Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Tour de Paris
Saturday July 18, 2009
Dateline: Somewhere in Texas
Paris, Texas. One of the fastest, flattest rides of Texas. Paris is about 18 miles from Oklahoma in the northeast part of our state, or 376 miles from San Angelo. I had heard of Paris but had never been there until this year, and part of the fun of attending multiple tours is the chance to visit a place we have never been, to see the tourist attractions of the area and an up close view of the countryside.
The Tour de Paris is held the third weekend of July each year and this year was the 25th annual event. As part of our tour mania, we decided to go to Paris as it seemed fitting since the Tour de France is going on. Neither locals nor textbooks can tell you how Paris got its name but it does associate itself a little with Paris, France as it built its own Eiffel Tower…topped with a bright red cowboy hat.
At registration part of the goody bag was a 25% off certificate from a local Italian restaurant of which we took advantage. I know, Randy—Chris listened when you said “carbing up” the night before doesn’t really help, but the food was very good—and it was filled with bikers who either didn’t know that or didn’t care. We were going to attend the local band concert in one of the parks but after a full stomach, we opted for an early-to-bed night. Also included in the generous package was a pancake breakfast and an after-the-ride loaded cheeseburger with an icy smoothie. Boy, did that hit the spot.
Starting time was 8 A.M., and although we arrived early, almost all of the parking places in the Civic Center parking lot were taken.
We found a good spot and leisurely got ready for the start. At line-up time, 800 of us lined up in staggered positions, 100K first, 70K next, and on down to a 17K.
Support for the tour included CHEERLEADERS!!
We choose the 100K. The 100K used to be 65 miles but last year they added a historic downtown tour at the start of the ride, and that added 5 miles so the 100K became 70 miles. No problem. The weather was perfect, starting with a low of 74 and in the low 90’s by late afternoon. The wind was from the SE at about 12 MPH so it was hometown weather.
The ride downtown went fast as the traffic was closely controlled by law enforcement personnel.
The ride was a loop back to the Civic Center and the routine tour routes started from there. The terrain was flat and fairly fast. We were bunched up in a group but the wind was still seemingly in our face. Chris was behind a person and said she couldn’t find the slipstream—I said “You are going 18 MPH, what do you want”? She looked at her odometer and was satisfied. A slipstream was hard to find as we had a cross-wind that felt like it was straight in our face. As stated, the terrain was flat so the first 20 miles were at an average of 18-20 MPH. Then we really turned into the wind and we slowed to about 16. The scenery alone would make you slow down just to take it all in. A lot of the lanes were heavily wooded and the trees were tall enough to make a shade across the road. Other parts were farm land and pastures. Going from mesquite alley to oak alley was refreshing. Paris is on the edge of the Piney Woods region so there were stands of tall pine trees mixed in with oaks and other hardwoods.
The Tour de Paris is among the flattest rides we have been on. In the first 60 miles, there were only about two hills that slowed us down. The first good one was right as we crossed into Red River County. Then the last 10 miles were short steep rollers, but the kind that going downhill produced enough momentum to roll at least a fourth of the way up the next one. Paris has the reputation of being one of the fastest courses and could be compared with the HHH terrain. It has just enough elevation to keep it interesting. And, some of the best roads we have traveled. I can’t recall any stretch of road that was wash-board rough.
Chris had talked to Randy about nutrition and liquid replacement before the tour so we tried some new things. But first we had a very big breakfast at the Holiday Inn rather than the pancake breakfast. Before the ride I drank one of those 5 hour energy bottles. We had enough Enervit Sport Tablets to take about every hour, and although the rest areas were well stocked with food, we took a Carb Boom Energy Gel along to supplement the rest areas. And since a lot of places water down their Gator/Powerade drinks, we took along Vitamin Stix powder to add to our liquids upon each refill. Man, talk about a high. Add to all that the cookies (can’t be all sensible nourishment and no good stuff), trail mix, salty carbs, and of course, pickle juice each time it was available. One rest stop had peanuts with M&Ms mixed in--almost embarrassed myself but I needed extra nutrition. We will try the nutrition combination on another ride to see if it was the relatively flat ride or all the energy foods that made us feel as if it was a short ride rather than 70 miles.
The ride was really well supported. The high school cheerleaders heralded our departure and were still there hours later for everyone’s return. Rest stop volunteers applauded all riders when they stopped or rode past.
I seemed as if the entire town sponsored the ride. An incredible 450 volunteers helped out in Paris and in the little outer settlements making the event a pleasure for the riders. Every one of the 11 rest areas had at least two port-a-potties (that’s important to us) and were well supplied. I don’t think there was ever a stretch of road over 7 miles until there was another rest area. One had a blue grass band playing and one had electric fans in front of which we luxuriated.
The “problem” of discovering another great tour with excellent scenery, good roads, outstanding support, etc. is that you want to add it to your annual tours. I should have guessed that the ride was in the outstanding category as Dominic had told me that he attended the tour four years in a row. It will not surprise me if we don’t match his record.
at 12:29 PM