To Mont Ventoux with an extra cyclist on board

Today is the day when Squadron Leader joins The Cyclist for this one stage.  The Cyclist was very driven and on a mission this morning. I kept getting the gnarled teeth stare and he was doing lots of getting ready super quick motions. He kept telling me that we had to set off early today as we could be in for a 12 hour stint. Really? He explained that Squadron Leader does not ride like him and today it was all about getting Squadron Leader along the route and up Mont Ventoux. So I did a swift pack up and was downstairs waiting to check out by 6.45am.Ii needed to pay and even though they had card details they also had all of my ice packs for the fridge and we were so going to need those today. The Cyclists set off 7am leaving me to wait for checkout and get the fridge sorted. I did this, but then also plotted the first bits of the route into CoPilot (after yesterday’s debacle I was taking no chances).

We were the far side of Givors so I had to navigate into the town, and get to the start point then follow the route. It wasSunday morning and I was surprised to see quite a few cars o. The road. The Cyclist was obviously worried as I got a phone call before I was even in the town centre. He never phones me unless its urgent. He said that he wasn’t following his Tour plotted route he had gone off the Tours actual course and he was following the yellow arrows. He thought that I might find that easier and I would know I was on track to catch up with him. We don’t usually follow the arrows as we have our own plotted routes uploaded on both Garmins and sometimes the arrows go off course for the safety of the cyclists. As I have said before my Cyclist is very anal about these things. He to.d me the arrows were out and that I should follow them. I have to say I did t see any arrows so I followed the Garmin. When I got to the first big town it became apparent why. There was Nick from TDF taking down the arrows. I stopped and shouted at him threw the window saying “Blimey, your lot were out early this morning”. He said that he knew as his alarm had gone off at 4.30am.

Do not ask me how, but he was on one side of the bridge and the town I needed to navigate my way through was on the other. I don’t actually remember which of my sat nav’s told me but I went the wrong way on the other side. I was now in front of Nick so I should have seen an arrow that should have told me I had gone wrong. Both sat nav’s immediately started to say that I needed to do a U Turn but as it was a dual carriageway with a kerbed central reservation this was not going to be as easy as the Nav’s thought. I spotted an opening that was someone to turn into their garage across the other side. Ahead I saw the opposite carriageway was empty as cars were stopped ahead at traffic lights. OK. Now is the time for one of those mad super quick 3 point turns in daft places, that I had mastered on the Giro. One two three GO! Phew now I am heading in the right direction back to the bridge only to go right up a one way lane where cars were parked. No one looking. Another swift pull into a space reverse and back up the short bit I had travelled, the wrong way. HOO flipping RAH. This time I took the right road that I thought wad a car park or bus lane previously. It is a good job that it is Sunday. Now pedal to the metal.

When I eventually caught my Cyclists Squadron Leader was showing obvious signs that it was already very hot and it was on,y about 8am.  The poor guy was sweating buckets. I pulled alongside and checked he was ok before moving on to The Cyclist. Before we leftthis morning I had been talking to Squadron Leader about his need to eat today. He told me that he had a couple of bars and that he had some gels as they are what would get him up Mont Ventoux. At this point I had to explain that it would take far far more than that and I had prepared for this, so I had what they needed, he just had to do as I asked and eat. This was to prove fairly difficult.

Spoke to TDF broom wagon man, Nick. He is a mechanic in his other life and was brought into TDF by his brother last year when we met him. He is a lovely friendly chap and is supportive of the Cyvlist and what he is trying to achieve. It turns out Nick has done this kind of thing before so he is a dab hand at it. There are  20 new TDF people today with fresh legs. Now there are 80 so my Cyclist thinks. Thats a lot! We are going slowly today and the temperature is climbing rapidly.  Some way along, Nick gave me a little a brioche for my Cyclists today which they certainly enjoyed. This was left over from the TDF first food stop. Thank you very much to Nick 🙂

I had to be firm with Squadron Leader about food today. Even The Cyclist and The Sports Therapist (by phone) are joining with me on this one. He is used to being the leader so it’s new territory for him I guess to be on the receiving end of the telling. Bless. We all have his best interests at heart to finish up the top of the 1961m mountain that is nearly 1700m of climbing and is right at the end of an already long ride.

It was 36degrees according to the car, at 12.20 and I want to stand in field where the farmers are spraying their crops. I was thinking about today and how it was harder looking after two not one. The Cyclist has learned to eat and drink and he can also do the ting where we pass food and anything else through the car window while moving. Squadron Leader could not. And his needs are different as is his mind set on other things e.g. Food needed to get through the day. I told him that I was going to wait for a quiet bit of road then have a go at passing something through the window to him. He was thinking he may fall off, but when I did I was careful and he took it, with a bit of concentration but definitely no falling off.

Anyway, it made me think about the TDF guys who drive the vans and serve the food.They have to deal with all those different personalities, opinions and cycling ability.  I only have two and can notice the difference so Chapeau TDF.

The Chateau town of Crest had a lovely bridge but stopping is difficult today as I don’t know when I’m needed. For water or sustinence and it is important today to get it right. In fact it has been quite difficult to take photos as the road is so so busy and the traffic is flying along. They obviously don’t have Sunday afternoon drivers in France. The sports motorbikes are really giving it some and leaning round the corners. But they wear T shirts shorts and sandals. It freaks me out. I would love to know what The CBR Princess, Scottish Biker and Squadron Leader himself have to say about that?

Along the way in the afternoon heat there was a Gorge with swimmers. I saw lots of cars parked on whet was a boring country road and wondered what could be going on. It soon became apparent as families and couples were sat on smooth rocks or frolicking in the water bubbling over them. Ooh. It looked so tempting. Both my Cyclists were taking a good look over to the swimmers and were thinking the same as me.

When I spoke to Spoke to Andy a TDF helper he said they have 80 on board cycling today. Wow! Some are lifers (doing the whole thing) and some Tour  tasters (people who dip in for a few stages then go). I Don’t know what you would call The Cyclist then as he has a triple life sentence by that standard. I wonder if he will really jail break after Spain like he says? Sell the cycle and not do it again?

It’s 14.05pm and its 38 degrees in the car which means its hotter as the gauge is out. The zcyclist is registering 42 degrees and that sounds more like how it feels. I just burned myself touching the car door. Mmm. Am considering using the air con in Spain. But in Death Valley USA they tell you to turn it off as you go through it!

I Saw Nick again. We were discussing the possibility that some of the TDF may find it hard after going up the mountain as they flew off this morning and are maybe paying for it now. Well we will see. I don’t expect to see any of them today.

I have seen lavender fields. You would have thought I had won the lottery with all the whooping and arm waving. I took a number of photos of different lavender fields. It was everywhere mingling in between the vineyards. This makes up for not seeing sun flowers this year. It is a good job we got some good sunflower shots last year.

Boy it’s hot! It is 5.20pm and I am flagging a little. I am roasting, my head is banging and I feel drained by the heat.  It’s my fault I know. I have only had a couple of Madeleine’s and a cherry tomato today, plus my tea, coffee and some origina. We have 39 Km to go and we aren’t even at the bottom of the climb. I do believe that it may be a good 12hour in the saddle today. I am sure that The Cyclist would have Cycled it faster on his own but today we have guest and just like Rolf Harris sang in Two Little Boys, you look after your mates and don’t leave them behind. Although. It has taken ages so far Squadron Leader is doing well. All I need to do is give him a last pep up before the climb and then the men will be sorted from the boys.

This feels as bad as that god awful last mountain day in Italy but for completely the opposite reason. Then it was a 12 hour day that was a trial of the mind for the Cyclist in freezing wind and snow. This time it’s scorching,y hot which drains you in a different way. Better get used to it for Spain I think. You watch. They will have freak weather and it will rain.

At the start of the climb I went into Malaucene and I checked us all in before reception closed at 7pm. I then had to bomb it up the climb to catch them up. They were sat in Bedouin with a cola drink next to a cycle shop. This is something the Cyclist would not do normally, still it gave me chance to shop and I got Bambino an official Le Tour bodysuit ready for his Spanish holiday next month. The shop had tandems and I was trying to persuade The Cyclist to get one so I could keep up with him when we cycle. Only if I ride up front so he could check I was peddling was the retort, swiftly followed by a sentence that included the words Never, Month and Sundays.

18km to go its 7pm now and there is still about 1600m. There’s huge black clouds coming. Squadron Leader still going and was uttering that rain may help cool him. As the climb got steeper he began to flag but The Cyclist rode next to him encouraging him to get to the next corner etc. At 15Km to go and with  vertical mile to climb Squadron Leader was off the bike as I turned the corner. He was burning up and was trying to take his pulse. The Cyclist was telling him that he would wait as they were going to the top together. Squadron Leader told him to go on but he refused saying he knew Squadron Leader would give up if he wasn’t there. The black clouds were over us and there was an almighty clap of thunder. I turned to The Cyclist and told him to go to see if he could beet the rain, with one of my sternest looks. After another thunder clap and no movement from Squadron Leader he agreed and was off up the climb super quick, it was the first time today he had cycled the way he normally would. I stayed to look after Squadron Leader and suggested the I strap his bike on, then he can sit in the car while I follow The Cyclist up, suggesting that after a short while he may be able to get back on the bike for the summit.

Oh god. there is a hail storm and it causing rivers on he  road and pine cones are strewn across too. The Cyclist kept going not faltering once from his pace. There were TDF people hiding in bushes under trees and under a caravan awning taking photos of The Cyclist. This mad person who is battling the elements to get to the top. I rounded the hairpin wide so I was near them and shouted that he was mad. At that point I guess The Cyclist could have been anyone, rather than the guy some of them know or have seen fly past them who had only been back from the Giro 2weeks before setting off for Corsica. Yep. He’s mad. He is a machine that one. Even Squadron Leader commented that The Cyclist has the determination in his head. As the Physiologist commented on my blog after that awful last mountain stage in the Giro, to be a machine like true winning athletes, you need as much of that as you do fitness as its your head that pushes you not how fit you are.

One TDF guy left the awning as started off after the Cyclist. He seemed to be gaining and I drew up to the cyclist to tell him he had a chaser. Squadron Leader shouted that he thought it was Cadell Evans. I thought he would be caught as he was soaked and cold as the temperature had plummeted and the wind was up. The Cyclist just carried on at the same pace as he always does because he gets a rhythm going and he cycles at the same pace all the way up. As I have said before, The Cyclist isn’t competitive. His only competition is with himself. he doesn’t care if he is over taken. He doesn’t speed up, just goes on at the same pace. Before very long the chaser had dropped way back and it wasn’t long before he disappeared.

Mrs Chimney told me that when The Cyclist was competing all over the country for running, both track in summer and cross country in Winter, that he was brilliant. This was obviously when he was younger. He was strong and fast. In training he couldn’t be beaten. But when it came to races he wasn’t as fired up. One of the lads who couldn’t beet him was picked for he Olympic team but The Cyclist wasn’t interested in all that. He just enjoyed the hard training and pushing himself. I don’t get it myself. So that’s why these tours are all about his average speed and what he has done rather than the inevitable competition joining a cycling club would entail. When he did one of those organised cycling races called something like the Shropshire Stinger, he was not only fastest on his mature class but he was even faster than the twenty something class of chaps 20 years younger. I’m very proud of him.

Back to the story. Some good photos later he got to he top. It was 14 hours since he set off on a journey only he knew it would turn out like, apart from the hail that is. It was 9pm and I had had enough really. Get his shirt off, put another dry one on with his fleece and jacket and off we go down the other side after the obligatory photos of the altitude sign. Some daft French family were taking ages to have their photos taken, then the dad pinched The Cyclists bike for a shot, then grabbed the cyclist for another shot. All the time The Cyclist was dithering as he was wet from the storm. At the top Andy the TDF helper was there all smiling and another TDF cyclist came over and shook The CYLists hand saying he was worried when The Cyclist hadn’t flew last them at 10.30am like he normally does, so the Cyclist explained that he had Squadron Leader cycling with him today.

I couldn’t get to sleep for ages as I think I was still buzzing or had gone past that stage. My two Cyclists went out for a beer about 10pm while I had some quiet me time for a shower. Bring on the rest day.

Here’s a video of the hail, thunder and lightening on the way up Mont Ventoux.

Soundbites:
Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke. (Not a bad track but to me it gets a bit repetitive. This is the choice of my Angel-Boo. The Cyclist told me that on Corsica this was playing everywhere he couldn’t get away from it. He also suggested the success is due to the explicit You Tube video. I guess I’ve lost some of you for a few minutes while you check it out. Curiosity killed the cat they say, which the Boss would no doubt point out, was in fact a group).
Calling your name – Marilyn (this was such a favourite of Blondie’s back in the days of our youth. Even I like it now. Very foot tappy.)Can’t get away – RodriguezCaribbean Queen – Billy Ocean (very apt for his sweltering weather. It will help me get the wardrobe right for Spain.)Come on – Will Young. (Really calming but upbeat tracks from his Echoes album.)Cuz I love you – SladeDance Hall Days – Wang Chung

6 Responses

  1. Sounds like an eventful day! Well done to both of the riders today! Especially the squadron leader for listening to the advice on nutrition!
    I believe that if he says he’s done after Spain, he’s done! He’ll find some other endurance stuff to do! Can he swim? Ultra iron man events possibly?

  2. Wouldn’t do T-shirt shorts and sandles in Scotland – too cold and wet. That was for scooter riders who only went to the shops and back!!

  3. As tempting as it can be to wear minimal clothing on my bike, the thought of having your gravel rash scrubbed with a nail brush is enough to keep me covered up despite the temperature. Call me a wimp – but I would sooner be covered up and go just that bit faster without worrying about losing my skin!!!

  4. I am with you CBR Princess. Although I fight with The Cyclist to wear less, when we go any further than 3 miles to Sainsbury’s he makes me wear full leathers. Now you know me. You know I love shoes and dresses. Imagining how it was doing a 12 day tour on the back of a Suzuki GSXR100 with only a tiny triangle pannier for my stuff back in 2010 to follow LeTour through the Pyrenees. Unbelievable, but I did it!
    That said, the weather has been so bad and following him Cycling Grand Tours had resulted in me not being pillion for two years. Part of me misses it. Part doesn’t. Give my my pride and joy car I think. Which for those who don’t know me, is so NOT the Meriva. However, after Italy it took 2 weeks before I got used to being so low to the ground again.

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