Journey to the Tour de France Part 4: The First day in the Mountains

In this instalment of Andy’s Tour de France cycling adventure, we follow his first day in the mountains of ‘Le Tour’ going uphill (well, mountain) and down dale, battling mechanical issues and huge temperature changes, as well as the extreme altitude. Keep reading to follow Andy and the gang’s adventure.

An Early Start

Sometimes even the best-laid plans don’t come to fruition. After picking a great room, with a view overlooking a picturesque church, I settled down for the night with the windows open to allow a light breeze to blow in.

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The sun rose at 5.30am, and then it started, a rooster non-stop and then, at 6am, the church bells started, ruining any chance of further sleep. The view from the balcony was, however, a stunning one to wake up to and one of my companions and I began planning a trip to the local boulangerie for some freshly baked breakfast. Here we stock up on freshly-baked croissants, pain au chocolates, baguettes and other such healthy and nutritious breakfast items, perfect for any elite athlete’s morning meal. We also hit the local shop to get food for that evening, as well as a few cases of liquid refreshment.

 

Saddling up

Having fuelled up for the morning, we checked all the bikes, the tyre pressures, readied our food for the ride, drinks, Garmin trackers and Go-Pros for the descents! We began with a nice 8.5km ride down into the valley, with just the one drama, one of our crew having issues stopping. Thankfully, our tame mechanic was on hand to help sort this issue.

We headed out of the town towards the start of the Col de la Madeleine, a 2000m climb, over 25km of road in 30 degrees of heat. Needless to say, this wasn’t going to be an easy day’s ride. After leading the peloton, onto the base of the climb, I, as the team domestique – a rider on a cycle racing team whose role it is to assist the teams designated leaders even if at the expense of his/her own individual performance – pulled over to allow the better climbers to play.

Off the pack went, with myself and some of my other companions taking it a bit slower, enjoying the views and taking photos for this here blog. By the fifth kilometre, my hat was off (with no risk of injury, considering my uphill speed) and Craig – the tame mechanic – dropped back and helped me sort out an issue with my seat.

With 9km to go, I had to stop and stick my head into a waterfall by the road to cool down and, having not seen my mate Mark for a while, I waited for him. The cycle code is very strict on this one – never leave a man on the hill (never mind a mountain).

A wonderful sight greeted us as we made it to the top – a stunning vista and our 11 friends sat round a table, with beers and food on the way for us. A very welcome lunch it was too!

Heading Back Down

Then the weather closed in, the temperature went from 30 degrees to near freezing, the clouds rolled in and the wind whipped up. It was time to head back down – especially with forecasts predicting heavy rain, thunder and lightning.

It was a very quick descent, I peaked at 48.1mph, averaging 32.5mph, even over the tight switch backs. We all got down safe, and rode gently into town, before the 8.5km climb back to where we were staying. At an average incline of 8% and now no shade and in 34 degrees in temperature, it was fairly brutal, but we all made it.

Back in our chalet, we began planning the next day’s riding, with the chef among our number getting on with dinner and various others helping out and dealing with the washing. This last job isn’t very pleasant! All in all, it was a great day of riding, with only few major dramas. Naturally, the wine and beers flowed that evening as a soothing balm to our aching legs and we fuelled up with a high carb, high protein chicken goulash with rice and baguettes. Delicious. Unsurprisingly, we all slept well…