Stage 13: Saint-Etienne to Chamrousse (197.5km)
A roasting hot day, (36 degrees C), and a long and challenging stage, finishing at the top of a mountain. Both Martin and I had reservations about our ability to complete it and had considered cutting some of the flatter section short and adding the missing miles to another day’s ride. However, encouraged by Matt and Alistair to ‘give it a shot’, we decided to do just that, and are really chuffed to say that we both succeeded in riding the whole stage, (finishing at 9.30pm….).
The 2nd to last climb, (the Col de Palaquit), was shockingly hard – the race guide described it as a 6% gradient but failed to mention that it went down and then back up in the middle, making most of the climb about 8%. At one point I thought there was no way I was going to be able to finish due to the intense heat and the steepness of the climb but I was saved by a small cool stream at the side of the road which I knelt by and scooped as much water as I could over myself. That and the copious jugs of water which Alistair tipped over my head whenever he saw me kept me going.
On the first Col of the day I was climbing steadily, thinking I was doing pretty well when I looked round and saw someone cycling up behind me. When they got a bit closer I saw that it was a girl of about 14 years old riding a ‘sit up and beg’- type bike in her plimsolls….. She looked as if she was just off for a quick ride round the block – no apparent effort involved at all. Definitely spurred me on – she rode behind me for about 5km and I was really keen not to be over-taken.
Martin took a tumble in Grenoble when taking a short-cut across a kerb, just before we tackled the final climb. which meant a 45 minute stop to visit the pharmacy where they patched him up and sent us on our way, (after which he pedalled off at speed and left me behind!). So we’re now even on the number of times we’ve fallen off, (once each).
For the last 4 km of the last climb there was a real party atmosphere with groups of people camped at the sides of the road cheering us on and shouting encouragement, (or telling us to go faster). One rather inebriated man ran alongside me trying to interview me but his lack of English and my lack of French made it quite challenging!
We ended the day driving round Grenoble looking for somewhere to stay – the hotel we booked wasn’t contactable on the ‘phone all day and we couldn’t face driving out to it only to find it shut. Ended up in a rather posh place with a room about the same size as the downstairs in my house. Thanks to Andy and Rachel, who were also staying in Grenoble, for doing a shopping trip for us, which meant we did have something to eat when we finished – always a bonus!
Another Mountain stage on Friday and then a flattish one on Saturday before we get our second rest day on Sunday when we’ll be driving to Carcassone for the start of Stage 16.