I like cycling. Each year when the Tour de France comes on television, I watch in awe and imagine what it would be like to be one of those elite riders, doing time trials and attacking hills day after day.
This year, thanks to my good friend Rick, I found a cycling tour that, though not a race, lets me feel a little bit of what I imagine.
Picture it – 2,000 riders with seven days to ride through southern Oregon and northern California – a total of up to 437.8 miles (705 kilometres) with a cumulative elevation gain of 28,292 feet (8,596 metres). That means long days and lots of big hills to attack.
The mind boggles.
A small group of Yukoners, four riders and one support person, met up in Medford, Oregon, adding two Irishmen and a northern Californian to our team. The other 1,995 riders were from 40 states and 10 countries around the world.
The temperatures remained in the high 20s and low 30s all week. We were back in summer and riding through some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen.
The route changes every year, but this year we rode through the Klamath and Rogue river valleys, over backwoods secondary road passes and rolling hills flanked by vineyards and farmers’ fields.
The beauty of Cycle Oregon is that you don’t have to be a Superman to ride.
As one of the signs halfway up a big hill, on the first day, said, “This is not a race. It is a ride.”
Sure, there were keeners that started their days at 6:30 in the morning and finished four or five hours later, around lunchtime, but there were also dawdlers like me that started riding around 8 or 9 a.m., taking until supper time to complete the course, and those that rode what they could, taking advantage of the ever present SAG vans, to drive them to camp or to assist them in conquering the bigger hills.
Each night, we would arrive at our destination and become part of a very well-organized tent and RV city, complete with hot showers, full dinner, beer garden, Ben and Jerry’s and local entertainment. A nicer large party would be hard to find, as long as you are OK with the party wind-down happening between 9 and 10 p.m.
I have to confess that I did not complete the entire week’s course. After four days and 432 kilometres, with over 5,000 metres of uphill grinding, I was beat. I took two days off, treated myself to massages and wine-tasting tours (all organized by Cycle Oregon) and then finished my week with a short 68-kilometre last day.
Did I just say “short 68-kilometre last day”? Surprisingly, that’s how it felt arriving back in Medford right around lunch time.
If you think you might want to join in for the ride next September, check out the organization’s website at www.cycleoregon.com. Registration happens in February and the ride is sold out within a week. Riding Cycle Oregon again is definitely on my list.