Stage 9: Gerardmer to Mulhouse (170km)
Today’s stage involved constant climbing and descending. It was the second stage in the Vosges, an area which, like Yorkshire, has been keen to demonstrate that although they aren’t classified as a ‘mountain’ stage they still have plenty of challenging climbs.
Had a nightmare time with the bike today. First my free-wheel mechanism failed, (which means you have to keep pedalling). Luckily the back-up van appeared almost straight away and I was able to swop wheels. All well for a while, until I then got a puncture. What dawned on me then was that the replacement wheel has a wider rim, which meant that I couldn’t use my spare inner tube because the valve was too short..
Before I came away I bought an excellent American bike maintenance book which I’ve had as bed-time reading for the past few months. Time well spent as it turned out, as I followed the author’s advice for what to do when you have to ride on a punctured tyre but have no spare inner or any means of mending the puncture. So – I stuffed the tyre with leaves, pine needles, grass and other vegetation from the side of the road which allowed me to carry on for another 10 miles. I wouldn’t recommend this as anything except an emergency measure – cornering was very hairy.
To add to this, with all the uphill strain on the bike chain it has stretched and I can’t get into some of the lower gears. I have a tool for taking a link out of the chain but I left it on the back door step at home. We both have spare bikes in the van so should be able to put a working bike together with the wheels and bits from the bikes we’ve got.
One more challenging stage until we reach our first rest day on Monday. Andy and Rachel continue to be completely brilliant on the back-up. We can’t thank them enough.