Day 4: Serves sur Rhone to Chateauneauf de Pape
30.05.2007 - 30.05.2007
Distance - 101.1 miles (163 km)
Max Speed - 38.9mph (62.25 kph)
You know the feeling you get when you wake up on a Monday morning and think, oh **** not again? If we ignore the fact that I actually have that same feeling every day of my entire life, that’s how I felt waking up that lovely morning. Breakfast, some painkillers, half a can of deep heat, half a jar of Tiger Balm and an assortment of bandages later, and I made the sort of decision that I knew that I shouldn’t but equally, was bound to make. I was going to (attempt) to ride.
My overriding goal before I started this trip was to complete an entire day. I’ve already achieved that. Twice. And yet for some strange reason, I seemed to be intent upon destroying the last remnants of ligament and cartilage and riding even when I don’t have to, and despite virtually everybody else telling me not to.
But I figured that I couldn’t quit just like that, and should at least attempt a bit.
I’m a bl00dy muppet sometimes.
But, finally, the weather gods had decided to offer some relief, and it was a lovely hot day. I realised that whilst it was still impossible for me to walk of stand in any kind of comfort, cycling was actually possible, and so I just sat near the back and tried to avoid any kind of hard work. It was one of those days when I remember very little except that it just got hotter and hotter, and for reasons that I can’t really remember, we didn’t stop for coffee until well after half way. I’m used to drinking lots and lots of coffee (and tea and coke), and thus it’s possible that I may have become slightly grumpy due to a lack of caffeine…
We had a mostly flat morning, followed by a leisurely 300m or so climb and roll down to our coffee pause in La Begude. I was originally planning to maybe quit there, but wa still feeling ok, and thus in my stupidity, decided to continue to cycle to the end. That was followed directly by a slightly longer climb which more or less told me what I needed to know for the following day. Due to a slight technical issue that need not concern us, I was the last person to start the climb by a few minutes. I then swept past everybody up to the front duo, and then even passed them for a bit, before my knee decided that it wasn’t going to allow me to do anything more, thereby I was reduced to a slow pedal on my twiddling ring, whilst a succession of people then caught and passed me at speed.
I was also privilaged to have a power-gel sachet explode in my pocket, thus cunningly both (a) sticking everything together and making a right old mess, but perhaps more importantly (b) depriving my body of it’s contents.
As we came down the other side, we were treated to a sight which is both wonderful and scary. In the lovely hot clear skies, the imposing sight of Mt Ventoux, a legendary cycling mountain some 50km + away, was clearly visible, jutting up from nothing, and dominating the area for miles around.
It was another couple of Swedish miles later that the inevitable occurred. My knee was already starting to struggle a bit with the pace, when we made a turning down a narrow road. Not too bad in itself, but the surface was far from pristine, and the constant bouncing around through small potholes jarred my knee to the point that it decided to finish the days shift there and then. Sadly, we were still almost 50km from the days finish.
Thus the one legged cyclist made a less than triumphant return appearance
And definitely not by popular demand.
I was partly helped by a decision to go off course and find a place to stop for more important matters. It’s the queen stage of the Giro d’Italia, and they are finishing today on top of the Monte Zoncolan, a desperately fearsome Mountain which gains 1203metres in only 10.1km, at an average of almost 12%. But that’s only half the story. The first 8km are relatively sedate and easy at “only” 8% or so average. The final 2km however, average almost 20% gradient and reach almost 25% for almost half a kilometre.
Rather them than me.
Above - If my timing had been better, that would have a been a picture of us watching cyclists struggling whilst having a beer in a pub. Sadly, it's not. Below - The Kaizer (Jan Ullrich) is well known for his love of cream cakes in the off season, but perhaps took it to extremes last winter...
So a pub was found, beer was ordered, and we watched – in sympathetic pain, or in my case, just pain in general - as some of the biggest names in sport fought their ay to the top, at times (and this was for the leaders) at speeds of barely 5mph. Everybody then shot off leaving me to negotiate the final 20km or so one legged, alone and sweltering in the heat, hoping like heck that my memory of the area was enough for me to find the town we were staying in, and that my luck would enable me to find a useful hotel. Preferably the one everybody else was in.
On the third attempt, and after being reduced to a sedate 10kmh struggle up something which can’t even really be called a hill, I did.
One lovely feature of Swedish people is their ability to get burnt quickly. And today, it has been hot. I have a vague brown tan. The Swedish guys spent the evening comparing sun burn, and the stunning contrasts between red and pink where their jersey/shorts lines were.
Tomorrow won’t be fun.
And not just because of my knee.
Emil has a strange sense of humour, and has added a nice little extra for us