Stage 5: Saint-Dié-des-Vosges to Colmar

Cycling summary

Breakfast: 05:45. Transfer: 1h15. Start time: 08:23. Distance: 169km. Terrain: hilly (2,294 metres climbing). Climbs: two Cat 2, two Cat 3. Finish: 17:13. Time in saddle: 7h23. Temp: 33C. Drinks: 5 litres.

Suffer scores: John 5/10. Wim 8/10.

With Wim. Separated at birth?

Local lowdown

Saint-Dié-des-Vosges is apparently known for its International Festival of Geography and the author of the first known map of the American continent. The city features in the Tour for the first time and today’s route ends in Colmar, which coincidentally or otherwise is the birthplace of Auguste Bartholdi, who designed the Statue of Liberty. Today is the first full day in the beautiful Vosges region, what I term as a veritable “cyclists’ playground” and which has been the location for a couple of my training camps prior to taking on the Tour in 2017 and again this year.

Tale from the Tour

Opening kilometres fast, on busy roads. Drivers unusually intolerant of disciplined riders. Loud horn blasts aplenty. Is it “National No Cycling Day”? Never mind, soon on to quieter roads. A couple of climbs to get the blood pumping on what is going to be another hot, cloudless day. Unforgiving, relentless heat? Cool shade on the tree-lined roads through the forest, giving out strong, wonderful scent of pine into the air that has been warming all day. Gloriously reducing the heat by several degrees until reaching a most welcome 28C.

Mixture of group riding on the busy roads to near-solo efforts on the descents and climbs – losing too much time on descents to then climb with the group, but happy to be in the zone and finally going up some longer climbs. Two Cat 2s today, both about 6% gradient. Finding that rhythm that I really enjoy. Almost clawing back the gap to the group by the last feedstop, to lose it again on the next descent.

Passing through towns more German than French, with names like Grendelbruch, Scherwiller and Ammerschwihr, and with architecture to match.

Finally dropping down towards Colmar, the town – ugly from a distance with its dozen or more tower blocks – rapidly approaching. First, some tricky weaving in and out of surrounding villages until gratefully reaching the hotel and the massage that awaits for tired legs.

Wonderful day of typically beautiful Vosges scenery. In the villages again witnessing the preparations being made for the pro Tour next week. Where do all the bicycles come from that are painted in the Tour colours of yellow, green, white and red polka dot?

Today not as hot as Stage 1, but still too hot for Wim. Me? This is one of the stages I’ve been waiting for. Suffer score is subjective – heat and climate a factor, but possible to overlay with enjoyment of the Stage, so not feeling the effects like I might have done.

Promise of more tomorrow. Vive le Tour indeed.

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