Lance Armstrong calls France hotels ‘horrible’

Seems the Tour de France cycling championship has another bone to pick with France, this time with its hospitality.

Lance Armstrong has always had a love-hate relationship with France, but in a recent keynote speech at this week’s National Business Travel Association conference in Houston, Armstrong added another bone to his picking list: France hotels.

When asked about his experiences as a frequent business traveler, Armstrong took shots at the French calling the country’s hotels “horrible”. Here’s the direct quote, straight from the keynote’s podium:

“Most of my travel-at least in Europe-was in France, staying in these … You’re competing in the biggest race in the world and you’re stuck staying in these horrible hotels. There are no French hotel owners in here, are there?”

According to a reporter for CultureMap Houston, who was at the conference, the moderator is employed by a company that runs hotels in France and unsurprisingly disagreed with Armstrong’s general statement of France’s hotel industry, going so far as to offering to put him up next time he is in the country.

Let’s hope his next stay in France goes better than his next ride.

Alberto Contador wins 2010 Tour de France

Spanish rider Alberto Contador has claimed his third Tour de France win after securing the victory yesterday in a 32.3 mile long individual time trial that ran across the French countryside from Bordeaux to Pauillac. Despite being pushed to the limit by his rival, Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, Contador extended his lead in the race, winning by 39 seconds. Today, he’ll finish off the 2010 Tour by taking the ceremonial ride into Paris wearing the leader’s Yellow Jersey, while the top sprinters vie for one last stage win on the Champs Elysees.

For the past three weeks, the world’s best cyclists have dueled one another across France, fighting it out most spectacularly in the Alps and the Pyrenees. This year’s route threw some of the toughest climbs ever at the riders, and it was Contador and Schleck who were clearly the two best cyclists in the Peloton. Schleck actually led the race heading into Monday, when the two riders were on the final climb the day. Misfortune hit on the slopes of the Port de Balès, when Schleck dropped a chain and had to stop to make a quick repair. Sensing an opportunity, Contador attacked, gaining more than 30 seconds, and taking the lead in the race for the first time. He never looked back and Schleck was never able to recover.

Today marks the final stage of the race, a 63.6 mile ride from Longjumeau to Paris. Traditionally, the riders don’t attack the Yellow Jersey on the final day, allowing the leader to ride to the finish line in a glorified victory lap. Once there, Contador will take the top of the podium in Yellow, while Schleck will win the White Jersey, which is awarded each year to the Tour’s best young rider under the age of 25. France’s Anthony Charteau has won the Polka Dot Jersey, which goes to the King of the Mountain, the Tour’s best climber, each year. The final jersey to be awarded will be the Green Jersey, which goes to the best sprinter in the race. Sprint points will still be up for grabs on today’s final stage, with three riders in a position to win the title.

In his final ride in the Tour de France, seven-time winner Lance Armstrong finishes in 23rd place, nearly 40 minutes behind Contador.

[Photo credit: Reuters]

Take a cycling tour with Trek Travel

If you’ve been watching the Tour de France this week, you’ve no doubt seen Lance Armstrong and the rest of Team Radioshack riding their beautiful Trek bikes as they’ve rolled across the Netherlands, Belgium, and of course France. Perhaps it has even motivated you to dust off the Huffy and hit the road yourself. But did you know that Trek offers cycling tours to exotic places around the globe? Tours that would put you on one of their amazing bikes, while exploring a country like you never have before.

Trek Travel offers adventurous and active cyclists a host of options to pedal their way across Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. These trips have a little something to fit everyone’s needs, including private tours, group excursions, and custom made itineraries. Additionally, the tours can be geared for families, as well as riders of a wide variety of skill levels ranging from beginner up to avid cyclists. Accommodations can be at the luxury level or a simple, no frills option to fit a variety of budgets too.

One of their most popular offerings is the Lance in France Tour which are actually going to be taking place during the Tour, as fans of the sport follow Armstrong and the other riders on two different legs, one in the Alps, and the other a ride from the Pyrenees to Paris. The highlights of those two tours include not only getting to watch the Tour de France, but ride some of the popular stages in the mountains as well.

Of course, it is too late to sign up for either one of those rides, but other cycling tours include the Tuscany Explorer which sends riders on an amazing trip through Italian wine country, and the Yellowstone and Tetons Multisport, which combines cycling and kayaking in one of the most iconic national parks in the U.S. My personal favorite would be the mountain biking tour through South Africa and Zambia.

One of the best parts of these tours is that you can be as active or inactive as you want. You decide how much you want to ride on any given day, and if you’re feeling a little tired (or hung over!) from the night before, you can take it easy on the team bus or at your next lodge, while your companions spend the day in the saddle. You’ll also get to ride some of the best Trek bikes in their catalog. The road tours will put you on a Madone, not unlike what Lance himself rides, while mountain bikers will be treated to a similar level of off road machines.

If you’re looking for a unique and active way to take a trip, perhaps a cycling tour is just what you need. It truly is a perfect way to see the sights while cruising through some of the world’s best landscapes. Check out the Trek Travel catalog for some excellent travel opportunities.

[Photo credit: Trek Tours]

The Tour de France begins today!

The world’s greatest cycling event, the Tour de France, gets underway today when the best riders on the planet descend on Rotterdam in the Netherlands for a short 8.9km (5.5 mile) prologue that will help set the early tone to this year’s event. Ahead of the teams sits 20 more grueling stages, spread out over three weeks, that includes six mountain stages, with three summit finishes, one of which ends on the dreaded Tourmalet, a brutal peak in the Pyrenees that will likely decide this year’s winner.

The race properly gets underway tomorrow with a mostly flat first stage over 223.5km (138.8 miles) between Rotterdam and Brussels. This stage is dedicated to the sports greatest rider, Eddy Merckx, who is celebrating his 65th birthday, and he’ll likely be on hand to welcome the cyclists across the finish line. But the peloton shouldn’t take this stage lightly, as the Belgian crosswinds can shred the field and leave the unaware chasing the leaders on the first day.

Typically, the early stages of the Tour belong to the sprinters, who rack up points on the flat routes as they compete for the coveted Green Jersey. But this year, the riders will be put to the test early on, as Stage 2 is a 201km (124.8 miles) affair that goes from Brussels to Spa, with a few minor hills thrown into the mix. While the Tour’s top climbers and over all contenders will barely notice these bumps in the road, the sprinters are likely to drop from contention very early this year.

Stage 3 on Tuesday is no walk in the park either. The 213km (132.3 miles) route will be flat and fast, just as the sprinters like it. But there are nearly 9 miles worth of cobblestones for the riders to maneuver, and the riders hate cobblestones. Lance Armstrong himself has even predicted “carnage” on this stage following a scouting ride a few days back. The rough, and uneven, cobblestones are known for causing crashes, and ending the race early for some of the riders.

This year’s top contenders are pretty much the same as last year’s top finishers. 38-year old Lance Armstrong remains among the best riders in the field, although his time trial form is not what it once was. Brothers Andy and Frank Schleck of Luxembourg are both legitimate contenders, with Frank recently winning the Tour de Suisse, a great tune-up race for Le Tour. Australian Cadel Evans has been a perennial contender who has just missed out on winning on several occasions, and he is riding with his strongest team ever. But the man to beat is obviously last year’s champ, Alberto Contador, the best all around rider in the world. But Contador won’t have the powerful team around him that he had in his previous two Tour victories, and it remains to be seen if he can win without them.

The Tour de France is a sporting event like no other, and over the next few weeks, a dramatic spectacle will play out across France, culminating with cycling’s next great champion arriving in Paris, and gliding down the Champs-Elysees in yellow.

Viva Le Tour!

2009 Tour de France is underway

The 2009 Tour de France got underway yesterday with an individual time trial through the streets of Monaco. The Prologue was a short and fast 15.5km (9.6 miles) sprint that started with a steady climb and ended with the riders screaming back down the hill towards the finish line. At the end of the day, time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara took the stage victory and the famous Yellow Jersey, while the real contenders for the race, such as Alberto Contatdor and American Levi Leipheimer, lurking just off the pace. Lance Armstrong, making his return to the Tour after a 3 year layoff, finished in 10th.

Today, the race heads out onto the road, leaving Monaco behind, with a 187km (116.1 miles) stage through southern France. The route will pass through some rolling hills, but will mostly favor the sprinters who will be competing for the Green Jersey, while the climbers will wait for the seventh stage, when the race moves away from Barcelona and into the Pyrenees, where they’ll begin their competition for the Polka Dot Jersey worn by the King of the Mountains.

Over the next three weeks the top riders in the world will compete in cyclings premiere event. In total, there will be 21 stages, covering more than 3500km (2175 miles). The race culminates on Sunday, July 26 on the Champs Elysees when the leader rides into Paris with the Yellow Jersey.