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...

Step On! Stage 15: Mende to Valence...Sunday 12th July 2015

This number comes by way of one of the speed-bumps that we crested magnificently/wheezed over today...
Only Lance took more drugs...allegedly.
Various bits of nonsense to be dealt with. Oh dear.
As the profile above shows, we were straight into a steady climb right from the off. No dramas until the first feed-stop after 25 miles or so. The weather was regulation blue skies and climbing temperatures...all set fair.
This was near the top of the first long and steady drag right out of Mende. No cloud anywhere..sensational!
Andy and myself pressed-on after the first feed-stop and fast progress was made through the rolling terrain: I'm now able (read: willing) to do a bit more work towing him which in turn means he gets more of a rest so that he can do more: sort of the opposite of a vicious circle, if that makes sense? Thought not.
And so we have the tune of the day, hah-hah!
So that'll be half-way between the two expanses of water, then.
Rolling terrain. Top work with the bales, there.
This sort of stuff will make me laugh out loud...sheer joy!

Ropey footage but I include it anyway. Tough!
Ah, Dr Johnny unless I'm very much mistaken. Why is Mick Rogers wearing BMC kit though?

The descent was a thing of beauty of great joy: not because I go fast (more like Driving Miss Daisy down the Cols!) unlike some of the loons, it was the breath-taking view...possibly the finest of Le Tour so far? Thereafter I lost contact with our group and sped along to lunch solo which was a pleasant change- not having to worry about pointing out road furniture, civilians or anything else to the rider behind. Basically, you carry some responsibility for the 'wheel' behind you.

It was only after the stage ended that I learned that one of our number (CIA man Tom) had pushed it a little too hard just after cresting the last climb and he went right over the Armco barrier! His luck was in because there was no immediate drop so he 'merely' ended-up with a slashed jersey and some Wolverine style cuts across his chest, but no damage to his bike thankfully. He was ok to ride to the end as well...I'd like to say that he has since taken it easier when descending. I'd *like* to say that...although I reckon it was his dark glasses what did for 'im!

Old fossils all around. Some of them on bikes.
The final 20 miles or so were fairly unpleasant: we were into a 3/4 wind in high temperatures and if you wanted to stop for a cold can you were stuffed: France was ferme, except for a tiny roadside cafe (more like some poor sod's front room) that supplied two Magnums to us. Dynamite!

Such was the nature of the day that it wore down a few riders, unsurprisingly. Even one of the very strongest and fastest guys suffered heat-stroke and had to abandon the stage after the last feed-stop. I was pleased to see the Ibis come into view after 120 miles...even more pleased to flop down in the bar along with quite a few others, hah-hah!
The Ibis bar staff weren't really fit for purpose and a tad overwhelmed, hah-hah!
Sooooooo comfy...
To be fair to Ibis, they were spot-on re the quality of their mattresses...tres comfy, albeit for the 6 hours that I lay on the damn thing...never enough kip...blah-blah-moan. Cheers!

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!