Tag Archives: Col d’Allos

21 Stages of the Tour de France and 21 Random Observations

Between 27 June and 19 July 2015, I rode every stage of the 2015 version of the Tour de France.  That is 21 Stages (Etapes) in total, so I thought that I would make 21 random observations about my journey.

1.  The Tour de Force is a brilliant organisation.  From the beginning of the whole journey right through to the end, all the staff go that extra mile to make the whole Tour de France experience a wonderful one and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Sarah Perry, one of the most talented logisticians in the world. There is literally nothing that she cannot do!
Sarah Perry, one of the most talented logisticians in the world. There is literally nothing that she cannot do!

2.  Food rules the world when cycling.  I consumed in excess of 43,000 calories during the Tour, with no associated weight gain or loss.  I usually needed a bit more than the average French hotel evening meal to satisfy me!

Typical evening meal in a French hotel
Typical evening meal in a French hotel

3.  Sunflowers are an integral part of Le Tour.

The sunflower shot!
The sunflower shot!

4.  Life is simple with direction.  I followed these black arrows on yellow backgrounds around the whole of the route for 3 weeks.  No issues.  I am, however, finding it a bit tough to readjust to a life without arrows – I even got lost on my commute to work on my first day back!

Good directions!
Good directions!

5.  There is a lot of climbing in a 3 week Tour de France route.  During this year’s route, we rode 59,000 metres of vertical ascent.  That is the equivalent of 6.7 ascents of Mt Everest.

Col d'Allos, the highest point of this year's Tour
Col d’Allos, the highest point of this year’s Tour
Col de la Croix de Fer - also quite high
Col de la Croix de Fer – also quite high

6.  Cobbles – why would you want to race over them on a road bike?  No, seriously, I don’t get it.  On a mountain bike, maybe.  But on a road bike no.  They are just dusty farmers tracks.

Why put your road bike through this?
Why put your road bike through this?
One of the sectors
One of the sectors

7.  A clean bike is a fast bike.  My bike wasn’t the most aero, or most expensive, but it was one of the cleanest in the peleton.  I even wrote a post about cleaning your chain.  Bottom line is “keep your bike clean” and it will go faster.

A clean bike is a fast bike
FACT – A clean bike is a fast bike

8.  It is possible to ride the Tour drug free, but coke helps.

A can of coke can work wonders.
A can of coke can work wonders.

9.  Tour mania.  If the Tour comes to town, it is an excuse to get that rusty bike out of the shed, paint it up and put it on the roadside.

One of the thousands of painted bikes at the roadside.
One of the thousands of painted bikes at the roadside.

10.  Cycling can be a dangerous sport.  Broken bikes, broken legs, broken collarbones and lots of gravel rash.  This all happened during Le Tour.

11.  Mitigating risks.  The risks above can be mitigated somewhat by riding with people you know and trust and who communicate well.  That is why I rode with my two trusted Tour buddies and we made it to Paris without incident.

And me with riding buddies.
Me and my riding buddies.  (Peter on the left and Sylvain on the right).

12.  Money doesn’t grow on trees, but apparently bikes do!

The Bike Tree
The Bike Tree.

13.  France has some seriously beautiful countryside.  Particular highlights for me were the Pyrenees, the Gorges du Tarn and the Alps.

The Pyrenees
The Pyrenees
Gorges du Tarn
Gorges du Tarn
The Alps.
The Alps.

14.  Tour life isn’t that glamorous.  It’s not all podium girls and champagne.

Podium girls
Podium girls
And celebrations...
And celebrations…

In fact, it is quite the opposite.  Different hotels every night, washing kit, cleaning bikes and eating.  I wrote a post on the daily routine whilst on Tour here.

15.  Support from family, friends, colleagues and local business makes a real difference.  I got loads of support from all the above throughout the whole event and it made a massive difference.  Nineteen of my family and friends turned up in Paris to welcome me to the finish line.  An ex boss turned up at Alpe d’Huez to support me on the way up (probably one of the reasons I was able to do a 51 minute ascent of the hill).  My colleagues at work followed and supported me via social media whilst I was away.  The local opticians, in a random act of kindness, provided me with an awesome pair of Oakley Radarlocks and ran a collection tin for me.  It all meant so much and was fantastic.

Support from work colleagues.
Support from work colleagues.
Support from an ex boss on Alpe d'Huez
Support from an ex boss on Alpe d’Huez
Support from my family. This is my daughter and me in Paris.
Support from my family. This is my daughter and me in Paris.

16.  I am actually quite a good cyclist.  All my training paid off and I completed the Tour comfortably.  I have added a couple of Strava screenshots to reinforce my claim that I am quite good.

Note my name at the KOM slot at the top. Then see barguil warren at the bottom. Warren Barguil is the chap who knocked Geraint Thomas off his bike on the descent of Col de Manse on Stage 16 of the Tour de France.
Note my name at the KOM slot at the top. Then see barguil warren at the bottom. Warren Barguil is the chap who knocked Geraint Thomas off his bike on the descent of Col de Manse on Stage 16 of the Tour de France 2015.
Note the names directly above and below me. Jeremy Roy, pro cyclist with FDJ and Alex Dowsett, pro cyclist with Movistar and hour record holder before Bradley Wiggins took it off him.
Note the names directly above and below me. Jeremy Roy, pro cyclist with FDJ and Alex Dowsett, pro cyclist with Movistar and hour record holder before Bradley Wiggins took it off him.

I also managed a sub hour ascent of Alpe d’Huez, which is apparently a respectable time.  I did it in 51 minutes with 20 stages and about 3400km already in the legs, so not too shabby.

17.  P20 suncream is awesome.  One application pre-breakfast and no further suncream faff required, which is pretty impressive, especially when you consider that the mercury touched 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit) on occasions.

18.  Hydration becomes an obsession.  Riding long distances every day, in some pretty hot temperatures (42 degrees Celsius or 107 degrees Fahrenheit on a couple of occasions) makes you become obsessive about your hydration state.  I was probably drinking around 5 litres a day on the bike and another 5 litres a day off the bike.  Needless to say, I never made it through the night without a visit to the bathroom (but at least that it meant that I was properly hydrated).

19.  Continental Grand Prix 4 Season Tyres are the best.  Period.  I rode 3427km on them, over every conceivable road surface, including cobbles and gravel, and did not get one single puncture.

If Heineken made tyres.
If Heineken made tyres.

20.  Fundraising is fun.  Raising money for the William Wates Memorial Trust has been very satisfying, especially when you know that the money you raise is going to have a significant positive impact on the life of a disadvantaged young person in the UK.  To date I have raised about £4062, which really will make a difference.  My donation page is still live at this link.

21.  My last observation is about PMA (Positive Mental Attitude).  The mind is a wonderful thing.  I woke up each morning excited about being able to ride my bike all day.  (I love riding my bike, so this was a real treat for me).  This positive outlook make the whole experience really enjoyable and I honestly believe that my positive mindset make the whole journey so much easier.

Thanks for reading my post.

 

 

 

Stage 17 – Pra Loup finish

Day 17 stats

Col d'Allos and Pra Loup.
Col d’Allos and Pra Loup.

Saddle time for today – 6 hours 45 minutes

Total ascent – 3311 metres

Saddle time cumulative – 111 hours 30 minutes

This was Stage 5 of the Criterium Dauphine this year and the scene of the epic attack on the descent of Col d’Allos by Romain Bardet.  He took enough time out of peleton on his descent off the col to enable him to keep the chasing group at bay on the final ascent of Pra Loup and take the stage victory.  It was a super impressive display of talent and I wrote about it at the time.  If you want to have a look, click here.  I, however, didn’t come down the Col d’Allos as quickly.  I did enjoy the Col though, both up and down it.  It was also the highest point of this year’s Tour route.  Spectacular views all round.  We then headed up to the summit finish at Pra Loup, which is where Bernard Thevenet ended Eddy Merckx’s reign and took the Yellow Jersey.  This is a photo of the location where he rode away from Merckx in 1975.

On the road up to Pra Loup, the place where the Cannibal's reign came to an end.
On the road up to Pra Loup, the place where the Cannibal’s reign came to an end.
Xicon, the bike, on the Col d'Allos - the highest point of this year's Tour
Xicon, the bike, on the Col d’Allos – the highest point of this year’s Tour

Amount raised for William Wates Memorial Trust so far:  £3586.  If you would like to increase this amount, please use this link to my charity page.  I will personally thank you in the next post.

How to beat Team Sky on the Tour de France

Having just watched an epic week of racing at the Criterium  du Dauphine, I have seen how Team Sky could potentially be beaten on the Tour de France.

Chris Froome (Team Sky) snatched victory from Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team) after a solo break on the last climb which gave him the overall.  As normal, Team Sky made it as difficult as possible for everyone else, softening up the favourites with a blistering pace in the run up to the final climb, before Froome put in his attack with about 2.5k to go.  This gave him the 10 second time bonus for the stage win and the extra 18 seconds that he had but into Tejay, giving an overall victory of 10 seconds.

So 18 seconds on a savage attack up hill is what Froome was able to take out on the others.  Gone are the days of taking minutes out on your rivals going up mountains.  The GC hopefuls are all awesome climbers.  The new place to make significant time gaps (and beat Team Sky) may be the downhills.  This was highlighted on Stage 5, where Romain Bardet, from AG2R, launched an attacked just prior to the top of Col d’Allos and then descended like a legend to take 1 minute and 23 seconds out on the Sky train and hold on to his lead up the final, short climb of Pra Loup to take the stage victory.  Chapeau!  See this YouTube clip for some epic descending skills.

And with this in mind, and some other great descenders (Nibali and Contador to name just two of the GC riders), the 2015 edition of Le Tour could be very interesting.

However, any article about descending skills has to include the epic Alpine descent of Fabian Cancellara in the Tour de France about 5 years ago. Picture the scene, he is in the Yellow Jersey, has a mechanical near the top of a climb and the peleton continue on without him. His Team car fix the problem and Fabian has to catch them back up on the descent to remain in Yellow. This 7 minute YouTube clip is a Masterclass in Descending. Take particular note of how close he cuts in front of the doctor’s car at 3 mins 33 seconds into the clip! Enjoy.