Day 12 Stage 11 Weds 09/07/14 Besancon - Oyannax 186km
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A Very Special Day. Extreme Cold and Wet.
As I was riding along today, in the pouring rain, I have to admit that I said to myself “S*d this, when I get back tonight the blog will simply read ‘Today was wet and cold’ and I’ll just sit and enjoy doing nothing”
However, as the day progressed and things went from cold and wet, to extremely cold and wet, and then to “this is getting seriously cold and wet” I decided to try to share some of the experience in more detail. I don’t know if you will get an idea of how I was feeling but here goes….
I have to say today was way up there in the “tough days in Greasbys life”!
They say it’s all about character building. Well, dear readers….. I’m 45 years old and have been in some pretty sticky situations in my life over those years, (of which some of you are aware, and some aren’t but I’m not going to share those publicly!) and thankfully overcome most of them fairly successfully, so in all honesty I don’t think I need many more “character building” experiences. But today… well, my character found a little more room to expand, shall we say!
200km and 2,600m ascent is a tough enough challenge, but also to do this after 10 days of the Tour de France (2,000km) adds a bit of spice to the day (tired legs!). However, today our leader Phil got his weather prediction right. “IT WILL RAIN”, we were told. And rain it did.
We managed around 80km in cold conditions with a fair amount of drizzle, so all had our arm warmers, leg warmers, overshoes, and fully waterproof jackets on from the start (ha ha, fully waterproof jacket! – let me tell you, no such thing exists!! My £160 Gore jacket is good, but it definitely doesn’t keep everything out!) Then to lunch at around 120km when for once the sun sort of came out for a very short time. We enjoyed glorious soup and sausage rolls/quiche to warm us up.
So then for the final 80km. The heavens opened. The rain was literally bouncing off the road. Glasses were off, just couldn’t see through them, full fingered warm gloves were on. We rode up to just over 1,000m altitude and the temperatures dropped to 6 degC ! It was freezing. But by pushing hard on the pedals we kept warm….ish. "Cycle kayaking in monsoon conditions" is how Phil debriefed us!
And then the descents…. TERRIBLE! I have never experienced anything like it (well, we had a taster on day 10 descending from La Planche des Belles Filles, but that was only 8km). For this final 40km we got soaked to the skin, up and down hills, getting overheated and then 20km of descending. The rain had made the roads into rivers….deep, deep water crossing the road or running down the road, bouncing off the tarmac. (I was even feeling the rain ponding on my head through the holes in my helmet!) Descending, you couldn’t let the bike go over 20km/hr as it was just too cold AND you couldn’t stop in time for corners. My fingers went completely numb, to join my feet from over and hour ago! My teeth were chattering and my face felt like it was being pummelled by an ice storm….. and I really couldn’t see much!
By this time I was riding completely on my own as the fast (brave) guys had left me, and the slower ones were behind me. I passed a beautiful lake but just didn’t want to get the camera out for a photo… push on, try to prevent hyperthermia coming on! I kept worrying I was off track and the relief when another yellow arrow was spotted, was immense.
Those last few km dropping down into Oyonnax really were dreadful. I could hardly brake, my fingers were so numb, I don’t think my feet were connected to my legs anymore and everything else was just cold and soaking wet. I was wanting hills, as hills meant energy and exertion and warmth! Typical, after all this distance and I just wanted to ride uphill, but down I went.
Through town, I have to admit the odd red light may not have been obeyed, I was just too cold to stop, or care! Slowly as the arrows got more frequent I knew the hotel was near…. I pulled in, and just managed to stretch off the bike. Lean it up against the wall. Garmin GPS and water bottles off, and straight into the hotel (quick check of the brake blocks which had almost been worn away). Main bag collected and up to the hotel. Into the room, and all my clothes off immediately. I was too cold to shower immediately, so rinsed everything out and washed my shorts etc……. usual procedure. Stark ****** naked and with the room looking like a Chinese laundry I opened the door to Andy who’d just got back after nursing a couple of guys with major issues home. He stripped too to warm up….. I jumped in the shower, he was thawing out….. all very matter of fact!! Ha ha, you should have seen us!!
Finally warm and clean…… out came the computer to capture these thoughts! J Blimey…..what an experience. Both of us excitedly relaying the stories of our day in 8 year old boy excitement form.
But………….. we did it, we have survived, we didn’t fall off, we will repeat it tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after…. for 21 days…….. come what may….rain or shine…..
If you think the Tour de France sounds easy, or we are riding slowly compared to the pro’s (which we are!) or whatever else, let me tell you…… IT ISN’T EASY !
Oh, just to summarise.
So far I have:
- Completed the first 11 days of Tour de France 2014 (better than Cav or Froomey!)
- Cycled 2,024 km
- Climbed 24,268m
- Seen temperature ranges from 6 to 34 degC, putting lots of sun tan cream on, and wearing all my clothes whilst shivvering
- Consumed ZERO gels, and only 1 energy bar. Yes, the food laid on at feed stops really is that good.
- Received 1 massage from the physio team for tired legs (day 6).
- Had 1 pint of Guiness, (London) 2 glasses of wine (Gerardmer), and 3 beers (Gerardmer, Besancon x2).
- Watched my 2 British heros crash out of the real Tour de France, and seen an amazing German football team put 7 goals past Brazil…..
What an incredible 11 days!!
Now..............where's the bar????
PS we were treated to some Vin Jaune by one of our French riding companions today. Special "Yellow wine" from the region which matures for exactly 6 years and 3 months. Google it for the full story! Thanks Lionel, great stuff 😉