We were all up early due to jet lag. Mitch and I were up and about at 4am. 4 hours sleep isn't a lot for what we had planned for today. We are staying at a small hotel with some of us in rooms and some in the vans out the front. The hotel proprietor isn't happy with us coming in and out of his hotel at 6 am or Jay starting one of the vans at 6.
We were all done with breaky and ready to roll at 7.58am.....2 mins in front of deputy Ride Captain Mitch's schedule. We were heading for the top of the Col de Madeline where we think the action will be with the big boys today. The problem is it is 80k away (one way) and 2800m of climbing. Of the 80k, 50k of it is up hill! To put it in perspective imagine climbing Arthurs Seat 20 times without stopping or Akuna hill 15 times in a row. We went over one of the famous climbs the Croix de la Fur, followed by the Col de Glandon, topping out at 2000m above sea level. We regrouped 3 or 4 times as we all spreadout over the first climb.
A few of the boys were struggling on the climbs. Buzz is certainly built for the flats and he described himself later as "busted".
We all made it and we regrouped at the top of the Col de Glandon getting ready for a 15k technical descent. Off we went in what is becoming a familiar order, Mitch leading the way, followed closely by Damo, then me, Danny, Spencey etc. Mitch was setting a cracking pace and I was right behind him when I overcooked it coming into a hairpin right hand corner at about 50k an hour. I locked it up right through into the corner, keeping the bike straight so I stayed upright. Danny was right behind me giving me curry as I ended up in the muddy ditch next to the road. No damage done besides unclipping and a muddy shoe, I clipped in and took off again (somewhat more reserved this time). We backed off a bit as the road narrowed and got bumpy. We got to the bottom without any further mishap and some of the boys decided to head back rather than tackle the 21k, 40 switchback col de Madeline. Buzz, Horry, Hollywood and Spencey turned for home. Mitch was going to go with them when he turned and came with the hard units who were heading for the race. Danny, Me, Jay, Rad Man and Mitch continued down the mtn and onto the tour course about 5k from the finish. We got to the Town at the base of the climb and we decided to have an early lunch before heading up the climb. We found a little restaurant that had a courtyard in the shade and a staff that spoke no english. We got through with charades and badly pronounced French and ordered lunch....Spag bol for all with Salad and Bread followed by apple tart or creme caramel and cafe. Not bad for 10 euro a head, except we ordered another couple of mains to solit as we all wanted a bit more. Full to the brim, we headed up the mtn. This is a monster of a climb and I suffered at about the 8k mark of a 21k climb. When you are in the hurt locker, everypart of your body hurts, and your mind screams at you to stop and get off the stupid bike. We all enjoy the challenge of fighting our own private demons. Danny was riding well and he took off up the road. I eventually couldn't stay with Damo so he disappeared skywards as well.
We all regrouped at the top and waited for the leaders to come through. The word was Cadel was out the back and his dream of winning the tour gone for another year. We had a great spot as the top of the mountain is a ski resort, so we got to sit out on the Sundecks in deckchairs and have a snooze in the sun waiting for the leaders. When they came through, we were right there on the roadside cheering like all the other tens of thousands of fans lining the road.
After the riders went through, we ducked into a bar to watch a very exciting finish take place in the valley below us. The race over, we then set about going back down the mountain with a mixture of 10,000 other cyclist, cars, motorhomes and walkers. It is bedlam to say the least. A lot of the cyclist get a bit too excited after watching the race and take too many risks. One guy poleaxed himself on the way down and an ambulance was trying to make its way against the stream of cyclists going down the mountain. I hadf another drama, when ad I turned into a hairpin, a guy on a bike nearly took me out. I hit the brakes hard and at the same time my front wheel blew out. Once again, luck was on my side and I kept the bike up. Puncture quickly fixed, I rejoined the others who were waiting at the bottom.
We then started riding home, but after 3400 metres of climbing over 112k in d and a half hours, we rang Jarrod and he came and picked us up halfway nack to home. We were all glad to get off the bike, particularly Mitch who has some whelts from the chamois in his bike shorts that look pretty painful.
We had a quick dinner, and everyone is pretty tired. As tomorrow is Bastille day, the French National day there were fireworks off Alp D'Heuz which were spectacular and rang out right across the valley. A great day, but incredibly tiring. Off to be so we can do it all again tomorrow!