French Road trip report 2019

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  • chris
    Post count: 13477

    Ok so we are about to start the adventure, 7 days of what looks like some tough days in the saddle with enough climbing to last the rest of the year. The bikes all 19 of them are safely in the trusty Ford Transit and we are on our way to Avignon.
    For some it will be the first time in the mountains so hopefully they will enjoy them and it gives everyone the opportunity to bag a few Tour De France climbs including the iconic Alpe D’Huez and Mont Ventoux.
    I am sure there will be laughter/Tears/Fun/Sun/Snow/Rain/coffee and cake along with a bit of vino and the odd beer so keep your fingers crossed for good weather and the wind on your back.
    As we have a lot of newbies on the trip there maybe some people who do not know each other so a little introduction to the list of participants is as below and look forward to seeing everyone in Avignon.

    Ian Birch “Le Virgin” A seasoned campaigner but a newbie to the WDMBC magical tours, good to see him and Annie joining on the fun/pain/laughs/tears (delete as required) of a WDMBC club trip.

    Annie Birch “Madame Virgin” Another seasoned campaigner but once again a newbie to the WDMBC magical tours, who we welcome to the Tour group.

    Drew “Le Jeune Garcon “ yet another virgin on his tour debut, not exactly built in the Pantani mould but certainly has age on his side.

    Ramin Monsier Heureux Always smiling but as yet again another Tour Virgin how will he find the cols, only time will tell.

    Richard Le Roi Another Le Virgin who is a bit of a dark horse looking lean but once again an unknown quantity when in the high mountaiin been splashing the cash on some super light climbing wheels so could surprise us by vying for the KOMs.

    Stephen, L’inconnu, yet another Tour virgin, a bit of a theme here, another one with age on his side and someone who could surprise the old guard and if recent reports are correct is a man on form on the climbs.

    Rick Featherston Le Homme Tranquile, Another tour virgin, but a class act on two wheels so were expecting some big turns on the front and will probably need the long range binoculars to see him on the climbs

    Alvaro – »Le Homme Mystere » , not been seen on a bike yet this year, not sure if he has been riding in secret and is going to show us the way from the front or if he genuinely has not been riding and will be amongst the grupetto which will no doubt form in the Mountains.

    Clive- Ongless Evans- A man on form and back to his best could be one to hand out the pain but known to have a weakness in the heat and heady hts and I will have to remind him on a daily basis of the resut of the last race he rode in France and a certin mountain in Nothern Spain !

    Mick -Le Grand Mick Fuller- A man back to his racing best, looking very lean and gaunt , however he is kown to have a penchant for cake so if you want a chance on the climbs make sure you buy him a cake at every opportunity and hopefully he will come back a lot heavier than he went out .No doubt as in previous years will have a new matching outfit every day, however has been getting the excuses in early with tales of a bad back.

    Alan-Le Scouse An unknown quantity as he has been in hiding in Australia for the last few years but as always he will be having daily battles with Big Mig for bragging rights and has always been a top climber

    Sean Le Bavard Higgins, back after missing last years Tour , certainly going well so should be at the front of the peloton dishing it out rather than recieving it !s always will be lulling people into thinking he is not hurting by chatting continually as riding

    George « Le Buster » Somnea AKA Mr Reliable will always make it to the finish no matter what and wnen not riding for his team leader Ewelina can climb with the best

    Ewelina Le Diable- The demon descender stay out of her way on the way down, not the fastest going up but certainly will make time up on the descents.

    Darren Le Punch Smith, One part of the Punch and Judy double act, as normal has been brought along to keep the spirits high in the bunch with his one liners and abilty to put his pied into his bouche on a regular basis.

    Kasia Le Judy Ambrose the dominant partner in the Punch and Judy double act.Always watching calories consumed but not hers, No doubt will be the Queen of the Mountain Stages as a climber extrodinaire.

    Graham Le G aka Charlie, likely to be bringing up the rear but a new bike and lots of enthusiasm will see him bag a few more Cols to join his ever lengthening Plalmares

    Gosia. Le Femme, Miss Rapha, Another rider who will be wearing a selection of matching kit probably not up to Big Mickey Fullers sartorial elegance during the day but will out shine him in the evenings and now into her 4th Tour expected to be nearer the pointed end then the bunt end.

    Ray Sans Arret Kingdom, On last years form should be at the or near the head of the field, the severity of the climbs can be equated to the words per minute he speaks any less than 30 words a minute and it is steep !

    Tom Roue Porter -The ever dependent driver once again chomping at the bit to fire up the Transit and rag it up and down some alpine passes as he dreams of being talent spotted by a factory rally team whilst away for the week will be missing his drinkong partner from last year Henry.

    Roll on the first day and seeing if the bikes have come out of the van unscathed and wheels are still round.

    Post count: 13477

    Day 1 Avignon to Sault

    The good news from yesterday was all 19 bikes arrived in the back of the van unscathed and everyone made it to the Hotel, so we were a full complement of 20 riders and the ever dependent Tom the wheels as the lone support, what some people will do for a week away from their missus.
    A superb evening meal a few beers supped whilst watching a disappointing European Champions League final and then a lovely breakfast only marred by 2 peope who will remain nameless breaking the lycra rule coming down for breakfast avec cycling kit although as Ian and Annie are both tri-athletes they may have a small excuse for their serious mis demeanour on the first day.
    On last years trip breakfast was usually a contest between the hotels bread stock and the WDMBC massive, usually with the bread stock loosing but certainly not at the excellent Ibis Sub in Avignon although this may have been partially due to the fact we had not ridden the day before.
    The rendevouz time for the pre tour publicity shots was 9.15 with an ETA of 9.30 planned, now being a betting man I was sure that the faff factor of 20 cyclists getting ready was going to mean we were likely to be leaving at closer to 10 than 9.30 especially with the fact one of those cyclists was Scouse, I am sure there is a faff calculation but what ever it is if multiplied by the group plus scouse it rises by at least 20%.
    As normal the experienced riders were making use of the hotels breakfast provisions to sneak a a snack away for the ride after all you can only have so many energy bars/gels even if they are the excellent Project 2 ones.(Quick product placement advert-anyone want to buy some gels/bars at good prices get in touch)
    Just before we left there was the quick motivational speech and the request for people to ride steadily for the first hour which if previous trips experience is anything to go on will be totally ignored after the first 5 minutes.
    Today’s route was from Avignon was generally gently climbing for the first 56 kms to Bedoin where a stop and re group had been suggested before the 20 km blast up the Malculene side of Mt Ventoux to the heady heights of top at just under 2000 meters before the long descent down to Chalet Reynard and then to the overnight stop in Sault.
    My prediction on the pecking order for the Climb was Rick then Big Mig followed by Scouse was I going to be right only time would tell.
    So what time did we get away and who were we waiting for ?
    Well remarkably everyone was more less on time and after the photos and the pep tlk bout starting off together for the first few Kms we were off at 9.45.
    Leaving the town the peloton stayed together and the pace was “piano” but come the first hill it was no surprise that the pace actually increased and a few riders found out their form/fitness was not as they had hoped and went stern way. As it was only short and despite Mick Fuller and Drew giving it half beans if not more like ¾ beans most of the group came back together on the down hill for the ride into Bedoin the designated coffee stop, Now clearly being a stopping point there was going to be a big sprint for the town sign, modesty prevents me telling everyone that yours truly took the honours.
    A stop in the town centre of Bedoin which is a mecca for cyclists going up the Mt Ventoux saw coffees and cokes being devoured and then shortly we were on the road to the Mountain itself this time we had decided to go up the Maluclene side, apart from Big G who decided he wanted to ride the Bedoin side and Ian and Annie who decided that they fancied a slightly less hilly route to Sault. The saying only mad dogs and English men go out in the mid day sun came to mind as by the time we left Bedoin it was close too mid day and the Sun was up. A few riders had started out early and were swept up by the peloton My prediction had been that Rick would be first up the climb and although I did not see it as a little further behind I was right although Stephen had obviously had him rattled as Rick told him to slow down as he was breathing to hard so Stephen powered down a bit and let Rick go (Nice one Rick) My roving reporters informed me that the order at the top was Rick, Big Mick, Stephen and then Scouse and then surprisingly it was me having overtaken the young whip a snappers Drew, Kasia, Ray, Clive, on the climb,we had a re grouping at the top of Kasia, Clive, Myself, Stephen, Scouse, Mick and Rick and started the descent into Chalet Reynard where wheels was waiting with some delicious home made cake (Thanks Mum) Then suitably carbo loaded we headed for the Hotel the Hostellerie Du Val de Sault and what a place, two swimming pools , superb rooms the only aggro was that our luggage had not arrived as Wheels waited for the stragglers. But of course the kudos for being first into Sault the stage finish was to be decided once again modesty prevents me telling you readers it was me.Second place not sure but then who cares about the first loser !
    Reports came in over race radio , ok the mobile phone that Big G had abandoned 4km from the top suffering with the heat Alvaro and big Drew were also suffering big time in the Heat but soldiered on. A gruppetto of Ramin, Richard, Ray, Darren, Shaun and Gosia then came in all with their own war stories, next in was Drew suffering from a slight humour by pass as his Garmin took him off road for the last few Kms to the Hotel.
    Last in was the trio of George, Ewilina and Alvaro with George as usual being Mr Reliable getting the group to the hotel in time for dinner where we no doubt will hear some war stories from the day.
    Roll on day 2


    65.8 miles
    2230 metres of climbing

    Post count: 13477

    France Day 2

    Sault to Digne Les Bain

    Well on paper this was the easiest day hopefully in reality this was also going to be the case.
    However a quick review of what we had learnt from the previous days climb up MT Ventoux, as expected Rick was and will be the man to beat on the climbs, Le Grand Micks bad back was not hampering his riding, Clive still suffers in the heat and at altitude, Kasia is the woman to beat on the climbs, Drew at 6ft 7 ins and in the mould of a rugby player is not built for the mountains, Alvaro has not been doing any secret training in fact any training. Big G is another not keen on the heat and no doubt will now have to come back again to the Windy Mountain to conquer it from Bedoin.
    So Monday morning came and boy what a way to start the day with a superb breakfast everything any cyclist would want, yoghurt, pancakes, eggs, cake, bread, cheese, meats and more fresh fruit than you could wish for. The only thing letting it down was the sight of 2 cyclists in full lycra already, no names mentioned Annie and Ian.
    The plan today was to set off in 2 groups, the more leisurely group at 9.30 , Annie, Ian, Big G, George, Ewilina and Avaro, with the rest starting off at 10. My suspicion was that a few of the faster people might try and sneak into the slower group and the start resembled a time trial rather than a road race with various people starting at various times as they all either over or under their fitness or lack of it !
    With temperatures expected to be in the 30’s although a short relatively flat day it could still be a hard day in the office, my plan after yesterdays exertions was to have a gentle ride with my Beau Gosia to get a view from mid pack.
    Having left the hotel at 10 with the biggest group it was clear some peoples meaning of steady was different to others and it was not long before the group started to splinter as they coped with the heat, a head wind and route that was as lumpy as Samantha Fox’s chest (Only the old Sun readers will get that one)
    The plan was to ride Piano to Le Mees where the idea was to refuel and then onto the last 25 kms into Digne Les Bain which from the route profile looked all gently uphill. As it was an Italian cafe it would have been rude not to sample the Pizzas and a fair few from the group did. Once again as people loosened their bib shorts to cope with the excessive carbo loading others took advantage to slip away unnoticed, the breaking news was that Drew had taken the town sign at Le Mees obviously recovered from his hard 1st day but the real surprise was the second temporary abandonment of the trip this time Big Mick suffering from the second hand effects of big Als Asian flu, with a co driver in the van now wheels was keen to get going to rag the transit to Digne Les Bain and impress the ex driving instructor with his aptitude behind a wheel and this he did getting the van to the hotel I plenty of time before the riders arrived.
    Although I was not in the front group the news from race radio aka the mobile was that Ewilina had taken the stage town sign, with the fast boys Rick, Stephen,Scouse and Nails not doing enough to catch them before the town.
    The bonus of the day being that we all finally enjoyed a tail wind for the last 20kms and the whole day had been on superb roads with new tarmac on some sections and hardly a pot hole for the whole ride, envious -some what, why are the Chiltern Roads in such a poor state of repair ?
    Today’s statistics
    60 miles
    2801ft of climbing
    3559 ft of descending
    Roll on day 3

    Post count: 13477

    French trip Day 3 Report

    Digne Les Bain to Barcelonette

    On paper this looked a hard day, a mileage of 119km and 2806 meters of climbing and the following cols to conquer, Col De Pierre Base, the Col De Corobin and then the Col du Allos before a 20km descent to the Hotel. Once again Annie and Ian were adorned in cycling kit at breakfast ,clearly two rebels and what was worse was that Ian was wearing a Willesden Jersey!

    The food stocks soon started to run out at the Hotel as 20 hungry cyclists stocked up with both the bread and muesli stores being totally depleted however the Hotel did eventually manage to find some more Bread.

    Various people set out on the route at various times once again, some to get an advantage on what was going to be a long day for them, others to try and sneak a win on one of the mountain passes.

    However before we left we were treated to another performance from Punch and Judy as they exchanged morning pleasantries just prior to setting off, although before the watershed, luckily as there was no children present and the show was in English in a French town no one took offence.

    Once we had started it was not long before the climbing commenced on the Col De Pierre, as expected the trips revelation Stephen was pushing the pace with Rick, Clive, Scouse and Big Mick obviously fresher than most after his journey in the van the previous day and they stared to split the main group. However it was not long before Stephens bike was in need of some TLC and myself and Sean swept past with a cheery “see you later,” over the top we took a couple of photo’s before we enjoyed a swooping descent to rendezvous with the support van for the first time.

    Most people re-grouped at the van apart from George/Ewilina/Darren/Annie and Ian who were some minutes ahead. Various people had an attempt to fix Stephens bike (Where is Mark Eidem when you need him) eventually Alvaro managed to get the gears working well enough to get him going again and we set off up a very draggy road, with the crit racer Mick Fuller giving it beans, it was not long before the peloton was much reduced in numbers and when Ramin informed me that he was having to pull 300 watts to stay on when Clive was on the front I slid out the back and rode with the Queen of the Mountains Kasia. As we got close to the foot hills of the Col Du Allos a mere 23 Kms of climbing was coming up but first the trusty van appeared again, another big regroup, more water on board and we were off riding steadily, as normal the status Quo did not last long and soon the pace picked up in direct proportion to the steepness of the climb, a look back as I chewed my handlebar stem and there was only 4 of us left, Rick, stephen/Clive and myself, time to put a big bluff in and hit the front and see what effect it had, Surprisingly Clive who must have been paying for his earlier efforts went backwards, but the bluff had not worked on Stephen and Rick who then upped the pace even more and started to open a little gap, then luckily sorry I mean unfortunately bad luck occurred and Stephen managed to once again tangle his chain with his spokes and ground to a halt. Rick as any club mate would stopped but only until I got there and we told him the future father in law Clive would be up next to help him and we both pressed on.

    Rick was now clearly worried and kept trying to pyche me out by trying to engage me in conversation as we rode, as I was blowing out of my posterior at the time and riding at above threshold it was bit of of a one way conversation, more akin to the response to Teresa May’s request for more concessions on the Brexit deak. As we climbed a big Red Jersey loomed up in front of us clearly suffering it was Punch AKA Darren who had been hoping that his early start would be enough to allow him to take the KOM title on the Col, alas this was not a fairy tale and we were no Price Charming’s so as soon as we confirmed it was him in our radar the pace went up to make sure we caught him prior to the top, although the increase of pace was for another reason as well as we could see Stephen below and he had fixed his mechanical and was on a mission to catch us.

    Eventually after a very hard last 3 kms we crested the mountain, Rick giving his elder club mate, aka me the honour of cresting the top first with Darren 3rd and Stephen 4th, time for the customary top of the Col photos and then what should have been a great 20 km descent to the hotel, unfortunately the downhill had just been resurfaced and there was grit every where which slowed the top speed a bit but it made for an interesting descent.

    Obviously with Darren’s weight it was no surprise that when the road straightened gravity ensured he was first down and he took the stage three town sign win, however the race jury is out on the standing of this result as he had started an hour before everyone else in his group so it may have to go to be the second placed rider and I wonder who that was?

    Eventually all the group arrived in dribs and drabs at the Hotel, all with their own war stories on what was a very hard day and with the climbs of the Col De Vars and the Col D Izoard both over 2000metres to come tomorrow I think a few people will be having some bad dreams.

    Today’s Statistics

    Mileage 73 miles

    8000 ft of climbing

    6099 ft of descending

    Post count: 13477

    France Day 4

    Barcelonette to Briancon

    The profile of todays stage resembled a cross section of Jordans chest back in the day, up and over one peak onto the next peak and another up and over with no flat in between as were were going over both the Col De Vars and the Col D’Izorad,both legendary Tour De France Hors category climbs. I thought it was going to be a long hard day with a few people expected to be looking to warming the passenger seat with their derriere.
    Another French breakfast and yes by the 4th day I was longing for Egg and Beans! Various people had clearly made pacts and deals the previous evening as various people started in various groups, Gosia’s plans were to ride the Col De Vars and then get in the van for the Izoard, Given a poor nights sleep and tired legs from my Herculean effort trying to keep with Rick that plan suited me, So we set off some where in the middle of the pack, the surprise though was that there were 3 people in the van Graham, who just wanted to bag the Izoard, but Kasia the Queen of the mountains was also in civvies, complaining of not feeling well and also keeping Tom company.
    The Col De Vars was a fairly gentle climb to start with but as the altitude rose so did the gradient, myself and Gosia stopped for some photo’s and took in the scenery and as we did we occasionally leapfrogged George and Ewilina with Alvaro, Darren,Richard and Ray coming past us.
    The plan had been to meet the van at the bottom of the climb but due to a mechanical for Ramin who was in a later group, the anticipated van was not in the anticipated place when myself and Gosia arrived, most of the group were still waiting for it apart from Clive and Stephen who had soldiered on, Ray who had managed to take a short cut and Ian and Annie who were self sufficient.
    Given that it was only 25 degrees and we were half way I decided that I had enough liquid and food to carry on so said my hellos and then goodbyes, the unfortunate thing was that Rick decided to join me, so rather than a gentle ride on the lower slopes of the Izoard it was a bit of slog especially as the road gave the impression we were going down hill but in reality was a 2.5% climb.
    We were hoping we could pull Stephen and Clive back before the top but there was no sight of them until we got to the steeper slopes of the Izoard when we saw Clive in the distance now at this stage I was actually feeling ok ish, it was clear that Clive who suffers at altitude and in heat was not feeling ok. A Quick chat and we sailed past, very soon afterwards the elastic holding me to Rick also snapped and I started a lonely slow grind up to the top of the Izorad and by the time I got to the KM to go sign I could see no one in front and no one on the lower slopes.
    Once at the top the usual photo’s and then the superb 20km descent into Briancon started, passing a caped up rider as I sped down not realising it was Ian B in disguise.
    Not surprisingly the down took a lot less time than the up and the Hotel in Briancon was a welcome sight. Already in town were Rick and Stephen, the ever impressive Rick having caught Stephen in the final Kms of the climb and Ray who had although having taken a short cut was clearly coming back into top form, the next rider in was the caped up Ian Birch with Darren now devoid of his team duties with Kasia in the van climbing well.
    The van then appeared and it looked pretty full, Alvaro had climbed in missing the Izoard, he tried to convince everyone that the only reason he had got in was that he had not loaded the route onto his Garmin and did not want to get lost, this convinced no one as you can hardly get lost when there is only one road up and down the Col De Izorad and 20 other people riding the same route, the other abandonment on the stage being Clive who was clearly not in a good way and was trying to convince people he can no longer can suffer as he gets older, now this was nearly as far fetched as Alvaro’s excuse as any one who knows Clive knows that he can suffer big time although normally he is making everyone else suffer including me!
    Gosia was on race radio (ok mobile phone)asking for assistance from the van as she had blown big time half way up the Izoard, for those not experienced with climbing in the Alps the ascent might only be 20 kms but when your struggling to hold 8km per hour that is some ride especially in the height of the sun and with one col already in your legs. Those that know me, know that given Gosia’s state I immediately instructed Tom to drive the wheels post haste back up the mountain to pick her up NOT ! This was a delicate situation and who else could cope with it, so after a very long pep talk supported by a supportive text message I am glad to say she manned up and carried on and with the aid of a super chaperon AKA George she managed to pick her chin up and enjoy the descent down to the Hotel in Briancon, tired but happy to be a finisher!
    Big Graham after a van assisted lift up the Col De Vars had climbed out of the van at the foot of the Izoard and was on the lower slopes whilst most of us were ensconced in the hotel but we were all hoping that this time he would achieve the summit under his own steam and a sI popped out for some soft drinks ok a celebratory cold beer I managed to catch his delight on completing his mission up the Izoard with a end of ride photo.
    As in the previous days the rest of the group had got to the hotel in dribs and drabs, Mick Fuller, Scouse, Shaun and Ramin riding together, clearly all mellowing as they age, as a few years ago they would have been ripping each others legs off at the first sign of weakness and over dejeuner I am sure I will catch up on some more of the days war stories.

    Mileage 61
    Total climbing 2485M

    Post count: 13477

    France Day 5

    Briancon to Grenoble

    Today there was choice and a big choice, ride straight from Briancon to Grenoble or divert and make a small detour to take in the infamous Alpe D’Huez, for me having had 4 very hard days and having done the famous Alpe D’huez once at the end of the Marmotte 100 mile plus sportive, which I still have nightmares over and then 2 years a go when I had a fairly comfortable ride up it was a no brainer, at my age I was going to give this a miss with 90 plus miles to ride tomorrow.
    Today’s ride started reasonable socially as apart from Gosia who had opted to miss the Col Du Lauret to save her legs for the Aple D’Huez and the ever reliable couples George/Ewelina and Ian/Annie everyone else started together and it was a nice sight to see a slick moving bunch, mostly in club kit heading out of town. Unfortunately as we did head out of town we hit the lower slopes of the Col straight away and with Clive on the front and Big Mig clearly starting to recover from Asian Flu it was not long before the pace rose, and rose too much for some, looking at my heart rate which was struggling to rise I knew I was not going to be taking part in the race for the KOM so sprinted past everyone playing a big bluff managing to get a 30 metre lead that turned into a 30 metre deficit nearly as quickly, as Rick/Stephen/Ray clearly finding his form,Big Mick, Kasia obviously fully rested after her day off yesterday along with Clive and Ramin came past me, then a big surprise Alvaro had found his climbing legs and also came past me , Keeping a steady pace I kept leap frogging Ramin and Alvaro who were as unpredictable as the favourite for the Conservatives new party leader. The Col Du Lauret compared to some of the others we had already ridden was fairly tame in gradient and length and as on an open road I could see that the lead group had splintered with the order at the top being Big Mick, Stephen and Rick, the latter clearly saving himself for the Alpe, then Big Al, Kasia, Ray, Ramin, Alvaro and then myself with Shaun and Drew very close behind. Now on the Briancon side of the mountain it had been sunny and warm but once at the top the temperature had plummeted faster than Darren on a downhill and we were in the clouds. Luckily for us Wheels had the van strategically placed and everyone donned arm warmers/Jackets and any other warm clothing they could grab before starting a 40 km descent. Now this should have been real fun but when your shivering so much that it is effecting the handling of the bike it is not so much fun but once down in the valley a little oasis was found and Chaud Chocolates all round supplemented by some great omelettes and everyone was in a better place. Here it was decision time who would, and who would not do the Alpe and just to add another option Ray wanted to do another climb that came out a 3rd of the way up the Alpe and then come down from there. Poor Richard fell for Rays persuasive skills and followed him, George sailed past heading for the Alpe, Gosia was already on her way up it, Drew and Ramin were umming and aahing about doing it whilst Stephen, Scouse and Rick were really up for it. Darren and Kasia who did not have the Alpe on their Palmares would surely do it and sneaked away whilst no one was watching so the jury presumed they would do the climb. Myself/Clive (being sensible for once)/Shaun and Big Mick who had ridden it previously decided we would just TTT from the cafe stop to the hotel, however with Ramin/Scouse/Drew still with us at the turn off for the Alpe we had to stop and it took us some time to convince the young boys that they really needed to bag the col for their Palamare, eventually they finally agreed and we went our separate ways.
    The ride to the hotel,not on the nicest roads we had experienced was fun with the 4 of us going through nice and steady and sharing the pace making, which ensued the Kms clicked off quickly. Once at the Hotel we rendevouzed with Kasia and Darren who had clearly not done the Alpe, Ian and Annie along with Ewilina who had all given the Alpe a miss.
    So big Kudos to the following who did do the ride up the Alpe, Gosia,Stephen,Drew, Ramin,Scouse but lets hope they are cream crackered tomorrow !

    Today’s statistics not including the Alpe!

    70 miles
    Climbing 3346ft
    Descending 6594 ft

    Post count: 13477

    France Day 6

    Grenoble to L’Pouzin

    Another overnight stay at Le Hotel, another French breakfast and yet another slog uphill to start the day, which at over 90 miles was going to be the longest of the trip and in the equation today was also 2 climbs over 1200 meters.

    The bad news for the group was that we would be down by 3 riders, fatigue had set in for Ian and Annie who had decided they were going to take the train to Avignon today, rather than ride the last 2 days and Graham who had decided after his efforts yesterday to have another rest day.

    At dinner the previous evening it had been decided we would all leave the Hotel at 9.30 to ride up the first climb where we would regroup and then ride as a bunch to the foot of the next col before what on paper was a nice downhill run into Le Pouzin.

    As most of us congregated for the planned start time it was clear a few people had different ideas, Alavaro and Richard sneaking away early with Drew who was complaining of tiredness after his epic ride on the Alpe the previous day, along with the regular early starters George and Ewlina.

    The temperature was mid 20’s and it was going to be a hot day, up the first climb the pace as always was upped and the gaps appeared, sticking to my plan of seeing how the legs were in the early part of the col by hitting the lower slopes at a good lick and then riding steadily to the top it was not long before I went from front to mid pack as Big Mick, Rick and Stephen fought it out for the mountain points. Gradually everyone made the top where a few people decided that they were too keen to start what was going to be an awesome downhill and sneaked off before everyone was ready, this meant there was some gaps on the downhill and with the assistance of some well timed feu rouges a little group of Kasia, Darren and Ray were away, behind somehow myself , Stephen, Rick and Ramin had also split from the rest of the pack so started to ride hard to catch the leaders, as well as Gosia who had taken the van to the top of the first Col.

    The two front groups merged and we back together just before one of the best ever descents I have ever done, through a long picturesque gorge with Darren and Ray giving it full beans despite my protestations to them to let the others, Mick et all to have a chance to catch up. By the time we got to the bottom of the valley and flat roads there was no one in sight so we pressed on all taking a turn on the front apart from Gosia who having missed the first climb of the day decided to try another climb off the route to ensure she did enough climbing for the day. At this point I became aware that Kasia had slipped off the back of the group, immediately flagging this up to to her team domestique Darren who was rolling a big gear and upping the pace every time he hit the front, I was expecting him to ease the pace a bit but he just smiled and changed up to the 12 sprocket. At this point I sensed there might be a second Punch and Judy show next time they met (And from my trusted sources I was not wrong) At some stage we went past George and Ewilina as always as un flustered as ever and making steady progress, then the road started to climb, it was clear at this point that the long ride in the valley, mostly into a wind had taken its toll because as soon as we hit the lower slopes of the last Col, the Col des Limoches the group splintered, as expected Rick was dishing the pain out in big spoonfuls as one by one riders went backwards, at this point we swept past Drew who was taking a drinks break at the side of the road. As we rode up the Col the van passed us and then stopped with wheels trying to put everyone off by saying one of the Cols was closed ( I think Mick had promised him red wine if he delayed us so he could catch up) this story was backed up by a female cyclist coming the other who had clearly also been primed and was on about Black Ice, I was not falling for it and shouted I am going to carry on, if there is ice I will give you a call. Rick and Stephen eventually also saw through the ruse and cracked on and we re grouped, at this stage we crested what appeared to be the summit and Rick took the village sign, unfortunately when we turned the next corner there was another sign informing us that the top of the Col was in fact 2kms further uphill, at this stage my after burners ran out of fuel and my pace dropped faster than a prostitutes knickers on a Saturday night. As I finally got to the top Rick was celebrating his win with photos next to the Col sign I managed to get my breath back and then after a couple of photos our trio started the descent .

    Now the descent should have been fun and it should have been an easy ride to the Hotel, the reality was that despite it being generally downhill the wind was so strong that it if you stopped pedalling you came to a halt in nano seconds, the Kms ticked off but oh, oh so slowly, we had intended to stop at a cafe but these were more scarce than Hens Teeth and we never found one,with about 30kms to go the final red jersey in front of us Alvaro was caught but he clearly had been working so hard in the wind on his own that he did not even try to hang on and just waved us goodbye, we were all running low on drink and food at this stage so when we saw a sign for a bar we stopped, unfortunately it was closed, I never like to see a grown man cry and as what happens on tour stays on tour I wont mention any names but Stephen clearly needed some TLC at this stage as he rattled the locked doors of the bar pleading for it to open. Luckily I still had my breakfast baguette which went 3 ways and Stephen’s chin was soon back in the right place and we set off again, me once again chewing my stem when Rick was on the front. Just prior to Pouzin the stage finish was a town called Lorilol and Rick put a big kick in to take the penultimate prime from me but when it mattered 3 kms further on the placings were reversed and I took the honours. After today’s efforts and with a lack of water the first two beers went down oh so well and did not hit the sides, it was not long before Alvaro came in and then not much longer before a big group which incuded Ray. Kasia, Darren, Drew, Richard came in, well it was really but don’t want to make them feel bad . The van then appeared with Scouse on board now that was a surprise. he must have felt bad .Big Mick, Shaun and Clive had decided to sample the French cusine en route once they had missed the main break and with great chivalry when they caught Goisa paced her to the hotel-Thanks Guys. Clearly I had tired the machine Rick out today as he was so exhausted I had to carry his bike up to the 3rd floor store for him as he collapsed in a heap in his room to recover for the final stage. Another epic day and only 1 day to go.

    Today’s Statistics

    92.5 Miles

    7782 Ft of Climbing

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