This July, in partnership with peloton magazine and on behalf of Bikes Belong, we're going back to France with six female amateurs intent on writing a new chapter in the annals of women's cycling. The Rêve women's team will ride the complete 2012 Tour de France route, proving to themselves, other female cyclists, and women thinking about taking up the sport, that any bicycle dream is possible. In true Rêve fashion they'll ride one day ahead of the men's Tour, stay in the same spartan hotels and endure the unrelenting grind of daily transfers that define the three-week journey around France. Every training mile and every kilometer in France will be pedaled in support of Bikes Belong. Bikes Belong is a national coalition of bicycle retailers and suppliers working to make cycling safer and more accessible for women. We aim to make a significant contribution to that purpose.
In support of this effort they'll be equipped with the most advanced women's specific product available. They'll ride Cannondale's elite SuperSix Women's bicycles. The women's SuperSix shares the racing heritage of the SuperSix line that carried Team Liquigas/Cannondale to victory in the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a'España. Light, responsive and comfortable, it's the ideal bike for this unprecedented Grand Tour attempt.
The Women's SuperSix will feature the advanced ergonomics of FSA components, the latest SRAM Red with Quarq power meters (we hope to share the data), and in the mountains, we'll have the advantage of SRAM's WiFLi climbing gearing (11-32 cassette and mid-cage derailleur). Understanding that no bike component is more important or personal than your choice of saddle the team will have the full benefit of Fizik women's-specific technology under them.
Giro will keep the team safe and cool in Aeon helmets and connected to the pedals with the high-performance Factress road shoe featuring Easton's EC90 carbon outsole. And on the biggest climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees the girls will appreciate the minimalist feel of Giro's new LTZ (Less Than Zero) glove.
With the support of Strava, you can follow the team every step of the way through their training and then analyze daily data feeds from every stage in France. We hope to announce more details soon on how you can support the team through Strava on our team page.
Five of our six riders are selected and training. We expect the final spot to be filled before March 7th. In the weeks ahead we'll share the background stories and motivations of these six women but for now let's briefly introduce the two riders pictured above. Portland's Heidi Swift (dark kit) is a regular contributor to peloton magazine and a force to be reckoned with on and off the bike. It was her immediate enthusiasm for the Rêve project that set this women's adventure in motion. Heidi is a wonderful writer with a descriptive gift for uncovering the inner dialog between rider and bicycle but she never seems to miss the beauty of the landscape that surrounds her. Heidi passionately races cross and road in and around her hometown of Portland Oregon. Swift knows and is known by just about everyone pedaling there and often writes about the magical Sicilian kitchen of her boyfriend Sal's family. Expect this summer's story in the September issue of peloton to be something very special.
Kym Fant (white kit) is co-owner of Norcal Bike Sport and Bike Peddlar stores in Santa Rosa California with her husband Glenn. Though Kym's first love is mountain biking – she's competed in a number of 24-hour races as well as adventure racing in the Eco-Challenge – she's become an accomplished road rider who's no stranger to industry photo shoots (I can attest that she never seems to blink). My photo of Kym riding the Cannondale Women's SuperSix is on the cover of the March issue of Bicycling. Kym and Glenn have a young son fittingly named Axl, and somehow she's able to juggle family and riding with a busy career in Managed Markets for a major pharmaceutical company. Luckily her work regularly takes her to Portland where she can ride with teammates Heidi, and Jennifer. We'll have more to say about Jennifer and Susan in the next installment.
A flat stage under a baking sun seemed to drain everyone. The appearance of water melon was all that was needed to turn a routine afternoon stop into a 20-minute power nap. Throughout the tour I was constantly amazed how quickly the guys would recover after one of these brief roadside siestas.
With all the miles our riders will log before and during a grand tour, we're thrilled to announce our partnership with Strava. Strava's online service is the perfect place to record, analyze and share ride data from your GPS bike computer and power meter.
The Strava community directly addresses one of our team's biggest challenges which is to introduce teammates to each other long before they get together for a welcome dinner or roll out on Stage 1 of a grand tour. We know riders will bond almost immediately when the kilometres begin, but Strava's cycling club feature will encourage those friendships and training connections to begin early, and connect riders all over the globe training towards a common dream.
Best of all Strava is created for passionate cyclists by passionate cyclists. They log their own rides in the system which ensures the features and insights will keep coming at a healthy pace. We're happy that Strava will extend a free one-year subscription to our confirmed riders.
Whether you're going to join us in France this July or you're aiming for a future tour we encourage you to check out the service and join the Rêve Grand Tour Club on Strava.
Wilfred is back from leading his epic mountain bike trip through Patagonia. The group did a lot of camping which meant extra cooking duty for Wil but he still managed to put 2400 km in his legs. Looking very fit and feeling great he's probably in shape to tackle this summer's tour, which would certainly increase the number of photos we have of the man behind the scenes. Speaking of pictures, thanks to Jan Willem for use of some great images from the South American adventure.
On this day Wilfred found a pizzeria in the corner of a deserted village square. While some of the riders hung their bibs to dry under the broiling sun and changed into shorts and T-shirts, Pepijn donned a decidedly non-aero Sombrero he found hanging in the bar and Michiel, well he found a strange tandem apron to test drive.
Among the many things to love about France, bread... fresh, golden, crusty and sweet, sits near the top of the list. While we waited for the de rigueur bowls of pasta to arrive the innkeeper brought us an armload of warm baguettes. You can be assured of two things while riding through France, all but the tiniest of French towns will have a church and a bakery. Were it up to me, and I could only have one, I'd choose bread over religion. I believe the French might make the same choice.
When a wheel breaks out in the middle of nowhere and the van with a replacement is miles up the road what are you going to do. In our case the team decides to go swimming in a nearby stream while they wait. Nothing like a cold dip to help tired legs.
After twenty minutes of splashing about they climbed back up to their bikes, dried themselves in the sun then pulled on their kits to the enthusiastic cheers from passing cars.
By the time I'd unpacked my camera gear, started batteries charging, fired up the laptop and got the first card transferring there was usually bike wash action in the parking lot below my window. I've got to give the team credit for looking after their machines even at the end of some very long days in the saddle. Soapy water and a bit of old towel made quick work of the frame, then it was time to inspect tires for anything sharp that might lead to a flat early in the next stage. Nothing worse than flatting in the first hour.
The boys took full advantage of the recovery tights we received from Ben at SKINS. I think the board shorts over camo was the favorite look, and from what I hear an improvement over the euro-pro habit of walking around the hotel in undies.
The stage from Cambrai to Reams was hot and relatively flat. With the prospect of lunch hovering 30 km up the road, Jasper was leading a tight paceline up a small hill through the shimmering heat. Riders and bikes seemed suspended in air as they crested the rise.
Given that I joined the project as team photographer in May, there were a handful of nights were I couldn't stay in the same hotel as the riders. So it was that I spent the night between stages two and three at the beautiful Domaine Du Chateau De La Neuville Hôtel. It sits on a lovely parcel of land complete with pond, geese, swans and sheep a mere 400 metres from a nuclear power station and its giant cooling towers. My room faced away from the plant. As the morning light filtered into my room overlooking a timeless pastoral scene it was hard to imagine the modern world loomed so close.
Later that afternoon it would be the ancient cobbles before Arenberg that exacted a toll on tired bodies as the team skirted the lumbering and rattling campers which seemed to appear like mushrooms every afternoon around 3 pm. On this section Matthias and Michiel deliberately eschewed the shoulders in favor of a more direct line through the pave.
This was a surprise. We came upon this amazing sculpture of Eddy Merckx emerging from a huge slab of rock in the forest shade at the top of the Col du Stockeu. In one of the rare departures from the exact stage route our team had to descend the equally steep Route de Somagne into the town of Stavelot because the Trophée des Petits Patelins was staging a race on the Stockeu. Between the Merckx statue and the fleet of sleek gravity racers, it was a very surreal scene.