The Tour de Force

The Tour de Force

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Break Away! Stage 13: Muret to Rodez...Friday 10th July 2015

Maybe not Les Garcons Sur La Plage's finest moment (and their best stuff is right up there) but it is apt...

Strightforward, right? Ummm...up to a point....
Bits of naughtiness loaded at the end of the day. Bon!
After struggling out of the transfer coach we eventually set-off a tad later than was ideal but today's scenery promised much. Shame about the photos...

Them's flowers. Wot likes le soleil.
They're French. Top blokes all the same!
Fancy cycling 40 miles in filp-flops? Dave didn't he'll never leave anything behind again.
Who's not loving this? Apart from you people, obvs.
Taken about 30 secs before I lost patience with group cobblers: Tractor, let's go!
Andy and myself shared the miles until lunch- some of this was was difficult even on the flat thanks to rising heat and a 3/4 head-wind...just keep concentrating and it'll be ok. At lunch, OAP Chris was dumb enough to want to cycle with us. Good job too...three eejits are better than deux!

Before the next climb we (sensibly) stopped for a break. Collector's item: I lead them up and over it...was easy to be honest!
I had enough to lead our dumb-ass trio up and over this climb (read: it wasn't long or steep) but after that it was a slog, although we took great turns. Helps morale too. This formula continued until the final few drags where Le Tour guru, Phil, had joined us. Without realising it, the pace up the climbs raised by only about 1 to 1.5 mph which is enough to drop me on the steeper stuff. At the third climb Andy was feeling it a bit but was still ahead of me.

Somebody not appreciating my massive stage win, then...I wonder why, hah-hah!
Being the good eggs wot they are, they duly waited for Capt. Slow who then bombed on past them whilst mimicking the action of smoking a Panatella. I was able to keep motoring for the great descent and then the horrible drag up to Rodez: all I wanted to do was beat them up there. Job. Done. You. Losers, hah-hah! Turns out at least two of them were suffering up that climb too...sweet! After the finish I was right back on to the massage table- I'm a believer...

Fair amount of salt deposited.
This was a tough stage for pretty much everyone (aren't they all?) but dinner was buzzing...even allowing for the anticipated lack of usable wiffy. Always with the First World Problems, right?

The Key To The Highway...Stage 12: Lannemazen to Plateau de Beille...Thursday 9th July 2015

A real'll be missed.

An early transfer again (there is a distinct pattern forming here, worse luck) and a late start to what was always going to be a monster day. That's the one thing about time: you have reeeeaaaaal difficulty clawing it back. Diddums...

This ain't gonna be pretty. Actually the scenery was beautiful to be honest, hah-hah!
Ouch x 4.
We had four lumps to get over today, each one more 'orrible than the last. As with yesterday, the key was managing the day well: eating, drinking (no, no bars) and pacing ourselves within our limits. It helped no end that I was cycling with Andy and Chris amongst others various...but this trio pretty much stayed together for the duration. As if he wasn't suffering enough already, it was Chris's birthday. He claims 41. Hmmm...pass the Werthers Originals.

Open. Really? Shame.
Memorial to Fabio Casartelli who died on this descent 20 years ago.
Dave leads the rest of our rabble through a.n.other lovely village. No time to gawk, regrettement...
Next stop? The High Stuff. Bon!
You manage the occasional shot when you're barreling through towns etc...
Loons launching themselves off terra firma. No need at all.
That's Chris. It was his birthday so he had to be included, hah-hah! 
Le Tracteur affects full beans. Lamentable.
On and on and on up the final climb...time was ebbing away. Much like everything else.
Andy took this one as I arrived at the summit 5 mins (!) after him, trying to showboat at 2mph and almost stacking it...
Feeling glad all over: with Le Tracteur and OAP/Birthday Boy Chris. He's 41 you know...
An absolute 'mare to get up here but these views? Priceless.
A beer would round this off a treat!
I think it would be fair to describe this night's accommodation as er, 'basic'. Possibly best to gloss-over it and never re-visit, hah-hah! The crazy thing was that despite this being a beast of a day with the inevitable late finish, we would have a coach transfer leaving at 0630hrs: a double-whammy. Still, no-one said it as gonna be easy...I'd love to say to say that I slept well, I truly would. Sometimes you just have to laugh and go with it. Cheers!

Bring Me Sunshine! Stage 11: Pau to Cauterets...Wednesday 8th July 2015

Thanks to almost five hour's worth of persistence, today's tune is a belter and the credit goes to Le Tracteur pour le suggestion...

It was going to be a big stage with almost 120 miles and about 12000' of climbing on the cards- you could smell the anticipation. Yep, sorry about that...

A pfaff preparing itself.
Today's wee spin...
The conditions were not exactly conducive to taking photos: basically we got drenched from the off, and it didn't let-up until almost 5 hours later. My bike was carrying a little extra ballast too:

Ridiculous. I'm heavy enough, thanks.

Still, we were onto to the Col d'Aspin and it was do-able: we had managed the day sensibly...riding at a realistic pace, eating and drinking often, and not hanging around at feed-stops. It all adds-up to making a difficult day slightly less-so!
About the first view that I had all day.
Felt a bit more in control of this climb...good job too!
Statue at the foot de Le Tourmalet.
Tour guff.
More Tour guff. They go grand on this.
It was a long old drag up Le Tourmalet, which as I'm sure you know is the most used climb in this race. It was shrouded in cloud so no real photos to speak was terrific to have a feed-stop at the summit before getting on with the descent and then the final 6 mile climb to our accommodation in Cauterets.
D.S.O.T.M. atop Tourmalet again!
To be fair, they do try to give you a wide berth. Bon!
As seen on the final climb up to Cauterets- our hotel stop and a 6 mile drag. Nice!
The most annoying thing of all has been the agonisingly slow/non-existent wifi which has bollocksed-up my attempts at keeping y'all updated, blog-wise. The other choker was that my Garmin device refused to record today's stats: the essential numbers that you need are...

118 miles going forward and 12,500' going up...ouch!

As is inevitable with this sort of caper, certain areas are protesting, hence this improvised ice-pack...
Refreshes the joints etc....
We roll early-doors for a.n.other hour-plus coach transfer before we start a sod of a stage...bring me sunshine!

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!