Our first day on the bike started out pretty tough. Croissants, Pan au Chocolat, and the warmth of the early morning sun hitting our skin.
Shortly after, we were off; enjoying flowing, traffic free roads amongst some of the most beautiful backdrops I’ve ever seen.
Before long, we hit the inevitable. The first climb of the day. It was a pretty friendly 6km climb on what felt like Mars; a sparse, rocky landscape with plenty of switchbacks and a great view of the valley below.
Now, it’s time to interrupt this story with putting my mates on notice; no longer will I accept mid-ride stops at a cafe for a cold muffin and a colder latte. For in the tiny village of Breziers we were taken in by Florence and her husband and offered locally produced Apple Juice and various jam tarts. The village, like many others in the Alpine region featured a water fountain to fill up bidons. We quickly took advantage!
As we left I couldn’t help but sneak a few Madeleines into my jersey pocket; however in 32 degree heat I quickly learned my lesson. The come down from the delicious tarts and apple juice to a sweaty, soggy Madeleine was swift.
It struck me as we were riding through countless small villages that the French Alps are EXACTLY how you imagine them to be. Magical backdrops, quant little towns perched on the side of a mountain, and the kind of riding you can only dream of. Before long, we had arrived in Gap, the town hosting the Finish of Stage 16 of the TdF. After some traditional french fare of cheeseburgers and frites, we headed up the Col de Manse.
There is simply nothing like sitting on the side of the mountain in the baking heat waiting for the riders to come through. You really do see all types of people! Here, another cliche proved itself as i encountered countless older gentlemen wrapped only in the speedos they had worn through their teenage years. As I observed their round, leathered stomachs I couldn’t help but think of the good life; the cheeses, wines, and breads these men had been privileged to consume over the years. Thankfully no-one got a scent of my soggy Madeleines.
After the stage we made our way back to town and through the masses. An excited squeal came from someone in our group as we walked past Mark Renshaw. Then it was on to dinner. Again, cliches were the order of the day. Snails, Chocolate Fondant, and red wine were all table favourites.
View the Strava file for the day.