Ready to Roll at the Dauphine
Saturday, June 5, 2010 at 06:35PM
Chris Horner

I just arrived at the hotel in Morzine, France, after 20+ hours of travel. I was meeting up with the team two days before the Dauphine started, for the start of another European campaign. Some riders from the team had been here for a couple of days already, riding a few of this year’s Tour de France mountain stages. I had flown directly in from Bend, Oregon, where I had spent the last 10 days after the Tour of California hanging out and recovering.  Even though the month of June had started, winter in Bend was still putting up a fight with rain and cold temps all week long. The weather in France was nothing like Bend - the sun was out and I even needed sunscreen!

The hotel was at the bottom of the climb to Avoriaz (of course, that depended on how you looked at it, since we were still 3,000 feet up at that spot), which is one of this year’s Tour de France stages.  In July, we'll be finishing at the top of the climb on Stage 8.  When I arrived, I went straight to work - grabbing my suitcase, heading up to my room, changing into my cycling gear, then heading straight to the mechanic’s truck to grab my new bike and heading out to see the climb. It took a few stops before my bike was adjusted to my liking, but then I was ready to tackle the climb. 

The first thing that I noticed was that the turns in the climb are fairly flat, but that each of the straightaway sections went up hard at a steep grade. Near the top of climb, on the last couple of miles, the turns became sweeping curves and the degree of the road became a little easier to handle. I was thinking that this was definitely going to be a hard stage, but with an easier summit, it looked as though a few riders would finish it off with a sprint between them to decide who would take the stage win.

The views from the climb were spectacular and getting better with each passing mile. I'm sure when I come up the climb again in July I won't have the same time to appreciate the views, but the knowledge learned today will definitely come in handy soon. After reaching the top, I headed back down the climb and straight to the hotel where it was time for a massage, a nap, dinner, and then off to bed to make up for some of the sleep that I lost in the trip over. 

The next day the team packed up and headed to our hotel for the start of the Dauphine. It was only an hour and half ride by bike to the hotel, which was near the boarder of France and Switzerland and right on Lake Geneva, near the town of Thonon. I stopped at the hotel and had a Coke and a snack then continued on my ride for another hour and half. It was such a great day that it made it hard to return to the hotel after only three hours!  There was so much to see that I feel like I could have ridden all day, but with the race starting tomorrow, I had to save some energy for the week to come.

The days of racing up the hard but short climbs this season are over for the next few months. The Giro d’Italia marked the start of the season of the grand Cols, where the climbs take an hour to get over instead of 20 to 30 minutes. This year’s Dauphine has two summit finishes, one of which is the famous Alpe D'Huez. With a prologue and a 30 mile time trial thrown in the mix, this year’s race should look like something resembling a mini Tour de France, at least on paper.   

For me, it’s already been a long season with not much time in between the races to rest and recover.  The up side of my program of races is that I only pick the best races (in my opinion) to ride.  The down side is that they don't leave me any room to use one as training or come into it unfit. After the Tour of California I was very tired and starting to feel the effects of all of the hard racing I had done so far this year. With only about 12 days off between Cali and Dauphine, and some of that spent traveling back home, I'm not exactly sure where my fitness will be for the Dauphine, but, regardless of my form, the racing starts tomorrow!

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