The Tour de Force

The Tour de Force

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

(We Are) The Road Crew! Stage 17: Dignes-les-Bains to Pra Loup...Wednesday 15th July 2015

Can't speak highly enough of this bunch. (Will that do, guys...can I have my bike back now please?) Photo by Paul Davy.
Today's ditty is for the TdF support staff: they're immense!
Sometimes only Chairman Lem & Co. will do...
Coach transfer before & after the stage. Oh good!
Lumps & bumps. Well it is The Alps!
This morning was an early start and it would be a long old day with a coach transfer to the start of the stage and one back to our hotel at the end. Aw diddums! As you can see from the stage profile above, we'd be seeing quite a bit of going up and down...

Saw quite a few 'Route Napoleon' signs along the way. He got around a bit.
There's always one...Chris appearing to find it a bit easier than Le Tracteur, hah-hah!
Sylvain applying medium beans for a downhill stretch. Immaculate as ever.
The landscape lends itself to hydro-electric activity...dams and lakes ahoy!

Bad enough looking at a photo, let alone the real thing!
Whilst I descend in a rather sedate fashion, others push on...just stay on the right side of the road please. Oh, you are.
Quiet as. Except for the wheezing, natch.
And back up we go, this time to the highest point on Le Tour...
I free-lanced after lunch and stopped to buy a tuna sandwich to help me get to the top of today's biggest climb and the highest point on this year's tour, the Col d'Allos. Those calories were burned easily and the climb was almost enjoyable, except for the annoying flies. There was a feed-stop at the the summit and I don't reckon anyone stayed too long...except for the long-suffering support crew who had to staff it. The guys will always play some top tunes at a stop too: the TdF iPod is remarkably similar in content to my own, hah-hah!
Strangely, I didn't find this climb too bad. Apart from the wee bast*rd flies, hah-hah!
It was during today that it struck me just how much work that the TdF support crew do: loading and transporting luggage and bikes, buying, preparing and setting-up feed stops, the all-important route signing, the fixing of bikes, medical advice and help, cycling with the last riders on the road and giving them all possible help and Goodness knows what else. Their hours are way worse than ours and yet they still have tons of enthusiasm and bonhomie. I'm in awe, really.
'Paramount Studios' mountains, the smell of pine...blimey.
As seen on the run into Pra Loup...Phil keep me company on the way up.
From the top it was a case of turn around and get down to the coach pick-up point in 25 minutes: this is to make sure that you're on the first coach as there'll be a wait of over an hour for the second one...always trying to make a long day slightly more manageable. As ever, you cheered on any riders that you passed on the way makes a difference, at least to me.

After dinner I asked one of the Docs to give me some medical alcohol to rub on my now very painful posterior: saddle sores are a nightmare to be blunt. I reckon you may have heard my yell back in Blighty: this stuff is napalm, but it is supposed to toughen-up the vital areas...
Things are getting desperate!
After dinner each night, there are two briefings for the riders. The first one is delivered by Sarah and involves admin for the following day: times of transfers and where to leave luggage etc., whilst the second one is given by Phil, and concerns the terrain that we'll tackle the next many miles, climbs etc.. All good to know!

This leads to the first of the three daily awards for individual riders: Phil will award a laminated route map of that day's stage to the rider that he thinks really pulled-out all the stops. Quite a few riders will have to put in very long days, which then impacts on recovery time for the following day. I have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for these guys because almost certainly every day when they wake they know that it's going to be another tough one. Takes some doing...

The second and third awards are decided by the current holders of them: the first one is the Pink Horn which is won for dubious fashions, faux pas on the bike or generally daft behaviour. The recipient has to attach the hooter to his handlebars for the duration of the following day's ride. The disgrace, hah-hah!

The final award is 'The Chapeau' award which is given to a rider who has done something to help his colleagues in some way, shape or form. Well lo and behold, guess who was awarded it tonight? Jolyon was the current holder and nominated myself and Andy (we now also go under various other monikers like Ant & Dec, Laurel & Hardy and most worryingly, The Chuckle Brothers!) because we have been known to take the odd turn at the front of groups (well, Andy more than me, obvs) and are usually in good spirits...anyway we retired a nearby pizza joint for a top-up meal and to model the beret, attracting some looks from the locals, hah-hah!
Giving it Le Fred Scuttle dans le chapeau. Le clown!

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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!