Enough said, if you can't keep up the pace....... We rolled out at 8.30am for a 110k ride along the Tarn River. It is a great ride amongst some magnificent scenery and of course under one of the most magnificent bridges in the world, the Viaduct bridge. Before we took that on, we had our obligitory morning coffee at a local cafe and the reading of last nights blog, so everyone knows what lies I am telling back home!. Bluncky was driving the van and he was doing laps of Millau, ordering his coffee as he drove past looking for a car spot!
The riding was magnificent. Rad Man and Bluncky took the vans, the rest of us on the treadlies. It didn't take long for a paceline to kick off. Mitch and Spencey seemed to have recovered well from their suspected altitude induced virus, as today was virtually flat. Mitch was on the front driving the pace and getting us all to an elevated heartrate quickly. It is lucky that Jarrod and I have the higher bunks in the van as we aren't sure if the boys wouldnt have a relapse of they went over a couple of metres in height. We will know tomorrow as we are back in the Pyrenees.
The only climb was a little 3k, 5% incline, which after the last week felt like a pimple. Watch out all when we get home as all this climbing training shouldn't won't to waste (Col de Black Rock and Col de McCarrs Creek!!) As we crested the climb, I moved up to Danny's shoulder positioning for a little sprint over the top, however Jamie (who's side is he on??) yelled at Danny and Danny sprinted off to the top to ensure he kept the Polka dot jersey.
After 35k we swapped drivers. Damo is now banned from driving as he backed the van into something and cost us our insurance! No matter, it could have happened to anyone. Danny and Jordan got into the Vans to take over the driving and following us. The pace got even hotter. Stig (joe), must had a bit of post birthday blues as he found the pace a bit hot and had to really dig in a few times to keep contact with the group. However there was no let up, and our little peleton shattered into two groups on the road. The lead group.........and Stig!
What we all didn't realise is that Danny video'd all of us riding for an hour in a paceline along the river road from the van behind us-with his own commentary.
We now have over 1 hour of video of us all hooking along this magnificent valley swapping off and hitting speeds of over 70kph. It is too big a file to load on the blog, but we will see if we can edit it and get some of it loaded up.
You can see some of the guys coming good due the last week in the mountains. Bluncky was driving it hard, as was Jamie, whose new knickname is "el Toro" due to his increasing strength. Part of the ride included riding through 400m tunnels that required lights and none of us had them. Danny, being behind us put his lights on in the van to give us a some light, but then the bugger turned them off momentarily midway through to leave us riding in pitch darkness, much to Danny's amusement!
We reached the tour course and the plan was to ride along it for a while before jumping back into the vans and heading to watch the finish. However, we had a problem in that both the vans had used a lot of diesel through the Mountains and we had forgot to fill them before we started the day. We were in a pretty remote area and there wasn't much in the way of petrol stations. Luckily the Garmin GPS's came through and the boys had a nervous 14k drive to the closest petrol station. What we didn't realise was that 13 and a half k of the 14 was uphill (again!). The group split on the hill. I stayed back to ensure Stig was ok as be was cooked better than a New England lobster. Could this be repeat of Nick Williams (FFT 2008)putting himself into the hurt locker and suffering the dreaded bonk? Happy to say, he got to tjhe van ok and we headed to the finish some 90k away. The 110k we had just ridden will be a highlight ride of the trip, I'm sure.
Due to the tour closing the roads we had to navigate our way around some really small windy secondary roads. Danny navigating in our van and Mitch taking the wheel. We have walkie talkies for comms between the two vans and there is plently of banter across the airwaves as we motor along.
This was Mitch's first big drive in the van. We soon realised why he was in the Navy, as there are no roads on the high seas's and we were encouraging him to stick to the little black strip of bitumen in front of him, a concept that he took a little while to adjust too!
Quick stop at Maccar's for a local French lunch of le big Mac, le fries, and le Coca Cola ,and we were on le road for the last little commute to Revel. We parked the vans and walked a k to the finish. It is always exciting to be at a stage finish. The atmosphere is electric, sun, speed, podium girls, colour and local characters all make it a mix of excitment and anticipation. We even got into the stands 125m to the finish and could see well down the finishing straight as across the finishing line. There was a big screen in front of us and we could watch the last 25k on the screen before the riders came into view. It was great viewing. Vinokourov, the cheating mongrel from 3 years ago, who is from Kazhagstan (team Astana) showed his strength by blasting off the front of the Peleton with 6k to go and powerfully solo home for the win. What was left of the peleton came in 20 seconds behind, with Cavendish kicking in his sprint over Petacchi and others right in front of us. TV doesn't relate the power and speed of the sprinters. Those guys really move in a sprint.
Spencey lived up to his uncanny ability of getting shots of the riders that no one else can get, including a wave and smile from Cadel ( a rarity) and with his arm around Matty Lloyd.
The final part of the day was for us to drive an hour into the Pyrenees and our campsite at Le Bastide de Serou, a beautiful little spot 30 out of Foix. we stopped to do a bit of shopping and have dinner at an all you can eat diner. For 8 euro's I had half a Chicken, fresh veges fruit salad and yoghurt. The quality and freshness of the food was first class, however with 11 hungry men in their restaurant, their profit might have had a dent last night!
All good, we got to the campsite around 9pm. It took us 20 mins to set up the camp, the precision of the setup now quite efficient and with everyone having a little job to do, our little travelling circus can pack and unpack quite quickly and efficiently.
Tommorrow back into the Mountains where I think Contador will assert himself on this race. It will be exciting to be a part of it.