Stage 5: Vittel to La Planche des Belles Filles

Cycling summary

Breakfast: 07:00. Transfer: evening transfer only, 1h30. Start time: 08:00. Distance: 160.5km. Terrain: rolling, with the first proper climb coming at the end (2,422 metres climbing). Climbs: one Cat 1, one Cat 3. Finish: 16:30. Time in saddle: 7h02.

Suffer scores: Both 6.5/10

Local lowdown

I’ve experienced more of this area than the others so far, having carried out a recon in May, so I shall refer you to my earlier post (“In search of mountain legs”). Yet another thermal baths here, this time en route when we pass through Luxeuil-les-bains where I had to shell out for aforementioned bathing cap and claquettes as well as paying an entrance fee! La Planche des Belles Filles is the stuff of legend (again see my earlier post), but is perhaps named after local flora (a corruption of “bel fahy” in the old local dialect, meaning beech trees which are common to the area) rather than young ladies escaping an unpleasant fate by leaping to their deaths.

Tale from the Tour

Another great day today and our first mountain climb. We have been building towards this and as I remarked to a fellow rider, with all the chat and worry about the final climb it’s been a bit like waiting outside an exam hall! Of course, in my case I have had a sneak preview of the exam paper and which put me in good stead! I ended up with a Personal Best on Strava though I did set that up by not pushing too hard in May! Tactics.

Signing in at the first feed stop

After the first feed stop we were again in our small (and functional) group, with some additions, but ended up as part of a group of 25 or so. Though good, and feeling like more of a peloton, as these are not closed roads nine of us decided to hold back and have a more manageable group.

After half way we were back on roads I had covered before and although training on the same roads at home can get boring, I enjoyed the familiarity of this.

One for Will & Tom

Travelling part of the route in the opposite direction to what I knew was fun and provided some photo opportunities. This section included a categorised climb. During these times the mind can wander. “When does a pond become a lake?”, mused one. “When does a stream become a river?”, mused another. “When does a boy become a man?”, mused Andrew. And before we knew it the climb was over with no more time for philosophising.

Additions to the seven dwarfs include Achy, Twingey and Painful

We were elated to reach the top of the Planche des Belles Filles, which we all rode at our own pace. It’s a real tough one, especially at the end.  For some reason that I cannot explain, I decided to take my mind off the 20% slope by reciting pub names. I think I started with the Kings Arms and when I got to the Bulls Arms I realised I had lost the plot!

Wanting to share the love

From the top of the climb it was a few hundred metres back to the cafe where the earlier arrivals and support crew were cheering people on. This provided a great incentive – how can you stop on that really steep section when so many eyes are on you?! We then in turn cheered on the others of course.

“Deano-o, Deano-o, Deano-o”

Since there is no hotel at the top, we had dinner at the cafe before getting on coaches to Vesoul, tomorrow’s start town and another “bijou” hotel!

On the suffer front, this has to be the hardest so far just because of that last climb, though the rest was fine. I am not allowing half marks but got shouted down, not just by Alex but by Robin and Andrew – together the four musketeers!

Today I thought we should also use a “Schleckometer” to gauge how “tired” we are. I think at the moment I am a bit tired, rather than “quite tired” or “totally tired”.

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