Monday, July 11, 2011

4 Days of Le Tour

Today we rendezvous-ed at Rennes railway station at 10am.Wayne & Bev were running a bit late so we set off for Hede 2 short but they were picked up by Kahn 20 minutes later. We had a diverse group of 3 staff (David Olle, Emma Colson and Kahn Franke) plus 6 single riders and 2 couples.All up 8 riders and 2 riding staff made for a nice small group able to split a little on pace but support each other when required.

Day 1: TDF Stage 5
After a quick turnaround at Hede we set out for Prehel La Plage to view the day's stage about 5 km from the finish.This entailed a 65km ride to where the van would be stationed and a further 13 kms to the stage viewing point. All up it was a great ride. I managed to hang in with the strong riders, basically by drafting off their wheel (wheel sucking !!) all day - but still it was a good fast ride and probably driven by exhilaration and adrenaline as much as anything. I paid for the effort a bit later on when I didn't feel so good ....

Alex, Wayne, Wade, Carl & Kahn at the pickup point 13 km from the stage view point.

Just after the break above I managed a minor 'off' on a gravelly corner where it wasn't clear where the main road went. I stayed upright OK and made a soft landing on the grass, using a farm fence as a break- no damage done, but I let others lead the way from here on.

The caravan passes by at Frehel la Plage

The caravan flew through as we arrived and we had time for a drink (or two) before the leaders came by an hour later. To finally see le Tour up cloe was a real buzz and you appreciate just how fast these guys ride.They can average nearly 50kmh over many stages and even 35kmh over hilly terrain. When they fly by on the flat they are touching 55-60kmh and the support vehicles have a tough time keeping up round bends.

The main peleton flogs by at about 55kmh....

Unusual sights on le Tour...Mike enjoys a beer at Frehel la Plage, waiting for the peleton to arrive.

We rolled back the 13 kms to to the van and relaxed for the ride back to Hede and a welcome dinner from our hosts there.

Day 2: TDF Stage 6
Last night I didn't feel so good – lack of electrolytes plus a fast-paced ride over 95kms – so today I chose to rest and miss the day in Dinan. Good thing I've spent a day there on a past visit. The group rode into the start and back via the canal path to La Magdelene and Hede and had a great day. we all retired to the bar at La Magdalene for a few drinks and to watch the finish. This completed loop of sorts for me as we had once come down to La Magdelene from where we stayed at St Pierre de Plesguen in 2005 for lunch.

We pack up in the morning and head south to Buzancais near the stage finish in Chateauroux. Les Vieux Moulins at Hede has been a great little place to stay with Virginie and Feargal proving great service, hospitality and food.

Day 3: TDF Stage 7
A 4-hour drive brought us to Buzancais and the last intermediate sprint point before the stage finish at Chateauroux. we had time for a 40km roll out and back before settling in the village 800m from the sprint finish to see the peleton rocket through the narrow village streets. Once again we were able to see the stage finish from the local bar before returning to our Logis for salmon and goat's cheese, duck, more cheese, and dessert of cheesecake and ice-cream. Think they like their cheese around here?

All towns on the route decorate their streets and garden with bike stuff, including many old frames and installations like this one in Buzancais - that's kiwi Wayne in the pic as usual !

I felt OK on the shorter ride today and should be good for the 75kms into the start at Aigourande tomorrow. Under strict instructions from, Emma, David and Kahn I have been sucking down extra electrolytes all day.

Day4: TDF Stage 8
An early breakfast and away on the ride to Aigourande by 8.15am. All good on the ride and we met up with the non-riders near the start. Emma's contact at HTC got us passes into the official area where we were able to mingle with the elite cyclists of the tour. Saw the good gear up close and got a smile from Cadel Evans who looks pretty calm and relaxed this year. I also got a photo with Mark Renshaw who was happy to take a second or two before heading off to sign in.

The impressive thing is how generally accommodating the guys seem to be at this time just before setting off for 5-6 hours of hard work in the saddle. Aigourande is well placed to start a stage with 3 adjoining squares (triangles actually) at the centre of town allowing the team buses and cars to park in one and the start and the associated 'tour' village to set up in the other. In no time at all they were gone and away leaving us to get some lunch, pack up the bikes and travel back to Buzancais for the rest of the day.

As the village seemed to be shut on Saturday arvo Peter and I hosted a few of the others in our room for the finish on TV.

Looking forward to dinner which tonight is foie gras, filet de beouf and crème brulee. No doubt there will be some cheese in there somewhere !!

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