FRANCE RHONE ALPS – PROVENCE
Boy this was a hard day, 3am start and life was good cruising the D38, once the initial morning argument with the saddle was over “I’m not listening pain receptors”. My route was undulating rather than taking the boring Rhone valley to the West, I opted to stay high level and it was lovely peaceful riding. A perfectly placed Boulangerie appeared at 6am, at Romans-sur-Isere. Oh the joy of coffee, freshly baked produce and sticky cakes, this one gets a waymark for future use.
I hadn’t seen another rider for a day now, a couple of hours later I overtook one. It was Mr fluorescent arms and shortly afterwards a McDonalds sign lured us both in as he re-passed me. It was shut, its easy to forget how early it is when you ride the night, in my disappointment of a wasted diversion we never spoke.
The day warmed up and the heat and rolling nature coupled with the 500 miles in the legs started to play heavy on the mind. Scanning each peak ahead knowing that Ventoux could be seen from some distance away didn’t help., knowing you have to go round it and climb from the rear made it worse. After 7 hrs on the road the mornings toilet stop beckoned, a nice bar with a lovely big bathroom and fluffy towel was a great find, I felt human again, this hobo lifestyle was proving quite comfortable so far. Liquid intake was going up and further on this garden tap obviously proved usefull to many TCR riders as the tyre tracks showed.
In my ambitious plan from the sofa I’d hoped to reach Ventoux by 11am allowing a pre afternoon climb, knowing the area well (3 climbs in a day) I was on schedule for the heat of the day. Climbing tired was going to hurt so a plan formulated to stop at a campsite before Bedoin for a shower and reset before the ascent. This luxury with ice cold drinks and ice cream cost me 8Euro, but proved a valuable chance to cool down, properly clean up and wash all my kit. washing hanging from tri-bars and seat pack it was time to climb the beast.
The first part climbs steeply through the woods with scant views, and I actually passed another rider who looked in trouble on the very lower slopes. The weight and heat were playing there part as the 22T gear on the MTB crank came into play, no way could I have coped with grinding up here today. This low gearing though comfortable on the legs and back suddenly played havoc with my hip and saddle pressure pains as full weight focused here. This proved to be a very hard stop start period of the trip, 2 hrs 45 minutes to climb; I don’t want to experience that again soon, I enjoy climbing normally, today was just hell.
So near, yet so far. The best views of the moonscape to the summit ever due to unbroken skies, but utter torture. Several riders passed me on the way up, some impressive speeds that mentally tortured me more. The 3 months off my feet at the start of the year were hitting me hard today, an abject lesson my climbing legs just haven’t grown back.
Reaching the Summit was a massive relief, 611 miles done, and with friends Kev and Marion manning the checkpoint a great chance to catch up on the race action and news.(many abandons already) But first a look at the rider roster so far, I was super chuffed to be 40th rider here despite my casual approach and meandering French route, and my shadow Doug was just leaving as I arrived. Being a day behind the leader already just shows we are in the fun guys ballpark already. I could not leave without stocking up on the super expensive snacks they sell up here, one particular “peanuts in goo” treat is a favourite.
I had a need for a long comfortable seat and hot food, down to café Reynard waving at team Shergie (remember day 1 chargers) on the way, and met up with Mr fluorescent sitting there. Rider 159 – Patricio Ortiz de Rozas is an Argentinian in the UK. He was on his way up suffering with high gears and we shared a coffee, but sadly no food on sale. A quick bend swinging brake smoking blast down to Saut provided the feast and re-stock of liquid needed to ride on.
I don’t eat cheese, but a fresh one cooked sans fromage and loaded with meat disappeared in minutes, one of these a night in Italy will do. The Brooks Transcontinental Musette bag was proving a usefull nose bag for late night snacks as it hung over the tri-bars comfortably. In the relief of reaching CP1 I had wasted so much time in this area, from 4pm to 7pm I’d gone nowhere and not really rested. Cracking on towards Sederon through the fragrant lavender fields it was going to need a late night to get as close to Italy as possible to make the D’Assietta climb manageable tomorrow.
On seeing this hut at the side of the road, despite it being light, I chilled and stuck to a schedule that had served me well so far. Grab a good bivy spot when you see it, regardless of time, then get on the road 4 hrs later. It had been a hard day with another even tougher to come tomorrow. This hut was so perfect, dry clean and even a door to close, 3 days sleeping rough, piece of cake. While eating and bedding down I didn’t care that several riders could be seen passing out of my small window on the valley. Going to sleep counting the positions I was losing 41, 42, 43, 44………
Lesson of the Day: Keep moving forward, I can survive in Europe without Cheese, and my goal of beating my race number 36 is potentially on.
TCR Continued Day 4