Stage 8: Mâcon to Saint-Étienne

Cycling summary

Breakfast: 05:45. Transfer: 1h00. Start time: 08:07. Distance: 199km. Terrain: hilly (3,800 metres climbing). Climbs: five Cat 2, two Cat 3. Finish: 20:29. Time in saddle: 10h28. Temp: 34C. Drinks: 6 litres.

Thunderstorms: 3.

Suffer scores: John 4/10. James 4/10.

Local lowdown

Not really a “local lowdown” today, but this is noteworthy for being the stage I nearly didn’t do. Today is graduation day for Babs, who has been studying for a diploma in Counselling for three years. Given how close we were to Lyon, I saw that it would be possible to take the first flight out to Heathrow and then the last flight back to Lyon. More important to celebrate success I thought. However, although it was feasible in theory, the cost of taxis was just prohibitive in the end, never mind the carbon footprint.

One small item of local news – we passed through the Capital of the Saucisson!

Tale from the Tour

Clearly the main story of the day is that it rained! Or rather, we had three lots of thunder, lightening and hailstones.

We had awoken to stormy clouds overhead and a warning that rain was forecast for later on in the day. Not a surprise really, as the weather had to break sometime, even if only for a short moment.

At feedstop 2 I thought that the rain would be a way off yet so didn’t bother taking a rain jacket. A matter of minutes after leaving I felt the first spot of rain this trip and then there was a massive crack of thunder. The roads were awash, making descending difficult and the hailstones were stinging my arms. Fortunately that didn’t last very long. For a while I was then a little chilly, but not cold, and by the time I was climbing again I had dried out.

I was not with my usual group today – the weather conditions saw to that. So I spent the day either on my own or in the company of others that I had not previously ridden with.

Temperature had dipped to below 20C, but on the two Cat 2 climbs after lunch I was in full sun and 34C again. So instead of my jersey being soaked with rain it was now once again soaked with sweat.

I could see storm clouds building once again as I approached the final feedstop. The first drop fell on me just as I was turning into it, and then it all clattered down. We took shelter in the van where there was a real cacophony of noise from the hail hitting the roof.

Before taking refuge in the van

We waited a long time for the storm to pass before we could see the skies clearing over the area we were headed. All thoughts of arriving at dinner for 8pm were abandoned, though we knew that a late arrival would not be a problem as the buffet would still be open.

Skies beginning to clear

Final stretch down into Saint Etienne to arrive at the hotel just as the first drop of rain from the third storm of the day hit me. Thank you Lord for your protection.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable day even if I was out for longer than anticipated. It was less fun for those unfortunate enough to receive the full brunt of the storms and ending up with bruised forearms as a result! For that reason, both me and tonight’s roommate James have given this a low suffer score. This is despite there being many more climbs than the seven categorised ones – maybe the route setters didn’t want to disclose their full hand concerning the challenges posed by this stage of the Tour.

Before I forget, in between all the thunder business, I did get to enjoy views of the Brouilly vineyards and passing through St Symphorien sur Coise.

As you can see, we had some decent weather too.

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