Stage 16: Nîmes to Nîmes

Cycling summary

Breakfast: 06:30. Transfer: none. Start time: 08:02. Distance: 177km. Terrain: flat (highest point 250 metres, but still 1,702 metres climbing). Climbs: one Cat 4. Finish: 16:57. Time in saddle: 7h37. Temp: 36C. Drinks: 4.5 litres.

Amphitheatres: 1

Aqueducts: 1

Suffer scores: John 1/10. Wim 1/10.

Local lowdown

Fabulous Roman amphitheatre in Nîmes, France’s “little Rome”, which has also hosted the start of the Vuelta a España, the Spanish three-week grand tour. Although this is the closest we will get to the sea, today’s stage is all inland in the Gard region. One of the “unwritten rules” is that the Tour visits the seaside at least once so I had thought we might go south instead, but this is a very pretty area so I’m not complaining! And it shows the value of unwritten rules.

Tale from the Tour

Superb day today, and what a great place to celebrate my 50th Tour de France stage!

With 90 or so riders it was busy getting out of Nîmes, but we soon got to the Pont du Gard which was spectacular in glorious weather – 36C is the new normal, though it was a bit cooler first thing.

At feedstop 1 I usually eat a “toasted” ham and cheese sandwich that I made at breakfast and carry in my back pocket – well it is hot all the time. I tend to prefer that to cake, though today I made an exception as the pastry looked so good!

After a couple of mouthfuls!

After that, I pretty much rode on my own, but it was an easy stage though with some head and cross winds. Thankfully not as strong as the wind yesterday, which was probably the tail end of one of many mistral winds that blow through these parts.

I really enjoyed the scenery and in particular the sound track to today, which was cicadas chirping along practically the whole time until we got back into Nîmes.

Along the way there were many typical Provençal scenes, especially the appearance of the red tiled roofs and pastel coloured shutters.

The Tour stage will start at the amphitheatre, but logistics meant that we finished with it.

Home in time for a quick swim and a massage before dinner. We’ll be up early tomorrow to take a short transfer to the start and we’ll then have another long, hot day through Provence to get to Gap for the start of the Alpine section.

Being well acclimatised, I wasn’t really troubled by the heat today, especially as there was no serious climbing to do. Just a beautiful day out.

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