Everyday is a different day on the tour, following our TT route in Copenhagen, the flats of Denmark and the hilly route in the region of Hauts-de-France around Dunkirk and Calais, we were now on to the cobbled stage. Last night we drove 2 hours south to Lille ready for this morning start.
After a ride in to Lille from our hotel, we joined the Stage 5 ‘Neutralised Zone’ before joining the route proper. Our morning was fairly uneventful travelling through the French countryside with our motorcycle outriders and support vehicles. Just before lunch at 80km was our first taste of the cobbles. Same as the mountains the cobbles are graded for difficulty (1 easiest to 5 Hardest), but there are no special jerseys for the cobbles, just the risk of punctures or crashes. Our first section was a grade 3, not too difficult but nothing I’ve ridden before. My previous cobbles were obviously grade 1, in towns on clean roads and relatively smooth. This was a farm track through the fields, Dusty and bumpy.
I’ve been given a lot of advice about riding cobbles, and all of it was beneficial. Although counter intuitive, keep the speed up, use a big gear, and grip the handlebars lightly, basically surf over the cobbles rather than go in all the bumps. The other but of advice was to make sure anything loose is in a zipped pocket or left in the van, the bumps may well jolt things out never to be seen again – so the phone was left in the van today.
After that first set of cobbles we had lunch and then it was on to Arenberg, with 10 more sections of cobbles to negotiate. It was not possible to ride on one short section as it was being repaired ready for the Tour next week, and if we didn’t think 11 sections for the day were enough, there was a diversion, which took us along a 12th unexpected section.
Two disappointments for me today
Firstly the bumps took a toll on my Wahoo which decided to finish my ride at 164 km and before I could do anything about it the ride disappeared from the memory, so I have logged my Strava ride by tagging myself to Alistair who I rode with today. Such a pity we were only 8k to the finish.
The second disappointment is the state of my bike and not being able to clean it straight away. Generally all the cobbles sections were the same as the first, very dusty, I’m only glad it wasn’t raining which would have meant mud instead of dust. We have an hour to the hotel then I’ll get chance to clean it ready for tomorrow – which will be our longest ride at 220 kilometres