By Marla Briley
Before Kent and I left on our Trek Travels Tour De France adventure, I had coworkers ask me if I was traveling for fun or was I riding my bike. For us, it is one and the same, and for me, riding my bike on the same roads that the pros would be riding was to be the vacation of a lifetime.
Our trip was a total of six days; five of those would include us riding through the breathtaking (literally and figuratively) French Alps. During those five days, most of us would climb a total of 30,000 feet over 184 miles. How fantastic it was to know what the racers were experiencing when I watched them climb the 22 km up the Col du Glandon! I knew firsthand the difficulty of the last 2.5 km, which averages around 11% grade, of the Col de la Morte. Trek set up a viewing of Stage 19 with an open bar and buffet, and I watched as the peloton rolled down the Col de la Croix de Fer and knew, from my own ride down that same road, how spectacular the views were.
On day number five, our group rode up Alp d’Huez two hours prior to the actual peloton. The 21 switchbacks were jam-packed with Tour lovers from all over the globe. Each switchback seemed to have been taken over by a different country, the biggest and craziest of them all being switchback #7 where we were greeted by a sea of orange as, I believe, all of Holland had camped out and were eagerly awaiting the riders. My favorite part of that ride to the top of Alp d’Huez is when our guide Jonathan’s playlist turned to “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. It seemed to transcend language barriers, as everyone within earshot took up the chorus: “Ohh you’re halfway there. Ohhh living on a prayer!” Together, our group rolled across the actual finish line, and the people along the barriers cheered as if we were truly part of the Tour. I had a grin on my face that reached from ear to ear.
That night we got to meet one of the iconic figures of the cycling world, the man who coined the well-known (and while I was climbing, often repeated) phrase, “Shut up legs”: Jens Voigt. On TV he comes across as direct, witty with a dry sense of humor, and that is exactly how he is in person. Jens spent an hour with the group, answering questions, taking pictures, and signing autographs. There were three teams staying at our hotel, and I had already snagged a picture with Andrew Talansky and Ryder Hesjedal and photo bombed Tony Gallopin. Some of the group had noticed André Greipel, aka The Gorilla, sitting in the bar. I convinced Jens to help me get a picture with him, seeing as how they are both German. Afterwards, Jens stayed behind to chat with Greipel and take selfies with him and his Lotto teammates while I immediately posted my prized picture to Facebook.
We finished the night and our TdF trip with a toast to our amazing guides and the experiences we would never have had without their and Trek’s help.
Shortly after their return from France (and writing this article for the ATC blog), Marla Briley and Kent Snead were struck by a drunk driver while riding near downtown Austin. Both are on the mend. Read the story here.