The Tour de Force

The Tour de Force

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Three Little Birds...Stage 16: Valence to Gap...Monday 13th July 2015

Today's choon is courtesy of Jolyon: you'll see why a bit later on...

"Gonna be alright!"

Oh look..downhill all the way!
We rolled-out a little bit after 0800hrs, just after changing Le Tracteur's rear tube that had decided to misbehave during le nuit. We went off the front to separate us from the crowds, which is how I prefer to cycle. We also had a helping wind mostly which contributed to some ridiculous but controlled speeds: about 19.2 mph average for the first 25 miles. This included the World's Fastest P-Stop on record: in, out, shake it all about!
We would've loved some of that hydration later.
A memorial to The Resistance.
Lavender. Loadsa lavender...great smells. Certainly better smelling than us.
This is why we don't ride double-file. Not my group, anyway.
Myself, Andy, Dave and Peter reached the first feed-stop ahead of everyone: honestly, not a big deal but one for collectors. The thing was, post-food we were bunched-up with a lot of other TdF cyclists: as I may have mentioned already, I ain't a fan of cycling in large groups so I went to the front to lead it. We were speeding around a left-hand bend when I saw bollards that delineated the road from a cycle-way, so I shouted a warning and gesticulated about the bollards. I heard Andy behind me shout the same and Nick behind him too: I was 50 yards away before I heard the shattering of plastic, squealing of brakes and general mayhem. There must have been 20 riders in the group.

Andy and I slowed and turned back to see Jolyon sitting clutching his collarbone, whilst Dave was distraught about his bike literally being shorn in half. With hindsight, the injuries could have been a ton worse, but that doesn't lessen the pain for Jolyon who cannot cycle to Paris now.  The only remote upsides are that Jolyon's brother is also riding Le Tour and is a surgeon whose speciality is shoulders and related stuff. Honestly. Alhough having spent some time with Jonny, I'm not quite sure if I'd want him to operate on me, hah-hah!

This accident happened because all the "holes aligned in the Swiss Cheese": on another day we would have sailed-on by regardless but there have a number of crashes already and a few near-misses too. That is the nature of group events, I suppose...all you can do is try to limit your exposure to the risks.

None of this stops anyone feeling any less badly for Dave or Jolyon: they both are super-strong and trained a load for this event and Jolyon suggested to Dave that he should use his bike thereafter. That's the calibre of bloke we're dealing with here: when we caught up with him later he was more concerned about us staying upright until Paris! You've heard the expression, "...a class act..."? 'Nuff said.
Look. Green!
Once the various parties had been alerted and were able to tell us to clear-off because we were of no use, then we rolled-away again. This crystallises how Le Tour runs: ever on, regardless. On an honest and purely selfish note, I felt on an absolute downer after the crash...of all the people etc...
We did roll on of course and got back into the groove...up and down, slow and fast until we stopped for lunch where Jolyon appeared, with his arm in a sling and with the most positive attitude, as per!
C'mon you slow-coaches. I was distanced shortly after this. Not bon, hah-hah!
Do the Shake'nVac...smell that pine.
After lunch there followed an insanely fast flattish section: it was fast beacuse we sat behind Le Tracteur who was taking massive turns on the was one of those ones where it was all you could do to hang on and I was glad to see the final feed-stop arrive. Nice work, Sir! At this stop, Matt, who is an otherwise fairly urbane and civilised Corporate Accountant took a leak a little closer than he would normally do to one of the tables and he was heard to lament comically: "I've gone feral. Just look at us...". Lord Of The Flies writ large, hah-hah!

Breathe in!
Some of the scenery was tremendous: lavender, wheat...if there were any hops they might have been used for the beer we savoured atop of our final climb of the day, just outside Gap. Cheers Andy, Chris, Annabel and George!
I couldn't care less if these 'endless road' shots are's a blast for me!
Brains Trust, Annabel and Chris. Always get shade & a seat during breaks!
Our destination, but not before a nuisance speed-bump.
I had a p-stop so I thought it rude not to have a photo. Bailey's the same, right?
Ooh get her, all arty-farty. Next to a hay bale.
Well deserved by me, Andy, Annabel, Chris and George. Cheers!
Are you sure we ain't in the Wild West?
Le Tracteur took this one of me wheezing/collapsing over the summit. Shambolic at best.
This is a pile of wood bark that will be fashioned into some cobblers by the time Le Tour rolls around.
Definitely too arty-farty.
Andy and I rounded-off the day by stopping at a McDonalds for about 3000 extra and needed calories. Oh, and they also sell beer too: now that's culture for you!

The damage done. We bought Jolyon a bottle of Calvados as a pain-management measure.
Dave with his deceased Canyon...


  1. I feel joylon's pain (literally), if u see him again, pass on my best wishes. Cheers. Jonsey

  2. Done. The Man sends his best to you too...heal pronto!


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!