Day 15 Stage 14 Grenoble - Risoul. Digging Deep........ in search of energy.

Day 15 Stage 14 Sat 12/07/14  Grenoble - Risoul  177km

Distance km 193 Elevation m 4,559 
Ave speed km/hr 19.1  Max Speed km/hr  71
Moving Time 10:08  Total Time 11:56 
Ave Heart Rate  121 Max Heart Rate 145 
Ave Cadence  61  Total Distance to Date  2,608
Calories burned 4,099  Temp Range 3 - 16 

Stage 14. Things Get Colder and Wetter…… Had to dig deep today.

Yesterday was a tough day. Rain for most of the day. Temperatures as low as 6degC, 207km distance, over 4,000m ascent, 9.5hrs cycling and 11.5hrs on the go.

And I was about half way in the pack. Some people were still finishing at 10pm….. 15hrs after starting.

But today was tougher !!

We were all up at 5:45am getting the dried clothes together and packing bags ready for breaky at 6:30am and a departure at 7:30 from the hotel.

The rain was absolutely lashing it down….. and I mean… MONSOON STYLE POURING. The temperature was 3degC cos we were at altitude. We had an immediate 18km descent. It was treacherous.

By the time we were at the bottom we were all frozen, teeth chattering, and many of us shaking uncontrollably. A van waited for us to put any unwanted warm clothing in, but most people kept it all on.

And don’t forget this extra 18km was “an extra” to get us to the start of the route! The pros don’t do this. Hence our 194km total, whereas the pros on do 177km! Hmmmmm

I have to describe to you at this point quite what we were experiencing. Descending is an art, and during sunny periods with dry roads brilliant fun… And often speeds up to 80kph can easily be achieved. However, in the wet, it’s a nightmare. You simply get soaked, and then in turn frozen to the bone. Fingers go numb, feet go numb, face is pickled with rain. You can’t see through your glasses, so you take them off and this means you have to slow down….. your brake blocks wear away. It’s miserable. And it takes a long time as corners have to be taken so slowly so you don’t slide off (as we are all riding on slick skinny tyres!)

In the rain, it is simply not a pleasant experience. Strangely enough going up is better than down in the cold and rain. Down is just too painful. Plus you seize up and its incredible how difficult it is to do the first few hundred meters after a long descent.

Today we had this huge 18km descent and then thankfully a steady 80km of ascent to the top of Col du Lauteret. It stopped raining after about 40km so the climb, although cold was dry. The problem was we were all soaked to the skin and gloves, shoes, leg warmers etc were all cold and wet.

But, as ever, we made it. A long slow, lonely climb (we all separated out as we always do on climbs) and to be honest not that special as the views were obscured by low cloud.

Next another descent of 30km which was quite simply hideous. Again, freezing cold, and treacherous. Nobody enjoyed it. Also, this really takes the energy out of you. Whereas normally this would be a period of rest, enjoyment and fun, it becomes energy sapping (stress from the constant worry of sliding off) shivering energy and holding hard onto the brakes.

Thankfully Sarah and Phil decided to give us extra feeds stops today so we could warm up. We stopped in 2 cafes for warm coffee and drinking chocolate… essential. 

So next was the Hors Categorie (HC) climb up Col D’Izoard. Apparently the most beautiful Alpine ascent. Well, we saw nothing of it unfortunately. Hidden in cloud. I took my first gel of the trip today…!! I needed it. Exhausted from yesterday, it was a struggle up this HC climb….all 20km of it!! At the top it was 3degC, an impromptu stop, more food…. And another killer descent. 30km in initially dry but cold conditions (where I reached 71km/hr top speed) but then the last 20km were in heavy, heavy rain. Some good views early on of snow capped mountains, but as we descended just rain bouncing off the road and getting seriously cold.

It took 45 minutes to descend 30km and at the bottom a wonderful café, hot chocolate and more snacks! Ready for the final Cat1 climb up Risoul.

 Final ascent

I teamed up with Neil and we rode up steadily, enjoying a good chat and finally no more rain. The views appeared and generally it was a good and relatively easy ride (compared to what had been before!)

We finished just before 7:30pm, so nearly 12 hours on the go, and 10 hours of actual riding time.

What a day…. 193 km, 4,600m ascent (yes… really, a huge ascent). Temps as low as 3 degC. 2 Cat 1 ascents, and 1 HC ascent. I challenge anyone to do this faster, in these conditions, and with 14 days continual riding in your legs….. Man…… this is getting tough. Oh, and don’t forget, only 5 hrs sleep the night before! 

A quick bike wash and brake pad check and a shower and clothes clean and into the ski resort chalet style (school dinners!) restaurant for chile con carne and apple tart….. and a well earned 2 glasses of wine. 

In Summary:-

A very, very hard day, especially after yesterdays ride.

Marks out of 10 for enjoyment…. 2

Marks out of 10 for hero stories afterwards…..10

With clothes drying it was time for bed. Everyone exhausted. No wifi so not posting blogs or downloading Strava/Garmin….. 

A lot of very tired people. (Not everyone made it today….. it was just so very, very cold). We are all learning that to cycle the Tour de France, is no game. Our conditions are making it especially tricky, but all the same…. Day in day out 200km+ stages with huge ascents…. Is very, very tough.

I am tired. But I will get up in 6 hrs time and repeat. I don’t know how, but I will. We all do, every day! Splitting each day into 40km sections somehow makes every day less daunting. I am definitely tiring rapidly though, just like everyone else. Tough, tough days.

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