Stage 13: Pau

Cycling summary

Breakfast: 07:30. Transfer: before 0h45, after 0h45. Start time: 10:25. Distance: 27km. Terrain: gentle hills, then flat (412 metres climbing). Climbs: none. Finish: 11:53. Time in saddle: 1h22. Temp: 25C. Drinks: 0.75 litres (a one bottle ride).

Suffer scores: John 0.5/10. Wim 0.5/10.

Local lowdown

The Tour comes to Pau so often! Indeed, this is the 71st time since 1930. However, we are staying in nearby Tarbes, so today we are doing a hit job on Pau for this short time-trial so that we can have two nights in the same hotel. Both of my two previous Tour de Force/Le Loop experiences have included an overnight stay in Pau and although the hotel itself was fine, as I recall the breakfast wasn’t up to much. This is a key concern for a hungry cyclist! Thank goodness for well-stocked feedstops!

Tale from the Tour

A perfectly pleasant recovery ride today, which the pros will ride at least twice as fast as me because it’s a time trial. I took 1h24 to ride the course (including the bit back from the finish to where our coaches were picking us up). What will the winning time be next week? 30 minutes?

A quick word on temperature. Every day starts off around 18-20C and hits the mid-30s somewhere each afternoon. I tend to record the highest temperature we typically have to ride in, rather than all the highest points necessarily because times of ridiculous heat (e.g. riding into Rodez) tend to be fleeting. The exception was yesterday where I spent a good bit of time cooking at 41C, so that’s the temperature I recorded. Today’s ride was completed in the morning, before it got too hot.

To begin with, we left the park where there are yellow monuments erected to celebrate each of the past winners of the yellow jersey. Quite a sight against an imposing backdrop. The course then snaked gently upwards and on the road were painted the names of all the winners of the previous Pau stages. I of course had my photo taken alongside Geraint Thomas’s monument.

A lovely wooded course followed, which had a number of ups and downs including at least a couple of sharp right turns where the pros will have to take care not to overcook the corners. Then there was a long straight road into Pau to finish.

Got lots of positive comments about the Bath Rugby cycling jersey that I wore today. My brother Gareth who got it for me warmed me that the jersey might not be popular in Pau because that’s one of the few European teams that Bath have defeated. I looked it up and that win was a few years ago now, so I felt pretty safe.

That’s it for the riding today, so it’s almost like a rest day. Just as well, because we now have two big stages to come. No suffering of any description today.

After a quick lunch back at the hotel, I decided to take a taxi into town and get my washing done. Only three days’ worth, but a master stroke (so I believe) because it means I can get to the end of the Tour without having to go to a launderette in Nîmes on our next rest day! Given that we will have to spend a few hours getting to Nîmes on the rest day (otherwise known as Monday in the world outside the cycling bubble – we inside it lose track!), it is likely that cyclists with sweaty kit will be putting high demand on available launderettes. With eight days left and six sets of kit, I can now get by with a minimal amount of hand washing. Actually, my action this afternoon could perhaps be said to benefit the others too, as I will be out of their way!

After getting that job done, I had a quick look around the town centre, a beer with a few fellow riders and a taxi back to the hotel.

We have a Moroccan “all you can eat buffet” tonight and I’m starving already with two hours to go!

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