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Day 14 Stage 13 Sainte Etienne - Chamrousse. HUGE !

Day 14 Stage 13  Fri 11/07/14  Sainte Etienne - Chamrousse  200km

Distance km 207 Elevation m 3,970 
Ave speed km/hr 20.8  Max Speed km/hr 67 
Moving Time  9:54 Total Time  11:35
Ave Heart Rate 124  Max Heart Rate 154 
Ave Cadence 65   Total Distance to Date  2,415
Calories burned  4,328 Temp Range 6-20 

Stage 13 

Another early start in the cold and wet. Brilliant breaky tho..... I do enjoy a good breaky!
The first 40km were a bit damp but ok and just a small Cat4 climb to complete. I then joined a fast group to do the next 40 km but in all honesty it was a bit much for me, so for the 80-130km section I dropped back and rode more steadily with the usual gang. At 100km we passed the BBIF (best bakery in France! It had just been awarded and was on the TV during Sarah and Phils recce!) where everyone stopped for a patesserie!

 Feed stop

Above: A typical food stop at the side of the road. Dump bikes, grab food, consume as many calories as possible, and go.....!

I then joined a newly joined guy called Simon. It was a god ride mainly downhill before the Cat1 ascent at 160 km. it was a killer climb 16 km and v steep. But we made it. All that was left was the final drop down to Grenoble and 19 km up to Chamrousse ... to complete the 210km's with our 1st HC (Hors Categorie - without categorie = v v steep!) ascent. I rode this section with Rich, Steve and Darragh from the remnants of the banana gang. It was 20 degC in Grenoble but as we rose the 1,700m to Chamrousse. The temp slowly dropped to 7 degC and the mist set in.... COLD and wet again. Finished at just after 7 pm.... 11.5 hrs after starting.... What a day. 210 km 4,000m ascent and that's after 12 long days...... It's getting tough
Tartiflette for dinner in a ski resort hotel was awesome..... and that was the end of another basically Great days riding.
Tomorrow is another 180 km where we pass by the famous Alpe d'Huez (but thankfully no need to climb!)
However, it's another 4,000m plus and Two HC climbs and a Cat 1 !!! Bring it on... Tired legs will just have to be ignored....

Today was however, rather spoilt at the end when I learnt the news that my mate Andy had crashed just before FS4, and his tour is over. He was taken to hospital in Grenoble for a check up and thankfully just bruises etc. We went to collect him after supper as he was OK to be released. His bike is badly broken and he is too sore to carry on. Such a shame. I feel quite empty. Will miss you mate.

Day 13 Stage 12 Bourg en Bresse - Sainte Etienne. Another Cold and Wet slog

Day 13 Stage 12  Thurs 10/07/14   Bourg en Bresse - Sainte Etienne  183km

Distance km 184 Elevation m 1804 
Ave speed km/hr 22.4  Max Speed km/hr 62.3 
Moving Time  8:11 Total Time 9:43 
Ave Heart Rate  117 Max Heart Rate 149 
Ave Cadence  67  Total Distance to Date 2,208 
Calories burned  3103 Temp Range 8-15 

Well, not much to say about todays stage I am afraid. Another wet, and cold, drizzly day.

It started with a bus transfer of an hour or so, and the highlight was the bus getting stuck in Bourg en Bresse's small streets, so it had to reverse all the way out of town! We later discovered, at dinner, that Darah, one of the guys we've been riding with every day in our little peleton, rather "Moustache-etically" forgot his cycling shoes, and the hotel discovered this as the bus was reversing. He was therefore very lucky to avoid a day of cycling without shoes! Naturally, this great achievement resulted in him being awarded The Moustache during the after dinner speeches. Nice one mate! 

We started the stage around 8:30am in the drizzle, my knee strapped up again (not sure it needs it but it makes me feel better!). It's a bit like my use of creams and double shorts etc etc to keep the saddle sores away...I think I'm beating it well, and perhaps don't need double shorts any more, but don't want to change it...... just in case! It works....no point in breaking it!

Rainy Ddescent

 

So.... just a long ride, relatively slowly. Everyone was suffering today from heavy legs and I think a bit of lack of enthusiasm. We've had a lot of rain, and its getting a bit depressing. We all frantically wash and dry all the wet and dirty clothes out and then... wham, it's sodden again within minutes! Today was full leg and arm warmers, a base layer (yesterday we were just too cold). Some people were even buying special gloves and base layers en route as we passed through towns! I did at least stay dry today though, which was good (except from feet and hands of course, which went their usual numb within minutes!) Sorry if this all sounds a bit drab, but today was, and in all honesty it was the first bad day we've had. I think most people felt much the same way. Bring on the sun!

 

 

 Coffee stopIt cleared a bit and the highlight, once again was lunch. Sitting down, inside, out of the rain, glorious. And stops 2 and 4 where we were treated to freshly ground coffee..... fantastic. Another highlight, allegedly, were all the "amazing" vinyards we passed through.... clouded in mist and drizzle. Now maybe it was just the mood I was in or perhaps my "Grumpy by nature" but I am afraid I couldn't help likening these "amazing vinyards" to fields full of cabbages or perhaps sprouts on a typical muddy hillside in the UK. Nobody ever gasps and tells me they look "amazing"..... so why do grapes look so special.....? OK, I admit.... so now you know why I'm called Grumpy :-)

Food stop hidden in a wood shed / barn to shelter from the rain!

 

Tomorrow is a big day... the first major climb of the Alps..... We'll do over 200km in distance and climb over 4,000m in a day for the first time, it will be our first (of a total of 6) Hors Categorie climbs (that means "Without Category" which mean steeper than Cat1.... which in turn means VERY STEEP!) and it ends with an 18km long 1,700m ascent up Chamrousse..... lets hope the weather is better.... I've only worn sun glasses twice so far!  

  Above: Feeding time at the zoo. Evening meal..... this is when we all sit down together, tells tales, award moustaches and chapeau's.... and listen to Phil frighten us about the next days riding.... We then go to bed, and have nightmares!!!

And finally,..... to add a little bit of humour in this otherwise Grumpy post.......Here's a picture of all my gels/creams/ointments and various saddles to try to ensure no "saddle sores". Bit of a pharmaceutical extravaganza really..... but it works.  Saddle sores incidentally, if you get them, can put you out of the Tour (we have lost one person already to saddle sores, such a shame)

! Everything is under control!"Everything is under control!"

The Alps and Pyrenees beckon !!!!!!!!! Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, we're here !

Day 12 Stage 11 Besancon - Oyannax. EXTREME CONDITIONS!

Day 12 Stage 11  Weds 09/07/14   Besancon - Oyannax   186km

Distance km 190 Elevation m 2445 
Ave speed km/hr 24.1  Max Speed km/hr 58.3 
Moving Time 7:51  Total Time 9:21 
Ave Heart Rate  128 Max Heart Rate 166 
Ave Cadence  68 Total distance to date 2,024km 
Calories burned 3482  Temp Range 6-18 

 

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 😉

 

Day 11 A REST DAY !!!! Washing?

Rest Day !  (pictures will be added in a few days....struggling a bit with pics at the moment). See Facebook for a few

Day 11 Tues 08/07/14    Nowhere to Nowhere     0 km  (Besancon)

Distance km NOTHING ! Elevation m zero! 
Ave speed km/hr   Max Speed km/hr  
Moving Time   Total Time  
Ave Heart Rate  Low Max Heart Rate  Low
Ave Cadence      
Calories burned  not many Temp Range  Rain!

Well after a couple of beers last night and another meal (after the burger and chips) it was a late night and bed by 1am. Nice to know we didn't have to get up early for breaky.

When we did get up for breaky we instantly regretted it. Stale bread, soggy cornflakes, warm long life milk and ...... well not much else really! Coffee in a bowl was a bonus.
This kind of typified the hotel in general really..... rubbish! Can't complain tho' as it's the first disaster, and when you live in a container in Siberia I suppose anything could be classified as luxoury!!
The morning was spent finding the wet clothes from yesterday, washing clothes .... in a machine, erecting washing lines in the rapidly becoming sauna/wash room and cleaning bikes, drive chains etc. front wheel was repaired and returned to its rightful place and I had to sadly say goodbye to the rather fancy front wheel I had been temporarily lent!! Rest?

Oh yeah, ..... A bus ride into down town Besancon with our little peleton team of 10 and steak for lunch with chocolate galore for pudding! Yum yum.
Met the new guys who are here for just the Alps or Alps and Pyrenees, more food and generally sitting around in the hotel not worrying about the rain.... Hmmmm, until Phil gave us tomorrow's and the forthcoming weeks weather forecast..."Rain"
Oh, and apparently it snowed in the Alps today !!! Brilliant !!
Currently debating whether to watch Germany/Brazil or fall asleep at 10pm in our prison cell......

Don't worry...... I'm only joking about the hotel. This is just brilliant. What an experience. Can't wait to hit the Alps and Pyrenees. 

Fantastic 😊

 

Day 10 Mulhouse - La Planche des Belles Filles. Aghhh 4,000m ascent! Legs!!

Day 10 Mon 07/07/14    Mulhouse - La Planche des Belles Filles  161kmExplanation - day 10

Distance km 181 Elevation m 3845 
Ave speed km/hr  19.8 Max Speed km/hr  64.1
Moving Time 9:07  Total Time 10:44 
Ave Heart Rate  125 Max Heart Rate  163
Ave Cadence 63     
Calories burned 4041  Temp Range 9-23 

La Planche des Belles Filles.... A bit of history for you.... Apparently this is where all the young maidens (les belles filles) ran to the mountains and jumped into a lake (la planche) to drown themselves, rather than risk being ravaged by invading Vikings back in the olden days of the 1600's! So there you go. History lesson over... Now back to the bike ride!
So today has 4 cat1 ascents (which means it's by far the hardest day so far) and 2 cats 2's and a cat3 thrown in for good measure.
It was also forecast to lash it down all day. Oh goodie!
Also... and the observant ones amongst you will have noticed this happen a few times already, that the distance we ride is 20km more than the pro's. They are scheduled for a measely 161km but we did 180. Why? Well firstly we have to ride from our hotel from last night to the start and secondly the finish was at the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere..... without a hotel, so we have to ride back down the final monster. Tough life not being a pro!
Now, today even more interestingly we were supposed to stay in a hotel at the end but somebody set it on fire 2 weeks ago. Hmmm all sounds a bit dodgy that the only hotel at the finish got burnt down 2 weeks before the Tour de France... but I don't have the gruesome facts (or any made up rumours!!) about that, sorry.
So given the enormity of the stage we were up at 5:30, eating breaky by 6:15 and off by just after 7:00 am in small groups cycling out of town.
We rode v v slowly conserving as much energy as possible.


I had changed my rear tyre last night ( in the pouring rain) and was a little nervous as a steel insert in the carbon frame had gone missing so I'd had to built my own out of aluminium tape..... but then I am the "king of bodgery" so no problem, it worked.
Anyway.... a nice gentle cat 2 climb to start before feed stop 1 (FS1) and the 2 monster cat 1 climbs before FS2. All of a sudden we'd done 80km and over 2,000m climbing! Gulp.
I then broke a spoke at the end of a very rapid and severe descent, so was happy it occurred at the bottom. The wheel buckled but I managed to release the front brakes and complete the next 15km uphill to FS3 without a front brake! One of the advantages of uphill riding! At FS3 I was given a spare front wheel, quickly swapped over my tyre onto it and I was off again without delay! Well there was a small delay..... It involved consuming two fantastic Mexican wraps..... Prepared by the support team, glorious.
The weather had held so far so with gilet (wind cheater sleeveless cagool type thingy) and waterproof rain jacket, spare gloves, foot overshoes we were heavily laden but dry... so no complaints
The next session involved a huge cat1 climb which nearly killed us. It was v v steep and v v long.... some walkers but I stayed on the bike... happy. A quick final feed stop before the final 5km descent and then the last 7km ascent to La Planche des belles Filles..... we had been warned that this reached 20% in the last 400 metres. Just what you need after 10 days riding and today having done 180 km and 4,000m
Oh, and by now it was absolutely throwing it down!!! There was a stream running down the last 7km of newly laid tarmac! But that was better than hideously hot sun.... I guess!
At the top I was almost crying with pain. This is the hardest day I have ever done on my bike, but the feeling of elation was huge!! So proud of myself and my fellow friends. A lot of handshaking with whoever was there at the same time and then the descent to the bottom. 10km of descent riding the river, fear of aqua planing or just falling off.... arm pump and shivering competed to defeat us. It was so Very Very cold!


At the bottom Sarah awaited with a small cafe she had organised for us to have a burger and chips and a coke! And it was warm. Result. Glorious. What a day.

Comfort break!
We jumped on the coach at 7pm.... almost 12 hrs in the saddle or shivering!! We would now have a 1.5 hr bus journey to our rest day hotel. So we changed I to our dry clothes we'd packed in our day bags and off we set. Tired but feeling good. Andy made a "chapeau" nominating call to the bus driver after an hour for a pee stop as he was bursting. He was a bit nervous to ask but when the bus stopped and 20 happy blokes jumped off to join him he quickly realised this was one of his better decisions of the day!

 

Dinner at 10 pm included beer. Some sad farewells to the "half lifers" who had ridden all 10 days with us but were off home in the morning, and the guys who'd done the past 3 days in Les Vosges mountains with us, and bed looking forward to not setting the alarm tomorrow... a "busy" day of washing, bike TLC and pizza searching.
We have now completed half of the Tour De France. Relatively unscathed. My word, I think I can do this. Only the Alps and the Pyrenees between me and Paris!! Ha ha


One final moment of thought I have to share with you as today has been very emotional for me. All day long I have been looking forward to my day off, and all day long (just like the past 10 days) I have been constantly thinking about my beautiful and extremely brave daughter Annalie. She doesn't get any days off at the moment. Darling, if you are reading this I am so incredibly proud of you. Stay strong, stay brave. All my love and thinking of you constantly. You are my hero. Love you forever, Dad xxx

Day 09 Gerardmer - Mulhouse. The Heat is On! Time to get Serious.

 Day 09 Sun 06/07/14   Gerardmer - Mulhouse 166km

Distance km 171 Elevation m 3148 
Ave speed km/hr  22.5 Max Speed km/hr 67.0 
Moving Time 7:36  Total Time 9:04 
Ave Heart Rate  129 Max Heart Rate  152
Ave Cadence 67     
Calories burned 3411  Temp Range 12-34 

Brief Description       the photo above is a sketch Phil makes every evening to indicate the route tomorrow.... note: lots of hills!

It would appear my calorie counter is wrong. Not sure why but I am definitely burning about double what is being calculated by Garmin. Everyone else is way up there... Need to investigate.

Last night was bloke called Pete's birthday. Actually it wasn't cos it was really today... His 30th. But we "celebrated" it last night because then the hotel allowed us to bring in extra cake and goodies (as the food was a bit light really!) Sarah - the boss - did a great job in persuading the "hotel" to let us "celebrate" Pete's birthday in style! In Petes thankyou speech as he accepted his cake his one liner "Well, thanks guys, but I do feel a little robbed of my last day of my 20's"...brilliant, nice one. Pete is here for 3 days only, joining his brother who is doing the whole thing. Excellent. He also raised a stack load of cash for the charity too. Well done.

So today started badly for Andy... puncture on the descent from the hotel, and a rip in his tyre, so 45 mins later he finally set off. But we all waited for him at the first feed stop. This was at 42km and after 2 huge climbs. A cat2 and a cat3 climb. The rest of the day just got hotter and hotter, peaking at 32 degC. We rode our first Category 1 climb today. It was ....well, tough! I guess that's why its a cat 1 !!! All in all it was about 12 km long officially but there was some gentler stuff before and after so we were pedalling uphill for about 20km. Oh and then a mere 1.4 km at 9% to finish up at 1,400m. Highest we've been so far.

Vineyards

 

We then had a fantastic 20km downhill through vineyards and stuff. Hit 67km/hr. Brilliant. I've been faster on a bike but it's really rather important not to crash! Made it home by 5pm.... before the storms. (? not actually seen any yet, bright blue skies as I write this!)

 

 

Oh, for all the Oman Dirty Biker folk out there.... we passed near to "Bon Homme" today. Yes, really... "Good man" !!!

Only 1 more day till rest day. Although tomorrow looks v v tough.

My legs and knees felt tired today. On the climbs ok, but after a long descent and then a sudden little climb the knees are stiffening. No bother though, massage time tomorrow eve for sure though. Here's a picture of the miraculous strapping with sticky tape the physio's do. This holds my knee cap in place (apparently) so it doesn't move. I am told that because I have not always been a cyclist my muscles are developed slightly differently and pull my knee cap slightly to one side and hence it gets sore (inflames). By taping it the knee cap is held in place, and so doesn't get sore.... plus it helps develop the cycling muscles evenly. RESULT ! Brilliant... Claire and Gavin really are miracle workers. Thanks guys!

 Knee support

Rest day will be tyre change time and laundrette washing and....pizza, I hope!

All things considered, it's going very well so far. Lost count of how far we've cycled..... but its lots!

Day 08 Tomblaine - Gerardmer La Mauselaine. The first Major French Ascent!

Day 08 Sat 05/07/14   Tomblaine - Geradmer La Mauselaine 161km

Distance km 177 Elevation m 1830 
Ave speed km/hr 24.3  Max Speed km/hr 60.6 
Moving Time 7:16  Total Time 8:29 
Ave Heart Rate 125  Max Heart Rate 161 
Ave Cadence  71    
Calories burned 3120  Temp Range  11-19

Brief Description

It rained. All day. And it was windy at the start. We had to ride 15km to the start, hence the slightly longer ride from the official distance. 150km of easy peleton riding before 30km of two Cat 2 and 1 cat 3 climbs. A tough finish and a brutal insight to what lies ahead! Lunch stops were quick today....due to the rain. We were all soaked and cold. The organisers did a brilliant job of finding a makeshift food stop at 130km though, well sheltered. The final 30km we all basically rode alone spread out up the 3 short but steep climbs.

We are staying in a beautiful "youth hostel" type place, with bunk beds and shared showers etc. But the hostel is right on the finish line and the views are awesome (ski resort!). Sitting here now, enjoying the view....and relaxing. Waiting for dinner. Glorious.

We even finished in time to watch the Tour de France sprint finish. Hmmm. Shame for Cav. Strangely the weather in Yorkshire was gorgeous today, and we get pouring rain! Pah, it's just not fair. Everything is drying though, no problem. Really enjoying everything here, and so nice having all the food etc cooked for us.

Its spag bol for dinner tonight. I'm starving! 2 more days till rest day!!!

Tomorrow looks like a shocker though. We start with a Cat 2 500m ascent, straight out the door. Up and down all day. And day10 is the famous "La Planche des Belles Filles" an enormous climb at the end where Froomey is expected to show his cards. I'll probably just be gritting my teeth and showing swollen neck veins!

Day 07 Epernay - Nancy. A long way

Day 07 Fri 04/07/14    Epernay - Nancy  233km

Distance km 225 Elevation m 2,140 
Ave speed km/hr  26.2 Max Speed km/hr  64.7
Moving Time 8:33  Total Time 10:04 
Ave Heart Rate  125 Max Heart Rate  156
Ave Cadence  72    
Calories burned  3515 Temp Range 15-27 

A long day. 225km. 2 category 4 climbs right at the end. It rained quite a lot, but no major problems.

We passed some unbelievable graveyards from the unknown soldiers.  "1 Soldat Inconnu. Mort Pour La France 1914-1918" Literally 1000's of these crosses. See photos. Makes you think.

  Unknown soldier

Had my knee taped up today, as it was very sore last night, and the physio / masseuse advised it. Seemed to work as no pain today. Hoorah. Got to dash..... want to catch the 2nd half of Germany/France footy!!!

Day 06 Arras - Reims. A sprint

According to the Tour de France website this is a sprinters stage, and flat. Well, ladies and gentlemen, we didn't sprint. Sorry about that! And if 1,520m is flat...? Well, it had two cat 4 climbs on it.... Ok, not mountainous, but not flat. 190km. Beautiful day, very hot (34 degC at one point). We rode as a group of about 10 most of the day learning about rotating in the peleton, chain gang stuff, and riding 2 abreast. All good fun and useful to pass the time on the long straights, and shelter from the wind behind or to the side of each other. We also passed a lot of WW1 graveyards which was really quite sobering. This years Tour de France is all about WW1 awareness, and passes through many significant battle areas during this Northern France section.

Anyone looking at the ave speed and thinking it is low, please remember that we are doing 21 days riding (!) and the start and finish of the day usually involves a lot of city riding with traffic lights etc.... Unlike the pro's .....we have to stop!

Today felt good, plenty in reserve (useful, cos tomorrow is 235 km!). Legs a bit tight and knee a bit sore, so had a massge at the end and the sports physio told me my muscles were a bit tight on one side so pulling the knee cap a bit to one side. Nothing to worry about, just a bit painful, and nothing a good rub every night wont help, along with 5 mins in the shower on cold water. Hmmm.

Day 06 Thurs 03/07/14  Arras - Reims 194km

Distance km 189 Elevation m 1,520 
Ave speed km/hr  26.4 Max Speed km/hr 61.3 
Moving Time  7:07 Total Time  8:35
Ave Heart Rate  123 Max Heart Rate 154 
Ave Cadence 72     
Calories burned  2907 Temp Range  15-34

For anyone interested...... The following describes A Typical Day on the TdF

05:15 am Alarm goes off. No snooze. No time for that!

Both Andy (my room mate) and I fight to be 1st in the bathroom (this is actually the only fighting or competitive stuff we do all day..... but trust me it is important!). Put lashings of cream on various parts of the body (which includes some interesting positions in front of the mirror), kit on and take main travel bags downstairs. Take vitamins and cod liver oil, and all the other magical potions (I think this is when the pro's used to get the EPO out!!!)

6:00am Eat breakfast.  06:30am  Get on bus for transfer to start.

7:30am bikes have been unloaded by the TdF staff team and are ready to go. We put our bottles in, the holders and hand in our day bags to Stop 1/3 and 2/4 (2 bags, full of spare kit or anything we might need later in the day......e.g. creams (!) gel seats, spare shorts, waterproofs, special food, etc.  Set off cycling at 7:30am sharp.

Cycle for 40km.

Arrive at Feed Stop 1 (FS1) - usually about 2 hrs. We all ride together to FS1. Bananas and flap jack and water. Sometimes nuts, dried apricots etc

Cycle for another 40 km (40-80) to FS2. At FS2 Bread and jam/peanut butter, bananas, apples etc. We can now leave whenever we want and team up with who we want.

Cycle for another 40 km (80-120km) to FS3. At FS3 pasta and rice, biscuits, fruit.

Cycle for another 40km (120-160km) to FS4. At FS4 its crisps, coke, chocolate bars! (Oh man.... I had a Lion Bar today (2 actually!!) - remember them? Heaven.

Cycle another 40km (160km-200km) usually to the end. At the end there is usually left overs from the other Feed Stops!

This section may or may not exists depending upon the length of the day. There will be an extra one tomorrow as we do 235km!

The end of the day can be any time between 4pm and 10pm (for some people).  If you have a "Happy Bike" it goes straight in the van for tomorrow. If it needs work you work on it or give it to the mechanic who works his magic if he can.

There are massages available but long queues. Check into the room, take bags upstairs, (find day bags, sometimes delayed, and main luggage bag) have a shower, wash cycling shorts (very important) daily and sometimes any other stuff needing washing. Important to stay on top of this cos haven't got much kit/clothes. Put recovery skin gel on sensitive areas ( :-) ). Clean out water bottles, sterilise or refill with powder for tomorrow. Drink lots of water. Make up some recovery drink (protein). (Again, another fine tip from "me good ol' mate" Youcef, who along with his "2nd skin" rear-end cream has kind of saved me a lot of issues!!) Look at tomorrows stage and wonder how on earth we will complete it! Put the book away in disgust!

19:30 Dinner (best part of the day). Always 3 course, always glorious. Always loads. 

Dinner - below..... Note: It's not chicken. (Family joke...Mum.... GAMMON STEAK !)

20:00 Daily awards (good man = chapeau, he who messed up most = moustache, general award = route card)  and then briefing for tomorrow (ie breaky times, transfer or start straight away etc). Weather update and football scores!

21:00 Lie on bed with legs in the air and do a self massage (don't ask!). Prepare kit for tomorrow, lay everything out, make sure day bags are packed....Download Garmin GPS, Strava, Blog, facebook and emails/texting ..... ho hum. And bed.....

When days get wet and longer than now, the blog will be the first to stop, the washing next..... I have 4 days riding kit available, and only 4 days now till rest day, so feeling happy!

We will see a new set of people tomorrow come to join, and say goodbye to one set of guys tonight who just came for stages 5 & 6. Starting to feel like a REAL LIFER now, and the commeraderie is definitely building. I helped Pippy (Langhose) fit her GoPro to her bike tonight with zip ties and yoga mat.... and in return I got a special homemade energy bar. Great :-).  This is Brilliant fun. Hard, no...exhausting, but fun.

TTFN ....... this, is getting serious now. 6 days done, over 1,000km and 11,000m climbed..... Long way to go though, and rain is forecast for the next few days :-(

 

Day 05 Ypres - Arenberg Porte du Hainaut. Belgium Cobbles - Ouch!

Day 05 Weds 02/07/14  Ypres - Arenberg Porte du Hainaut 156km

Distance km 163 Elevation m 539 
Ave speed km/hr  25.2 Max Speed km/hr 42.3 
Moving Time 6:27  Total Time 8:22 
Ave Heart Rate  123 Max Heart Rate  157
Ave Cadence  69    
Calories burned 2567  Temp Range  12-33

Brief Description:-

Le Pave. Or cobbles if you don't know of the famous Paris - Roubaix race.  9 sections of between 1km and 3.8km..... totalling 15km.

The only way to ride is:  Big cog, stand up, grit teeth, pedal hard. The faster the better. Brilliant fun. 2 pairs of gloves, and Motocross brain engaged!!!! I managed quite a bit of overtaking. However........ I so want to watch this on the TV when the pros do it, especially if its raining. The vibrations up through the arms was incredible. People were hiring special Pave bikes and letting tyre pressures down to 80psi..... none of that for us.... just hit it flat out and hope! I must say I actually started to quite enjoy it at the end, although  I don't think I'll come back to ride it again.

The rest of the day was easy. A flat 80km in the morning (then 75km interspersed with the Pave). We rode the road sections nice and steadily and took in the French countryside. A good feeling.

Legs feel a bit tired, but all things considered, after 5 days, not too bad.

Got to the Hotel Campanile at 4pm, serviced the bike (tightened head bearings, cleaned chain etc). Drank my recovery potion.....and wrote this... before dinner! hoorah!

If anyone is reading this and can work out a way of recording (onto DVD) the ITV4 daily coverage of the real Tour de France, can you please do it... and send me a copy.... I really really want to watch it, and my Hard Drive and dvd recorder broke the days before I set off and I didn't have time to buy a new one.... and I will be still cycling as the real TdF starts... thanks! :-)

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