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This is a guest post written by Helen Russell – Helen is a Great Britain age-group triathlete. She is a former age-group World and European Duathlon champion and European Triathlon champion. You can follow Helen’s preparations for Le Tour One Day Ahead at @helengoth and in her series of blogs for SportsCover Direct.
“If you knew how bad the journey would be would you have come on this trip?” This was the question that my travel companion asked me after travelling nearly thirty hours to reach the One Day Ahead training camp in Aspen, Colorado. My answer was “Probably not”. Now a few days into the camp my answer is, “You bet I would!”
As a member of Le Tour-One Day Ahead team, I was excited to meet the other members, do some altitude training and also some media work to raise awareness of the charity challenge, which will see twelve amateur and recreational cyclists ride the whole route of this year’s Tour de France one day ahead of the professional peloton to raise funds for Cure Leukaemia.
However, the trip didn’t get off to the best start as the journey from London to Aspen was incredibly long and fraught. Due to a delay leaving Heathrow my travel companion and I missed our connection in Dallas and had to wait for the next available flight to Denver. From Denver, we still had a four-hour drive through the Colorado Mountains to reach Aspen. At least I knew that by being insured by SportsCover Direct if anything went wrong then it would be rectified. By the time we eventually reached Aspen we were shattered and questioning whether we had made the right decision to travel. However, all that changed the following morning.
After a big American breakfast of pancakes and maple syrup, we set off to collect our hire bikes and then hit the mountain roads in the White River National Forest. The team tackled the two climbs of Maroon and Castel Creek and were treated to the stunning scenery of snow-capped mountains, alpine lakes and even marmots! Some members found it hard going due to the effects of the long journey and the altitude but luckily apart from a headache I felt OK.
The following day would be a mixture of the surreal and breath-taking. In order to raise the profile of One Day Ahead and increase fundraising possibilities, the organiser, former England footballer and cancer survivor had persuaded Lance Armstrong to cycle some stages of Le Tour with us. As part of the media and fundraising work Lance invited the team to train with him for the weekend.
Cycling up to Lance’s house to meet him for the first time was very strange and of course, we were all a bit nervous about whether we would be able to keep up with him! Lance tried to reassure us that he would take it easy with us as he hadn’t been out on the bike for months. This didn’t really reassure anyone! The first half of the ride was actually easy with the wind behind us, however, all that would change as we headed up the incline toward the ski resort of Aspen Snowmass. Lance warned us that there was a hard section approaching and you know that if a former pro tells you that it is going to be hard then it’s time to worry! Not surprisingly the section wasn’t just hard but for some of us impossible. A long stretch of gravel path at an incline of over 20 per cent meant that some of us (myself included) lost traction and had to walk!
The Sunday would turn out to be a long ride but at least this time it was all going to be on asphalt. We headed out with Lance and some local riders onto the cycle path towards the resort of Basalt and then along the Frying Pan River Road to the summit of Gyp Hill. The return journey was via Woody Creek Tavern, a saloon that was a regular haunt of Hunter S. Thompson, the author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Luckily after overloading on burritos, apple crumble and root beer floats we only had ten miles until we reached Aspen. This marked the end of the weekend training camp for some team members but I was lucky to be able to stay for a whole week and so was able to enjoy some more rides including the Rio Grande Trail, the former Aspen Branch of the historic Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad and the twenty-mile climb to Independence Pass at 12,095 feet knowing that by being insured by SportsCover Direct I could have peace of mind about cycling in the States.