Ever since I started following cycling, which would have been in high school, I have dreamed of riding in France. Way back then, it was Laurent Fignon, Bernard Hinault, Greg Lemond and my favorite, Charly Mottet. At the time, he was riding for the System-U team in France and they had the most amazing TT bikes of the era. I think they even used a cable to connect themselves to the frame so they would not sit up and compromise their aero position. Oh, and they raced with Rudy Project glasses…those were the best!! I’m going to spare you a picture of me in a pair.Anyway, I stray off topic. So when a work event in Paris got cancelled, and changing travel was cost prohibitive, I started to think, would this be the year I get to ride in France. Now, I have ridden the Paris city bikes (even down the famed Champs Elysees), but I wanted to ride through the countryside on a real bike.
So, I did some research, and found Paris Bike Company, a company in Paris, that rents high end road bikes. So just a few days prior to my arrival, I reserved a Cannondale. It was super simple! Click, pull down, select, click, click, click, enter PayPal info and done! Sweet road bike on the books with my name attached to it. Within a few hours I was contacted by the owner of Paris Bike Company,Sam. He wanted to get dimensions off my bike and make sure I had pedals, helmets, etc. He was extremely responsive and answered each of my never ending questions. I highly recommend them if you ever are in a similar situation.
Timing could not have been better as just before I left for France, Strava (www.strava.com) came out with their Strava Local feature. It is great! They have assembled several routes, of various distances, in several main cycling hubs worldwide. Luckily, Paris was on their list, so I scanned through their rides debating on which one to try. I finally landed on one that went out to the east and back via Versailles. At first I figured I would do something in the 60 mile range, but upped it a bit for this one to 85 miles. 🙂
I arrived into Paris Saturday morning and opted to have Sam drop the bike off at my hotel since he was delivering a bike for another client. I met him outside the hotel and he attached my pedals, passed over my helmet and we had a chance to chat a bit. While chatting a nice local holding three beer cans, two full, one partially full, said something in french along with “Lance Armstrong”. I’m not exactly sure what he said, but I am guessing that in his state, he equated either Sam or I (I finally got beat out on the gaunt face look) to Lance. Sam reassured him all was good and eventually he moved on. My bike was all set! Time to eat some dinner and go to bed as it was going to be an early morning! I was so damn excited!!! It was like Christmas!
Sunday morning comes and I take a peek out the window….sunny!!!! Fantastic…it is going to be a great day! I head to the lobby for some coffee and juice, then have some breakfast. By 8:00 I was all kitted out in the Team Zoot gear and my Strava vest. While it was sunny, it was by no means warm, and so the vest was a great add.I take the bike downstairs, wait for two GPS devices to sync up and click in…I’m off!! First up is the cobbles in front of the Louvre and I have a significant appreciation for anyone who rides those! Not only are they bumpy, but there are dips, holes, bumps and anything else you can think of affiliated with them. Once over the Seine, I turn right. Next stop is the Eiffel Tower, I turn right here and head back over the Seine. I take in my surroundings and tell myself, you will be back here later in the day and can snap a photo then. So I hit the base of the Palais de Chaillot and swing left. I have run here before so the roads seem vaguely familiar. Next up is the last stop on the familiarity route, Bois de Boulogne, before I hit unfamiliar territory and go only by GPS guidance on a 1″ x 1″ screen on my bars. Sadly, the tabs on the underside of my garmin broke off so it is not super secure. Here is my final bar mount configuration consisting of zip ties and tape.
I cross the Seine again and up I go leaving Paris behind me. Then it is left, right, left, right, followed by up, down, up down. I am so glad I ditched the cue sheet and am so thankful for the preprogrammed route in my garmin. I’m not sure how somebody came up with this portion of the route as it seemed like a more direct route would have worked, but, hey, it is an experience!
I get out of the city and am suppose to make a right turn, but the right turn is on some path…I pass it once, then double back and take it. Much to my surprise, it quickly transitions into a beautiful tree lined road. It was stunning!A short way into the forest, the road opened up and an incredible view of the city below presented itself to me. I could not help but take a photo. The forest road continued for quite a while but then swung left and BAM!!!! French countryside! It was beautiful. Green fields, rolling hills, the smell of farm land….I was in my element. The farmland continued for miles. Car traffic was extremely light with more cyclists than cars. It seemed like most of the cyclists were going in a different direction than I was, but I caught quite a few and there was nothing more enjoyable than exchanging an enthusiastic “bonjour” with each one.
The kilometers rolled by and after a short climb into Saint-Rémy-L’Honoré it was time for a cafe stop. I grabbed a liter of water from the convenience store and chatted in Spanish with the little boy that was helping man (?) the front counter. Then I clicked on over to the cafe which was conveniently located next door. I decided to break the rules and order a cappuccino. The rules would state that I should only enjoy an espresso, maybe a double, but I figured, I’m going all in. And in a few minutes, Out comes a pile of whip cream topping a mild espresso. To be honest, it was delicious!!!!
It had warmed up a bit, so it was time to neatly tuck my Strava vest into my middle pocket and finish up my ride. Back in the saddle and I was greeted by some favorable wind as well as a few more Cotés!!! My climbing legs were energized and I rode them like a boss!!!
Before I knew it, I was in Versailles. I didn’t know exactly where I was headed in relation to the Palace, but as I rode down a wide boulevard, I noticed hoards of tour buses in the distance. My GPS was telling me to turn right, but the palace was looming on the horizon. Besides, at this poor, what was a little extra mileage. So, I made my way up towards the Palace and it was impressive from the roadway. If time permits, I would love to walk around the grounds… but not in my kit, so all you get is an ok street side photo.
As Paris neared I debated with myself, head straight to the hotel and eat everything in sight, or add some additional miles. I went with option B and made two loops around the hippodrome, motored passed the Eiffel Tower (took a picture this time) and rolled down to Notre Dame where I played nice guy and took a picture of a couple trying to figure out their newly purchased selfie stick.
Soon, I was back at my hotel, my journey over. In total it was just under 94 miles with 4400 feet of climbing and pretty much took the whole day. But honestly, I will remember this experience for a lifetime.