Whilst the second ‘Mountain’ stage of the tour, today was what many would say is a true mountain stage, deep in to the Alps with multiple long climbs and descents. None of the climbs were as steep as Planche des Belles Filles, but my climbing record was broken again with 11,920 feet of climbing in just under 200 Kilometres of cycling.
The morning started with a 45 minute bus journey to the the headquarters of world cycling, the UCI at Aigle, Before starting we had the chance to have a quick look around and take some photos before we were on our way, along another familiar road along the edge of the lake, this time the opposite way to what I had done in 2019. In the early morning sun the lake looked magnificent with the Alps as the backdrop to the picture.
The first section of our ride was straight forward, 35 Kilometres along the side of Lake Geneva before doubling back on ourselves at the start of the days climbing. As we rode through Montreux, through the buildings we caught a glimpse of the Freddie Mercury Statue which overlooks the lake. The photo is from my visit here in 2019 where we, along with many other fans, mimicked the famous pose. It was in 1978, when the 18th stage of the Tour De France came to Montreux, watching the peloton go through Freddie was inspired to write the Queen hit ‘Bicycle race’.
Riding in the mountains shows how good the professional riders are, it was hard enough just riding up the mountains, never mind racing up them. As we doubled back along the coast we were on to the first climb of the day, a Category 4, then it out in to the country side with some fantastic views of the amaing scenery. It was fairly level before the Category 2 Col de Mosses. After that the first of two Category 1 climbs the 8 km climb of Col de Croix, the top marked by a sign which was covered in stickers from many cyclists marking their achievement of completing the climb. Next was a 20 Kilometre descent down the valley back to Aigle where we started. A few hairpins but mainly wide sweeping bends which weren’t to technical but the descent was made harder by some road works in preparation for the Tour next week. Every where we go the road are either perfect or being made perfect in preparation for the pro teams.
Soon we were back where we started ant the UCI, coming out of Aigle for the second time, where we had turned right towards the lake before, it was a right turn back in to the mountains and another Category 1 climb stating with some switch backs before opening up in to a longer stretch with a few corners then another set of switchbacks before longer straights with just a couple of corners. It was hard, very hard, after the last 8 stages my legs were tired and ached and a 15 Km climb at 6% gradient was not what they needed. I got in to my rhythm and rode up, some gentle 3% sections and some as much as 10%. It took an hour and 20 minutes before reaching the peak which also happened to be the border between Switzerland and France. A short roll down before the final climb of about 3km at general 1 or 2%, but with some steeper section up to 7%. In that final drag up back the Category 1 climb in to France, I must have tempted fate by talking about the weather here 3 years ago – on top of every thing else a a thunderstorm which stayed with us until the finish. A massive 193 Km ride, 11,920 feet of climbing, soaked from the rain, legs tired from a week of the tough rides, yet THIS WAS THE BEST RIDE I HAVE EVER DONE !
The beautiful lake, magnificent mountains, the euphoria of finishing the final climb, and beating the elements, a perfect day before our rest day in Morzine tomorrow. It was an hour or so drive in the coach to the hotel, where we will stay in the same place for 2 nights, the first time we have done that since leaving Birmingham on 22nd June – Feet up, sunbathing and coffee are the order of the day tomorrow.