The Tour de Force

The Tour de Force

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Heartbreak Hotel...Stage 19: Saint-Jean de Maurienne to La Toussuire...Friday 17th July 2015

That's Putin on the Ritz. Nothin'? Tough audience in tonight...

Le Roi. Towels weren't a problem pour him, I bet.
Today's route is pretty much a big loop. And one that goes up and down too.
Up, up and away on my beautiful, my beautiful push-bike!
The initial section of the first climb today was a retracing of yesterday's run in to S-J-D-M and we had some fantastic changing colours as the sun worked its magic. Much like the magic wot the TdF mechanics had worked on my rear wheel rim since my puncture faffs yesterday...thanks a bundle!

The morning sun is spectacular.
"Ok Simon, if you're going to wobble, then I strongly suggest that you wobble left."
It was a fairly spectacular climb up to our first named climb, the Col du Chaussy: always a thrill for people who aren't dying about heights, hah-hah! At the summit I was able to get a photo with Phil, so at least the frame contained one proper cyclist...
Yep, the animals did wonder what on earth we were thinking of.
A privilege to get a photo with Le Tour guru, Phil. Forgotten more than I'll ever know etc...
From the top there was a super descent before resetting focus for a climb that I wasn't particularly relishing, although I'm pretty sure that I wasn't alone in that. We would climb back up the Col du Glandon (thankfully from the other side this time) before turning left at its summit and climbing another 2 miles to reach the summit of the Col de la Croix de Fer. Piece of lemon drizzle cake, right?
Here we go, here we go, here we go...out the back!
To be fair, I didn't find this quite as awful as I feared: for once I was able to help Le Tracteur a bit with tried and trusted ways to divert attention away from the struggle e.g. asking him to name The Arsenal 'Invincibles' team. Always with the nonsense, hah-hah! Big thanks to the elderly French gent who doused me with ice-cold water: I really appreciated it, was getting a tad warm.
#bigfan couldn't even spell the Great One's name correctly.
Yep, it's just another stunning landscape.
Yes. Yes I'm too tight to buy the original.
We made it up there and regrouped at the feed-stop. You didn't really want to hang around too long as your clothes are literally saturated and getting a chill from the breeze won't do you any favours.
Nope, that wasn't my bike. Worse luck, hah-hah!
Motorhomes getting in position a week before Le Tour arrives. Hardcore Euro-loonery.
Listen mate, quit stopping for photos and get on with the descent: you've lost contact with them again!
There were tons of cyclists from all over the place out and about, not least because there is a hugely popular amateur cycle event that weekend (The Etape du Tour, which has 15000 entries!). We passed a bunch of guys from the UK and some of them were showing just how good they (thought they) were. Andy asked one of them if they had covered much ground and the answer was "Oh, around 10km so far...".  When the bloke airily asked what we had done, Andy replied, "Do you mean today or over the whole event?". I believe that George came out with something similar when he described L'Etape as an entry-level sportive. Ouch, hah-hah! And it's all gone quiet over there...

Enough 'Big Time Charlie' nonsense because there was another col between us and the close of play. We had looped back around to the same town that we had started from (S-J-D-M) before starting up the initially horrible climb up to La Toussuire. We had now learned that you always look for fountains when you pass through villages- the sign that you want to see is 'Eau Potable'. Fill those bottles, dowse your head and say thanks!
Only another 2 miles and we can call it quits for the day...keep going my son!
It had been another tough day at the office and I was glad to see La Toussuire appear eventually: Andy and I finished pretty much together. As we weaved through the crowds towards our acco, Andy heard someone shout his name- it was MVP Tim (the loon who joined us two weeks ago for three stages and broke us, hah-hah!) who was over with a few mates to ride The Etape/entry level sportive, hah-hah! I headed on to get a now-essential massage...thanks Beth.
Pleased to see this wee fella. You may now climb off the bike!
Sarah, Tour Supremo, had already adjusted our expectations with regard to tonight's acco: suffice to say that she still oversold it, hah-hah! Nah, her insurmountable problem was that because of The Etape, her choices were severely limited, so it was a case of just having to get on with it. Bunk beds, four in a room and no towels. Apart from that, pas des dramas...
The view from our er, unique acco in La Toussuire. Hmmm...
Andy and myself snuck out for a second meal pizza which was the right move: after the briefings we hooked-up with Matt, Dave, Peter, Chris and Annabel to say hello to MVP Tim. Whilst we were sat outside enjoying a beer and listening to some Euro X-Factor Wannabe, I saw a pretty humbling sight: Tour Guru Phil was cycling with a couple of the last guys on the road. It was just about 9.30pm. Phil had been helping to load luggage about 16 hours earlier. Plus the two riders who we cheered in had been given an absolute shoeing but refused to give up. There's your perspective.

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I do have a bit of previous...

2014: 1000 miles solo & unsupported out to France, then La Bicinglette...6 x Mont Ventoux in a day!

2013: 1000 miles solo & unsupported out to Austria, then the worst climbs in The Dolomites!

2012: The inaugural Haute Route sportive from Geneva to Nice, followed by the worst Pyrenean climbs!

2011: 3500 miles across North America...coast to coast!

2010: 1600 miles from Gibraltar to Blackpool!

2009: 1000 miles from Land's End to John O'Groats!

2008: 250 miles from Blackpool to London!

2007: 100 miles around Manchester!

2006: 0.5 mile to corner shop!