The Gorilla firm pub ride gang had a chalet booked for the Marmot event in the Rhone Alps. There was room on a sofa, what a great excuse for a loaded TCR stylee ride out; a chance to fully apreciate what stage 1 would be like.
Setting off from my door, packing came easily, do enough trips and it becomes second nature and the kit lives on the bike. For this trip I had a new front rim fitted a Stans Grail which although heavy adds extra confidence as it allows full tyre pressure for my tubeless schwalbe one tyre. A new higher rated Kemo USB charger bought 2nd hand was on trial with a bigger 800ma output, but boy is it huge. It mounted lovely on the Tribars making the light switch superhandy for quick tunnel lights on action.
The 145 mile start across the UK went smoothly enough in nice warmth that was to turn into the hottest July week recorded. Arriving in Portsmouth with plenty of time to enjoy the full meals in the Travelodge. Bikes were arriving here in droves then being stacked up onto a lorry for the ferry. A london to Paris refreshingly young group who eventually made sleeping on board pretty impossible as they all crammed into my sleeping lounge.
Also on board was Oliver, starting his European adventure with the kitchen sink on his huge bike trailer. I advised him he might be leaving a few bits around France, especially his metal camp bed, if he reached the Alps.
Any substantial breakfast before getting off the French ferry at 7am was impossible, so it was a slow groggy start in search of a bar. Stopping at Pegasus bridge proved useless and the quick machine coffee and M and M snack was no help. Luckily a lovely village square oasis provided a Boulangerie, shop and bar to really kick start the day.
My route through mid France proved both quiet and lovely with no wind progress was great. But mid afternoon as temperatures hit 30 degs in the huge flat expanses of corn fields i started to prey for any open establishment. Eventually a feast of boisson chaud, and ice-cream came to the rescue. Watching the locals proved entertaining, one lady with remarkable sized lungs, full body tattoos and 10 inch pink heels looked really out of place. In the next village an out of character building screaming cabaret, might have been the answer.
Later just grabbing an Aldi for evening stocks meant l could now push on late knowing i was self sufficient, 1.5 litre plastic bottle straps onto the seat pack nicely. Long 20mph sections meant the 200 mile target came up well before dark so on passing a quiet hobbit house in the National Arboretum it was time to top up the depleted sleep bank. Going for 4 hrs sleep in TCR mode, I messed up the alarm and had nearer 7, so guess it was needed. At 6am with the hours time difference it was still very cold and the first bar was a welcome chance for coffee and freshen up as the suns powers returned. So started a challenging Sunday of hiding in McDonalds for the air conditioning and McFlurries, and masses of fluid stops, as the 40 deg heat wave took hold. For better facilities sticking to major routes proved some dilemma; the constant traffic brings both noise and a higher risk, the higher attention levels needed proving both boring and stressfull. Arriving at Chalon sur Saone highlighted the dangers of fast A roads as I was a whisker away from being tail-gated by an artic lorry as he took a slip road that I was passing. Quite a sobering experience which in an instant has changed my whole outlook to the TCR that cannot be discussed here.
Calming down in another McD’ Oasis of cool on the lovely banks of the Saone, I took stock of my plans. 8pm It was still 23 degs, i’d only managed 160 miles, i was super stocked with food and water, and I’d had enough of traffic. This all added up to make pressing on through the balmy warm night the perfect option.
Onward into the Rhone Alps region enjoying the smooth roads, cooler temps and superb light spread from the Revo dynamo light. Despite not feeling tired as i pushed through my second 200 mile day mark before midnight, plans again changed. Why the heck do i want to ride through this beautifull scenic part of France in the dark after a whole day of dullness.
A nice isolated bus shelter appeared by magic and provided tonights 5 hrs of recovery, a great nights deep sleep before setting off again at dawn.
Now Monday and with 550 miles in the legs it wax time for some long hills. The legs were feeling good, contact points not so! Sore backside part of the job, hot foot, eases at food stops, a killer piercing pain in the left palm….big trouble. I could not find any position that stopped me thinking about it, and there’s not much Tri-bar relief while climbing. Getting confused at my preset route as I started to head North around Grenoble it proved superb with nice traffic free climbing sections on a high level Rue.
Another big scare as I misjudged joining a two lane section from a 30mph sliproad. Thinking i could just slot in on what looked like the hard shoulder, turned into a freestyle type jump off a ramped curb into fast flowing traffic on realisation that the shoulder was actually deep gravel. If that kerb had a hard edge, the front wheel would have been toast and this story would be so different. Steady you idiot.
The final approach up the valley towards Bourg D’oisons was breaking me, the hand pain and heat was becoming unbearable. Turning off for the last section to my destination of Villard Reculas reality hit home. I now faced a 6 mile climb on a 17 kilo bike in 30 deg midday heat, who i was cursing the chalet location. Once the gradient ramped up, I had serious doubts I could make it, damn this hand pain, and riding one handed was impossible.
Then I was passed by a Dutch cycling pair, something to focus on. Testosterone taking over i paced behind them and the focus was all I needed to make this dull wooded climb achievable. Leaving one of them behind was particularly satisfying for a loaded nomad tramp.
On reaching the village id promised myself a cold one in celebration of my door to door achievement. Onto the chalet and the pain of the last climb was forgotten, what a stunning place. A dream location to call base for the following week of fun with some great friends Two days later I gave that final climb my all unloaded, with 3 gears to spare, it was despatched 15 minutes faster.
1. The Marmotte is one tough ride in 40 degs, well done all 9 Gorillas for finishing it.
2. Reliable battery pack essential Music is a life saver, an old Iphone3 gives 10 hrs of music no problem (just read its been banned in France this month!!!)
3. More handlebar padding must be sought Front grab bag works well
4. Spare water is easy to carry
5. Should really have changed that bottom bracket, lucky to get away with that one.
6. Long fast A roads are dull dull dull