The last day of riding before our rest day and the last of three ‘Transition’ stages. Over the last 3 days the stages have take us from the Alps to towards the South-West of France. On Tuesday we finish in the Pyrenees for another tough 3 Stages of climbing. Today was not mountainous but it was 202 Kilometres with 8000 feet of climbing. Heading due South the main problem of the day was the heat, and staying hydrated, temperatures were around 35 to 38 degrees, at some points above 40 degrees.
The hotel last night was a little cooler and I got a better nights sleep, but my legs are still tired, that and the heat made the day in the saddle harder. The route itself was hilly with constant up and downs all day, generally falling to the lowest point at Vielmur-sur-Agout, from which point the lumps continued bit it was now generally uphill. The Catogry 3 climb at Cote-des-Cammazes marked the start of the descent in to Carcassonne with the final kilometres being flat and easy going.
I rode with 5 others in the fast group averaging 28 kph (17.4 mph) and completing the route in 7 hours 30 minutes, the shortest day since the cobbled day of Stage 5. Once again I was helped along by the men riding in a nice close group and when we go to the Hotel I bought them all a beer for looking after me. Other than 2 Category 3 climbs the ride was uneventful but we did get to admire the buildings and scenery as we rode through the towns, as we approached Carcassonne, in the same way the Alps rose out of nowhere, so did the Pyrenees in the distance – they look even steeper than the Alps and were sitting ominously in the distance. Over the last 3 days we have had much easier days than those in the mountains, but I feel we are being lulled in to a false sense of security, the hard stages of the Alps are behind us so you feel it will be easier from now on, but looking at the route there are more hard days of climbing to come next week.
We now only have 6 stages left, but I need my rest day tomorrow to recharge. So far I have manged to ride well and consistently but I feel the tiredness in my body. Rather then self motivation I am more reliant of the message of support I am receiving from friends and the donations on to my Just Giving page. Over the next week they will be even more important. I’m so glad I have experienced friends who could help and advise me on my training. Those long rides in training are paying off giving me the endurance and the short sharp ftp building rides have built my strength for the mountains. Most of all the advice was to respect the Tour de France, which is absolutely true. It is not just the miles, the climbs are constant, the heat is draining and there is no rest, every day we have to move on to the next stage. If you go in to something like this thinking you are a strong rider so it is OK, then think again, I know that the miles I have done in the 15 stages so far are a result of the training I have done in the last 6 months, and its the support I am receiving from friends which is helping me through those moments when I doubt myself.
I set out with 3 objectives, to raise £30,000, to ride the whole route (and ride it well) and to inspire others to do this. I have 6 riding days left to make sure I achieve all of those goals. The advice of respecting the event means that I know I still have a lot to do. Each day it gets harder, each day brings new challenge but everyday that respect of the event, and the months of training pay you back with the experiences you get riding along the roads, looking at the fields of sunflowers or the magnificent churches, or the decorations that are everywhere celebrating the Tour de France. There are a thousand reasons not to do this – believe me I have experienced them all since the Grand Depart in Copenhagen – but if you don’t do it how many times will you look back wishing you had found the one reason to do it. Last year when I entered, or rather when Andy filled my details in to the application form and pressed submit, an opportunity presented itself, despite the tiredness, despite my aching legs, despite the heat, I am glad I found the one reason to do it – this is a once in a lifetime experience.