And so my 2011 biking season has come to an end.

I am just back from the Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) El Tour de Tucson endurance camp in Arizona. I trained for the last eight weeks to get ready for the camp. I was also hoping to make the El Tour de Tucson 111 miles race on Saturday, November 19 the highlight of my very long 2011 season. That was until a 30 minutes change in the El Tour race schedule made me cancel my year’s top racing event, the one I was hoping would give confirmation of my fitness level and improved bike handling and racing skills. Instead of doing what I felt like doing (do the race), I did what was the right thing to do (not do the race).

The 2011 season was indeed a long one. It started out in October 2010 when the phone at the office rang. It was Carmichael Training Systems’ (“CTS”) boss Chris Carmichael:

– “Alain? Chris here.”

Right away I thought: “Why is CC is calling me, what have I done now? I have religiously been following my training schedule and keeping my power meter in my back pocket on group rides. He can’t be calling me to tell me I am being kicked out of CTS for lack of performance.”

– “How about doing the Tour of California in May”, Chris said. “We are hand-picking a handful of CTS athletes and you are one of them. Here’s the concept.”

Chris then explained that CTS was putting a “team” together to do the whole 2011 Tour of California – eight days of racing. We get to do the same stages as the pros on the same days, live and eat with the pros. We get to start the stages about three hours before the pros and try and finish the stages before being caught. A whole week of pro-like racing in an environment I can be comfortable in.

– “Chris, I’m in.”

And on a special journey I embarked. Little did I know but this call would end up having a big impact not only on my cyling career but also on my life in general. You see, when you have to prepare for a gruelling event such as Tour of californai, you have to commit time to it and that has a big impact on the people around you. Once you have accomplished something like this event you come home and wonder what you are going to do with all that fitness. Hey, why not set even more ambitious goals? And of course, you soon discover that this has even more impact on the people around you. Everywhere you look, the loved ones in your life are making sacrifices for you. Suddenly you throw into the mix the most stressful year of your business career, great friends fighting cancer, business partners dispute and you are sure to find out how your family reacts to adversity. And boy did I ever find out where my family stands when the going gets tough for me: “They get to the front and pull.” Hopefully life is a century and I get the opportunity to give back and pull them for years and years. They for sure inspire me more than I will ever inspire them.

So as I was planning my last cycling event of the year (a CTS cycling camp in Tucson and the 111 miles El Tour de Tucson race) I decided to start “giving back” and I invited my twelve year old son Alex down to the desert for a great father/son vacation. We rode our bikes, had meals with good friends, visited the Desert Museum with Dave and Tricia Burke, went house hunting and Alex made $75/day helping the CTS crew. On the last day of the camp, I was supposed to do the 111 miles race, drive to the start of the 42 miles race and do that race with Alex.

As I was getting mentally ready for the El Tour de Tucson race, I found out that the start of 42 miles race was at 12:00 pm and not 12:30 pm as in the past years. That would not leave me enough time to complete the 111 miles race and then get to the start of the 42 miles race before 12:00 pm. “What should I do?” Easy decision. My priority was to do the 42 miles race with Alex so I decided not to do the 111 mile race.

Instead I volunteered to act as a domestique for six CTS athletes attending the camp who were trying to do the 111 miles race under six hours. We got to the start line at 6:00 am ready for a 7:00 am start. Bang, here we go! Our group quickly dwindled down to me and three of the six riders, including Irv from Regina, an incredibly fit 63 year old man who I have had the pleasure of riding with many times over the years at various CTS camps. I pulled them for three hours (or about 110 km) ensuring I had a huge workout in the process. I also talked the two less experienced riders through how to race, how to position themselves in the group and how to stay properly hydrated. They were all grateful at the end and it felt good to have helped these guys achieve their goal of doing the race under six hours. After dropping off their group after three hours of riding I headed back to the hotel to meet Alex and drive to the start of the 42 miles race.

The highlight of our vacation was most definitely Alex finishing his race in a little over three hours. He finished 5th overall in his age group – out of 53 participants. Not bad for a guy who had not really prepared for it. The other highlight was Alex climbing the first 8.8 km of Mount Lemmon in 50 minutes a couple days earlier. Alex even rode ahead of one of the adult CTS athlete for the first half of that climb.

Click here for more highlights.

The night before the race I sent my wife a text: “Alex is sleeping, I am sleeping in 15 mins. 4:30 am wake up call. We all go to the start line. I play domestique for 6 guys. I pull the whole first half and then coach Garrett takes over for second half while I go race the 42 miler with Alex. In the morning he will work the feed zone after second wash. Full day.”

She responded: “Sounds really fun. And challenging. Something new for you that will be very rewarding. Have a wonderful day.”

After pulling my buddies for three hours I responded to Mary Lou: “The way you pulled me through the last year, yes, it feels good that I pulled for someone…pulled Irv and two more for three hours, about 110 km.”

Sometimes, it truly is your turn to take a long hard pull in front, especially when someone else has been pulling for you for a while (like my wife and kids did for me throughout the year). As Bono says, “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own”.

Love you all.