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10 Reasons I’m Excited About France Camp

July 5th, 2011

I’m headed across the pond today to prepare for my cycling camp in France.  Most Julys I take a small group of people to a beautiful and quaint Chalet in the French Alps.  It’s a very special time for me – mainly because I get to do my most favorite thing in the whole world – ride my bike, and on some of the best cycling roads in the world.  There’s also that Tour de France thing which happens to roll right past the Chalet door this year.  And I’ve brought my father, brother, and best friend along for the ride, which makes the trip even more special.  It’s kind of sad too, because I’ll be away from my beautiful and wonderful wife and my favorite children for a couple weeks.  Thanks to Skype and Facetime, we’ll be able to stay in (relatively) close contact – so we have that going for us.

As I sit here on the first leg of our journey (Tucson to Dallas) a few things occur to me: I miss my family already; I can’t wait to show my campers, and my father, brother and friend the place I spent many summers training and racing as a triathlete; and the woman sitting in front of me has enough perfume on to last her lifetime. 

So to kick off France Camp (not to be confused with Band Camp), here is a list of the top 10 reasons I’m excited about this trip:

1. Descending l’Alpe d’Huez: Yes, climbing the 21 switchbacks that define Alpe d’Huez is epic and special, but descending them is a helluva lot more fun.  Our Chalet is 3km from the village of Huez, which is 3km from the summit of Alpe d’Huez.  By the end of the camp, we’ll all be on a first-name basis with each of the 21 turns.  I may attempt the record – for the descent, of course.

2. Cheese: I love cheese, and France has some of the best. 

3. Wine: I’m not a big wine drinker, but it’s fun to sample the local vineyards and act like an aficionado: fruity (duh) with chamois overtones and a velvety mouth feel.

4. French people: the people of the Oisans region are some of the nicest and most hospitable people I’ve ever met.  And they humor my feeble attempts to parlay voo fransays.

5. French vehicles and the Auto Route: Driving rental cars recklessly (semi, now that I have a wife and kids) is one of my hobbies.  I love to drive fast and I love to drive on twisty one-lane roads perched on the side of a cliff.

6. Cool mountain air: I live in Tucson.  We have mountains and we have air, but we rarely have cool mountain air – especially in the summer.  There’s nothing like traveling from the blast-furnace that is Tucson in July, to the cool thin air of the Alps.  And there’s nothing like sleeping under a heavy down comforter, with the window open.

7. Sharing great cycling routes, sites/scenery, and culture: One of my favorite things in the whole world is showing people great cycling routes, and it’s pretty close to nirvana here – especially if you like climbing and/or descending.  Campers will leave France with memories, images, and perspective that will last a lifetime. 
8. Bocce Ball: As an Italian, I’ve spent many hours playing bocce ball with family and friends.  As a child, I remember my father’s family playing spirited matches of bocce ball for hours.  It was super fun, but also serious business (in a sporting sense, of course).  It turns out the French – especially those in our village, also love their bocce ball (petanque or boules, in french), and they’re very good at it.  I brought along a ringer this year (Dad) – so we may have a little something for the Frenchies this year.
9. Culture: I love the old churches and buildings, the farmer’s markets, art – things that are in the States, but hidden more than in France.  It’s cool to ride 5 hours in any direction and see few apparent signs of modernism. 

10. Le Tour de France: I can’t wait to walk 3km from the Chalet and stand in Huez, on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez with 1 million other cycling fans and watch the greatest bike racers on Earth climb the most famous road in cycling.  It’s also cool to compare their times up the climb to our times.  Theirs will be a little bit faster.

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