THAT WAS THE HARDEST RIDE I HAVE EVER DONE !
Even though this was a mountain stage, there was slightly less climbing than yesterday but a quarter of that climbing came in the last few kilometres. Most of the day was straight forward, a gradual climb for the first 100 Kilometres, culminating in a Category 3 climb of The Col de Grosse Pierre where, once the climb was complete, we stopped for lunch.
in the afternoon another 50 Kilometres, with another Category 3 climb, before we reached the final climb of the day, La Super Plache des Belles Fille, a 7 kmolometre climb up to the ski station. No snow today – just hot, which made it a little harder.
At the bottom of the climb you pass a sign showing you what lies a head; green bits are relatively easy, Red Hard, Black very hard, there wasn’t much red and hardly any green. Due to the harpins the climb has the nick name “The Little Alp d’Huez”, but there is a kilometre and a half climb to the first turn, that first section was 10% sometimes 15%, on its own it is categorised as a 4 on Strava, and after 160 kilometres it was exhausting.
A short rest as we turned the 180 degree corner and the sight that met us was just the same, long with a gradient of 10%. It was the same at each of the 5 bends we came to, The first was a tight hairpin so the gradient dropped to 3% for a moment, but each of the rest were wide sweeping corners where there was no rest, with the gradient over 8% on the corner before returning to over 10% – it was quiet simply RELENTLESS
At we climbed, the tarmac road changed to gravel and sand meaning you couldn’t stand up. every so often there was a hard patch of tarmac, so you could stand and get more power, but if you weren’t careful you were back on the sand with no traction from a spinning rear wheel. Just as I thought it couldn’t get any worse I came to the last section – 24% – Standing up I was putting all my effort in to turning the pedals, but it felt like I wasn’t moving. Crawling up that last section I could see the top as the road levelled out and the others who had made it up before me were cheering me on, as I did for those that came up behind me.
Once at the top the pain in my legs that had been building for the last 45 minutes made them feel like jelly, but the satisfaction of completing my first Mountain stage took that pain away, it was time to celebrate and admire the views in every direction as we stood on top of the mountain. The riding was not over though, we still had to ride down to the bus for our transfer to Dole for the next stage. As you would expect the ride down was a lot easier than the ride up, but it was technical, the sand, gravel and rain gutters meant we had to take it easy for the first bit before coasting down to our tour bus at Planche les Mines.