Breakfast: 05:45.Transfer: before 4h00, after 1h15. Start time: 10:45. Distance: 185km (plus final 11km descent in the dark). Terrain: mountain (3,822 metres climbing, though Tour stats claim 4,700). Climbs: three Cat 1, one Cat 2. Finish: 22:39. Time in saddle: 10h36. Temp: 20C. Drinks: 4 litres.
Suffer scores: John 10/10. Wim – also very high!
Limoux is another place we know from 2017 though bizarrely having been travelling west to east over the last few days, today we will be travelling westwards before looping around Foix, another town with a magnificent castle on a hill, before continuing on our eastward journey.
Tale from the Tour
Well it had to happen sooner or later. Today was one of the toughest days on a bike that I can remember, only this time for reasons other than cold, wet weather and a horrible route. In fact the route is a good one and the temperature was around 20C most of the day.
To begin with, last night’s dinner did not really satisfy the cravings of this hungry cyclist. Then I slept really poorly because my bed was so uncomfortable that I ended up sleeping on top of my duvet on the floor. Breakfast was more a case of grab what you can get in the 25 minutes we had before boarding the coach for a long transfer to the start in Limoux – 4 hours in total. When we did start cycling it was into a headwind (we were now travelling west again – ASO the race organisers went somewhat against the norm here, especially as after the stage we now have to travel east again to Nîmes).
I was totally lacking in energy as we went up the first little climb, the Col de Montségur, but was then able to join a small group and together we battled through to feedstop 2 (thanks Steve for getting the group organised). I was not the only one struggling a bit as it turned out. Coffee at the feedstop really helped though, and I felt much better following that. I was not so concerned about the Cat 1 coming up (Port de Lers) but was remembering how awful the climb after that was (Mur de Péguère). Also, given that we had started so late and I was going a bit slower than I had wanted too, I was concerned that I would not have time to complete the final climb (Le Prat d’Albis) which overlooks Foix but would instead need to go straight to dinner in the town centre and then transfer by coach to Carcasonne, where will be staying overnight.
Thankfully, while that climb is still awful, I had a reasonably OK time on the Mur de Péguère and then I felt as if a switch had been flipped and I was back to enjoying myself again. It was probably the relief of getting that obstacle out of the way and now having a shot at the final climb.
I enjoyed the decent and the subsequent climb to the final summit, but of course we still had to get down again, and now it was dark. I was with a group of six so there was safety in numbers, though such traffic as there was was very kind to us, sitting behind the group and giving us the benefit of their headlamps to further illuminate the way down.
Safely down, but with no time for dinner I shall just have to have double breakfast before a two hour transfer to Nîmes for our rest day tomorrow. And I’m going to rest!
I’m not complaining about how the day went because the logistics meant that this was always going to be a challenging day and I knew that months ago. Cliche alert, but the Tour is the Tour and it’s what we signed up for. I’m so grateful to Sarah who is an absolute star in seeing a way through the logistical challenges and making this all possible.
PS (Monday morning 7am after a decent night’s sleep): The above was written on the coach on the way to the hotel, where we arrived at about 00:15. Some cheese, bread and fruit salad was available, so at least I got something to tide me over until breakfast, where I shall be heading shortly.