Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Strength Profile - Kilimanjaro's Magic

You are really going to be excited about this ride. Not only is it challenging, with plenty of variety and opportunity to motivate your students, but the music selection marries beautifully with the theme of the ride, which is the magic of climbing Kilimanjaro.

My guest instructor today is Victoria Chavarria from Costa Rica. Victoria is a very passionate instructor - I hope to one day have the opportunity to ride as a participant in her class, because Costa Rica is high on my list of places I want to visit (hey! and maybe do a bicycle tour down there)!

Victoria told me, "I have this dream of visiting different mountains, and Africa has 2 of them, which is why I made a profile inspired on that dream." Well, she really did a fantastic job at it. 

Her description of choosing the music shows that she really puts thought into her playlists. She said, "I like to give them music they have never heard before because in that way they can't relate it with any other person, time, experience or thing other than what they are feeling in precisely that moment."

If you have the opportunity to find some of these songs, I think you will really be moved at how the music matches the intended purpose and theme of the ride. There are some magical moments in this playlist! Some lilting and soothing, some powerful and energetic, all of it rhythmic, as there are no shortage of drums in African music.

Or, as usual, you can take the clever profile and put your own music and objectives to it. However you do it, your students will appreciate the ride.

Monday, September 29, 2008

My second interview on a podcast!

The autographs and photos with the big guys at Interbike were cool, and the steal of a deal on Shimano custom-fit shoes, and the gobs of Sport Beans by Jelly Belly that I walked away with, and the goniometer I scored for free for proper bike fit (you guys are gonna love this - I'll write a full post on proper fit on an indoor bike later, and on how using a goniometer can simplify your life)... 

All these things were awesome.

But I was there to network, and seek contacts and vendors and potential partners for my bicycle tour company, specifically for the new product that I am developing (and seeking investors for), and basically to promote my bicycle tours.

In this area, I scored big time, which made the show a screaming success for me! David Bernstein, the creator of The Fredcast, a cycling podcast, was part of the panel on utilizing Web 2.0. We set up an interview on Friday where he asked me specifically about my current customized self-guided bike tours. Here is that interview.  I'm telling you, you cannot pay for that kind of PR! No amount of advertising can explain a business in the way an interview like this can. He interviews a lot of people at the show, so if you don't want to listen to it all, you can let it load, then go ahead to 36 minutes into the podcast, where my interview starts (it's only about 4-5 minutes). Actually the guy before me is from Hammer nutrition - it's pretty interesting, and there's someone who is passionate about his product.

And, if you're a cyclist, you may want to sign up for the weekly podcast to be streamed right into your iTunes. You can find that link on his website.

He also told me he would like to interview me again when I get the new product up and running - this product will be perfect for his demographic. 

I also met up with Ed Pavelka of roadbikerider.com, who is urging me to finish my ebook on Using Indoor Cycling to Train for Outdoor Riding, because they plan to sell it on their site. My hope is to have it completed by end of October (otherwise I'll miss out on the best selling season). That's a tall order - if you think I'm busy now...just wait! 

Ed is a great guy, and honestly just loves the cycling world. If you're a roadie (or wannabe) and you don't get their weekly newsletter, you should be!

I spoke to a lot of companies about selling their products either directly (retailing them) or indirectly (through affiliate relationships) - things my bike tour clients will need, like bicycle cases for transporting their bikes, handlebar bags, Garmin Edge cycling computers with GPS, gear, clothing, books, etc...

Now I've just got to hire someone to help me build this part of the business. Retail is not me - I want to be out there creating the tours and blogging about it, and riding in France with my clients!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Who I met at Interbike

I saw Frank from my local bike shop (LBS) at the airport in Las Vegas on Tuesday and we shared a cab to the hotel. He's been a longtime attendee so he gave me some tips for my first Interbike experience. I asked how to get to the Sands Convention Center and after describing the circuitous route through several casinos, he said, "Basically, just follow the shaved legs!"

And sure enough, the next morning, I had a few of those to follow, as well as some bikes being wheeled over (they had to wheel them through several casinos). This group of mostly shaved legs made for a good photo op, but they aren't nearly as shapely as some of the other ones I saw. Some good eye-candy there (if you're into well-defined legs)!

But I could have also followed the all-body tattoos, because Interbike is a lot more than just roadies - you got your mountain bike culture, MBX, fixies, cross bikes, cruisers, electric bikes, commuters (a massive growing segment due to high gas prices), children's bikes, etc. It's a huge retailer's event (your LBS was probably there) and this picture below gives just one view of one tiny corner of the floor.  

And there's a lot of PR going on at the show. I was able to get a few autographs and photos (ok, I'm a self-proclaimed cycling geek), here's a few:

Christian Vande Velde (or VdV as his coach calls him) - a big name from this past Tour de France on Team Garmin Chipotle, with several yellow jerseys to his name.

Tyler Hamilton, team Rock Racing. Tyler's looking a bit haggard, but he just won the Road Racing Championship. His team's a little, uh, unconventional. But really, the nicest pro-rider I talked to, a fellow Coloradan, so we talked about our favorite rides. He was just in Vail last weekend for a PR event (when I was down riding near Boulder, his home town).

Notice my Alpe d'Huez t-shirt as I stand next to George Hincapie, from Team Colombia! For many years he was Lance's chief lieutenant on US Postal and Discovery teams. I always thought he kinda looks like a chimpanzee (a cute one), and it's even more evident in person. He's always been one of my favorite pro riders. Last year at the tour, I had one goal at a particular stage - to get a photo of George at the food zone grabbing his bag. Check out the awesome photo I got of George!

And yes, of course, Lance was there. I happened upon this opportunity by accident. I walked by a big line wrapping around the Oakley booth, and asked what it was about. When I heard it was Lance, I got in line, and soon they came out with wrist bands to give to those in line - they only gave out 200 and Lance would only sign those and then he was done. I was towards the end of the 200 they handed out!

One of my favorite people I met, Fatty of Fatcyclist.com. Such a kind, down-to-earth, laid-back, funny, humble human being! He was there to take part in a panel on using Web 2.0 (the next phase of the internet, such as blogs, podcasts, videos, social networking, etc). I even got a Fat Cyclist t-shirt for me and my husband. He said he'll do what he can to promote my tours with links! And with his readership, that can be a great thing!

I saw Greg Lemond and went to talk to him (he didn't have huge lines waiting for him). I stood in front of him and said, "Greg, do you remember me?" He said I looked familiar but needed help... "Greg! 1999, Tour de France. I was a guide and soigneur on your tour to the Tour!" Of course, he remembered then, and we spent about 20 minutes reminiscing. That was an amazing opportunity - worthy of its own post (I'll have to dig out the photos and scan them). Let's just say, Greg Lemond likes to party, and we all drank champagne one night at a hotel in Grenoble until 4 am, the day after we all climbed up Alpe d'Huez, where we had a helicopter take the clients from the top of ADH and fly them to the hotel in Grenoble so they didn't have to deal with the massive crowds. We, the guides, drove the bikes back in the vans. It's been 9 years, so I can't fault him for not remembering!

But, the current Greg Lemond is not my favorite person - I think he's doing more harm than good to cycling. He was practically a heckler at Lance's press conference at Interbike (which I missed). There seemed to be a lot of anti-Lemond sentiment at IB.

I also met Daniel Bernstein of the Fredcast, a cycling industry podcast. I wanted to see about the possibility of getting some exposure for my company on his podcast, and I explained to him my idea for the new do-it-yourself bicycle tour product and he loved the idea and wanted to interview me about it. But when I told him that that product is only in the development stage, he said maybe we should wait until it's ready and he'll interview me sometime next spring. I talked him into interviewing me about my current custom self-guided tours and we set up an interview for the last day. You guys can't imagine what great PR this is, and as soon as it's available, I'll be posting it here!

On the first day, I saw another long line and I thought, "who else's autograph can I get?" It was at the Shimano booth, and I found out they were actually selling their top-of-the-line custom heat-molded cycling shoe that retails for $350 for only $100! After an hour wait in line, I got both mountain and road shoes for $215 with tax - which would have cost me $700 plus tax! You had to schedule the custom fit for a later time so I had mine molded on Friday morning - very similar to getting a ski boot fit, and i can tell you, I've never had such a comfortable cycling shoe on my feet! It would have been a little excessive had I gotten ones for Spinning - instead I'll convert my Sidi's to my Spinning shoes and put the rest on eBay (used cycling shoes? You wouldn't believe what people buy on eBay!!) My husband is so jealous he can't stand it! 

So this trip was an absolute success in many ways!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Back from Interbike

Got home at midnight last night. I have plans to post some photos and tell some cool stories, such as I got interviewed on another podcast, this one for the cycling industry which is the absolute best PR one can hope for (for my bike tours), or the fact that I got Lance Armstrong's autograph (and other cyclists).

So this show was a fantastic success! But it's amazing how fatigued you can get from walking around on a trade-room floor, to over 1,000 vendors, stuck indoors, for 3 days. Today I was too exhausted to do much, although I made myself get out on my bike and enjoy the incredibly beautiful fall weather we're having (we're in full autumn foliage here in the Rockies). So tomorrow or Monday I'll post pictures, and later this week I have some more profiles and great indoor cycling tips.

BUT, I have to share a post from Fat Cyclist. I arranged to meet him at the show and attended a panel that he was a part of on using Web 2.0 (things link blogging, podcasts, video, social networking, etc). The bicycle industry as a whole is a little slow to adopt these tools, but those of us who are leading the way, well, the future looks really exciting!! (I count myself in that pack, although I haven't been as active on my cycling blog as this one - I've got to change that soon).

Anyway, here is Fatty and me at Interbike! Since he has such a huge readership, this is pretty exciting!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Interbike Trade Show

I will be heading to Las Vegas from Tuesday through Friday to Interbike, the largest bicycle industry trade show in North America. It's my first time to this event, so it will be a bit overwhelming (over 1,000 vendors). It's the place where they unveil all the exciting, fun new stuff in the industry. I only just recently decided to go, thinking it will be a great place to connect with the movers and shakers of the bicycle industry. Being that I have a great new concept for bicycle tour travel that may move and shake this industry, well, I think I need to be there!

My plan is to talk to anyone with a heart beat who might be potential vendors, affiliates, joint venture partners, marketing partners, etc, for my new business concept. It's a high-tech, online do-it-yourself self-guided concept for very affordable bicycle tours. I plan on changing this industry. And when I do, you'll be the first to hear about it! Until then...it's hush-hush because no one else is doing what I'm planing...yet. (In the meantime, I'll still do my regular bicycle tours).

One thing that will be quite fun is that I will meet with Elden, the Fat Cyclist. He's going to be on a social media panel for Web 2.0, a panel which will be discussing things like blogging, podcasting, Facebook, etc (all things I'm very into lately). I've made arrangements to meet up with Fatty and hope to bring home a Fatcyclist T-shirt!

I'm also going to meet up with the boys from roadbikerider.com, and hopefully a few other podcasters or online media organizations I've contacted.

So, wish me luck. I'll be pounding the concrete for 3 days, solo. Maybe someone will feel sorry for me and invite me to an industry party - I better pack my party clothes! ;-)

If I can find some time to post while there and bring you some of the details of this crazy event, I'll try if I'm not too exhausted. Or if I have to recover with a cosmopolitan by the poolside instead, I'm sure you'll understand!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming to bring you the latest news flash..........

Can I brag for a moment??

After  hemming and hawing about which new bike and which gearing I should get...I finally ordered my new bike a few weeks ago and I picked it up last Friday!

First, let me fess up. Some of you already know the story (desribed on Innercycling and my Facebook page), but around mid-summer I was returning from a bike ride with a personal training client (love those kind of training sessions), and was blabbing on my cell phone (about Spinning no less) as I pulled up to my house, pushed the garage door opener and proceeded to drive the car into the garage. Normally standard procedure...but with a bicycle on top of the car, it doesn't work too well. The bike went flying off the back, but not before dragging the dropouts of the fork along the roof of the car. That's not a good sound.

Now, when my husband did this same thing 7 years ago, his Giant bicycle exploded into 3 pieces and crumbled around the car. My Serotta, however, looked fine. There was no visible damage, and I thought I had been spared. When I took it for a ride the next day, there was a little catch in the headset as I turned. So I rode the 1/4 mile to my LBS, and upon closer inspection, Frank, the bike shop owner, showed me how the top tube was buckled where it met the headset, and the fork was splayed about 1/2" forward. We're talking barely visible. Being titanium, the frame was irreparable, and the carbon fork as well.

Thus began my search. The Serotta was almost 7 years old, and back then I paid a lot of money for it but never really loved it, if you know what I mean. But the replacement estimate floored me - I had no idea it was worth that much! My home owner's insurance covered all but $1,000, which still allowed me to get a brand spanking new kick-butt dream bicycle with top-of-the-line components (especially with the great deal Frank gave me)! Believe it or not, the Serotta was slated to be put on E-Bay the following week - I had only taken the photos the day before. In the meantime, I'd bought an interim very nice slightly used Orbea Onyx that would hold me over until could get the bike of my dreams next year. (As it turned out, it was a tiny bit too big for me).

Funny how the universe works! I'd been wondering this past year how to get a new bike! Jennifer Klau, a former Master Instructor for Spinning asked me if it was "intentional velo-cide", and I responded that it wasn't but that perhaps the subconscious did have something to do with it; maybe it was "involuntary velo-slaughter."

Well, here she is. She's the most beautiful shade of dark rosy pink, almost magenta, so I thought I'd wear my beautiful Spin Odyssey pink jersey on her maiden voyage.  
Carbon Orbea Diva, with full Dura-Ace components and Dura-Ace wheels, and compact gearing with a 12-28 in the back. (i.e. excellent gears for the big hills around here).

My Serotta only had a 27 in back and I always longed for just one more gear (or two or three), and was almost going to get a triple, but got talked out of it by a woman in the bike shop who was my age and said, "Jennifer, you and I will get triples when we're 80. I'll go ride with you and tell you how you're climbing and what you need to work on."

As it turns out, she works with Chris Carmichael (Lance Armstrong's longtime coach) so she is someone I'll listen to! (After I ride with her, I'll post about it here!)
The maiden voyage was up Bachelor Gulch, my local litmus test for not only my fitness, but also where I've test ridden any bike or gearing I'd been considering. 5 miles of consistent climbing with no break, an average grade of about 8% and easily 13% in parts. Steeeeeeeep. When I know I'm going to ride Alpe d'Huez or another big col in France, this is the one I train on.

My fastest recorded time on my Serotta was 57-ish minutes (although I may have done it faster when I wasn't timing it). A few weeks ago, on a borrowed Orbea with only a 25 in the back, I did in 54 minutes. That one hurt (I had to stand up a lot due to the lower gearing).

On Saturday, I did it in 47:43 - mostly seated! I was shocked when I realized I was on the final switchback. Yes, I was over my threshold and breathing hard for much of it, but in no way did I realize I was going that fast. And the 28 low gear worked liked a dream - it was still challenging, but my cadence didn't drop to 50 rpm like it did with the 27.

[NB: The above photo is just at the top of the climb. Notice the snow on the mountains in the background - that had fallen the night before. Around here, winter is just around the corner]!

Was it the bike???

Or was it me (as Spin Bob from the forums suggested on my Facebook page)?

Maybe I shouldn't give the bike all the credit! Maybe it's those Spinning classes! ;-)

Anyways, I cannot wait to take this one over to France next year. I'm doing Alpe d'Huez for certain with my bike tours, so if you want to come join me, email me! 

And if you know anyone looking for a fabulous used bike, I will be putting that interim Orbea Onyx on E-Bay and/or Craig's List later this week. 51cm, Full Ultegra, 11-23 cogset (not good for these hills, unless you're a Cat 1 or 2 racer). Upgraded Full Speed Ahead wheels.  Note: Onyx's have long top tubes - my new 53cm Diva has a slightly shorter top tube than this 51cm Onyx. Contact me for more info: jennifer@vivatravels.com

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Blogging lesson for the Peanut Gallery

Web 2.0 is upon us faster and more furious than you can imagine. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then suffice it to say it's the next generation of the internet, and it's here and now and its BIG. The proliferation of social networking (like Facebook, MySpace), blogs, ebooks and podcasts and the use of video on the internet is all a part of it. Even the term 'viral' (how fast things spread on the internet) is a part of Web 2.0. 

(Speaking of Facebook, if you haven't already done so, come be my "friend")!

I joined this internet "revolution" this year with three blogs (but I only really maintain two now), several social networking pages, and an eBook on the way. And today I was interviewed by an indoor cycling podcast for an upcoming issue (more on that soon so you can listen to it when it's completed). And yes, I have lofty goals with my blogs.

For my cycling in Europe blog, the goal is to drive traffic to my bike tour website. This indoor cycling blog also partially serves that same purpose and I've gotten quite a few inquiries from readers around the world, which is pretty cool.  :-) 

My goal for Funhogspins is to be the #1 blog on the internet for indoor cycling. And that means having a high ranking with Google and Yahoo. A big goal, and you can help me out if you're willing.

But it seems I need to teach you guys, my readers, how to help me out...

One word: comment, comment, comment! 

I have to admit, getting you guys to leave comments is like pulling teeth! I don't think it's because you're not interested in the content, but perhaps you either don't know how, or don't realize the significance, or think it's more time consuming than it is. I get plenty of emails from people who love what they're reading, and for that I'm very grateful. But if it's not too much trouble, please leave a comment as well.

Why? There are many reasons: to get feedback from a wide-variety of instructors, to ask questions and so I can answer them and so everyone can benefit from them, to get your input, to find out if the content makes sense or is helpful or isn't helpful, to tell others about your experiences (as in my Moving Mountains ride), approval, disapproval, suggesting content, etc. And some people have left me great music suggestions, which helps you all out too.

But there's another reason. It's so you can help me with my SEO.

No, that's not an STD. It means Search Engine Optimization, and basically it means making it so Google and Yahoo and other search engines find my blog first, and so I end up in the top 3 when someone does a search (on say, 'Spinning profiles' or 'indoor cycling'). With good SEO, blogs often show up with a higher ranking than many websites. The search engines index all the material on the web, and rank the most 'optimized' ones at the top of the page. There are many ways to improve SEO, which I'm still learning about, things such as keywords in post titles, tags, repeating the post title in the text body, underlining and bolding, video, pings, linkbacks, etc. 

But the best way is to have lots of new content (which means posting often) and to have lots of comments. You see, Google looks at comments as new content, so the more the better.

Heck, some of the political blogs get many hundreds of comments! I look at other blogs, like Fatcyclist and BikesnobNYC and they get dozens, sometimes even a hundred comments per post. Now, I know I shouldn't compare myself to the two top cycling blogs on the internet...I have a long way to go (and besides, theirs aren't really "how to" blogs). But, I wonder - they had humble beginnings at one point. Did they have to teach their readers how to comment? I betcha they did in some way. 

So, if you like something I posted, if it helped you out, if it confuses you and you need clarification, or even if you just want to say "cool!", any comment is appreciated.  It doesn't have to be long. And disagreeing with me is ok too. Though all comments are moderated, I welcome difference of opinions. (Mean things I'll delete if it ever got to that point, because it's my prerogative, but dissension is fine. Here, BikesnobNYC talks about people who have left mean comments on his blog).

Another interesting thing about search engines and blogs is that each post is like its own URL. It's called a "permalink". If you click on the title of the post, the permalink will appear in your browser as its own web page, and then you can send that particular link to someone, even if it was written years ago. This also means that any comment on any post, no matter when it was written, will help with that page's SEO. For example, if someone types in "Strength Profile", my profiles tagged with Strength Profile that have lots of comments are more likely to get a high ranking. So if you go back, and find a profile you like that I posted months ago, feel free to leave a comment. I'll still see it, and so will anyone looking at that profile.

One last thing. Links also a very helpful for improving SEO. Do you have a blog or a webpage? If so, is there anyway to post a link on your site? If it's applicable of course - if your blog is about gardening or cooking, it may not be applicable (although profiles are like recipes, n'est ce pas)? If you have a blog that's mostly about IDC, I'd be happy to post a link here.

So, you can help me out by being a noisy, chatty peanut gallery and help me become 'viral'! 

Just don't throw tomatoes...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

In Remembrance of 9/11 and of Rene Davila

I know everyone has crystal clear vivid memories of exactly what they were doing on 9/11, as if they experienced it yesterday. Here is my story.

Seven years ago today, three of us had just finished a bike ride in Tuscany. We were scouting a new ride and writing the route notes for a bike tour that was scheduled to start the next day. I was a guide on the tour, and the other two were "clients" who paid half price if they helped out on the tour (carrying luggage, etc) as it was a fairly large sized group of 21 guests. One was my boyfriend Jeff (his first time in Europe) and the other was Eric, an architect from Vail who was good friends with Bill, the owner of the company. (This was a few years before I started my own bicycle tour company). Bill and his wife Barb were out scouting a different route that day.

Our ride was fantastic, meandering over rolling hills through olive groves, wineries and into several quintessentially Tuscan villages, and the weather couldn't have been nicer. Towards the finish of the ride, we stopped at a little bar to celebrate with some beers, in the little town near the B&B where we were staying. We later figured the first plane hit the tower just as we were toasting a wonderful week of cycling.

The actual road to the agriturismo (an Italian farm stay) was a rough dirt road so we had to walk the 1/2 mile to the inn. We weren't very far when Roberto, the owner of the inn, drove up behind us in his little Fiat, honking wildly and waving his arm out the window. "Wonder what's up?" we thought. He stopped, frantically repeating "Il torre sorrelli, il torre sorrelli," and I think I heard the word aeroplano. With my limited Italian, I knew sorrelli meant sister and torre meant tower...but none of this made sense. Roberto does speak a little English, but when one is agitated, it's hard to speak another language.

Jeff and Eric took my bike to walk it the rest of the way and suggested I go in the car with Roberto. Once there, we ran into the kitchen, and there crowded around the only television in the house (a very small TV at that) were 4 of the other guests and Marie-Sylvie, Roberto's wife. All had tears in their eyes and hands over their mouths as they watched in horror. A few minutes later, Jeff and Eric joined us and we watched as the second plane flew into the second tower. I remember our screams of disbelief as we watched the first tower crumble to the ground.

We were watching CNN but in Italian. It was a very surreal experience because we were trying to get them to translate, but their broken English and emotions hindered their ability to do so. I imagine there wasn't much explanation for the Americans who watched it live on TV back home as well, at least until well after the event. 

This was the kind of agriturismo where you eat dinner with the family, and Marie-Sylvie was in the middle of her preparations when everything started. At some point they had to shuttle us out of the kitchen so she could complete the meal. 

Dinner was sullen. We were all seated at a long table, with Roberto at one end and his wife at the other end. There were two other Americans staying there, and a Belgian and Dutch couple, and our group numbered five. We all offered our prayers and thoughts, but mostly dinner was silent. That night we didn't get much sleep. Jeff and I had actually placed an offer on a townhouse that was accepted after we had departed for Italy. Now we worried (like many Americans) that the economy would fall apart and wondered how we could manage the payments on a new home. (Thankfully that didn't turn out to be a problem).

Our tour? Well, every one of the clients had arrived a day early to enjoy Florence prior to the start of the tour, so there was no other choice but to continue as planned. We picked up our 21 guests on September 12th, and went to our first luxury hotel of the tour, a renovated castle in the heart of Chianti. Many in the group had children at home, so you can imagine their anxiety. But no one was going anywhere for awhile, since all flights to the US were cancelled, so we all agreed at that first dinner together that we had no choice but to enjoy the week and to make the most of it.

I must say that it turned into a fabulous and memorable week, not just the riding, the meals and the accommodation, but everywhere we went, when anyone found out we were American, there was an incredible outpouring of support and love. One hotel put a hand written note from the director of the hotel on every pillow, sharing his concern, and offering any help should it be needed. Storefronts posted signs saying, "To our American friends, our hearts go out to you." We got gentle pats on the back and sincere smiles of acknowledgment from waiters in restaurants. Some people asked us, often with teary eyes, if we knew anyone in New York who might have been there. 

Following the tour, everyone was thankfully able to take their scheduled flights back to the US. Jeff and I had 4 days together where we had planned to explore the region on our own before he had to fly back to work. I was scheduled to go on to Provence to lead a second tour with Bill and Barb. 

Jeff and I were able to get a room in a luxury boutique hotel that had previously been completely booked by a group of Americans that couldn't make it, at less than half price. I had been secretly hoping that he would use this time to propose to me...but under the circumstances it didn't seem like the right moment (he later told me). That day would arrive about 5 months later, after we had settled into our new home.

As I'm sure you all feel about your memories, this day will live vividly in my memory for the rest of my life. My second deepest regret and sorrow, aside from the horrific loss of life and pain that the families of the victims experience to this day, is the loss of respect and good will that our country has caused over the past 7 years through our military actions and snubbing of the international global community. We had an amazing opportunity to collaborate with our allies who truly felt sympathy for our nation and wanted to help us; but our government squandered it. I have returned to Europe almost every year since then, and have seen a growing doubt, concern and even disdain towards the US. NOT towards the American people, mind you - Italians and French still really do sincerely like Americans. But towards our government and its policies and its unilateral actions.

This is my dream and my prayer, that the next administration can work on healing these international wounds and stop acting like a tough playground bully, while also working to heal our own deep wounds as a nation, and take care of the policemen, firemen and other individuals who were the first to respond at this tragedy. Sadly, we have not.

LT Rene Davila was a NYFD medic who was a first responder at ground zero, and was an avid Spinning instructor, and very good friend of Johnny G. I remember his smiling face, infectious laughter and loving demeanor from many WSSCs, and enjoyed his company at a group dinner in NY a few years ago following ECANY. You can only imagine the horrors he saw and experienced on that morning seven years ago, and it continued to fester inside him. Rene suffered from PTSD and his happy demeanor was rarely seen the past two years, his depression had become so intense. 

Rene passed away this past March. His mental and physical health deteriorated over the past few years, and he was unable to work, yet he received very little care or support from the US government. His finances and his life crumbled around him. According to a post on Innercycling.com by an instructor who knew him, "...Rene was just as heroic as any Army/Police/Fireman who died in the line of duty. ... Every one of us should be ashamed of how he was treated by the very citizens he heroically served. We all need to listen carefully to politicians bellowing 'support the troops' rhetoric and hold them accountable."


Rene, today I am thinking of your smiling face on that Spinner bike!

Here is the farm-house agriturismo where we experienced 9/11. I will never forget their hospitality.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lance Armstrong returns to race another Tour de France

After a few days of viral rumors, Lance Armstrong announced that the rumors were indeed true, that he wanted to make a comeback to racing and win an eighth Tour de France (along with racing several other races next year).

Now, as the owner of a bicycle tour company, one that takes people to ride part of and experience the Tour de France, I was elated to hear this news! Once Lance disappeared from the cycling scene, my inquiries for my TDF tours took a nosedive, and I think this could bring a lot more people back to France. The above photo I took on the Col de la Croix Fry in 2004, when his key domestique was Floyd Landis (in front) and his two biggest rivals, Ulrich and Basso were salivating right behind him on the climb. We were 1 km from the top of the climb in this photo, and Lance took off and won the stage not far after the descent from this mountain.

But aside from my ulterior, purely business motives, the other part of me was thinking that I'm not so sure it would be a good idea for him to un-retire. I mean, there are a lot of people waiting to re-unleash their doping accusations of him. The fact remains that of the last 2 Tours that he won, many of the racers who placed 2nd through 10th are gone, ejected from cycling from failed doping tests. Landis, Basso, Ulrich, Vinokourov, etc. The fact that lance never failed a doping test hasn't deterred his detractors.

I was also one of those who really enjoyed this year's Tour de France and the emergence of some new faces and names, and am excited for the opportunity open to them next year. Vande Velde, the Schleck brothers Andy and Frank, Kim Kirchen, Bernard Kohl, and more. (Cadel Evans is not among my favorites so I didn't include him, although he'll probably do well). Lance's presence takes away a little bit from their opportunities, but I guess competition is competition! It will be interesting to see what happens if Lance is on the same team (Team Astana, managed by Lance's team manager from US Postal and Discovery teams) as Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer. The latter two cyclists were the 1st and 3rd place winners from 2007, and they couldn't race in 2008 when their team Astana was barred from the Tour this year. Astana should be allowed in 2009, and Contador will want a shot at being a team leader again, as will Leipheimer, and with Lance on their team, the chances are slim - they might have to jump ship to get their opportunity.

However, any doubts that I had about Lance's return were dispelled after I read the Vanity Fair interview.  It's quite long, but it really describes Lance's reasoning. And I like it! I'm sold, and I'll be supporting him next year. I'll even pull out my yellow bracelets again!

So here's to Lance returning to the Tour de France next year!

And if you ever had an inkling of desire to come watch the Tour and ride some of the famous cols in France, then email me to get on my waiting list NOW, because I have a feeling my tour will sell out quickly! Or, if you think your Spinning students would be interested, let them know to contact me soon.  Thanks for spreading the love! jennifer@vivatravels.com

FYI, I'll be providing all my tour clients with a training program that can be done in indoor cycling classes. If you can get together a group of students who might be interested, then I'll even help you create a TDF training program at your facility. (And I'll give you referral commissions for helping to promote it. contact me for more information).

Allez! Allez!

ps here's an article from VeloNews saying that Christian Prudhomme, race director of the Tour de France, welcomes Lance to race in next year's Tour.

pps: as this topic relates to indoor cycling, this news will make your next year's Tour de France program even more interesting and exciting! Make sure to bookmark my series on how to create Tour de France profiles in your indoor cycling program!