Category Archives: Travel

Grand Prix Cycliste – Montreal

You will know from my previous post that we traveled to Canada to catch the Grand Prix Cycliste in Quebec City and Montreal.

After a great day of racing in Quebec Friday we were stoked about watching another race two days later in Montreal. We drove to Montreal right after the race in Quebec City in an attempt to see a bit of the city on Saturday.

Montreal is a much bigger city than Quebec City, with a different feel. It’s much more modern and the streets are laid out in that grid pattern, like New York City, making it much easier to get around. One might compare driving in Montreal to New York and driving in Quebec City to Boston.

I was mostly impressed with the bike infrastructure in Montreal and will cover that more in another post. Everywhere I looked I saw people riding bicycles or clusters of bicycles locked on the streets. It was certainly an impressive sight.

As we sat for breakfast Saturday morning, and I followed Twitter updates from BMC Racing and Podium Insight, I had a funny thought to go to the train station to greet the traveling teams. But of course we didn’t. We had little time in Montreal and there was much to see. We’d be seeing the teams soon enough the next day.

During the team presentation in Quebec City we learned that there are hoards of people that crowd in to watch and sometimes you can’t see much. Add in the fact that the presentations were done in French we thought we’d set up along the route before the start/finish where the riders would pass along to sign in and then hang out at the cars prior to the start. It worked out really well!

The teams of riders would come up along the course and roll slowly by us, which allowed for some really great photos.

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Thomas Voeckler, winner of the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec.

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Alessandro Ballan

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Linus Gerdemann

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George Hincapie, always recognizable.

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Team Sky’s Morris Possoni and Chris Froome

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Michael Rogers

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Team Radio Shack

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Happy to see the always fashionable Jonathan Vaughters at the race.

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These guys looked like they were always having fun.
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A photographer we met and chatted with a bit.

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Jens Voigt

As we stood there watching them come through at various intervals, we noticed an older gentleman holding a photo of Samuel Sanchez of the Euskaltel team. It turned out that this man was from the same province of Spain as Mr. Sanchez. Another man with him was holding their province flag. As the Euskaltel team rolled through Sammy heard the men and saw the flag and pulled over. Sammy seemed to linger a bit, speaking with the men, signing the photos they carried, and the flag, and posed for photos. It was one of the crowning moments we witnessed on our trip and we couldn’t help but grab some photos of the moment. We were really impressed by the kindness Sammy showed.

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Sammy Sanchez. Note the Olympic rings on the front of the helmet.

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Our friend who had traveled to the races with us is a huge fan of Levi Leiphemer. Since we had not seen him in Quebec City we thought the best way to get as close to him as possible was to hang near the Radio Shack team car. Unfortunately Levi was a little busy preparing his bike for anyone to get to chat with him.

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However, I had an interesting exchange with Chris Horner that went something like this:

Me: Hey Chris, we are looking forward to seeing you in Maine next month for the Dempsey Challenge.

Chris: Yeah. He’s (Dempsey) a big cycling guy.

Me: Yeah, but you’re bigger.

To that he simply tossed his head and grinned, which my husband caught the expression on his face. Priceless and I’ll never forget it! (After that some people next to us asked me what the Dempsey Challenge was.)

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Right before the riders started we made our way along the course. Our goal this day was to walk the entire course, in the same direction as the race, in order to get photos from different perspectives along the course. It was only a 12k circuit (7.5+ miles), and with 16 laps we figured we could walk the entire course before they were finished.

We didn’t get too far before the gun went off and the riders went zooming by. It was certainly a very fast start.

Soon after they hit the first and most significant climb of the course and where the KOM points were awarded. As you can imagine there were throngs of people on the climb.

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People lining the climb

It was also one of the best spots to shoot, 1.) because the riders are going slower and 2.) there was a corner with a straight on sight line at the top of the climb that was less occupied, lending itself to some of the best photos of the day.

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As we walked further along the course there were fewer people to work around for photos. We also got to see a bit of the Mont Royal Park by walking the course.

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One of the funniest incidents of the day was when the BMC team car pulled over near us and two guys hopped out of the passengers’ side of the car. I had no idea what they were doing at first and then realized they were taking a nature break. I know the riders often take nature breaks but hadn’t thought about the people in the team cars but these guys reminded me that everyone has to pee occasionally!

The second climb was through the Polytechnique. We had mistakenly drove onto this part of the course the previous day when out sight seeing and couldn’t easily get back to the hotel due to the road being closed for the event. The road was pretty steep and tight on the descent with a sharp right turn at the bottom.

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As the riders came screaming down through and hit the corner along the flat stretch you could hear all the clicking and whir of the bikes as the riders shifted into a different gear and powered along the flat.

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We powered along the course ourselves at a much slower speed and came along the feedzone. I hung back a bit for the next lap, hoping to score a water bottle or musette bag, but I was too close to the feed for those to be thrown. My husband, further down, saw a water bottle being thrown and someone casually strolled over to pick it up after it laying there for a few moments. Further down we saw people with musette bags. (Another life lesson learned at a pro-race event – don’t be too close to the feed zone in hopes of having something thrown.)

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We approached the start/finish line with 4 laps to go, knowing this from Twitter updates, and decided to head back up over the Mont Royal climb one last time for a few more photos on the climb.

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At the start of the final lap we made our way down to the start/finish. We saw Gesink on his own flying through the turn onto the stretch before the final turn and run-up to the finish.

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And these boys weren’t messing around this day. They were on the hunt to chase Gesink down before the finish.

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The chase that didn’t quite catch.

We weren’t close enough to witness the win at the line but caught the action on the jumbo-tron. It was a fabulous win by an incredible young rider.

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In summary, I much preferred the course in Montreal to the course in Quebec City. I’m not sure if it was because there seemed to be more action in that there was a break, and a one-man chase that fizzled, followed by a bridge up by Chris Horner and Popovich with 4 laps to go, then a catch by the main field and the final attack by Gesink that created a bit more drama to the race than the previous day. It might have also been because we walked the entire course and were able to get some better photos than on the tight and narrow streets of Quebec City.

Next year when we return we’ll plan to walk the entire Quebec City course to see the other parts as it winds through the park that we did not see this year. That might give me a different impression of the race there.

The other thing that was apparent at this race was that my husband was getting really good at photographing these events! If you need proof, check out the rest of his photos HERE.

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Grand Prix Cycliste 2010 – Quebec City

As I mentioned in my previous post, we traveled to Canada earlier this month to watch the Grand Prix Cycliste in Quebec and Montreal. This is my account of the Quebec trip.

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Route marker for the race.

I had heard so many people say such wonderful things about Quebec. Mainly the comments were that Quebec is like stepping into a European town. They were exactly right!

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My only concern was the language barrier. I only say this because I took a required two years of French in High School and it was not something I did well at and have forgotten anything I might have learned. I found that most people were perfectly willing to speak English to us, even though I was under the impression that some felt if you didn’t try to speak French they would just give you the cold shoulder. I did not find this to be the case at all.

So our morning started off with a simple continental breakfast at the hotel then a walk to Starbucks for some decent coffee. Luckily I speak the international language of Starbucks!

As we stood in line at Starbucks it was apparent that many of the ProTour riders were also there for a bit of caffeine prior to the upcoming race. Then I gazed down the line only to see George Hincapie and Chad Beyer in line. Soon Jens Voigt also joined them at the end of the line. They were gracious enough to allow me to get a photo of them with my friend Suzy so early in the morning.


Jens Voigt, Chad Beyer, Susan Hall, and George Hincapie.

My only regret at that moment was not bringing my CSC jacket with me. I had brought it to Canada in search of Jens to sign it. A few years back, at the Tour de Georgia, I was lucky enough to have Bobby Julich and other team members sign it. That was the last year CSC sponsored the team before it became Saxo Bank. It was also the last year that Bobby Julich raced. Jens was part of that team then, too, so it only seemed fitting that his signature be on this jacket as well.

After grabbing coffee we headed out to walk some portions of the course to scope out vantage points for taking photos. There were very few people milling about at that time so it was lovely to walk along the quaint streets without the throngs of people that would later line the streets during the race.

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Streets barricaded for the race.

It was then time to check out of the hotel and head to the race start for the team presentations. Having never seen the team presentations, I expected it to be a bit more organized than it was. The riders seemed to flow in casually. In fact Team Radio Shack signed in with only 6 of its 8 riders. I noticed that Horner was one of the riders missing. He and another member showed up a bit later and stood for their applause. It was actually a funny moment.

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Zubeldia and Irizar

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Irizar and Popovych

I love the two photos above and wonder what the story behind them was. Was it Irizar’s plan to get into the break, which he did, and who he could convince to go with him? Or was he laughing at a prank he played on Horner and Brajkovic, causing them to be late?

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Chris Horner and Jani Brajkovic showed up later than the rest of the team.

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Dominique Rollin (left) riding for the Canadian team powered by Spider Tech received a huge round of applause.

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Jens also received a big round of applause. Always a crowd favorite!

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Tom Stamsnijder, Steven Kruijswijk, and Maarten Tjallingii.

Once the team presentations were complete we wanted to head out onto the course to set up for photos. Along our walk we saw the team cars lined up with a few of the cyclists milling about.


Team cars lined up and ready to go.

Of course I stopped at the Saxo car to see Jens again. He was in the process of casually repairing his shoes and entertaining the crowd at the same time.

I wasn’t sure if he would be signing autographs when he was done but he did. So I whipped out my CSC jacket for signing. I also wanted to have my photo taken with him. He said, “Hey, didn’t we already do this earlier?” I replied, “Yes, but I wasn’t in the photo!” (Jens remembering me from Starbucks was the highlight of my day!)

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Me and Jens.

I previously mentioned Bobby Julich, who is one of my all time favorite riders and I was so sad when he retired from cycling. So I was thrilled to know he was at this event. Even though I didn’t get a chance to have a photo with him my husband did snap some pictures of him for me!

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Team Saxo Bank Director, Bobby Julich.

Then it was off to the job of photographing the race. We set up on the first climb, Cote de la Montagne, for a few laps. There were tons of people but we managed a few good spots for photos before moving further along the course for more photos. Doing this meant better photo opportunities because there were fewer people. It also gave us different angles of the riders throughout the race.

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Quebec City lent itself to a very technical course of winding roads on somewhat narrow streets, with a few challenging climbs.

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Always a sign of a big race when a helicopter is in the sky for live feeds of the race.

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I was so thankful for Twitter while we were in Quebec. Between the Grand Prix Cycliste, Podium Insight, and BMC Racing I felt like I had a little bit more inside information to the race and what was going on compared to what we could see out on the course. Following these individuals also proved invaluable at the Montreal race as well.

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The crowds at the finish line.

As the race was nearing its end we walked our way along the course back to the start/finish line. While waiting for the race to end we started talking with a lovely man from the area. He wanted to know where we were from and once we told him he mentioned he had visited Old Orchard Beach when he was younger. (Old Orchard Beach is approximately 20 miles south of Portland and a summer haven for Canadian tourists.)

We told him how much we loved visiting his city and he was also more than happy to give us the rundown on Quebec City and all the various events they have going on throughout the year that was should come back for. It was such a pleasure speaking with him. It’s always nice to meet friendly locals who are proud of their city and get so excited to tell you all the wonderful things about where they live.

All in all, the Quebec race was well attended for a Friday. There was not a lot of action within the race except for the last few laps. Thomas Voeckler of BBox ended up winning the race. Later he said that he went off the front and didn’t believe he’d be able to manage the lead as he approached the finish. But the chasers didn’t seem to get organized enough to chase him down. We did watch the race the following weekend on Versus and the look on Voeckler’s face said it all.

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Rollin after the race rollin’ back to the hotel.

The barricades along the streets would be up for a while after the race, which meant we were blocked into the Hotel parking lot, we decided to grab some dinner before heading to Montreal for the remainder of the weekend. Just as we made our way back to the parking lot they were taking down the barricades and we departed on our 3-hour drive to Montreal.

We all felt like we were short changed with our visit to Quebec City. Not only does my husband want to go back for Winter Carnival, but next year we’ll go to Quebec City on a Wednesday and travel to Montreal on Saturday to allow for more time and sight seeing.

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A fan along the route.

Obviously it was impossible to post all our 800+ photos here on the blog. Click HERE to see all our photos from Quebec.

I’ll be posting my account of the Montreal race in my next post. Stay tuned!

Oh Canada

A while back, somehow, my husband found out about the Grand Prix Cycliste. This was a 2-day (non-consecutive) race taking place in the Quebec Province of Canada. The first race was to be held on September 10th in Quebec City and the other was to be held in Montreal on September 12th.

Because this was a ProTour race that means that all the ProTour teams were required to send a squad. That meant some pretty big names would be there.

I’ve lived in Maine all my life. Maine is right next door to Canada but I’ve never been there. Neither had my husband, but he grew up in Florida so it was easier for him to say that. We thought this was a good excuse to head north to see two cities we found intriguing.

There is so much to report about our trip so I’m going to break it down into a couple different posts. In this post I’ll just give you some rundown of our plans and cover a few things we did while we were there.

Our plan was to leave early on Thursday and be in Quebec City by lunch time. It was a 5-hour drive. We’d spend one night there and right after the race we’d head to Montreal, a 3-hour drive. We’d spend three nights in Montreal and drive home Monday morning, another 5-hour drive. So yes, a lot of drive time but we like to drive and see the scenery.

Thursday

We arrived as planned on Thursday around lunch time. We pulled up to the hotel, got out, only to see George Hincapie and the rest of the BMC team rolling out for a training ride. At that point the magnitude of our trip really hit home and the excitement was overwhelming.

Our hotel was only a few blocks from the Chateau Frontenac, the most famous hotel in Quebec City, and where the ProTour riders and support staff were staying.

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Chateau Frontenac

After checking into our hotel we walked towards the Hotel Frontenac in search of a little lunch. The remainder of the afternoon was spent wandering around a bit then we went to watch the Sprint Challenge, a race for some Canadian racers where there were 6 heats, with 4 racers in each heat, including a neutral start and a 1K sprint for the line, with the top 2 finishers advancing.

Friday

After a little breakfast at the hotel we walked to the Chateau Frontenac once again. I had noticed a Starbucks there the day before and I was in search of some decent coffee. As we stood in line I said to our friend who had accompanied us on the trip that George Hincapie was also in line a little further down. Soon afterward, Jens came in. My friend was a bit shy but really wanted her photo with them. So I politely asked if it was too early to bother them for a photo op. They were all very gracious and obliged our request.


Jens Vogt, Chad Beyer, our friend, Susan, and George Hincapie.

We walked around a little after that (well, perhaps it was more like floating) before heading back to the hotel to get ready to watch the race. (I’ll cover the races in separate posts.)

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Team Cars lined up outside Chateau Frontenac before the race.

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Mural painted on the building on the race course.

As it turned out, our hotel was on the race course so with the barricades up along the course we were a bit trapped until they could take all that down after the race. We ended up grabbing some dinner before leaving so that gave the city some time to take down the barricades. Next time we’ll plan to stay the extra night after the race and head to Montreal Saturday.

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Rue St. Louis, one of the streets in the race route that ran right by our hotel.

Saturday

We didn’t wake up too early in Montreal after being up late the night before. When we did get up we ventured down to the old port section of town for some breakfast. It was a beautiful area and we enjoyed walking around a bit. There wasn’t much activity so we didn’t have an issue with parking or getting a table for breakfast.

Later that day we met our friend and her Montreal friend for a nice bike ride along the canal. It was a little unnerving to be along a path with two way bike traffic. And it was CROWDED! It took a little getting used to. We weren’t there for a training ride, which would have been hard to accomplish with the number of slow cyclists on the route. Our goal was to just enjoy being on the bikes and take in the scenery.

Sunday

Sunday was race day and we had a plan to walk the entire course for this race. We figured we walked about 16 kilometers that day and glad we did. We were able to get some of the best shots of the two races.

Monday

We got on the road early, as we typically do, and headed for home. I later found out on Twitter that there was a bike expo taking place that day with some of the riders from the events. Next time we’ll try to check that out!

Cadillac Mountain Sunrise – 9/1/2009

The last time we ventured to Cadillac Mountain for sunrise it was all fogged in. This time we were hoping for a better result.

We got up at 4:45 to hit the road from our rooms by 5am. It was a chilly morning but nothing compared to the top of the mountain with a stiff northerly breeze. Brrrrrrr.

I wasn’t sure that we were going to see the sunrise with the cloud cover on the horizon but it finally happened and we caught some of it on camera.

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I can’t believe that there were more out of state plates on most of the vehicles; I only saw a couple of Maine plates.

After sunrise we decided to ride around the Park Loop Road for a little sight seeing:

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(This is actually a photo we took. It looks just like some of the postcards or promo pictures you might see of Acadia.)

Then it was off to our favorite place for breakfast:

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On our way home we detoured down Somes Sound:

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Acadia National Park

Last week during vacation we took our guest to Acadia National Park. He’s an avid hiker so we figured he’d love seeing the scenery and all that Acadia offers to hikers. However, we didn’t have time for him to do any hiking himself – it was a quick up and back kind of trip.

The first on the agenda was a carriage ride. This time we took the 2-hour bridges tour. It was just the right length and we were able to see some beautiful sights, including the Jordan Pond Stream, which was 1/2 way through the tour and we were let out while the horses were turned around.

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This was our team of horses:

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After the ride it was time for dinner at one of our favorite places – Getty’s:

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Followed by a walk around town:

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Drive from Bar Harbor

I’m a bit late on this posting. I meant to write earlier about our return trip from Bar Harbor.

We tried not to linger too long in Bar Harbor before hitting the road the day after the Cadillac Challenge Century Ride. By the time we packed up, checked out, gassed up, it was 10:30 before we were on the road.

The day started out just as spectacularly clear and sunny as the previous days. We planned to make our way down the coast back to Portland, with a few stops along the way.

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Since we were in no hurry to rush back to Portland and it was such a pretty day, we decided to take advantage of the time we had to stop at the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory.

Going up 420 feet is not something that someone scared of heights would find enjoyable. I couldn’t really use that as an excuse not to go. Even though it wasn’t peak foliage I was determined to go to the top to see the view the observation deck provided. If it hadn’t been enclosed I know I wouldn’t have gone up. I would have sent my husband up on his own.

The views did not disappoint.

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I love structural objects – bridges, buildings, and manufacturing plants. These show the beauty of the bridge:

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And a nice photo of the two of us:
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Camden

Our goal on the way home was to stop in Camden for lunch. We went there for our second date and haven’t been back since. That was 7 years ago. We were over due.

Just like the two days before, the clouds rolled in and it turned rather chilly. Luckily we found a hot lunch and some great mulled cider at Cappy’s Chowder House then grabbed some dessert from the Camden Deli, where we had lunch 7 years ago.

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We walked to the park to eat our dessert and watch the goings-on at the waterfront:

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On the way back to the car we discovered these on the side of a brick building:

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Cadillac Challenge Century

The Cadillac Challenge Century has to be the hilliest century in Maine. Loon Echo says they are the hilliest, or toughest, not sure which. However, this one has to top that. I’ve done both. This ones worse. I mean better!

I heard someone say, there wasn’t one flat section on the route. It was either up or down, but nothing flat.

The day started off sunny, cloud free, a little chilly, but it was warming up very quickly by the time we started.

I’m not sure how many riders participated. It had to have been 200-300 riders. My husband took pictures at the pre-ride meeting. Riders to left of him; riders to the right of him.

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We organized for a quick group photo before hitting the road.

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Some of us chose the 72-mile (metric century) option instead of the 100-mile (century) option. My husband was the club’s official sag wagon we thought it would be best to have him be at the split for each route. There was a convenience store there, which worked well for a potty break.

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Then we parted ways with my husband. He followed the majority of the group through the next three stops. The 72-mile group was on their own. The rest stops weren’t that far apart so it wasn’t much of an issue.

I made our group pose for a photo at our first rest stop in Northeast Harbor. It was a spectacular place.

Right after we left the rest stop, I started to experience cramps on the first climb. I almost had to get off and walk. They seemed to subside so I kept going.

On a climb several miles later, more cramps. It wasn’t even a significant climb. It was, however, long. So I walked it. Shamefully. If the cramps get too severe I can’t get off the bike, let alone stand up, so dismounting would be next to impossible. Falling over would be the only option.

Fall over I did. Though it was later in the ride. We had to stop in the middle of an intersection for a car. I thought Tracey was going to go but she did the right thing and stopped. When I clicked out (by turning my heel in, not out, which is different from what most riders do) I caught my heel on my wheel and came to a dead stop. After flailing to remove my other foot, to no avail, I fell over. Darn! My new bike!!

Luckily the bike and my body were okay. A little bruised but okay.

The last part of the ride is on the park loop road in Acadia National Park. It’s newly paved with mostly two lanes of one-way traffic with scenic views of the ocean. It’s the quintessential bike lane. Surprisingly, even during prime leaf peeping season, there wasn’t that much traffic. It was heaven.

The twinges of cramps never fully went away. I took the easy route up Cadillac Mountain – in the passenger’s seat of our car. I was there for a group photo with those that were left at the top.

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My day was over. 60 long, hilly miles.

I still feel guilty about not climbing Cadillac. The mountain isn’t going anywhere. We plan to make this ride an annual event for the club and next year I’m going to be better prepared and ascend it, on two wheels, not four.