An Aspen Adventure – Pt 1

There are not many more divisive sporting stars that come to mind than Lance Armstrong, it was however not just his cycling skills that Geoff Thomas, our onedayahead team Captain wanted to enlist Lance for. It was also the huge media interest that would surround the story, naturally thrusting our challenge into the worlds eye and our unwavering mission to raise 1 million pounds for cure leukaemia by riding one day in front of the Tour de France pro peloton.

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Daily Mail Piece by Matt Lawton

Regardless of what you think of Lance and whether you agree or disagree of him being stripped of his record seven titles, one fact is undeniable, he not only just survived cancer, but came back to compete at the very top level again, however it was the back story he became an incredible charity ambassador a beacon of hope and the catalyst for a foundation that has to date raised an astonishing 580 Million dollars. His book ‘it’s not about the bike’ was the inspiration during the dark times for our skipper in his own personal battle with the disease. So inspirational was it that I gave my first personal copy to the Chairmans butler at Lloyds of London, who sadly did not make it.

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We were as a team invited (at our personal cost, no charity funds were used) to Aspen, where Lance, girlfriend Anna and their two children live in the summer to train as a team, but also to get to know Lance better in advance of him joining us on the parcour in France in a few weeks time.

I for one was nervously excited to meet him being of a similar age, my cycling Idol the American Greg Lemond was also probably his as a teen. A curious fact whilst Tracie and I had dinner with Greg and Kathy, Geoff was out in Austin meeting Lance for the first time. Challenging events have transpired over the last decade to which sadly I am sure we won’t find the both of them sharing a round of golf, Lances now favourite sporting pastime.
What would he be like now? I have read and heard so much throughout IMG_4720the years, some bad, some even worse. The doping yes, but that was in an era where it was prevalent and almost the norm, this was not my primary concern, it was the bullying, being someone who’s life was made a misery throughout school, I don’t gravitate towards bullies. However, that said I am very much of the mindset that I wanted to form my own opinion of the man, so Colorado bound I set.
Aspen is the ski elite resort of choice in America, but also far from the easiest place in the world to get to. My Mojacar cycling chum and top bloke Doug chose a direct flight to Denver and I fortunatley joined him. Others by the sounds of it who arrived over the next few days certainly had far more challenging indirect journeys. Although landing at 6.45pm local time the quadruple hit of immigration, customs, baggage and hiring of a car meant that we didn’t set off on the road to almost 2 hrs later. The car journey in itself would have been stunning had we of been able to see it. Now pitch dark the road was a challenge especially as we hit a thunderstorm and at well over 11,000ft in certain parts rain turned into snow.

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We arrived at our base in Aspen some 4 hrs later with our body clock still in UK time, 7.30am. Three hours of broken sleep and I was counting down the hours until breakfast, working in the industry there is nothing worse than those customers who arrive just before you are set up, but yes I was that guy! Hungry for some proper food after a four hour car journey fuelled by just jelly beans, peanut m&m’s and the excitement of an adventure.
Post breakfast and we are knocking on the door of the local bike shop, again as you can well imagine we were their first customers of the day! I was hiring a bike and was offered a brand new BMC for the 5 days, kitted out with Shimano 105 it certainly looked the part.
A three hour steady discovery ride was the plan. Being an organised chap I had looked up some routes, surely it’s what you do when you are wide awake at 4am and waiting for breakfast!

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We rolled out steady, but already the breathing was hard, altitude was taking its toll. We were based at almost 8,000ft and every effort out of the saddle was greeted by breathlessness. The stunning road and the quiet climb up to Maroon Bells certainly provoked some stops and photos, warnings of Moose (unfortunately not the chocolate type) and Marmots crossing the road, at the top 9580ft. The view was one of the most photographed in North America, beautiful.

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A descent back down the same way then up the more undulating Castle Creek road topping out at over 10,00ft on the adjacent valley, a completely different climb, yet the feeling was exactly the same don’t lose your breath. It was almost as someone had tightened a belt around your chest, an odd feeling indeed.An excellent Steak and chips for dinner in town followed by the struggle of trying to adjust to a different time zone of -7hrs, naturally a restful night was not going to happen.

The next morning, there were the similar tired and travel weary faces at breakfast. Geoff and the remaining team who had flown in a day later than us, wanted a similar riding experience to the one Doug and I had enjoyed the day before, so we retraced the same route en mass.

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On my return I had an email from Higs, Lance’s manager & assistant asking if I would be up for helping Anna cook for the whole group on the following evening, so not wanting to get in the weeds I suggested I joined Geoff to go on a reconnaissance mission at the house, him to plan the two days training with Lance and for me to check out the size of the stove.

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As I nervously walked up the path, Lance greeted us at the door, handshakes and a smile, ‘so you guys wanna Beer’ the ice was broken, I smiled back ‘yes for sure!’ was my hasty reply. …

To be continued in part 2……

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image with kind permission by Liz Kreutz

NB-  There are now just over 3 weeks until the start of The Tour in Utrecht and so much more to tell you in my next post but guess we will leave that until next time….

If you would like to support the cause please click on my link. 100% of the donation goes direct to the CureLeukaemia charity

https://www.justgiving.com/Hayden-Groves3

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~ by theboxterboy on June 7, 2015.

One Response to “An Aspen Adventure – Pt 1”

  1. […] where did we end part one? that’s it with a beer in hand. This is pretty much where we start part 2, sure as night follows […]

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