Stage 9: Nantua to Chambéry

Cycling summary

Breakfast: 05:30. Transfer: 1h00. Start time: 08:00. Distance: 181.5km. Terrain: mountainous. Climbs: three HC (Col de la Biche, Grand Colombier, Mont du Chat), one Cat 2, two Cat 3, one Cat 4). Finish: 21:30. Time in saddle: At least 9 hours (Garmin battery died).

Suffer scores: John 8/10, Alex 9.5/10.

Local lowdown

The other area I reconned in May, so do checkout “In search of mountain legs”. Suffice to say that the climbs on today’s stage afford the most spectacular scenery I have ever witnessed. Don’t forget to look over your shoulder when climbing, and on a clear day you can see what feels like the entire Alpine range, with Mont Blanc dominating. More stunning lakes at the start and finish too. Nantua is known for its crayfish sauce which goes well with pike, not that I’m so fussed about that. With Chambéry, however, we are heading back into cheese country, Savoie this time though in fairness you’re never too far away from a nice cheese in France! Yum.

Tale from the Tour

That’s the first part of the Tour completed and it’s competition time!

Competition 1: which of the items on my breakfast tray made their way to my back pocket so that I would have an extra snack? Clue: jersey pockets tend to be porous.

Competition 2: today has required me to carry lots of items, due to weather conditions and the need to be able to wrap up for the descents. Circle the places where I am storing the following:

Yellow rain jacket, clear waterproof jacket, space blanket, arm warmers, gloves, pump, biscuits, brioche, wallet, gels, phone, glasses.

Sartorial inelegance! And you can probably tell that I don’t really care – it worked!

Actually if you can find my glasses that would be helpful as I think they got buried in molten lava (well, rotten socks) that spewed forth after yesterday’s nightly suitcase explosion.

Competition 3: after 9 days in the saddle, which part of me hurts the most? Legs, knees, shoulders, arms, hands, back, somewhere else? Clue: it’s not where you might think.

Tingly fingers, though not as bad as post Paris-Roubaix

First prize is this lovely view of the Alps from the top of the Mont du Chat:

Taken in May

Second prize is this one:

Taken today. Not too bad, but there was literally nothing to see at the top of the previous climb, the Grand Colombier

To claim your prize, send your answers to

I was thrilled to complete today’s stage, in particular completing the unfinished business on Grand Colombier where I had not used the correct ascent on my recon. It was “comfortably” the hardest climb I have ever done, being able to see long stretches of road at 17-22% in front of me. My dear fellow cyclists – think Kidds Hill in the Ashdown forest and supercharge that to give you some idea.

Next left and we are climbing Grand Colombier

Funny how the mind plays tricks. I remember the Col de la Biche as being hard at the bottom but opening up into a very pleasant pastoral meadow at the top. The brain had clearly deselected the fact that the stuff in the middle was really hard too. I was wearing my winter jacket at that time to avoid the issues of yesterday, but was able to leave that in my day bag once I got to the top.

Col de la Biche

The Mont du Chat was the final categorised climb, though it was almost the little ramp just after the descent that made me get off! In fact many of us commented on that afterwards – I think legs had had enough!

In terms of suffering, this is not suffering as the world unfortunately knows it and may the Lord have mercy on them. This is just sporting, self-inflicted and wholly unnecessary of course. With that caveat, today was “enjoyable” suffering, “sense of achievement” suffering, “the reason I am here” suffering.  I’ve scored it less than the windy stage, to which I gave a 9 in the expectation that this would be a 10. This is largely on account of the fact that on the run in to the Mont du Chat I was feeling much stronger than I had any right to expect.

And now, finally, a rest day. The chance to chuck the contents of my case into a washing machine and to get ready to go again.

But first a beer – and hot dogs?


2 thoughts on “Stage 9: Nantua to Chambéry”

  1. Congratulations on getting so far. Sounds v bad. The rest day must be very welcome. Next time you do it think about fitting tri-bars to give you another hand position.


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