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How One Traveler Made His Dream of Biking the Tour de France Come True

By Sarah Purkrabek

06.28.17

From the July/August 2017 issue

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Courtesy of Trek Travel

A San Francisco–based traveler flew his wheels to France and fulfilled his racing fantasy.

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San Francisco–based traveler Roger Tanaka and his fiancée flew their wheels to France, where Trek Travel helped the hardcore cyclists fulfill their racing fantasy.   

I have competed in triathlons—including three Ironmans—so I wasn’t super nervous going into Trek Travel’s nine-day Classic Climbs of the Tour last July. Trek does a great job prescreening travelers for the trip: Many of the riders had done several century [100-mile] rides and no one was a novice. Still, I’m not the best cyclist. I knew I’d be in the slower group, unlike my fiancée, Anna, who rides fast and is always way ahead.

Our trip started just after the Tour de France, which meant we were cycling the same mountains that famous cyclists such as Chris Froome had ridden two weeks earlier. We cycled up Mont Ventoux, an iconic, windswept mountain in Provence. We saw the spot where Froome had crashed and then ran on foot to finish the last couple hundred meters of the stage.

Then there was Alpe d’Huez. It’s probably one of the most famous climbs in the world. It’s not steep, but it has something like 21 switchbacks. The best part of riding it: going back to the States and knowing that everyone—in the cycling world at least—knows what it is. I picked up a jersey with the Alpe d’Huez symbol—a marmot—and when I ride Mount Diablo in Northern California, people always comment on it.

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Alpe d’Huez isn’t the worst climb, though; it’s just the most famous. Col du Galibier is the worst. That’s where the weather is especially unpredictable. All of a sudden, there’s a cloud overhead and it’s pouring. That’s what happened to us on Galibier. Plus, the pass is long—20 miles up, 20 miles down—and steeper at the top than Alpe d’Huez.

The best part of the trip was the group energy. There were some diehard guys who were really into the Tour. They knew all the climbs and who had dropped out where, so it was interesting to hear from them. But it was especially fun, after a long day’s ride, to gather for food, drinks, and stories. You get a group of cyclists together with wine, beer, and food—lots of food—and you’ll always have a good time. —as told to Sarah Purkrabek

Make your dream come true: Trek Travel’s Classic Climbs of the Tour package starts at $4,999 per person. For more info, visit trektravel.com.

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