Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Off Go the Training Wheels

 European Youth Tour TT in Assen, Netherlands
I remember the day we took Liam’s training wheels off.  It was an October day in California many years ago.  Liam had a little red Schwinn bike.  It was his first bike.  He loved that bike, and whenever he got the chance he used to ride it around a local park next to our house.  I think Liam was around 4 years old when the time had come for the training wheels to come off. 


Liam in the mountains in yellow (Tour de Var)
The big difference between riding with training wheels and riding without is the way you have to lean in order to stay upright on the bike.   In the case of a bike with training wheels, you use the support wheels by leaning on to them to stay upright and balanced on the bike. If the bike starts to fall to one side you lean on the support wheel of that side of the bike to keep you upright.  Once the training wheels come off, the dynamics of the bike change.  Instead of leaning into the fall and relying on the support, you lean the opposite direction that you are falling and balance the bike on your own.  It is a little awkward to make the transition, but once you get it – it’s like magic – “it’s just like riding a bike!”

A win at the GP Mandelieu (Tour de Cote d'Azur)
 I remember taking the training wheels off the bike.  Liam was standing in the park fully concentrated on the effort he was about to make.  He was excited, but at the same time he was calm and focused.  During the first attempt Liam was a little unsteady, the bike started to wobble, he leaned the wrong way and fell over in the grass.  He got back up brushed himself off, and with a look of determination in his eyes was ready to give it another go.  For the second attempt we started on a section of grass with a slight downhill.  I started out running beside the bike holding on until he got up to speed, and then I let go. There was a brief wobble, which quickly straightened out, and then he was off zooming around the corner and out of sight.  It was a proud moment, but also one as a parent that causes a little apprehension.  You just have to hope and trust that, with this new found freedom and speed, your child will be able to avoid all the potential dangers in the form of bumps, trees, and cars that might come in their way.  It’s not easy to let go.

On the front at the Tour de Vauclause

I guess the job of a parent is like that of a good pair of training wheels.  You are there to be leaned on, and, if needed, to provide support for life’s potential stumbles and falls; but there comes a time when your child starts to lean away - finding their own equilibrium.  Unlike the training wheels, as a parent you are never completely out of the picture. You are there quietly on the sidelines – just in case.

Since the day that the training wheels came off many years ago, Liam continues to do great things on a bike.  Until the other day, I had never done a season results tally for a particular year. Liam raced 31 times last year in France and all over Europe.  These were fairly big events with anywhere from 40 to 90 riders participating. Out of those 31 races Liam was on the podium (1st, 2nd or 3rd) 21 times.  He has come into his own.   All this success hasn’t gone unnoticed. He has been selected by the French Cycling Federation to ride on a team which will compete at both the regional and national level for next season.  He will have some amazing coaches, be able to participate in some wonderful training camps, and have talented teammates to motivate, challenge and encourage each other in training and racing throughout the year. 


Win with a breakaway at the GP Saint Roch
The adventure continues --- off go the training wheels!

Live Strong, Train Safe, and Live Well!

This is Bill and Liam signing out.




Thursday, February 27, 2014

Training Day : an Interview with Jasper Stuyven





Last weekend, Liam and I headed to Tuscany to meet up with Belgian cyclist Jasper Stuyven.  Jasper is a first-year professional with the new Trek Factory Racing World Tour team.  At 21 years of age, Jasper has had a very impressive start to his cycling career.  In 2009, he won the Junior World Championships of road cycling in Moscow.  In 2010, he won the junior race of the brutal Paris-Roubaix cobbled classic.  In 2011, he was 2nd in the under 23 version of Paris-Roubaix.  Jasper won the Provincial Championships in 2012, and last year, in 2013, he had a stage victory at the Tour de Beauce and an overall win at the Tour Alentejo in Portugal.  The best way to describe Jasper’s riding so far would be steady, dedicated progression in the sport.

Jasper and Liam rolling in the Tuscan sun
 Earlier in the month we contacted Jasper through a mutual friend and, it just so happened, we would all be in Lucca, Italy at the same time in the end of February.  Our idea was to meet up and go for a ride or part of a ride (depending on what Jasper had in store for the day), and then sit down and do a video interview for the blog.  Jasper liked the concept and sent us an email suggesting that he could take us on one of his favorite “recovery” rides to the famous Il Re Del Cappuccino (Cappuccino King) in Monsummano Terme. 

 Signor Umberto Galligini (the King of Cappuccino)
It was on… What a way to begin our yearly winter training camp in Lucca!  We met up with Jasper and his childhood friend Jonas Cortoos on a beautiful late February day in Lucca.  We had a 70k spin out to Monsummano Terme through olive groves and hills in the Tuscan sun.  Liam and I had never been to the Cappuccino King, although we had heard of it – it is a legend in cycling lore.  For years great riders have been dropping into this little bar for a cup of, what is quite possibly, the best cappuccino in Italy.  The owner Signor Umberto Galligani and his family are true artists – maestros of coffee.  For 64 years they have been serving up mouth watering cappuccino at Bar Galligani.  Jasper first visited the bar last year during the world championships in Florence.  When he doesn’t have to train too hard or too long he likes to pop in for a mid-ride cup of cappuccino.  We now know why – it’s truly incredible.

Signing the Il Re Del Cappuccino guest book
 At the coffee bar, we were able to sit down and speak with Jasper about his pro debut at the Tour of Qatar, the move up to Trek Factory from the Bontrager/Livestrong developmental team, his training, his goals for the season and the future, and advice for a cyclist Liam’s age (13 years old).  We had a great talk.  It was awesome that Jasper was willing to take the time to share some of his knowledge and experience with us.

Jasper is Belgian and I don’t think that it will come as a surprise to know that his true passion is the classics.  He grew up watching these races, he has won and placed well in the Junior and U-23 versions, and his dream is to one day win the Paris-Roubaix professional race – the Queen of the Classics.  It is an awesome dream; one that both Liam and I believe Jasper has the potential to be able to achieve in the future.  We hope to be in Roubaix cheering him on the day he fulfills his dream.

The ride back fueled on cappuccino
After the cappuccino, we got on the bikes and headed out for more riding in the Tuscan sunshine on our way back to Lucca.  When we got back to town, we wished Jasper luck with his upcoming races in Sud Ardèche and Belgium and said our goodbyes to both him and Jonas.  We came away from the experience both inspired and motivated for the Tuscan training week ahead.

Jasper, Liam and Jonas back in Lucca
 Live Strong, Train Safe and Live Well!

This is Bill and Liam signing out.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mont Faron - The Epic Finish to the Tour Méditerranéen



Mont Faron is a mountain which towers over the port city of Toulon.  This mountain is often used as the finale for the queen stage of the Tour Méditerranéen.  It is a 5k ascent with grades of 12 to 13 percent - it is a difficult climb.  The 5 stage Tour Méditerranéen is won or lost on this mountain, and more specifically on the final kilometer of the climb.  So naturally, with Toulon being only a 40 minute drive from our house, that is where Roan, Aidan and I headed on the day of the final stage of this year's Tour Med.  With cameras and GoPro in hand we hiked the mountain and watched as the race unfolded before our eyes.

Both Roan (age 9) and Aidan (age 11) took an active role with both the video and photography.  Enjoy the work!

Live Strong, Train Safe, and Live Well!

Bill, Aidan and Roan

The Port City of Toulon from Mont Faron

Mont Faron Stage winner Jean-Christophe Peraud

Tour winner Stephen Cummings followed by Stefan Denifl

Riccardo Zoidl 3rd place overall

Sylvain Chavanel in his new IAM Jersey

Bob Jungels


Columbian Jarlinson Pantano in the Mountain's Jersey

Trek Factory Riders and Brothers Danny and Boy Van Poppel

Monday, February 17, 2014

The New Season is on and the Racing has come to Town!




The Tour Méditerranéen is one of the first professional cycling races of the year in Europe. It is a multi-day stage race that takes place in the Provence region of France.  The event literally comes right by our backyard.  It is amazing to watch some of the best names in cycling laying it down on the same roads that we use for daily training.

This year the Tour Med took place with 5 stages over 4 days.  That means that on day 3 the riders, in fact, rode two stages back to back.  In the morning, the peleton competed in a 63k road stage from Lambesc to Saint Remy de Provence, and then in the afternoon there was an 18k time trial (TT) on beautiful mountainous roads starting and ending in Saint Remy.  The Time Trial was a perfect focal point for our coverage of the race.  Liam was booked with Mountain bike training and racing which conflicted with the week of the Tour, but Aidan (now 11) and Roan (now 9) were really looking forward to checking out the race and helping out with the blog.

Roan and I decided to make the hour drive up to Saint Remy de Provence and make a recon video of the TT course the day before the Tour Med started.  Roan is now of the age that he can handle the riding, and he really gets into the adventure of it all.  It was the first time to Saint Remy de Provence for both of us, so we took a little time after the ride to get to know the town.  I think for Roan the highlights were riding the course, and also a visit to the local chocolate shop owned by the famous Chocolatier Joël Durand.  They make a chocolate with the local almonds and the black olives of the area which is delicious. 

On Saturday, I headed back up to Saint Remy, but this time with Aidan.  I love going places with all three of my sons together, but it is also important to individually get in some one-on-one time.  Saturday was the day of the Tour Med double stage.  The riders had already raced 63k in the morning before taking on the afternoon TT.  In an individual Time Trial, riders start about 1 minute apart and their time of the effort counts for the overall race classification.  We arrived in Saint Remy a few hours before the 2 o'clock start. Aidan and I hit the TT course. The day was super windy and the descents were pretty technical, but Aidan handled it amazingly well. This year has marked an incredible improvement in Aidan's riding and stamina on the bike. He is riding and racing with both his club and school teams, and his progression is a pleasure to witness.  After the ride, we returned to town to watch the professional riders warming up for the "race against the clock" over the same course we had just experienced. 



The Trek Factory Racing Team Bus was our first stop when we got back into town.  This was our chance to check out the the new team in action.  While at the bus we spoke with Sports Director Luc Meersman.  Luc is from Belgium and is a former professional cyclist.  He now serves as second Sports Director for Trek Factory Racing.  Luc is also a reconnaissance expert for the team, and as such, he will play a major role in this season's classics effort.  He painstakingly notes every detail of the chaotic cobblestone courses (Harelbeke, Flanders, Paris-Roubaix).  This information will then be used on race day to successfully navigate and, hopefully, win one or more of the great classic races this spring. 

To our surprise and pleasure, Luc invited us to accompany him in the Team car as he followed Boy Van Poppel out on course. Wow, what an opportunity!  He explained to us that Boy wouldn't be going "full gas" because he was needed by the team for the next day's final stage effort.  If what we saw wasn't full gas, I can only imagine how insane a full effort would be.  Boy flew around the mountainous technical course with a 40.5k average speed.  He was comfortably rolling at 70k an hour on the flat sections.  These guys are truly amazing athletes.

When we got back to town we were able to interview Boy after the ride and then go to the finish to see Trek riders Riccardo Zoidl and Bob Jungels come across the line in 2nd and 7th place respectively for the day - great results for both athletes and the Team.  Aidan and I then got an opportunity to talk with Ricarrdo, Bob, and Matthew Busche after their rides and ask them about the upcoming Mont Faron final queen stage.  You could say that we that we had a very good day in Saint Remy de Provence.



Stay tuned for our upcoming post from Mont Faron with photography and a video from both Aidan and Roan as they worked the cameras on the epic Mountaintop finish, finale of the 2014 Tour Méditerranéen.

Livestrong, Train Safe, and Live Well!

This is Bill, Aidan and Roan signing out.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Up and Rolling - Trek Factory Racing Fan Club Ride and Team Launch



Last weekend, Liam and I headed up to hallowed cycling ground in Belgium and Northern France for the Fan Club ride and launch of the Trek Factory Racing professional cycling team. Trek Factory is a new American team based in Belgium that is made up of riders from 17 different nationalities. As Trek VP Joe Vadeboncoeur told us, “that is 17 different languages spoken on the team bus!” If you take out Jens Voigt, who is one of the oldest and most experienced riders in professional cycling, the new team will have the youngest average age in the peloton. Trek is a very exciting international brand and this is reflected in the young, dynamic, exciting team they have assembled.

As part of the new team, Trek Factory has formed a new Fan Club. The concept is much like how the fan club of a rock band functions. Members will have access to special events, greater access to the riders, team gear, a newsletter, etc… All these things are really great, but the true benefit of the club is that it allows fans to feel like they are truly part of the team.

Liam with the Team Bus in Oudenaarde
 It will probably come as no surprise to readers of this blog that Liam and I were some of the first fans to sign up for the club. The sign up was free and still is – you can find the link here. As part of the new club, we received an e-mail with a link for tickets to the opening Team Presentation and a special Fan Club ride. The ride was taking place in Oudenaarde, Belgium on a modified version of the Tour de Flanders course Friday morning and, that evening, the Team Presentation would take place in the Velodrome in Roubaix, France. When I first read this there were two things that popped in to my head. The first was one word – “EPIC.” The second was actually an after thought – “its January and the day could be very cold and miserable.”

Liam and I love riding in Belgium, especially on the Flanders course. Throw in the chance to do this with some riders from the new Trek Factory team, a Fan Club meet and greet with the riders in the afternoon, and a team launch in the famous Velodrome in Roubaix the same evening; and it became an opportunity that we couldn’t let slip away. We would take our chances with the weather.

The Ride Report:




Friday January 10, 2014 dawned clear and fairly warm with highs in the low 50’s. Liam, I and 200 other lucky Trek Factory Racing fans got to spend the morning hitting the famous cobble climbs of Flanders with several of the team’s professional riders. The ride was broken up into three groups that left 15 minutes apart. Two or three Trek Factory riders served as guides for each group for the cobbled 68k course. We decided to go in the third group because it would be a little warmer and more time for the cobbles to dry out a before gave them a go. There were perhaps 50 or 60 riders in our group. We were assembled in the main square in Oudenaarde ready to roll. To everyone’s surprise and pleasure up rolled Fabian Cancellara with Jens Voigt on his wheel – our “guides” for the day. I believe that everyone in our group got to ride and chat with the legends at some point during the two and half hour ride. It was awesome. Liam was in his element. He was on the cobbles riding with Spartacus and the Jensie (Mr. “Shut up Legs” himself).


Liam and the Jensie - top of the Paterberg
Make no mistake, the cobbled climbs of Flanders are tough. Not everyone in the group made the entire circuit, but even for the fans that couldn’t complete the whole course, they got a true taste of just how difficult racing over these roads can be. It is slippery, it is bumpy, it is steep, your legs scream and lungs desperately search for more oxygen. It is pure cycling – pure Classics. The notable sections we rode were the Oude Kwaremont (11% grade), The Paterberg (20%), Koppenberg (19%), Steenbeekdries (5%), grueling bumpy descent of 10% on the Stationsberg, the Taaienberg climb of 15%, and finally the Kruisberg at 9%. Liam was able to stay in the front of the group for all of the climbs. In fact, he actually got stronger as we went. We were given timing chips at the beginning of the ride and two of the segments were timed. Out of the 200 plus riders that took part in the event, Liam had the 34th best time on the Koppenberg and the 28th best time on the final Kruisberg climb. Over the years, we have had some pretty amazing experiences on a bike, but I have to say, this was right up there with the best.

We even had our own Team Car
Refreshments out on course - Belgian waffles -- naturally
After the ride we got changed, loaded up the van, and headed off towards the French/Belgian boarder. The Roubaix Velodrome is about 50 minutes from Oudenaarde. Oudenaarde is more country rolling hills where as Roubaix is more flat and industrial. The Velodrome, which sits on the southern outskirts of the city, is sacred cycling ground. It is here that a victor is crowned each year in the Queen of the Classics – the grueling Paris-Roubaix race. And, it is here that the new Trek team hopes to be standing on top of the podium in just three months time. What an amazing venue for a team launch. I don’t think there has ever been anything quite like it. As they said they would, the Trek Factory Racing team is already raising the bar in professional cycling.

Ladies and Gentleman - Trek Factory Racing 2014
The Fan Club reception with the riders and the Team Launch were incredible. Liam, who is getting more involved in the production of the blog, was able to conduct a few interviews. The whole presentation, with the riders rolling out around the velodrome and down onto the stage in their new kits on the new team bikes, was visually striking. It was inspiring to be there and to feel like we were a part of the team. It is hard to capture the essence of an event of this size and scope in a short video, but I hope we manage to convey a piece of that magic in our attempt.

It is going to be a good year. It is already up and rolling and off to a great start.

Live Strong, Train Safe, and Live Well!

This is Bill and Liam out.

Bonus Video - Liam's first media event Interviews!







Sunday, January 12, 2014

You Know You fit in when the Crazy Marseille Driver in the Cote d'Azur is You



Fall and early winter riding is starting to become one of my favorite times for cycling during the year.  The pace is relaxed, the roads less crowded, and the stress of racing and competition, though fun and motivating, is in the distant future.  We bike through the change of seasons, slowly putting on more and more layers of clothing as the temperature drops.  We are lucky enough to live in Provence, where it only snows a few times during the year.  It is cold, but we like riding bikes too much to be able to bear hanging them up in the garage in neglected winter hibernation. 

Long Shadows of the Provence Winter Sun
Fall is also a time for mountain biking and cyclocross racing.   These are two disciplines in cycling that I am not great at.  I am constantly thinking about what will happen if I fall off on the gnarly descents. Liam, on the other hand, has a natural ability and agility, and he is fearless.  He effortlessly flies down the radical, rocky, single-track trails of the mountains behind our house.  It is fun to watch, but not so easy to follow. 

Nothing like Cyclocross to keep you sharp through the Fall

Both the winter cyclocross and mountain biking [called (VTT) Vélo Tout Terrain here in France] are greatly enhancing Liam’s ability and evolution as a cyclist.   These, along with the long easy rides on the road, form a training base from which to transition into late winter speed work and eventually into spring racing.

Riding in The New Year


For the last two years in a row we have used a Strava challenge called the Festive 500 as the apex of our winter base training. The challenge is to ride 500 kilometers in the 8 days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.  We literally ride in the New Year and it is a blast.  This year we completed the challenge in 6 days by riding 506 kilometers.  We included Liam’s brothers Aidan and Roan on a few of the rides. And for the “queen stage” of the challenge we headed to Nice the day after Christmas with our friend Sofiane for 106k with 6000 feet of climbing.  We rode over the Col d’Eze, through Monaco, to the Italian Border, and then up over the Col de La Madone and back to Nice through the mountains. It was epic!

Sofiane and Liam at the top of the Col de La Madone
There was a moment during the queen stage that Sofiane said something to me that put a smile on my face and made me start to think that we are really starting to fit in in France.  The comment wasn’t made on the bike, it was actually made as we were pulling into this very chic shopping center on the outside of Nice in Saint Laurent du Var.  The Cote D’Azur is only about 90 minutes from our house, but it is a world apart. The shopping mall is right on the sea with a great parking lot that adjoins a cycle path leading into the Nice beachfront promenade.  There is a certain way that I usually get into the parking lot, but it was closed and re-routed for Christmas traffic.  I didn’t see an easy solution, so I went up on a curb against traffic and then back into the flow to get to the part of the lot we wanted to be in.  Sofiane shouted out in French “ watch out here come the people from Marseille you better give them some room.”  It was really funny. We drive a large van that is fairly beaten up from our years in France.  It has a “13” on the license plate which is the number of the region around Marseille.  Marseille is famous for crazy drivers.  The joke in France is, that if you see a “13” on the license plate of a vehicle you get way out of their way.   So I guess that after 4 years in France I have officially turned into a crazy Marseille driver!

After a six month hiatus from blogging, we are back with a very exciting 2014 planned. Liam and I are fresh off a road trip to Northern France and Belgium which was for the new Trek Factory Racing  professional cycling team launch. It was awesome! We will have a video and report from the weekend up soon.

Happy New Year to all. May it be filled with love, joy and lots of cycling.

And watch out for those crazy Marseille drivers!

Live Strong, Train Safe, and Live Well!!!

This is Bill and Liam signing out.





Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Departs - Keeping it Fun in the Mediterranean



Getting started on a new journey is always an exciting undertaking, but it is not always easy.  People need movement to stay healthy and refreshed, yet it seems that our very nature is, at the same time, very sedentary.  We like the known - the comfortable.  It is ironic then, that we are often at our best when we are out of the comfort zone.

Liam on the midnight ferry to Corsica
Both Liam and I had been looking forward to exploring Corsica all year.  The island, located in the Mediterranean sea would be the venue for the first three days of the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France.  Corsica seemed like a world apart.  I don't know why.  It was a relatively easy trip to get there.  Overnight ferry boats leave for the island from the Port of Toulon located only about 45 minutes from our house.  We planned the trip several times, but something always seemed to come up and the trip was put off.

The rugged Cap Corse
Finally, last week we made the leap.  We loaded up the bikes and the training gear in the van, and hit the midnight ferry to Bastia.  Bastia is a beautiful city in the northeast corner of Corsica.  We arrived at 7 am and our first stop was a boulangerie for some fresh baguettes- we were still technically in France after all.  Then we headed out to the northern most tip of the island called Cap Corse. This is a remote cape, but as soon as we arrived we realized the cycling was fantastic.  It was a lot like riding the West Maui mountains of Hawaii.  The only difference being that Corsica is not a volcanic Island.  The topography, however, was very similar.  Green lush seaside cliffs running down to a deep blue sea.  Our apprehension of the unknown soon turned to a wonder-lust of exploring what other great finds lay ahead.

The watch tower at Nonza - one of many on the island
We spent four days biking, swimming and running our way around the island and down to Porto-Vecchio.  Corsica is a very large island with 2000 meter mountains and a diverse and varied landscape.  We rode through subtropical jungle, desert swept plains, and high cool mountains.  Since it has been a very long winter in Europe we decided to concentrate, for the most part, on the coastal roads, beaches, and coves.  Liam came up with the idea of the "Corsica Triathlon." We would locate a beach that looked promising on a map. Then we would bike to the beach with swim suits and goggles in our pockets.  When we arrived at the beach we would run the beach and then we would swim the length of the beach.  It was a great workout, but it was also a ton of fun. We took a page from our playbook from our Hawaii days to come up with a strength and conditioning workout shaka style. You find a heavy rock and a nice stretch of water with a sandy bottom.  We would take a few deep breaths and the run the rock along the bottom of the sea. It's a blast!

Hitting the Corsican coast on the bike

Corsica Triathlon
We made it to Porto Vecchio on Wednesday evening in time for the Tour team presentation the following day.  Porto Vecchio is a beautiful city located on a small hill just above its port.  There are several  restaurants overlooking the port, and all those that we tried serve excellent local cuisine.  From seafood to wild boar the Corsicans sure know how to prepare a meal.

Trying out the local brew- (Bill)
The depart ville was a perfect choice.  Porto Vecchio captures some of the best that Corsica has to offer.  A friendly small town feel with a relaxed atmosphere.  The town is very manageable on foot or by bike. Beautiful white sandy beaches are located to the south, and just inland are some very challenging mountain roads for more advanced cyclists and mountain bikers.

Evening view of the Porto-Vecchio Port
We had an excellent time watching the team presentation.  Although the atmosphere was relaxed there was still a lot of excitement in the air.  This was, after all, the eve of the Tour de France - the greatest bike race on earth.  The following day we rode the first 40k or so of the first stage of the Tour.  Several teams were out on the road as well.  At one point Liam and I were cruising along at about 40k an hour.  A BMC car past us going about 55k/hour.  Just behind Cadel Evans, Brent Bookwalter and another rider were motor pacing.  They all said hello and encouraged us along. We managed to hang in there for a couple of minutes.  Wow, these guys can really move!  It was pretty amazing. Here we were in Corsica, on the eve of the Tour de France, motor pacing with a champion. I had to get it on film.  I pulled the GoPro out of my pocket, filmed Liam, and then the riders in front, and just like that we lost the draft and they were gone.  Unfortunately, we couldn't stay in Corsica for the first three stages because Liam and the boys had one of their biggest races of the year over the weekend near Marseille.

Back in the fold of the Tour de France
Although we couldn't stay for the official depart, it was nevertheless an excellent start to our 5th Father Son Tour.  One that left little doubt about why we have so much passion for the sport of cycling.  We also have discovered a wonderful island with a rich and deep culture and beautiful landscape right in our backyard.  We will be back for more for sure.

Live Strong, Train Safe, and Live Well!!

This is Bill and Liam Signing out.



Sunday, June 16, 2013

Time to Try



Back in the 1990's I used to consider myself a triathlete.  Swimming, biking, and running were part of my daily routine – part of my life.  My goal, like that of almost every serious triathlete, was to get into the main event on the Big Island of Hawaii – The Ironman World Championship.  The race takes place in Kona each year in October and consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run.

Himalayan Training Grounds
As part of my quest, in 1994, I flew to Nepal and turned the Himalaya and a trek up to the base camp of Mount Everest into a 4 week altitude training camp.  I always loved training camps and setting up a camp in a remote part of the world was even better still.  I would run ancient paths up to Tibetan monasteries past yaks and through Sherpa villages.  I remember that the Sherpa along the trails would often ask me why I was running.  As if,  the only real reason to run at this altitude (often above 14000 feet) was if you were being chased by something.  I never came face to face with the Yeti (mythical snowman), but if I did, I was fast and hoped to be able to out run him.  After reaching the Base camp of Everest at about 18000 feet, I came down the valley and I spent a week with Tibetan monks at the Thyanboche Monastery.  In between 4 hour sessions of meditation I would run or sometimes play basketball (yes, basketball…they are into it) with the monks. 

Liam toeing the line for his first triathlon back in October
My journey to the Ironman World Championship began by way of Nepal, and it continued with a 5 year adventure that led to an Ironman in Canada, trekking and hiking in the Andes of South American, swim training in Lake Titicaca in Peru, hiking and mountain biking in the jungles of Thailand, 5am 3hour runs through Bangkok, Saigon, Tokyo, more running and swimming in the jungles of Vietnam.  I was a different type of tourist – the active traveler type. 

Liam running his way into 3rd place in his second triathlon a few weeks ago
After 5 years of pretty dedicated training I got the ticket - an entry into the main event, the Hawaiian Ironman World Championship in October of 1999.  I had already finished the Canadian Ironman in 1996 so I knew what to expect – it’s a long day. My goal for this Ironman was to finish in around 10 hours.  I was on pace to beat my goal, but 16 miles into the run with 10 miles to go I started to get leg cramps.  Every time I tried to run, my legs would seize up.  I ended up walking the last 10 miles of the race and finished in 12 hours.  I crossed the finish line and just like that my journey – that part of my life was over.

Aidan bringing it home in Saint Laurent du Var
I never really thought too much about triathlon again, that is, until this past fall when the boys decided that they wanted to give it a try. In September, Aidan and Liam and a few of their friends signed up for an Ironkids event in Aix en Provence.  The event was a swim/run aquathlon, not a full triathlon, but enough to give the boys the bug to want to do more.  We started to look around and found a real triathlon in Le Lavandou for the boys to do at the end of the season in October.  Both Aidan and Liam had a blast in their first event.  Both are excellent swimmers, strong bikers, and the two have a great run with a kick finish.  Roan couldn't participate last year because he needed to work on his swimming, and much to his credit he joined a swim club over the winter to be able toe the line this spring.

Roan - proud triathlon veteran

The winter and early spring schedule was filled with cyclocross racing, mountain bike racing, Swim meets and of course lots of road bike racing, but I think everyone was counting the days to the first triathlon of the year.  We chose a triathlon in Saint Laurent du Var on the 26th of May. And, wow, everyone had a ton of fun in the Cote d'Azur.  Little Roan, who is now 8 years old, powered his way through his first triathlon.  Aidan had a great bike split and run and ended up 6th or 7th in his division.  Liam had the fastest bike split of all the categories and finished 3rd place overall despite losing his shoe briefly in the transition!

Liam picking up some hardware in the Cote D'Azur
It is great to see the boys develop a passion for new sports, and I get to discover triathlon all over again as a father/coach and perhaps participant.  Its hard to stand on the side lines. I have a feeling I’ll be jumping into a few of those tri’s, as well, one of these days....

The Flanagan "tri" brothers

Live Strong, Train Safe and Live Well

This is Bill, Liam, Aidan and Roan signing out

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Science of Speed Part 3 – Training: an Interview with Benjamin King

Ben King laying it down during the Mont Saint-Clair Time Trial  (Photo RSLT)

Benjamin King (Radio Shack Leopard Trek) is a professional cyclist who is now in his third year of racing in the elite World Tour ranks.  Over the years, we have gotten to know Ben pretty well and we have nothing but respect for his work ethic. At the core is a commitment and dedication to his team, the sport of cycling, and the greater global community.  Ben has done some pretty incredible things both on and off the bike.  In 2010, at 21 years of age, Ben won the US National Pro Championship (the first rider under 23 years of age to do so).  In his first year as a professional, he won the best young rider competition at the 2011 Tour of Beijing. During the off-season you won't find Ben on the couch.  He spends his fall breaks volunteering his time for mission-based charities in Mexico and Central America.  Ben has a long term approach to his life and training which has turned this Virginia native into not only one of the strongest cyclists on the planet, but also a humanitarian who is out there making a real difference in people's lives.


Last 100 meters of the Tour Med TT

Back in the beginning of February, Liam and I made the trip down to Cap D’Agde for the 2013 Tour Mediterranean Time Trial.  Ben was racing the Tour and we wanted the chance to get to see him in action.  It was a very cold and windy day and the finish was at the top of a killer 2k climb up Mont Saint-Clair with sections over 19% grade.  It was so windy, in fact, that Liam almost got blown off his bike a few times as we rode the 24k point to point circuit in the morning just before the pros.  Coming that early in the season, it was a tough time trial course to race.  Ben’s performance was fantastic.  He finished inside the top 20 in 17th place.  It was amazing to watch Ben fly up the mountain and incredible how deep he was going into “the pain cave” pulling off that effort.  It was too cold at the top of the mountain to catch-up so Ben invited us down to the team hotel at the base of the climb for a coffee after the race.  Back at the hotel over coffee and hot chocolate, we talked about the day’s race, the upcoming season, the off-season, and how training was going so far.  It was really fascinating stuff - we wanted to know more, but it was getting late.  Ben had things to take care of (he was two days and 171k into a five day 700k stage race) and we had to ride back to the car in the cold and wind before it got dark. 


Ben and Liam post race

As we started preparing this Science of Speed training segment, we thought back to that day in February.  We e-mailed back and forth, and, true to style, Ben was willing to graciously share his knowledge and experience for the blog project.

The Interview:  
1) FatherSonTour - When we sat down for coffee after the Mont Saint-Clair TT during the Tour de Med, you had mentioned that your year is broken down into different training periods.  Can you walk us through your calendar year so that we can get a better insight into how it is structured from a perspective of training and conditioning?

Ben King - The training period is broken down into different periods to build on itself. We lay the endurance foundation with long miles in the winter and do some rides throughout the year to maintain that.  After that, we introduce more intensity and shorter intervals.  Races also increase fitness, and there are periods of the season when it's just "race, recover, race."  Before target events, we'll taper down the weekly hours to around 70% of our weekly averages. 

2) FST - Over the years you have been a part of several different cycling programs, at both the developmental and professional levels - Hot Tubes, Kelly Benefit Strategies, Trek-LiveSTRONG, and the different Radio Shack teams.  What have been your most useful training take-aways from these various programs?

BK - I have had to learn the same lessons repeatedly at each level of the sport.  My first year as a junior, I got my head kicked in, so [I] buckled down that winter, and built the fitness to regain confidence.  I only spent one year on KBS/Medifast racing mostly criteriums.  I improved my pack skills and learned to go all-in for the team, but I felt that to reach the next level, I belonged in Europe. On Trek-LiveSTRONG I always did my job for the team, but was lacking the confidence and/or fitness to read a race and take advantage of my own opportunities.  I trained like a maniac that winter and 2010 was my "breakout" season that launched me to the WorldTour.  On RSLT I have improved each year and served the team well, but recognize that I still have some adjusting and developing to do before I realize my full potential.  One of my coaches, Jim Miller, always tells me "trust in the process."  That has become one of my mottos.  It isn't about instant satisfaction.  It's about hard work, commitment, and determination.

3) FST - That’s some pretty sound advice.  USA Cycling coach Jim Miller lives in Colorado Springs, and you are based in Lucca, Italy.  With that much distance between you, how does that training/coaching relationship function?

BK - This year I have begun to work with one of our team trainers who is more directly involved with me throughout the season.  However, Jim continues to be a mentor and follows my training via the files that I upload to the internet.  I owe Jim a part of all the success I have enjoyed in cycling so far.

4) FST - Over the last two years we have followed along as you post many of your rides throughout the season on Strava.  You have done some pretty wild training and racing all over the world.  Is there any one ride that stands out and captures the spirit of what you love about cycling?

BK - Home sweet home:  http://app.strava.com/activities/519321. This is one of my favorite big laps.

FST - *Note:  It somehow comes as no surprise that, even after all his travels, Ben’s favorite ride is a 100 mile loop with 3600 meters of climbing not in the Dolomites or the French Alps, but in the hills around his home town of North Garden, Virginia.

5) FST - Since we are covering the "Science of Speed" -- if you had to choose one, what would be the single most important workout for increasing your bike speed.

BK - That's a trick question!  See number 2.  It's a process, and there is no magic.  Get stronger, get faster.  Get more aerodynamic, get faster.  Get lighter, get faster.  Shorter intensity workouts show quicker returns, like 1 minute on, 1 minute off, or 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off, 4x4minutes...  All of these spike your power when you've laid the foundation.

6) FST - This past fall you spent time in Mexico volunteering for a project helping communities in need.  You built homes for two families in Tijuana, Mexico.  It doesn't sound exactly like what most people consider to be "down time," however, when we talked with you about the experience it was clearly a source of inspiration and strength.  Can we link the great article you wrote for VeloNews about the experience? 

BK - Sure http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/01/rider-diaries/ben-king-journal-changing-their-lives-and-our-in-tijuana_272548  

FST - Thanks so much for sharing your approach to training with us.  Good luck in the upcoming Tour of California.  As always, we will be cheering for you! 

So, there it is, straight from Ben King.  When it comes to training, there are no short cuts.  Only hard work, determination, and commitment and, above all, having the faith and patience to trust in the process.  Oh, and those 40/20s can't hurt either....

Live Strong, Train Safe and Live Well!

This is Bill and Liam signing out.