Stage 15: Tallard to Nimes (222 km)
Not much sleep for any of us last night – we didn’t get to the hotel until 12.45 and had to get the owner out of bed to let us in, (Alistair pushed me forward and said ‘You speak French….’). Didn’t need to understand the vocabulary, the tone of voice was pretty clear!! When we booked the accommodation we were a bit optimistic about distances between places in mountain regions.
We were incredibly slow to start – both pretty shot from yesterday’s stage – and seeing how little distance we had covered in the first 2 hours and the distance still to cover I told the back-up team to expect to have to rescue us later in the day.
It was a route of three sections today in terms of the landscape. First we went through an area of orchards, followed by miles and miles of dry scrubland and then suddenly we were in Southern European landscape with olive trees and red-tiled houses. The middle section was like riding through the set of a Spaghetti Western – 3 hours of unchanging landscape with the sun beating down on us.
Our saving grace today was the wind – probably the famous Mistral – which provided us with a massive tailwind for the last 3 hours of the stage. We started the day grovelling along at less than 10 mph and finished whizzing along at 20 mph.
Finding places to meet up with the back-up can be tricky as the size of different towns is not very clear on our map. Sometimes we’ve chosen a deserted place without a bar or a shop and sometimes a place that’s so big we struggle to find each other. Rendez-vous-ed at a small cafe today where the water supply came from a local spring and was wonderfully, almost freezingly cold – made the most of it and filled up all the containers in the van.
So – rescue party not required after all and we made it to the finish, a great spot overlooking the wonderfully-preserved Roman Amphitheatre in Nimes. Found a great little restaurant nearby and sat on the terrace to enjoy their brilliant value 13 Euro 3 course set menu. Alistair and Matt had already checked into our hotel and collected the keys so no need to incur the wrath of the owner this time…