ride report 3: the final week

Sunday 15 July: Stage 15 Samatan – Pau

After a day in the mountains, you expect a so-called sprint stage to be easy. Well, not exactly easy, but certainly more manageable. But the rolling course, never really flattening out, was definitely a tough one, especially when battling against a 30mph headwind. Eventually, though, the team rolled into Pau, relishing the prospect of not only a rest day but the luxury of starting the next stage from the same town. Definitely an evening for a beer or two – oh and that essential massage from Lisa, who waits patiently all day before she can begin work.

Monday 16 July: Rest Day 2

So, just hanging out at a lovely sunny campsite on the outskirts of Pau. A bit of training to keep the legs in trim but a chance to relax and enjoy the fact that Paris is only five days away. Well that’s if you can ignore the ogre of the Col du Tourmalet casting its menacing shadow over the team camp…

Tuesday 17 July: Stage 16 Pau – Bagnères de Luchon

You might prefer to go round it but you have to go over it. A really tough day in the saddle: more blistering heat, and the team were ‘pedalling in squares’, to use a French expression. The giant Tourmalet has intimidated Tour riders 47 times in the history of the race but somehow its stunning views and the enthusiasm of the crowds already gathering for the following day helped keep up the spirits of the One Day Ahead adventurers.  And one really nice touch when the guys were taking a break: a stranger came over to them to say he’d heard about what they were doing and to wish them well for the last few stages. That’s cycling camaraderie for you.

Wednesday 18 July: Stage 17 Bagnères de Luchon – Peyragudes

Now, Tour riders have occasionally been seen to cut off a hairpin bend by scrabbling across the grass or to go the wrong way round a piece of traffic furniture, so let’s hope today’s diversion won’t get One Day Ahead disqualified. After all, if they hadn’t done a detour around the Col de Peyresourde they might have cycled straight into the Peloton coming in the opposite direction! Well, that would certainly have got them some news coverage…

So the mountains (‘shedloads’ of them) are over and only three stages remain. No more manic descents though. Shame, because Mick managed to clock 86.7kmph coming off the Col d’Aubisque on Tuesday. Happy days!

Thursday 19 July: Stage 18 Blagnac – Brive la Gaillarde

The second longest stage of the race, but not such a daunting prospect when you have Paris in your sights. Having said that, one thing you realise when you follow the three weeks of the Tour is that riders can count themselves pretty lucky if they get through it without contracting any nasty bugs. The One Day Ahead team had been doing pretty well in this respect… until today. Adnan woke up to find himself feeling decidedly under the weather but, undeterred and with a bit of judicious pace-setting from the others, cycled the full 222km as planned.  After 3,000km already travelled, this makes you think about the true meaning of determination…

Friday 20 July: Stage 19 Bonneval – Chartres

The second time trial, and the team were taking it easy – and why not? Job almost done, who wouldn’t want to relax a bit and enjoy the French countryside?

Saturday 21 July: Stage 20 Rambouillet – Paris Champs Elysées

Yes, they’ve done it, and have stood in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe sipping champagne…

But this was Jamie’s gig so I’m going to leave him to have the final word – once he’s had a few days to recover, that is.

Meanwhile, huge congratulations to the whole team – riders and the support group – for an incredible achievement. Any plans for next year?!

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