We had all been looking forward to March 11th at chez Flanagan. This was the day the time trial (TT) for Stage 6 of the Paris-Nice professional cycling race was going to be in Aix-En-Provence. Aix is a Provencial town which is about a 25 minute drive from our house in Auriol. The TT would be a 27k (17 mile) point to point course from the small town of Rognes to just outside the city limits of Aix . The area is beautiful with rolling vineyards and chateaux throughout the countryside. We were familiar with the area because we had done some riding here in the fall with Rémi Pauriol, who is a French professional rider and the mentor of the Aubagne cycling club. The boys were very excited because Rémi was leading the King of the Mountains (polka dot jersey) competition in the race. We were also really excited to see our friend Levi Leipheimer who is a professional rider on the Radio Shack Team.
Planning the AM ride of the time trial course in Aix
Now that we live in France, the boys live and breathe cycling, so this day was a huge deal. You could feel the energy in the house pickup as the day approached. Race day the boys were up at 6:00 am. Why is it that, when it is a school day, it's nearly impossible to get the kids out of bed, but when there is no school the boys are up sometimes as early as 5:30 in the morning? This morning saw us all up and dressed in cycling gear and studying a map of Provence in order to get an idea of the layout of the day's time trial course. Our plan was to go to the start, ride the TT course, return to the start to see the riders warming up, and then catch the final riders come in at the finish.
All three Flanagan brothers are now in the action.
In the past, Liam was the only Flanagan brother with the skills to do this type of adventure. All that has changed in the last 6 months. Aidan (8) and Roan (6) are now racing every weekend and going to cycle club practice several times a week. In fact, Roan Flanagan is currently winning the champion of Provence race series in his division. There was no way that the younger boys were going to be left out of the Paris-Nice adventure. With all the Flanagan boys now in the action, FatherSonTour is undergoing a bit of re-tooling and starting to become "Father and Sons Tour."
Great catching up with Levi Leipheimer
Levi, thanks for the Team Radio Shack hats!
Great atmosphere at the Shack bus
Logistically, the adventure and blog become a little more challenging with all three boys involved. We needed to plan what section of the course, or in this case the entire course, that we would ride. For a few days, we had been studying the race route and profile. Safety, as always, was the main concern. It was decided that we all would start the TT course together, and Tavi, my wife, would drive the car behind the group. The plan was for Roan to get in the car after 10k, and for Aidan to get in the car after 20k. Liam would be riding the entire course with me. This was a point to point course so, after riding the course we wanted to return to the start in Rognes to be able to see the riders warming up and catch some of their starts. We would also need to fit lunch for 5 somewhere into the equation. Finally, we wanted to go back to the finish to catch the last riders come in. It sounds like a pretty straight forward plan, but, if you have ever been around three boys aged 6 through 10, you know that things are not always as easily done as they seem.
Blending in with fellow French spectators
Peter Sagan's bad road rash from stage 2, ouch.
The day at Paris-Nice went very, very well. We rode the course, which was a little tougher than what the profile was showing. The second half was very hilly and there was quite a headwind. Roan and Aidan both had great rides, and Liam, as usual, was hammering. After the ride, we got back to the start and had a French style picnic. At the team buses we were able to catch up with Levi Leipheimer. Levi took a few minutes to hang out with the boys and he gave us all really cool Team Radio Shack hats. We look forward to seeing Levi again at the Tour de France! Levi had a great time trial in Aix, and he will definitely be riding strong in July. We were able to watch many of the pros warm-up and take off at the starting gate. It is incredible how fast these guys can cover the distance.
Andreas Kloden roaring into the finish
Unfortunately, we were only able to make it back to the finish to see the last few riders come in. It is like that with cycling - if you want to see everything in the race you have to watch it on TV, but if you want to experience it on the ground (behind the scenes) you have to work for it. In person, you don't get to see everything, but you come away with a unique experience that you will always remember.
Rémi Pauriol in the best climber jersey
I will always remember this day as the day that all three boys really took part in the FatherSonTour adventure. Time passes and children grow up, but it is always nice to be able to freeze a moment in time.
This is Bill, Liam, Aidan, and Roan signing out.