Third country of the Tour, today we started in Belgium in the town of Binche . The town is only 15km over the border from France but we will rode just over 70km in Belgium before crossing in to France at Regniowez. The day was expected to be long, before we started, last night we were told to be up for 6:00am for a 7:30am start, when we would ride 10km in to Binche for an 8:00am meeting with the Mayor of the Province who had asked to meet us all.
When I first talked to Geoff about the tour, he said to raise £1,000,000 you have to do some thing special, you cannot expect people to donate that amount of money to Cure Leukaemia if all you are going to do is a 5k run. Today was one of those rides that make the Tour de France such a special event, I’ve never ridden as far or done as much climbing on a ride before today. After a flattish 10k to start the next 90k was generally uphill, a few descents, but before we left Belgium we were 900 feet higher than when we started. Just over the border at Bourg-Fidele, we dropped in to a valley, at the bottom of which was our first categorised climb of the day, and the first real test of the Tour. The climbs in Denmark were more to ensure there were points on offer for the Polka Dot jersey, but this Third Category climb was serious – The Cote des Mazures is 2 kilometres at an average gradient of 7.6%, very much like some of the ‘100 Climbs’ I have been using for training back in the UK. After a short break at 75k, we rode on to lunch at just after 1:00pm just outside Viver-au-Court.
The whole team are riding really well, everyone is keen as I am to get going and complete the next stage of our adventure. After lunch we split in to two groups and I found myself in a group of 10. That team ethic is now building, despite all the efforts, tired legs and aches from yesterday, we worked together, getting soaked as we encountered our first rain of the tour, with everyone sharing the workload on front. The route took us in to some flatter terrain up to 160km where we started on another hilly section which was to last until the end of the day and had a sting in the tail – well three actually.
With 20K to go a Category 4 climb, the Cote de Montigny-sur-Chiers, (1.6km at 4.4%), far longer and steeper than the ones in Denmark, Another with 6k to go, a Category 3 climb, a lot shorter this time at 800m but 12.3% average. With those out of the way, we entered Longwy. As we rode through the town we came to a wide bit of road then dropped steeply down hill, only to ride back up in a big hook shape to come out on that same wide road, riding in the other direction, that last climb was not categorised but Andy had warned me about it last night, 1.6km at 5.8% which after 220 km in the saddle and 9000ft of climbing already done in the day, it was a hard final push to the line, what he hadn’t warned me about was the 24% section … on wet roads !
Today was my longest ever ride, when I finished I had ridden just under 150 miles, my climbing totalled 9437 ft, again a record for me. Starting at 7:40 am we finished 10 hours later at 5:40 pm. The second group were about 1/2 hour behind so there was just time for a very painful, but worthwhile, leg massage before it was back on the bus for the transfer to Tomblaine for stage 7, the first stage to be classified as a MOUNTAIN STAGE – I may break my 9437 ft climbing record again tomorrow.