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Could you cycle 430 miles of the Tour de France?

Brack (right) and her friend and fellow Equinox member Fatima in the Alps in 2013. “It was just another beautiful day riding in the mountains of France,” Brack recalls.

What was it like riding a Tour de France stage for the first time?

“In 2012, I started in Pau in the Pyrenees and ended in Bagnéres-de-Luchon. The full stage was 197 kilometers, but I only did about fifty-two. I rode about thirty-six of them to the base of the first mountain, Col d’Abisque, and then it started to rain. The weather in the mountains is extremely volatile and gets worse as you go higher. As I continued to ride up the mountain, the temperature dropped. I bailed out at the summit and got on a bus with two of my friends. We were in a group of eight people. None of us made it to the finish.”

Did the rides that followed have anything in common?

“They were always extremely tough. Despite how long and hard I trained, I was always at the back. It’s amazing how strong and fast so many non-professional cyclists can be, and it blows my mind how pros ride these stages at the speeds they do for twenty-one days.”

And yet, you’re pushing yourself much further this year.

“I just turned fifty, and I want to do one more epic cycling adventure. I’m most looking forward to spending four incredible days on my bike with people who love the sport as much as I do. Some people will definitely be much faster than I am, so I’m going to feel really challenged. You can often do things that you initially think are impossible.”

How have you been preparing?

“I started training in December. Since it’s hard to ride through the New York winter, I planned one trip per month so I could bike outdoors. I went to San Diego for five days in December, Mallorca, Spain, for a week in January, and Scotssdale, Arizona, in February, riding up to fifty miles every day. I logged similar mileage while in New York, just indoors.”

Did your workouts change when the weather warmed up?

“By the end of April I could finally bike outside again. In May, I did the North Fork Century in Long Island, New York, which is 100 miles long.”

Where’s your favorite place to ride in New York?

“I try to find routes that simulate what I’ll experience during the Tour de France stages. Harriman State Park has long, steep climbs. Bear Mountain has a four-mile climb, which I once did five times back-to-back for twenty uphill miles.”

What’s the toughest workout you’ve done to prep?

“Robert gave me a hard hour-long workout the other day to train for climbs. I rode five intervals with three minutes of recovery between each: fifteen minutes with my wattage in the 140s, twelve minutes in the 150s, nine minutes in the 160s, six minutes in the 170s, and three minutes in the 180s.”

Do you train off the bike at all?

“I did leg workouts throughout the winter up to twice a week. They consisted of squats, deadlifts, single-leg presses, and single-leg hamstring curls. I believe I’m more powerful on the bike because of it.”

Fueling must play a huge role in your performance on the Tour de France course.

“It does. My goal is to get about 200 calories an hour during long rides. I get some of them from liquids, like the Carbo-Pro powder I add to my water bottle, and I always have a bar with me. I like Clif and Hammer products. Every hour, I drink a bottle of water with salt tablets. That’s how I’ll eat during the Tour stages, too, and then I’ll eat real food at rest stops. Endurance efforts like this kill your appetite, so I’ll just eat whatever tastes good enough.”

What are some mistakes you’ve made in the past that you’re going to try not to repeat this time around?

“I’ve screwed up my nutrition. Now I recognize the importance of eating, hydrating, and getting enough electrolytes. 

I used to get really stressed and nervous when I’d get to a long, steep hill. I learned quickly that this emotional reaction doesn’t help—it just takes up energy. Breathing calmly and getting comfortable with the hard work makes a big difference.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for publication. 

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