120km, 5:32:38, 2,602m ascent, 10 cols, 75 cols total
Most important things first. It’s the end of the week and the first time since 2011 I’ve contributed to my life to day weekly total hours Eddington number !! This week has been 47 hours – all biking.
Today was a shorter day so there was a more relaxed start to the day. Both Marc and I slept well – we’ve not been setting an alarm but been waking up at before 7am with loads of time before breakfast. This morning it was 7:30 when I woke. Everyone was at breakfast already and despite everyone knowing it was a short day and there was no point getting to the hotel too early many were already setting off. Marc decided he didn’t want my company for the day and headed off a little early with Peter and Rebecca leaving me an honorary “Ozzie Coyote” for the day setting off with Mick, Rich and Baz together with Kiwi Steve. The four strongest riders so I psyched myself up. There was some banter about Marc setting off early and when Mick said he was in two minds about whether to keep it easy or to chain gang and catch them quickly I thought to myself – I’m in two minds also but erring on the side of easy as if these four start really pushing it I’ll probably get dumped out the back.
We rode very friendly but the first climb was a full on effort for me to keep just a say in touch. We dropped down to the first coffee stop after about 20k and had a chance to catch up with Marc, Rebecca and Peter. They set off before us again and we cruised along friendly until the climb of the Col D’Osquich – almost from the gun they were all racing. I tried for a few minutes to keep in touch but very quickly realised it was not possible. I worked hard but they were soon out of sight. The top was at about 60k and was a two coffee stop and another catch up with Marc.
The descent was great and we rode friendly again until a steeper climb just before lunch. Again they were off riding hard and I worked hard but was completely off the back by the top. Very kindly Mick waited at the junction the bottom as he knew I didn’t have the route on my Garmin. We rode to lunch together.
What a great lunch – fantastic steak frites washed down with a local beer. We sat with Marc, Rebecca and Nigel and found out that Marc had been doing a very strong pull for about 30k on the front in order to make sure we didn’t catch them. It was even funnier that we’d decided not to even try. I was a little surprised that Marc could sit on the front and pull them along. Looking forward to experiencing that over the final three days. ;o)
Starting up after lunch was hard work. Ahead of us was a ~17k climb to Col Bargargiak (don’t ask me to pronounce it). Again everyone was on it pretty quick and I decide to really give this one a good go. It was really hard work and went on and on. The views opened up as we crossed various cols on the way to the top. At the top I didn’t spot the van but luckily Julie gave me a shout and I got to enjoy a lovely ice cream and Fanta. On the way up I’d been able to see Marc a bit behind so I was a little surprised he’d not arrived. Rebecca rolled straight over but didn’t mention Marc leaving Julie, Peter and I at the top waiting. I was getting a little worried. I don’t roll over the top of climbs when friend are coming up ever since doing that on Lands End To John O’Groats and having a long ride back to Tilly. So I felt certain Marc hadn’t come up yet. Eventually Julie drove back down 6km to the junction and came back to say he must have rolled over. It turns out he was ahead of Rebecca and must and gone by whilst I was in the cafe and the others hadn’t spotted him.
So after probably 45 minutes or so up there Peter and I set off down. After about 3km he punctured. We fixed it but whatever had caused it hadn’t been removed as the tire was slowly going down. We stopped to pump it up but after another KM it was completely flat so we changed it again having been very careful in the checking of the tire. We didn’t find anything but luckily it was OK back to the hotel.