• Five years of preparation/progression
  • Seven months of training for Tour of California
  • 252 hours on the bike since October 2010
  • 128,147 kj burned (the equivalent of 36 pounds of fat or the same number of calories contained in 237 Big Macs) in the last seven months
  • 5 hours on the plane today
  • Relaxing in my hotel room in South Lake, NV now

 I think it was April 2006. I had decided to spend more time on my road bike. I had paid $1,600 for my new Cannondale so I thought I might as well use it (yes, I know, I can’t really get more than one good carbon wheel for that price nowadays – but that is a topic for an upcoming  post on equipment). One day while surfing the Internet I came across the website trainright.com. It was the website of an organization founded by Lance Armstrong’s coach Chris Carmichael and called Carmichael Training Systems (CTS). It offered an entry level training package for either $39 or $59 a month which was computer generated. “Just what I need” I thought. “If it works for Lance it will work for me.” I spent the next two to three months religiously following my new training schedule.

In June or July I was ready for my first group ride. One night after work I headed over to the Eastern Townships to meet a group of cyclists who gather every Tuesday at our favourite Bromont ski/ shop and then ride for about 90 minutes. I followed the group for the first few kilometres. Then, being the gentleman that I am, I decided to take a pull and kept the pace up. Big mistake. I tried to recover at the back of the group but the damage was done. A couple minutes later I got dropped. In less than a minute I could see the pack already 250 meters ahead of me. Not only I came in last but a woman my age on an old beat up mountain bike beat me.

The training program from Lance’s coach might work for Lance but it wasn’t working for me. When I got home my wife Mary Lou convinced me not to quit cycling (I wonder if she now regrets giving me that advice….). She suggested that maybe I should call CTS and talk to someone. The next day I emailed CTS and asked that someone calls me to talk about training. I think the email address was something like rebuildingbruisedegos@trainright.com. The same day a young coach from the Colorado Springs office of CTS called me back. That call changed my life.

–          “Hello, this is CTS coach Tim Rucker. How can I help you?”

As I was talking to Tim I looked up his resume on the CTS website. “Great. They got the newest trainee to call me. How’s that going to help?” I decided to give it a try. Tim ended up being my coach for four years. Tim left CTS in the fall of 2010 to pursue a teaching career in his hometown of Zanesville, Ohio. Tim and I became partners, allies and pretty good friends over those four years.

While he was my coach Tim helped me get ready for my first 100 km ride in the fall of 2006, survive my first CTS three day climbing camp in Asheville, NC in October 2007 and complete with success the five day CTS Tucson camp which included the 109 miles El Tour de Tucson race in November 2008. In 2009 we decided to step it up a bit and I got ready for the gruelling 172 km and 12,000 feet of climbing Etape du Tour from Montelimar to the top of Mont Ventoux in France. In 2010 I ended up doing three of the five days of the Tour of the Gila race in New Mexico and completed five hill climb races that are part of the BUMPS Northeast Climbing Championship – including Mount Washington in 1:19:20 hrs. All of this helped build the base for next week.

So here I am. About to be part of North America’s biggest professional bike race, hanging out with dozens of pros who will participate in the Tour de France in July. I was recruited with only twenty one other athletes directly by Lance’s coach. I am the only French Canadian, the only rider from Quebec and one of about seven Canadians who were picked to be part of the CTS team. Today, I am far from Bromont in for ways than one.

In the car to the airport this morning Mary Lou reminded me to “stick to my plan”. Good advice. My coach and I do have a plan (and goals) and it doesn’t include trying to finish every stage at all cost. The plan revolves around (obviously) finishing the first and last stage and doing well on the mountain stages. Executing on this plan will take determination, patience, concentration and luck. In a race like this everyone has good days and bad days and you can’t let adversity affect you when it hits. And adversity I will face. And when it happens I know where to get the inspiration to keep going.

Those who know me well know that I will be thinking about my friend and fellow CTS athlete Jamie Riehle who is in Boston recovering from weeks of intense chemo and radiation. Jamie would have kicked our collective butts had he been able to join us in California. He is a talented and very disciplined rider and the way he has fought through the last few weeks confirmed what we already knew: he is one strong guy. And if Jamie didn’t quit I can’t quit. Good luck bud! Can’t wait to ride with you.