Wednesday, 17 July 2013

T18: Embrun to the TdF Stage 16 finish in Gap

Good morning Embrun!

Today's installment was another fairly lumpy affair which took in the first half of the ITT course (the pro's tackle that tomorrow). It will be absolutely brutal for them. I'm interested to see what bike set up and kit they use as there are 2 big hills with pitches of 10%+. I'm guessing road bikes with clip on bars, deep dishes and road areo, not full areo, helmets. There are no flat sections! I wouldn't be surprised if they can hit speeds of 95km/h+ on the second descent just before Gap where it's dead straight for about 1.2k and downhill at 11%. 

By relative standards for us, the first climb wasn't too bad. But the last climb up to Col de Moissiere of 7.5k was our own version of brutal: 3 pitches of 16%, one of 18% and plenty of 10%+, it was hot and there was no wind. Thankfully though, the middle kilometres were through forest shade with delightful little babbling brooks just off to the side. They were flowing over mossy rocks which seemed to defy the ambient temperature. 

One 16% stretch went for about 150m and it dealt out some serious pain to a few of the guys. When you are climbing, there are markers on the side of the road every 1,000m telling you elevation above sea level, distance to the summit and average gradient for the next kilometre. So as you glance to the right through your sweat speckled sunglasses at those ominous white and yellow tombstones and squint to read, praying for 1km and 2.6%...and instead you see 4km and 11.2% — you know you are in for pain. It's hurtlocker city, population you. No sir, it's not a Pain Snack, it's a whole degustation of stem to chew.

I mentioned it was hot. Well when you are in the shade and you look down and see your thighs and knees are glistening, and you notice the rivulets of sweat coming out of your shins and slowly making your socks damp, and you can't read the decals on your top tube anymore because they are covered with drip splatter, and you see all this because you can't lift your head to see the road know two things. 1. You are not going to wee for a while and 2. it's DAMN hot. 

I managed another KOM (this time for the Maxxxxx). It was good to open up a bit over the last 2k which was all above 9%. As an aside, we've all commented that it's weird to have the sensation of hitting 6% and going: "thank god it's flat for a bit" as you ram her into the 23!

When we got into Gap to watch the end of Stage 16 it was the usual Tour mayhem. We reconned two spots: the base of the final climb; and 25m from the finish line as both possies were in Gap (3 streets apart). I had it better planned this time - observe, orientate, plan which shots to take and stand back to absorb the atmosphere! 

On the way to getting a beer, burger (which by the way I must add was a sensational double patie n cheese number on a soft yet lightly grilled bun - totally in the Top5 best burgers ever) and chips, we bumped into none other than Dave MacKenzie from SBS and I did some talk back for VO3Max. 

Now I don't know if you watched the stage but those boys were FLYING and by the time the 26 rider break got to us, 2 were off the front. Now I said I had my shit together this time right? Nup. I've decided you cannot photograph a bunch and try to watch at the same time. Even with the iPhone set to rapid fire - not much chop. I don't know what I was expecting. On Ventoux they were crawling. So I guessed that coming to the base of a climb they'd be on the top of the bars getting ready to drop it into the little ring. WRONG. If they weren't doing 40km/h up a 5% slope into a 90 degree corner, they were doing 45+. And again, gone in a flash. Just enough time to have my slack jaw recover enough to yell GO CAM!!

Here's the bunch coming through...

...and then run to the finish line...

Another great day. We had a 20k roll out to the pre-positioned car via only our 2nd flat tyre of the whole tour. The roads here are too awesome to get flats...oh, and the fact that there are no bogans throwing bottles out the windows of their lowered, beat up 1974 Toranas. 

And to top it off, a magnificent sunset as we transitted to the very flash ski resort of Pra-Loop to flop into a king size bed. Yes!

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