Thursday, 23 July 2009
Two Tours De France!
We’ve only just set off, and already I’m on my own at the back! Ten miles and 3000ft of ascent to go and already I’m at the back of the “peloton”, who are forging ahead and looking strong. But you can only go as fast/slow as you can, so take no notice of what is happening ahead and just keep on plugging away at the climb ahead!
Let me back-track. Faced with the alternative of a mind-numbing drag of a walk up to Cormet de Roselend to watch the Tour come through, or a leap/crawl into the unknown and a cycle up the mountain, I opted for the latter! The last few days I’ve been surrounded by lean, mean machines cycling up mountains, returning to strip off to tight, lycra shorts, revealing taut, muscular bodies and heart monitors. Ian’s been a complete traitor and successfully joined them, making my cycling efforts feel totally inadequate! At 7am, determined not to be undermined and carried away with the building excitement, I made porridge and bananas for us, hoping that would make all the difference! Ian had found an English family from Luxembourg on the site, complete with little kids and women, who were up for cycling up the mountain. Right, so assuming the women were younger, then surely I cold keep up with, if not pass, the little nippers. WRONG! The little nippers, it later transpired, were under 14s regional club champions, and had recently been on tour to the Pyrenees! This I discover just after leaving the camp-site and starting the climb! Ah well, block all thoughts out, get into penultimate highest gear and grind away. Ian had done this climb two days ago in two hours, so only another two hours, fifty five minutes and forty five seconds to go!
Apart from an alarmingly loud wheezing noise and a very unpleasant strained muscle in the derriere, I’m nearly at the top. Left the nippers behind in the dust, mercilessly, and completed my first category one climb! Two hours, so about an hour ahead of schedule, and feeling exhilarated. Arrived at 10am, and the real Tour weren’t expected to come through until 1.30pm! But already the local gendarmerie were stopping cyclists and pedestrians from going any further. We later discovered that the Luxembourg family had had to go across country to get a good spot further up the road because the police had stopped them. But found a spot further down from the summit, hoping to catch the riders as they laboured up the mountain, rather than shooting past downhill.
Two hours later, the temperature dropped, the rain came and it stopped being fun. Then the “caravan” arrived to take our minds off it. Various vehicles, advertising their companies, decorated with life-size cyclists, kangaroos (Aussie “Roadsigns”), horse and jockeys and yetis, all chucking freebies at us. Free hats, key-rings, washing-up liquid, and Haribos!!!! Chucking is a very accurate description, as they seemed very disdainful of having to throw freebies to the marauding hoards. To cap it all, we managed to site ourselves near to the local loony, who played the Marsaillaise at full volume through his very own ghetto blaster, given even more impact, by feeding it into a loud speaker. He became progressively more animated/crazy as the caravan and support vehicles arrived. Thank god for the rain, which quietened him off, and sent him scurrying inside his little make-shift tent. A couple of English people had objected to his choice of muzak earlier, and received a tirade of gesticulations, so he was allowed to rant with impunity!
Finally they arrived, just as we were losing the will to live. Get a move on!!! I took a brief bit of video and one photo, which totally unexpectedly included a shot of the customarily scowling Cavendish/The Cav!
After an exhilarating high-speed descent off the mountain, and a beer watching the Tour live, we saw Wiggins knocked out of a staggering third place by the Schleck brothers from Luxembourg! They’d been on the road since 12noon and completed 3 category one climbs, taking a mere 45mins to climb up to Roselend. Contador and the Schlecks knocked a staggering five minutes out of Wiggins. What a shame!