Ted Darling will live out a dream next week when he hops on a $4,500 road bike and rides it through the French Alps during five stages of the Tour de France.

The Cape Elizabeth resident won the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity after he entered a sweepstakes sponsored by Subaru and advertised on a Lance Armstrong fan Web site. Darling will also keep a blog as he progresses through the race, writing about his experiences, the Tour and the people he meets.

Darling is an avid bike-racing enthusiast and visits a number of bike-racing Web sites daily to keep up on the world of cycling and particularly the world-famous Tour de France, which began Saturday. On one of his daily visits to www.thepaceline.com, a Web site dedicated to Lance Armstrong and the Discovery Channel cycling team, Darling saw an entry form for the Race to the Tour sweepstakes and decided to enter the contest.

“The worst thing that could happen is I end up on someone’s email list,” Darling said.

But, instead of worrying about the worst-case scenario, Darling can’t take his mind off of how thrilling it will be to be part of the race.

“I’m really excited,” he said. Darling is a bike-racing fanatic. On the Web site on which his blog will appear, www.racetothetour.com, he wrote that he watches all the professional races on TV, reads all the Web sites and magazines and rides his bike “a ton.” He wrote that just two weeks ago his wife was telling him he should be in the tour, “such is my passion for the sport.”

The trip became official last week when Darling signed the legal documents, including, among other things, assurances that he could handle the physical requirements of the race. Darling said he couldn’t give an exact number, but admitted that several thousand people had entered the sweepstakes. He flies to Paris Friday to begin his journey.

Darling will be riding during the second week of the Tour, beginning Sunday, which travels through 250 miles of the French Alps. It will be five days of riding 40 to 75 miles per day, biking up steep inclines and cruising down some dangerous hills. He said there are two major climbs – the Col de Madeleine and Mont Ventoux – each 14 miles long, during the five-day segment that will be particularly challenging. Both mountains are over 6,000 feet in height, and Darling said it will be like biking up both Mount Katahdin and Mount Washington in the span of a single week.

Luckily, Darling has already been training for just such a race and should be in good shape to tackle the steep climbs he will face in the Alps. In August, Darling will race in the Mount Washington Auto Route climb, an eight-mile bike race up the mountain that Darling is competing in to support his favorite charity, Project AIM at the Riverview Foundation. He said as part of his training he has been cycling five or six days a week. He averages about 200 miles a week and includes a lot of uphill riding. After he found out he won the sweepstakes, he called one of his friends who will race up Mount Washington with him and told him he was “bumping” his training up to the next level and was going to try the Alps for a few days.

“What could be better training for the grind up Mount Washington in August,” he wrote on www.racetothetour.com.

Darling will not be riding with the actual tour riders. He said he will bike the stages either a day before or a day after the professional riders, such as six-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong, who has made the sport and this world-famous bike race much more visible in this country. Darling doesn’t know if he will be able to meet Armstrong, but he said it would be exciting if he got the opportunity.

He said he is also excited about the front row seats he will have at the finish lines at some of the stages. Darling took his wife Alison to France last year for their 14th wedding anniversary to watch the Tour. While there, they realized the best way to watch the race would be from the back of a bicycle, because many of the roads are closed to cars but not bikes. He was determined to return to France someday to watch the Tour the right way, but he didn’t know he would be able to return so soon.

Besides the obvious enthusiasm about biking in the Tour, Darling said he was also excited about blogging. He will be provided with a small keyboard, cell phone and digital camera to document his trip. He’s hoping the equipment won’t be too heavy though, since he has to carry it with him as he pedals up thousands of feet of inclines.

Darling said there is one thing he is a little apprehensive about.

“I’m a little anxious about the travel,” he said. “I don’t love air travel much.”

Cape man to bike Le Tour de FranceTed Darling bikes 200+ miles every week, now he will test his endurance as he bikes five stages of the Tour de France through the Alps next week.


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