Today the Tour rode from Bourg d’Oisan to St Etienne and our schedule was to ride from Alpe D’Huez to the feed zone just before the town of La Frette.
I snuck out early to get a head start, as I felt this was the only way I was going to get through the 110ks before the roads closed for the tour. KKB also made his break with a small group who were also sick of waiting around for something to happen.
The descent from Alpe d’Huez was, unlike previous rides, quiet and desolate. No crazy cycling fans, no music blaring from campervans. It was different, but not unexpected, for the Alpe d’Huez "hangover".
Further down the road towards Vizille I was tucked in behind Andre and heading along at a nice pace when we encountered some road furniture. That’s what they call all kinds of bits and pieces that Europeans tend to put on their roads – I guess their version of Australian “traffic calming”.
This particular bit of road furniture was a sloped kerb, painted gloss white, so until you were right upon it, it looked like a painted line. In a split second Andre managed to avoid it at the last minute. I hit it, swerved, wobbled, and finally came down like a bag of spuds.
Miraculously, Lance was fine and the damage to me was minimal, just a bit of skin off my knee, elbow and hand, even though my jacket, gloves and knee warmers. But it was a close call, with traffic around. Luckily European traffic is much more mindful of cyclists than their Australian counterparts. I am thankful for my lucky escape due to the diligence (and expert breaking) of a passing motorist.
After a few tears and a hug from the gentle German, we continued on to meet the bus, where I made my decision to continue to ride for the 110ks.
While I still don’t regret this decision, the riding I did between the bus and the end of that day’s riding was some of the hardest I did on the trip. We were on a time limit and the pace was on. Particularly after my crash, I felt like this wasn’t what I’d signed on for.
We were nearly at our destination when the Gendarmarie closed the road literally in front of us, preventing us from entering the Category 3 Col de Parmenie. What now?
Well, my question was answered. The back road our guides chose featured a climb that mentally I just wasn’t up to. Finally, I got off my bike to nurse my wounds. When we got to our destination – revised due to the road closure – all I wanted to do was go and find Phil. Thinking he was closer than the 20ks it turned out to be, I hopped back on my bike to hunt him down. Finally, with one of the girls and a guide we got to the meeting point, La Frette.
I never saw the feed station, as we took back roads. But I did see the riders come through the town – just a small breakaway with the main group in pursuit. Fantastic to finally lay eyes on Cadel, up close, though in fast forward!
A long day finished with an even longer bus ride to our next hotel in Vichy. On the up side - my first flavoured milk of the trip, on a "pitstop" at a servo.