Stage 9: Saint-Étienne to Brioude

Cycling summary

Breakfast: 06:30. Transfer: 0h35 (post ride). Start time: 07:57. Distance: 170km. Terrain: hilly (2,808 metres climbing). Climbs: one Cat 1, two Cat 3. Finish: 17:01. Time in saddle: 7h40. Temp: 28C. Drinks: 4 litres.

Thunderstorms: 0

Feedstops next to water: 4

Suffer score: John 5/10. Wim 7/10. James 6/10.

Local lowdown

Le Beaujolais nouveaux est arrivé! That’s one of the famous wines from around these parts anyway, and at the end of today we will be one step closer to arriving at a well-earned rest day! Meanwhile, Brioude is the home town of French favourite Romain Bardet and apparently a number of his training routes have been marked on the road with a distinctive “RB” logo. I didn’t spot any on our travels today, possibly because they have been covered by new tarmac or the numerous stretches of gravel that I expect will be swept or compacted before next week.

The Magnificent Seven

Tale from the Tour

Just to pick up on where I left off yesterday with the hail. On the news this morning they were reporting from other areas in the region where hailstones the size of onions were coming down – 9cm in diameter! I think we were lucky in comparison! Despite the odd shower yesterday, this is still very much the “Sunshine Tour de France”.

Preparing to set off. You might need both legs Roly!

Started off feeling strong this morning, which is odd given the distances we have covered so far. This is possibly because I rode within myself more yesterday, or was just generally having a good day today. The temperature was lower after the storms of yesterday, but still managed to rise to 36C again just as we were on the final climb of the day. Still, we were in time for the first bus to our hotel at tomorrow’s stage start so that we can begin our recovery straight away rather than hanging around at the finish for a bit.

Regrouping at the top

The main climb of the day was the Mur d’Aurec sur Loire, a Cat 1 that we climbed just after the first feedstop. Only about 3km but very steep, as the name suggests. The roadside marker claimed the average gradient for the last 200 metres was 12%, but I never saw less than 15%, so that was a lie! We regrouped at the top before continuing together, as much of the rest of the day was more rolling and it’s great to ride as a group.

Feedstop 1

Indeed, this evening our group riding was recognised by Emily, our lead rider, who awarded the day’s “arrow” (aka rider of the day) to Rob and Jenny, who instantly said they were receiving this on behalf of the group of course, which they didn’t have to. Well done both.

Another good day, one of the main features of which was that each feedstop was in a picturesque location near water. A swim would have been nice, but there will be time for that soon enough.

Feedstop 2
Feedstop 3
Feedstop 4

This has been a really tough first week, designed I am sure to soften up the pros who will be coming through. And it hasn’t ended! Normally the first rest day would be tomorrow, but it’s not a rule and this time we have a tenth straight day to ride before resting up in Albi.

Finishing straight in Brioude

Feeling good for most of the day and just a little tired at the end with the return of the heat so a slightly higher suffer score, but still pleased with how my tour has been going so far. Wim found it tough today and James said that he probably pushed too hard, but then tomorrow is his last day so he might as well go for it!

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