PAUL’S ETAPE

What a great day!

The day started well – very happy to be in block 4 maximising the time ahead of the broom wagon.  The first 30km where nice and easy (large pelotons to tuck into).  The weather in the morning was just right, cool but not cold.

The first climb brought it home just how long a HC climb really is.  I rode the Dragon last month – felt good and easy – but quickly realised this was a walk in the park in comparison to the real thing.  I managed to push around 10 km/h most of the way up and was happy with this. I had put on a compact a few months ago with a min ratio of 34 – 27 and this seemed fine. Cadence was high enough not to feel like a grind.

Unfortunately as we neared the top of the first col the rain came in and temp dropped to around 11C.  The balcony route had no view.  The descent was slippery and slow (around 34km/h).  Will Chandler crashed on a metal culvert covering – with the front wheel just going away from him at a bend. He bravely got back on and finished well.

 Arrived at the first feed station frozen.  Foil blankets everywhere (although the square was south facing and warm and dry so I was ok after a few minutes). A couple of local ladies had kindly added coffee to the feed station menu, gamefully servicing the 1000s from a couple of picnic flasks!  Probably stayed here 15mins – probably too long really but it was nice!

 Mr T (Tourmalet) was as bad as they say. The relentless nature of the 10% gradient was soul sapping.  The feed station part way up saved our blushes and we were able to try a break without ‘officially’ stopping on the climb.  My daughter (Meg, 10) had made me a good luck charm – a quilted heart – and placed it in my pocket. When reaching for another gel I found the heart – great boost!

 The descent from the top was again wet and cold. Unfortunately this time the feed station was also exposed to the weather and cold. I could hear much muttering of abandoning around. 

 The weather started to improve and we pushed on the Aspin – a lovely climb, not too long or too steep.  Unfortunately though I mistakenly thought the total climb was around 4500m.  Near the top of the Aspin my Garmin was showing around 4300m. I though the final climb must be shorter than the others.  After a great dry descend from Aspin reality struck.  I passed the sign to the final Col “18km altitude 950m”. I knew the col was at around 1600 meaning at least 650m more of climbing!  This was possibly the low point of the ride, but I knew I was close. 

 The climb to the final col was brutal, 10% when very tired and alone (we had split by this point) feels like 13/14% at least.  With a speed reduced to 7km/hr the 1km markers passed at a snail pass. The sympathetic shouts of “allez” “bravo” from the roadside really helped. Finally the summit was insight and I was over.

 Knowing the run to the finish was downhill, my energy levels immediately picked up and managed an average of 60km/h to the finish, including a “sprint” through the town – a great way to come in.

 I had finished!

 According to my Garmin the total climb as 5003m, this came down by 3m when uploaded to Garmin connects – giving 5000m on the button!