while.
Yesterday, after all meeting up in Lyon as planned, we got the motor homes! (2 of them) and after doing the shopping ( 550 Euro's of cereals, chocolate, jubes and crisps- Gee, some of these blokes eat junk) we headed to le Bourg d'Oisan a beautiful mountain village at the foot of the mighty Alpe d'Huez. Bikes were assembled and we kitted up for a late afternoon ride up the famous col. For the FFT rookies the look of disbelief and shock on their faces as they experience their first real climb is always amusing. Nothing in Australia can compare with these climbs. I rode with Damo and the look on his face was priceless. Duchess and Danny took off and the rest of us took our time climbing the Alpe. We regrouped at the top, took photos, had a chat with some Pommie blokes who told us they were in France to watch the tour and ride, however they elected to drive up Alpe d'Heuz as it was too hard! To me, it is like not playing golf at St Andrews when you have a chance as the weather isn't good enough!
We then all took off for the descent back down. Like going up, natural order takes place and Mitch Damo and I show off our descending skills. Hitting speeds of over 80k and then screeching to a near stop as you hook around the hairpin corners on the way down is a sensation to be believed. Riding the descents with guys that know how to handle a bike is great fun. We all regrouped at town and went and sat outside a cafe under a canopy in town and had dinner while a Mountain Summer thunderstorm rolled through.
We were all exhausted at the end of the day. Mitch and I were up early (4am jetlag) and we are getting ready for our first look at this years Tour with Cadel in yellow. 150k and 3000m of climbing today. But that's tonights blog.
Look at our blog at www.fostersflyingtours.blogspot.com as we will post photos an video over the bext few days
Le Foz (excuse the typing and grammar as I am doing this on the blackberry)