The Tour de Force

The Tour de Force

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

L.A. Woman...Stage 21: Sevres to Paris...Sunday 19th July 2015

Jim's journey also ended dans Paris. Top tune!

Flat as, right? Well there were a few unnecessary drags taken at full-ish pelt...
All correct minus the laps of Le Champs etc.: we don't have closed roads but I do have a self-preservation instinct.
As Sarah promised, it truly was a grim o'clock departure from our lovely Alpe D'Huez hotel: shame we only spent approximately 12 minutes in it, hah-hah! The two coaches did depart at 0530hrs and unfortunately I had to inflict my company on Pete B.: he pretended not to mind, being a bon oeuf et all...I reckon we were all in too much of a zombie-like state to care...

All told, we were on the coach for just over 9 (nine) hours: if I said it was a shocker I'd be smoothing things out. Never have I wanted to get back on my bike more...never! In a cool move, Sarah had arranged some delicious pastries and coffee at the start point where some of the chaps were reunited with family. Others would appear at Versailles but the vast majority would be waiting at Le Tour Eiffel. And wait they did- we were at least two hours behind schedule because of a re-route by our coach driver due to Autoroute crashes. Before all that caper, we had the slight matter of staying safe and sound for thirty miles...oh, and savour all this too please, because it'll be over before you know it!

Sorry about the decolletage. It was a trifle warm though!
Renault's centre de technology. Of course you already knew that.
It was a fairly brisk sector to Versailles with several deceptive climbs followed by sweeping descents: it was difficult to take in the fact that this particular adventure was drawing to a close, but at the same time it felt so exciting to be so near to the great city. Bittersweet, oui?

I heart the grandeur of Versailles. I also was glad of our final feed-stop because I had left my water bottles at the hotel. If that was the only collateral damage from last night then I'll take that!
The stop-start nature of the run-in due to traffic lights splintered the riders after Versailles. Andrew Wates is top-right...
After Versailles I stayed largely alone on the run-in which I was happy about: there were enough distractions on the road already for me and it wasn't until I reached the Eiffel Tower that I heard that of three riders hitting the deck separately. This is always bad but one of them was Andrew Wates who had joined us at Versailles, and I hate to tell you that he suffered a broken hip as a result. Heal fast, Sir. At least the other guys 'only' had road rash...not pleasant all the same.

Made it to the other Blackpool!
As I reached the RV point just behind Le Tour, I heard someone call my name: it was only Tish, who is Le Tracteur's much finer other-half...great to see you, Ma'am! In a stroke of management genius, Andy had texted Tish and asked her to pickup a few beers on her way to the RV...cue a Heineken or two, hah-hah! We waited a little and other riders started appearing and it was terrific to see their joy on not only completing this challenge but to meet-up with family and friends. Nice one!
Great to see Jolyon (ruthless Director Sportif) at the finish. Prolly my favourite photo...cheers Tish!
If Hitchcock did Avenues...
After more than a few photos and embraces and handshakes, we were all off again for the final spin to Arc de Triomphe de l'√Čtoile via one of the most famous and beautiful avenues there is. However, at 6.30pm on a Sunday it is absolutely chocka and I was happy to weave my way up it and dismount at L'Arc for more photos. Our hotel was only about 10 minutes ride away and was very comfy: good on ya', Sarah!
Don't need any caption, do I?
We were pressed for time so it was a case of a quick shave and shower and onto a coach for the transfer to our celebratory dinner on La Seine. was a bit special to have the sights pass before you as dusk fell. Lucky people, I know. There followed some heartfelt speeches and presentations of awards to all the riders, but also of collective gifts from the riders to Sarah and Phil and also Tracy, who kept the whole show running from Edinburgh. It was terrific to have a few words with Phil afterwards, and even more terrific to have him get up and leave the table half-way through one of Chris's 'Partridge-esque' stories, hah-hah! C'mon, the man cannot be blamed for that...

To be fair to Alan er, Chris, he did come out with one pearl of wisdom: whether we know it or not, on these kinda trips we initially present the idealised version of ourselves to the group but after a few travails, sleepless nights, long days and whatnot, slowly that version gets chipped away to reveal the more accurate picture. Or something like that: he's like Friedrich Nietzsche except he climbs a bit better...

Chris, Annabel, Andy and Andy's considerably better-half, Tish...cheers!
Team Lanterne Rouge sign-off on another fine mess er, successful mission!
Love this little momento. Nice work by everyone concerned...thank you.
We eventually coached-it back to the hotel where some folk retired and some folk didn't. Chris, Annabel, Rick and myself headed back to Le Champs, or just off it just because it was one of those evenings that you didn't want to end. I did bail first though, citing old age, hah-hah! The following morning Andy sent me a text from the breakfast room stating that scrambled eggs were on offer: I was there in 5! Afterwards we shook hands and said "Until the next time...". I dread to even consider what that's going to involve, hah-hah! Nah, thanks to Andy for being a top roomie again and taking care of a load of admin along the way. And by admin I do of course include getting a round in. Cheers mate!
Monday, and a suitably large lunch was enjoyed just beside L'Arc...tres, tres bon!
As is the way with big, old events like this you wonder if it will change you- and hopefully for the better. Similar questions were posed by a lot of fellow riders after the trek across the USA in 2011 but I don't reckon that it changed me at all. I don't expect that riding and completing Le Tour will either, but there are a few similar points to take away:

a) break the massive-looking tasks down and worry about one 'stage' at a time...

b) always leave a tip for room cleaners: Dear knows they earn it with some folk, ahem...

c) you're capable of a ton more than you think: sometimes it needs the help or encouragement from other people to drag it out of you. Sometimes not...

d) before I disappear up my own tailpipe that's probably about it.

Thanks to all the Tour de Force staff, riders, my super-generous sponsors and anyone who has enjoyed this blog. See you at a food-stop sometime?

Some stats before le final stats proper:

Miles cycled...2100
Feet climbed...150,000
Saddle sores...2
Highest temperature...43c
Beers stopped from going bad...more than a few
Top speed...54 mph
Gels used...0
Laughs had...more than a few
Bananas eaten...loads
Slowest speed...2 mph
Dodgy knees...2
Ambition realised...1

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I do have a bit of previous...

2014: 1000 miles solo & unsupported out to France, then La Bicinglette...6 x Mont Ventoux in a day!

2013: 1000 miles solo & unsupported out to Austria, then the worst climbs in The Dolomites!

2012: The inaugural Haute Route sportive from Geneva to Nice, followed by the worst Pyrenean climbs!

2011: 3500 miles across North America...coast to coast!

2010: 1600 miles from Gibraltar to Blackpool!

2009: 1000 miles from Land's End to John O'Groats!

2008: 250 miles from Blackpool to London!

2007: 100 miles around Manchester!

2006: 0.5 mile to corner shop!