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Etape Cathal

This last climb (Semnoz)

 

Back Ground: L'Etape du Tour took place on Sunday 7 July 2013 & followed the route of the crucial penultimate stage of the 2013 Tour de France from Annecy to Le Semnoz.

 

Pic: Anncey village

 

 

The morning started off form the picturious lake side village of Annecy – the Venice of the Apls. 13,500 riders from across the world lined-up and it was fantastic to see a lot of them wearing their home jerseys such as Brazil, Norway and even Rwanda.

 

Pic: Lake Annecy

Pic: morning of L’Etape du Tour

 

The day started with all the 'smaller climbs' bring us up to the final big 2 that everyone was mostly concerned about. However, the first 4 climbs made sure to make the legs sting with average gradients of 6% over 4-6km. After this it was time for the Alps to really show us what they had to offer as we began climbing the Cat 1 Col du Mont-Revard (16km @ 5,4%) in temperature well into the 30s.

 

Pic: Yet another climb

 

 

All the descents up to that point had been a thrill but to get the opportunity to hit speeds over 100km/h on completely closed roads was an experience I won't be forgetting any time soon. A lot of the more experienced Alpine riders effortlessly took the corners but there were stark reminders of the dangers as some riders were treated by medics on sharp hairpin bends after bad crashes.

Pic: Remember this guy?

 

My report: “BOLLOCKS” I roared out. My first swear word (ok, ok, mum it was my first swear word out loud all day), the other word I had used in my mind quite often was “holy shit” as I descended at 80kmph. Nutters had flown passed me at what must have been 90-100kmph into hairpins, through chicanes (I was never a great technical descender anyway – that’s my excuse). Some had painted the smooth grey road surface (blood & skin to you & me), a few more were being attended to by medics & a couple carted to hospital.

 

Pic: Tony Martin’s bike on display in the bike village

 
 

I looked at my garmin yet again, cadence shite, speed shite, bike moving slow & feeling heavier than usual, I looked down at the rear wheel, “bollocks”, I MUST have a puncture (more tyre was on the road than usual – I had lost weight - 6,500km cycled since 1st Jan meant I was a lean athlete – or scrawny as my good wife might say). I pulled to the right (we’re in France) flicked the right ankle & then the left (clipless pedals), hopped off the bike. Using the tool I was born with (the other tool – my thumb) as a gauge, I squeezed the rear tyre - firm. Squeezed again – still firm. After 120km of un-dilating roads which included one cat 2 climb, three cat 3 climbs & a Cat 1 climb (almost 2,000m of climbing in just over 5hrs thus far) maybe it wasn’t the tyre pressure, maybe it was me legs.

 

Pic: Finish line of L’Etape

 

Quick check that the brake blocks weren’t rubbing the rim – all ok, hmmmm – what the feck is up? I looked blankly at the tyre.  I was snapped back into reality by a club mate (Philip Colleran), who shouted “get back on the bike”. Leg over (easy lads, the bike), & quickly onto Philip’s wheel. As I passed other cyclists (I said I was a shite descender not a shite climber), chewing the handle bars, some walking, some sitting on the ground, I glanced down again at my garmin. Cadence of 60 & a speed of 8kmph.

 

Pic: Get out of me way
 

I still had 7km of this 10km climb with gradients of up to 10% still to go – another look at the rear tyre, still looks the same – ah (light bulb moment) it is me legs after all. This is Stage 20 of the 2013 Tour de France & this last climb (Semnoz) ain’t as easy as some predicted (another hour in case you’re wondering & in total 6 hours & 4,000 calories later – who needs diets. Position 2,540 out of nearly 11,500 Mamil’s wasn’t too bad for this old fella).

 

Pic: Another medal

 
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