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Day 4: Serves sur Rhone to Chateauneauf de Pape


View TK Cycle - Day 6 & TK Cycle - Day 4 on Gelli's travel map.

Distance - 101.1 miles (163 km)
Max Speed - 38.9mph (62.25 kph)

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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.

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Cycling through French vineyards and fruit trees in teh early morning sun. What could be better?

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…

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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.

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Hint: Taking photos of stunning villages and towns one handed, whilst heading down the side of a mountain on a bicycle isn't really all that clever, though it does sometimes kind of work

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.

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The legendary Mt. Ventoux appears out of nowhere, and is suddenly right there, impossing on everything

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.

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Frederik and Christer still looking surprisingly happy, and with the support van in tow. I really need to find out what is in Frederiks water bottle and get some

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.

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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...

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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

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The T-Kartor team diligently protecting the yellow jersey from an attack by the Kaizer. Or something

Posted by Gelli 03:50 Archived in France Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

Dogs glorious dogs, and the return of the one legged cyclist

Day 3: Chateau de Pizy - Serves sur Rhone


View TK Cycle - Day 3 on Gelli's travel map.

Distance – 110.5 miles (176.8 km)
Max speed – 48.6mph ( 77.6 kmh)

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Hard at work... But it has finally stopped raining

I'll say one thing about fancy French Chateauxs. They really know how to put on a breakfast spread. A happy stomach and bulging pockets later, it was time to attempt the impossible. I had to somehow get on my bike. It was a serious challenge. The interesting discovery that it was for the longest day, over 50km further than the previous day didn't necessarily help my mood either. 165km was scheduled. Torbe, the second half of team-Bianchi (with the Kaizer) was stuck searching for a bike store after his bike come down with sympathy for the Kaizer's Bianchi, when it's rear dérailleur had decided that it was time to retire...

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After a less than exciting start, with the weather still overcast we eventually found our way onto a handful of decent roads, and I began to realise that it was actually easier to ride a bicycle than it was to do other physical exertions, such as standing or walking. And my back seemed to be fine as well. And just like that, the miles started to roll past. Almost without realising it, we had passed Lyon, skirted the logistics warehouses by Satolas airport. Then as it started to rain and get a bit grim again, we got lost trying to find a road out of Heyrieux, and a feeling of dread started to encompass me.

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Sometimes, you've just got to go...

Then, whilst taking a comfort break under some trees, we were passed by two lovely scantily clad girls out jogging, and suddenly, everything started to work again. Kind of. After about 5minutes. We left Heyrieux via a lovely little 14% back road. Only 200m or so, but in retrospect, perhaps trying to sprint up it wasn't my cleverest idea. But after then lying on the concrete for a few minutes in pain, something happened. I have no idea what.

But the rain stopped, the sun started making occasional fleeting appearances, and i finally worked out how to sit to minimise pain as we sped towards Vienne. Two were blown out the back, and then as happens periodically with lunchtime on the horizon, Hasse and Göran started slowly winding things up. On a small rise, we spread right out before hitting a long rolling downhill section, which turned into a good 10km descent. By the time we had hit the bottom a while later, there were only 5 of is left. Probably this was because we hadn't actually looked at the map, and had thus gone the wrong way....

A long wait followed before phone contact established that they had all been waiting in the town centre for several minutes, had met the van and were happily eating lunch. But on our attempts at then finding the town centre, we even found a real bike shop. Which was lucky, as as we then rolled down to the river and on to the bike path into centre trying to find the others, the Kaizer's bike gave out properly, and Team Bianchi was no more.

We walked the last few hundred metres into town in glorious summer sunshine, and joined the rest basking in the sun on the steps to the cathedral. Vienne really is a lovely town, a former Roman town and home to an important Archbishop-ry. Quite what it is thus doing being twinned with Port Talbot, I’m not quite sure. But it worked. A couple of hours later, spirits were good, Team Bianchi were both on there way to getting fixed and we were well over half way, though it was suddenly realised that time was passing fast.

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Having lunch in Vienne on the steps of the lovely cathedral

I like hills, I always have. And short Steep ones have always been a particular favourite of mine. However, I’m not a big fan having climbs without any kind of warm up. Thus, as a handful of us headed off after lunch (the rest would follow when Team Bianchi were up and running), and we got about 120metres through Vienne, I was slightly perturbed to see it suddenly go up. Sharply. Vienne is on the Rhone in the river valley, situated at roughly 160metres altitude. Barely 2kilometres later, we had risen to almost 400m, up a steep and narrow (if lovely) hair-pined road. It was slightly perturbing to see the 4 guys behind me after the first 50metres, then 100m later, nobody at all. By the time it had levelled out near the top, I decided I had to stop and wait, simply to make sure that I had gone the correct way. When i realised that I had, i could at least get to watch people suffering if looking surprisingly happy as they passed me.

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B-G (reading the map as always), Christer and Mats (behind) and Frederik, after the steep parts and near the top of the climb out of Vienne, looking surprisingly happy

Some days are characterised by certain themes. Today’s theme is barking dogs. Lots and lots of f*cking barking dogs. Large ones. Oh, and getting lost. Every few hundred metres we seemed to come upon an even louder and larger barking dogs. And we got lost. A while later, just as everybody had caught up and we were back together as one, Christer managed to puncture and then fall off in the process of stopping. Cunningly, the puncture was fixed, but without anybody checking the tyre. Muppets. Thus, five metres later, the same thing that had punctured it first time around, punctured it again. But of course, by then, all bar three had continued without realising. And we’d gone the wrong way.

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A couple of pictures telling a familiar story. Yup, we're lost again... (before lunch trying to work our way around Satolas Airport, and then in the afternoon, down to 7 after the puncture and having lost people in all directions - who all arrived before us)

What followed was an ever increasing number of backtracks, and loosing of people. Retrospectively, it was thus probably unlucky that I ended up in a strong group of 7, which then whittled down to 5 as the scorching heat, distance, and in particular speed. The speed was partly due to some fantastic roads, partly due to Hasse and Göran deciding they wanted some fun, and partly in trying to get to the finish before it got dark. For the last 90mins or so, we average well over 25mph (40 kmh), and were often significantly higher. It was great. I started feeling like a cyclist again. Flying through great Foreign scenery with serious and good company, and feeling good despite having already come 100miles that day. It was pure magic. And the closer we got, the faster we went. We had even just about lost Team Bianchi and were down to the last 3 when I suddenly heard the most amazing cracking sound and was treated to a wonderful sensation of, well, lots and lots of pain, as my (good) right knee decided to go on instant strike and more or less disintegrated there and then. It wasn’t fun.

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1980 Swedish national champion, Göran Bakfors, resplendant in his yellow jersey, on the charge after lunch, but before it started to go slightly pear shaped

As Team Bianchi then passed me, I was left to reflect on the fact that I could have done something easy like be a brain surgeon, raise a dozen kids with Kiki, become a Nuclear weapons inspector in North Korea or have been Turkmenbashi the greats right hand man, but oh no, I had to try and recreate my youthful stupidity and get on a damned bike again. I was reduced to a combination of rolling-cycling on just one leg (my left, and yes, my left is the one which historically has the worst knee and the one whose ankle I had utterly b*ggered once and for all in the curious stair falling incident years ago, which had more or less finally ended any cycling exploits which could even be considered vaguely serious) with my right one hanging free, slightly comically looking.

Thank god for clipless pedals is all I can say.

My spirits were only marginally improved by the fact that the road was perfectly surfaced and rolling slowly downhill. Yes, it helped me continue (and keep up a decent-ish speed), but it was a great stretch to be going down at full-tilt. Maybe 20mins later, I reached a village near the bottom where the guys were waiting to tell me the good news that we were lost and nobody actually knew which chateau we were suppose to be going to. A few phone calls later, and opinion was still divided. Some rolled back up the hill, some stood around. I lay on the floor and pondered superstring theory. Or something. Then, having received news from somewhere, everybody headed back the way we had come for a few km.

And this time in it’s fickeltyness (I have no idea if that’s a word or not, but I like it) gravity wasn’t going to help me. As I watched them head off, Mats and Frederik, the two we had jettisoned off the back on our run down suddenly appeared, convinced that we were actually in the right place [the village had a large and suspiciously obvious chateaux like building on the cliff above us], and went to investigate. I did the only thing I possibly could in the situation, and lay down again. At that point, the support van appeared, confirming that we were indeed supposed to be somewhere else, and trying to get me to quit and get a lift. Sometimes I can be a stupid stubborn MF, and thus declined. I couldn’t possibly quit only 4km from the end, however much I would have liked to. Thus I embarked on an agonizing, uphill, one leg struggle to reach the chateau. 1km from the end, the van again tried to get me to quit. Apparently, I looked as though I was in a small amount of pain.

Somehow though, I made it, and rolled in alone, although not quite last. It later transpired that only B-G and Christer had actually arrived together at the front. Everybody else having arrived in dribs and drabs over the next 90minutes having taken a variety of wrong turns. Mats mentioned that the other chateau actually had looked very nice

A hospital would have been a clever idea. I settled for booze.

Then, just to top off my afternoon, I cunningly, managed to get completely lost inside the chateau searching for a room whose number I didn’t know, and in the corridors of which had no mobile phone coverage. Oh yes. Whilst cartographers can – and do - get lost out in the open from time to time, I am proud of my ability to get lost inside a building which I am reduced to hopping around.

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Sadly for Greg, the day wasn’t topped off with an impressive display of flying cars or even F1 vehicles. Instead we got police. Whilst in a restaurant in a nearby town that evening, some presumably bored (and lost) kid had decided that he liked the look of the GPS machine on the windscreen of the van so much, that it should be his. A broken Swedish van window later and it indeed was.

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Posted by Gelli 03:46 Archived in France Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

Bl**dy Ferrari's

Day 2: Montagny-les-Beaune - Chateau de Pizy [Belleville]

rain
View TK Cycle - Day 2 on Gelli's travel map.

Distance - 77.4 miles (124 km)
Top speed - 39.3 mph (63 kmh)

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Some days you kind of know that you could be in trouble. While awaiting people to get ready, I went for a slight spin around the yard and had a slight problem. On discovering that one of my cleats was full of cr*p and wouldn't clip in, and thus bent down to clean it up. Wrenched my back out completely and then watched, still half bent over trying to work out how to get up again, as the rest of the guys rolled out on day 2.

I knew then it wouldn't be a good day.

A few km down the road and the Kaizer's chain snapped. We'd managed the first day with only one puncture, and that was more or less too good to last. Things were rapidly going downhill.

This isn't very helpful when it happens to you in the middle of nowhere....
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After fudging a repair, the mornings festivities included a collection of littering on to the road, where we dispersed random items such as a map, sun glasses and credit card and 50euro note, all of which we somehow managed to recover through a combination of luck and dumb luck, and wind blowing the correct things at peoples faces as it was removed from pockets. God only knows what we weren't lucky enough to save.

They then degenerated into interesting knee pains (it was coming, i was just amazed it took so long to appear) which did at least have the benefit of taking my mind of my back pains, and took on their inevitable end in a miserable couple of hours before lunch which were windy and raining. And then very raining. Yay. At lunch, I was then privileged to pay 13euros for a salad and water.

An SMS talking about Kiki didn't help my mood.

At least by the afternoon things had dried up a bit and it was at least not raining. Sadly, however, it was all uphill. The first hill was one of those kind of rambling ones that just drags on and drags on, sapping energy and constantly gnawing at your morale, but never really being all that difficult, and thus making you feel even worse about it. Hasse even managed to fall off at the top, though nobody is particularly sure how.

In typical fashion, we then shot downhill for a few km, just to be confronted with another hill, going back over the same damned ridge we had just gone up and then come back down from. Sometimes, as a cyclists, you can't help but just dispair. The Col du Fut d'Avenas is a 737m high summit in the Bourgogne, with about 500metres of climbing. It was our first "major" climb, though obviously, by Alpine standards, it would barely register. It was a strange climb for me, with different bits of my body objecting at different times. I struggled with the attritional drag at the bottom and paid no interest when the front trio shot off, struggling as I was just to keep up with the next group. Then as it started to rise a little more, i shot up the road, and almost bridged across, before it flattened out a bit more and I fell right back to the next group, after realising that I was stuck in no mans land. Within 30seconds of falling back, the climb suddenly started again, and i turned around to discover that i'd already gained about 300metres, the last I saw of anybody, baring B-G flying past me about 3/4 of the way up.

By now it was actually warming up a bit and I was over dressed, alternating between decent sensations and evil knee pains. It was steep enough and the pain bad enough that I was depressed at having to drop onto my small front ring, something I always try to avoid. Then, maybe 3km from the top, it suddenly got awfully grey and then rainy. I rolled up to the top just as the leading 4 were about to head down. After a few minutes at the van, route checking (i'd hoped to learn from yesterday's balls up) and redressing to the conditions, i started down. By now it was pissing it down, increasingly chilly and visibility was fast becoming, well, a pipedream. 200metres later, and the horizontal hail storms started. Now, i don't mind rain, and I enjoy descending, but falling off a mountainside in freezing hailstones and low visibility is not my idea of fun. It was odd in that i could see 15km away reasonably well. But b*llocks could I see what was 15m ahead.

I'm not entirely sure why we seem to be ending each day with a climb, but i sure as heck hope it's not a habit we're going to get into.

A combination of a desire to be somewhere - anywhere - else, a surprisingly steep decent, strong tail [mostly] wind, some slightly manic descending and, essentially, the fact that my fingers were just too cold to be able to grip the breaks as much as I needed to slow me enough mean't I came off the mountain faster than was probably safe, and my line through one or two corners perhaps wasn't quite as planned as i would have liked and might have been interesting had a car suddenly appeared... I shot past B-G who was going very slowly (he had working brakes) and caught the front trio, and then stayed behind slightly just to give myself some chance of avoiding all the spray. Which mean't I was just that bit far away when they took off, leaving me with a maniacal chase hanging about 100m off the back and thus using more energy than any of them. We then hit then inevitable 100 short uphill stretch near the bottom and trying to keep the momentum/speed up, more or less did for my knee and back simultaneously, though it did suddenly stop rain/hailing.

We entered a small town with narrow twisting roads near at bottom, and in my surprise at the sudden emergence of a both a Ferrari and a rather large lorry headed straight towards me, caused me to loose concentration. Thus i rounded a corner to realise that there were no other cyclists anywhere in sight. This is becoming a habit I don't wish to retain. Happily, a quick 180 head swivel saw them disappear down a side road I had missed and I was able to rectify matters. 500m and we turned right, into a fearsome headwind which reduced me to a painful crawl, onto the approach road to a wonderful looking Chateau.

We thus rolled up, cold, soaked through and not entirely un-miserable looking to a fantastic chateau, where we were greeted by a slightly amused manager, and two rabbits and a peacock who were getting worryingly friendly with each other. We shortly realised that the chateaus other guests had arrived both drier, and in a slightly different (and some may say classier) style - a party of some 50+ Dutch Ferrari drivers. Cheating b*stards! I am wondering how the daily BMW-Porsche-Ferrari curve can continue tomorrow though.

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Some of us arrived on bikes, tired and drenched, having just scaled two mountain passes in first pissing rain and then freezing horizontal hail stones. The rest of them arrived in Ferrari's.

By nature i tend to travel at the budget end of the spectrum, and am thus not entirely accustomed to the sorts of luxuries provided at such locales, let alone the prices one pays for the privilege. But at that point, i really couldn't care less. I needed a hot shower, somewhere to dry my clothes/shoes, and, of course, food and booze, and a large area to limp around in hope of a miraculous recovery.

To rub it in, we then went back up the mountain (now in lovely clear-ish weather) for dinner at a summit restaurant, though at least by then we got a chance to see a bit of the view. Not too bad, either.

Before I got roped into this mugs game of a trip, I said that if i could manage to complete a single day cycling (ideally without embarrassing myself by coming in many hours down) I would be delighted. It's only the end of Day 2, and i've met that goal. Anything more that I manage now is a bonus, though by how I currently feel, that seems unlikely to be much.

Being able to stand unaided or walk would be a major help at this point.

Bits of the view from the summit of the Col de Fut d'Avernas on our evening return
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Posted by Gelli 03:41 Archived in France Tagged bicycle Comments (1)

Day 1: Let the "fun" begin

1: Tonnerre - Montagny-les-Beaune

Distance - 54m (85km) [Total dist 145km*]
Max speed – 39.4mph (63kmh)

  • both start and end points were changed after route had been mapped out, so actually distance was slightly different. And mine is obviously shorter because I didn't cycle all of it.

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Thirteen cyclists on thirteen bikes had planned to set out on day 1, until a slight technical issue was realised. With the driver in China, somebody would have to drop out and drive the van. Selflessly, I volunteered. Now, you might think that it's a bit of a cheat to drive the whole way, and, in fairness, you would be right. In mitigation, it had been agreed that driving would be shared between 11 of us (excluding the two had had drive down and would then drive back to Sweden). Five days – plus the Mountain loop stage which was an out and back and didn't require the van – mean't that everybody would then drive. I had no desperate desire to cycle from the start, and figured that if i got out of the way, it would be better.

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Packing up in preparation for the start of the trip South

Day 1 was a nice 91mile (145km) jaunt south, over reasonably friendly terrain and in reasonable weather, and thus I headed off in the van through the back roads of France, with the aim of trying to get to the predetermined meeting point before everybody else and then riding back to meet them. But first I had to go for a big satisfying dump. I just know you wanted to know that.

I tried to follow the same route as the cyclists, more or less, but things (obviously) happen much faster in a vehicle and on more than one occasion coming through villages, I knew I had gone wrong, and then spent a good while trying to get back on route. As it was, by the time I'd stopped to take a couple of “action” (in the loosest sense of the word) shots of the guys going past, got sidetracked (and well and properly traffic jammed) in a village fete, got to and parked up in Fontigny, the lunch pause, got changed and fixed my bike, I had barely managed to 5miles back down the road before I was passed by the first group coming in the opposite direction at a fair old whack.

A 45minute lunch pause later, and leaving the newly arrived Mats S with the keys and to await the trio of back-markers still out on the road, and I was a proper cyclist again. Such a thing has not happened to me in over 10years, and it felt both great and weird to be back in a group of cyclists. The feeling of great and weird swiftly changed to one of realisation, both about what I was doing and that this wouldn't be an easy paced roll in the country. It was actually good fun. On the first climb of any note (though it was barely 2km), i was pleased to discover that instead of being waaaaay last as I'd expected, I was up with the front duo for a long way and came up third. Perhaps I had a chance of surviving this week after all?

It was on the way down the other side that the fun really started. We went down a narrow country lane, and the surface really wasn't very good. I've always been a decent descender and I was fast discovering that my bike was also pretty good. The problem was, the surface really wasn't. Then we came around a corner with a lovely view of a reservior ahead and the road suddenly got increasingly steep. But I bounced down with the brakes on more or less full, and all was going fine until a sharpish left hander near the bottom, which i turned into to discover a pot hole and lots of loose gravel weren't going to let me, and thus in a kind of comical slow motion bounce i slid half way around the corner and then over a large divot before taking a refreshing if unplanned detour into a hedge before finally getting back onto the road, amazingly still upright, and astonishingly given the amount of holes and crap on the roads, not a single puncture.

With some tired legs nearing the end of the first day barely 20km to go, we made the unpleasant discovery that whilst Beaune may only have been 20km or so away, it was also over the other side of a big ridge. We were on the main road, and it was the kind of hill I hate. One that goes uphill. Actually, what I really hated was that after the first long straight drag (ok), were a series of false flats separated by shorter sharp uphill sections, all of which mentally made you think that you were constantly going up and down, whilst your legs are telling you that you very definitely aren't going downhill at all. Barely 100m after we had started the climb, and we were all strung out, and then rapidly split into mostly suffering small groups and individuals. I somehow reached the summit second only to the speedster Hasse, astonishingly even beating Göran, our former Swedish champion by a few hundred metres. Sure, it was only a few km long and a climb of only 250metres or so, and, admittedly, I'd only cycled half a day compared to everybody else, but I was still well chuffed, as I'd expected to be really struggling and coming in well down, both on any kind of uphill stretch, and the end of every day.

We regrouped at the summit (and turning off the main road), but then on the run down the other side towards Beaune, split right up. I was amongst the front group and feeling OK. Then, following on from Tonnerre's BMW club, as we rolled into Pommard with the end in sight, we came right into the centre of a gathering of (mostly) classic Porsche 911s, taking up much of the centre of the town. I had to stop for a couple of minutes whilst a Porsche driver finished doing donuts in the road. When I could finally pass, I headed out of town, and tried to catch the group again. The road turned into the kind of hedge lined winding road that is common in the UK, but not in most of the rest of Europe. And it was heading back uphill. Reasonably steeply.

After a few kilometres of this winding uphill and my going at a fair lick to try and catch up, it suddenly opened out into a long straight section and I still couldn't see anybody ahead, and I the gnawing feeling that maybe this wasn't the correct way suddenly became more serious. On as serious uphill section as that, and being only a minute or two behind the group, I really should have been able to at least see somebody ahead, even if i hadn't caught them. I then waited for about 5minutes to see if anybody came up from behind, and then when nobody did, started retracing mysteps. It was almost at the bottom of the hill that I punctured. B*gger.

So, as I sat there trying to help lost German tourists (they had to ask, didn't they?) and awaiting the glue to dry on my inner tube patch, I sheepishly made a phone call. “Erm. Emil... Where the heck are you? Montagny-les-Beaune” came the reply. “Uh?” thought I, and a few seconds then ellapsed as I perused my route card, confirming indeed that there was no Montagny-les-Beaune listed. “Where the bl**dy hell is that??”. It transpired that, for reasons that remain hazy, the days finish point had been changed to Montagny-les-Beaune (obvious really. Why else would they be there??), but the route cards hadn't. A fixed rear wheel and handful of bemused but helpful French people later, and I was back on track. I rolled into Montagny, then started wondering if it would have been helpful to know the name of the hotel as well. But it was solved easily enough.

A van load of beer and whiskey, plus shower, happily awaited.

2 hrs 15 later, Christer and Mats S finally rolled in, in the rain, and having also got lost (but gone a different way to me) in the run in. With two having come in the van, we had then all just about negotiated the day's events, and were looking forward to a well deserved meal. So turning up at the local restaurant to be told that, sadly, they were fully booked and couldn't help us didn't exactly go down very well. This news would possibly have been better received if there been even a single customer in said restaurant. There wasn't. So it was that we squeezed onto the floor of the van into Beaunne and in France, on a French holiday weekend, were forced to eat American Steak.

Oh well, tomorrow is another day. And, sadly, another cycling day.

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The group lined up across the road early in the day, and still looking remarkably happy. From L-R: Emil (or Stefan. All this was his dratted idea), Frederik (looking damned cheery as always. It must be the EPO...), Torbjörn, Mats P, Göran (who was Swedish national champion in 1980, and thus somewhat quick), Jomar, Hans, Christer, Mats S, Hasse (who is just damned fast), B-G and Hans Ola (the Kaizer)

Posted by Gelli 03:38 Archived in France Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

Day 0: That wasn't so hard, was it?

Prologue: (Zürich) to Paris to Chablis. Except it wasn't really.


View TK France cycle trip - Swe-Zurich-Paris and Prologue on Gelli's travel map.

Ten hours of beer drinking whilst standing in a train corridor later, I was in Paris. The support vehicle was somewhere here. I was supposed to be in it, but a private issue had come up suddenly, and thus instead of driving the support vehicle from Sweden to Paris (bollocks was I going to fly), I had had to make an unscheduled detour via Zürich. But I had at least made it to Paris, more than most people were expecting, and, in fairness, I was hoping. Excited - the word is stupid - cyclists were shortly to fly in from all corners of Scandinavia, and a photo shoot was planned by the Eiffel Tower. Ok, it never happened, but I did at least have the delights of trying to find two people waiting "at the Eiffel Tower" amongst the several thousand other people waiting in the same location. Which was bad enough even knowing who the heck they were, and just thankful I wasn't looking for strangers.

I should probably mention now that really, there isn't no point to this blog entry at all. I'd decided befoerhand that I should probably do an entry for each day, but looking back, nothing happened at all worth noting. So you may as well just skip this altogether. I will.

The rest of the intrepid adventurers cried off. We hadn't even started and we've already lost 10 people. This bodes well. So after a short wander to Notre Dame and the Louvre, a quick photo (of the 3 of us who had made it) by the tower to the confusion of the poor Japanese girl who took it, and it was time to head south. Now. Something that i suggest you don't do in future is put 3 cartographers in a vehicle with a speaking GPS and expect them to know where they are going. And trying to get out of the centre of a large city. For the next hour or so, with alarming regularity, Frederik (driver) and I were treated to a constant stream of the GPS lady saying things like "turn left in 200metres" at the same time as Mats was saying "No. Turn right in 200metres", normally whilst we were going the wrong way down one way streets and with the road signs suggesting we should be travelling in a 4th direction... But, at legnth, we somehow made it on La Periperique, where as tradition dictates, we then sat in traffic jams for a while before finally getting slung, swing shot like onto a useful-ish motorway heading south.

Oh, and apparently, we weren't actually going to Chablis at all. We were going to Tonerre, about 15km further East. Nobody tells me anything.

Astonishingly, within minutes of each other, and having missed a rain storm, we all actually arrived, in Tonerre, greeted, as you do in random towns in central France, by a couple of camels grazing outside the railway station in a rain storm. Even more amazingly, we had somehow managed to arrive with the requisit number (13. Of all the numbers of people to start with, why 13?) - and correct - bicycles, bags, clothing, spares, plus the most vital of all: doping products. We had all the beer, whiskey (and vitargo) we could need. What could possibly go wrong?

A refreshment or two in a local bar, followed by the curious discovery that we were sharing a hotel with a Belgian BMW owners club (who all drove bog standard average BMWs. It's just like having a Vauxhall Vectra owners club. There's just no point) and inspired by the discovery that the very rooms we were inhabiting would be taken by Tour De France teams barely 2months later, led to a spell of vaguely frenzied activity as bikes were assembled and checked. And with that it was time for a short warm up. Or, if you prefer, prologue.

Thus it was that in true team presentation style before a team time trial, we lined up with a motley assortment of 9 fully T-Kartor outfited cyclists, one with a T-Kartor top but Bianchi shorts (yup, muggins, the Tk shorts I had been given at that point were XXXXXXXL, and i, basically, am not) surrounding our star rider resplendant in his yellow jersey and shorts. Oh, and two two guys who decided to skip it and sleep instead.

About 120metres later, the road started to go uphill and we all suddenly started wondering what the bloody hell we were doing. An hour or so later, and after covering barely 16 miles, I was lying knackered on the grass infront of the hotel preying like hell for some kind of salvation, or other useful excuse which would prevent my having to ride. A meteorite to wipe out Earth, maybe.

This is going to be a hard week. And we don't actually a support driver. He's in China

((with apologies for lack of photos in this thrilling, not really, installment. I don't have any, but i'll try and add them in when i scrounge them later.))

Posted by Gelli 03:34 Archived in France Tagged bicycle Comments (0)

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