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Gerard O'Connor

750 747 Gerard O'Connor

Laissac Severac L’eglise to Le Puy en Velay 192km

 A short transfer to our next stage start. Today looked like a challenging stage with Category climbs including 2 Cat 1s. It turned out to be my hardest day …. started physically tired and with heavy legs , I made hard work of the first Cat 1 climb and although the climbing wasn’t brutal with 1500 miles in the legs they were made to feel much harder. Technical issues on the bike made the morning ride difficult to say the least , though they were resolved at the first feedstation by mechanics.

The weather then had its say (again), thunderstorms and torrential rain seemed to have followed us on this tour and many riders including myself were caught out without the right clothing as we cycled through the moors in atrocious conditions. We made it to the next feed station were we able to warm up in blankets and foil before heading off again, some riders decided it was tooo much and called it a day !!

The architecture changed over the following miles as we rolled through beautiful French towns all of which seemed to have wonderful churches and chateauxs and the occasional castle !!

Legs were feeling a little stronger as we started the final Cat 1 of the day Col de Peyra, just over 8 km rising to 19% toward the end of the climb.

Relieved to complete the climb,again in a thunderstorm, the remaining 30 km was mainly downhill thank goodness and on a  fairly quick riding day we  arrived at Le Puy en Velay, where we get to spend 2 nights in the same hotel and our second rest rest day.

That is an absolute treat ….. weary body and legs that is exactly what is needed !!?

 

750 652 Gerard O'Connor

Blagnac to Rodez 181km – Flat

There are some days just worth waiting for ….and this was one of them.

2 category 3 climbs (you should all know what they are by now !) were all that stood between us completing a gentle stage after days of gruelling mountain challenges.

Most of the riders took the opportunity of using the day as a recovery ride,if you can class 181km as recovery.

Despite everyone’s thinking to ride gently the pace was steady throughout as we racked up kilometre after kilometre, overcast and warm meant riding conditions were perfect.

No major incidents today, landscape was flat and picturesque and all riders seems to get through the ride unscathed.

A couple of climbs towards the end didn’t deter the good spirits of everyone in the group, and I’ve had the pleasure of riding with Gavin for a few days now, an ex Durham Uni graduate, who is quite frankly the funniest guy I’ve met, you can hear him before you see him and his banter has keep the peloton amused throughout.

We rolled into a quaint French town Rodez and  to a very ‘French ‘ hotel … tomorrow holds a bigger challenge, but a gentle day and rested legs tonight and I’m sure we will all give it go again in the mountains.

750 689 Gerard O'Connor

Saint Girons to Foix 105km

Don’t be fooled by th shorter distance of today’s stage. 3 Cateegory 1 climbs the last ramps up to 20% in places and really isn’t what you want to hear in the briefing on the 2 hour transfer to the start.

Tired legs and minds as we all tried to grab some shut eye on the bus knowing although a short stage was going to be tough once again.

We are now at Stage 13  so nearly 2/3 rds through the tour… has it been as I expected .. No it’s far harder  The lack of sleep early  or late transfers and the fact you e got to cycle 100 mile plus each day means your body is physically drained meaning you’re cycling on reserves and generally on a permanently tired basis… but hey that’s what I signed up for so just get on with it ..Whinger !!

Red hot from the off , after coffee in a local cafe in Saint Girons , which must of wondered what hit it as over 100 cyclists descend on it at 8M !! Remembering to take on plenty of fluids today (as usual) , these mountains were exposed so you were in direct sunlight most of the day, you were soaking riding up those climbs.

Today was about getting through it , legs were really heavy and I saw a number of guys pushing up the final Cat 1 … be strong dont get off or you won’t get back on !!…

The top of the climb had its reward …14miles of pure downhill … exhilarating and great fun .. racking up great speeds as we rolled into Foix.

Here we go again,, another 2 coach transfer to the hotel for tomorrow’s stage.

The next 2 days are a little gentler in terms of climbing … The Pyrenees has certainly shown it has a bite … Ouch !!

576 1024 Gerard O'Connor

Pau to Peregudus 222km Welcome to the Pyrenees

Today was always going to be a real test, a combination of 6 catergorised climbs and 1 HC climb ( you know how difficult that is if you’ve been paying attention) and  total mileage of in excess of 135miles.

The first 60 miles was a little uneventful thankfully, as we skirted around the foothills of the Pyrenees occasionally daring to look up at what was ahead of us.

The second half of the day was a brute, as the warm conditions and miles started to its tole, we were welcomed to the Pyrenees with some hugely difficult climbs.

They were long steep but bizarrely attractive mainly tree lined until you popped out onto a hairpin to see spectacular views of the mountains.

The day was peppered with one climb after another and it became a mental challenge as well as physical as the day wore on.

There was stories of riders calling it a day further back as conditions and climbs proved to much.

After 10 hours the longest I’ve ever been on a bike I arrived weary at the ski resort of Peregudus. All the ski resorts in the past I’ve arrived on a  bus … much easier!!

Quick massage shower then dinner then you try and get some sleep for the next day… whatcha starts with a 2 hour coach trip to Saint Girons.

Talk about heros … I certainly felt a great sense of achievement, they seem to rack up one after the other, however I learnt that some riders were out until 11pm … now that is committed  Just as a footnote ..we climbed nearly 17000 feet today … that’s nearly 2/3rds of Mount Everest in a day …Not bad eh ?.

 

576 1024 Gerard O'Connor

Stage 11 Eymet to Pau 200km Flat

  • Having to leave the chateau at 6am was hugely disappointing, but we had a 60 minute transfer to our next start stage Eymet.

A little tender after 11 days in the saddle, your were right Mam, I’ve become to rely heavily on my best friend on tour, chamois butter ? read more

750 648 Gerard O'Connor

Perigueux to Bergerac 191km Flat and Quick

After a long bus journey on our rest we set off from the beautiful town of Perigueux.

Today was a flat stage, one for the sprinters in the real tour, nearly 200 km of the best scenery so far in temperatures over 30 degrees , a far cry from last weeks wind and rain.

Due to the conditions, the peloton proved to be a fast group today, without riders alternating, the speed was constantly high throughout the whole day.

Regular feed stations allowed all riders to take on plenty of fluids in the sweltering heat.

The quickest day by far, with the quickest speeds all tour meant that we were able to get back to our luxurious chateau early and enjoy the facilities. This was a luxury stop over and even included a swimming pool … boy what a treat !!!

Some extreme riding over the last few days . Worst ever ride , toughest ride of the tour and today probably the most scenic and enjoyable rid, riding into Bergerac and wine country… I’m still keeping off the drink until Paris … assuming I get there

We even had our own Tour de Force menu.. we felt like superstars ?

150 150 Gerard O'Connor

REST DAY …..Awesome ?

A 6 hour bus transfer to the west of France.

Time to chill and rest weary legs

Au revoir

Just out of interest nearly 100000 riders challenge themselves to see how high they can climbin the month, as of yesterday I was 13th …Wow !!

596 1024 Gerard O'Connor

Nantua to Chambery 188km …The toughest day so far ??

Is this the toughest stage of the tour ??

Three of the most feared climbs of the whole tour were in today’s stage.

Col de la Biche, Grand Colombier and Mont du Chat all uncatergatised climbs due to their severity. Climbs are rated 1 to 4 depending on their difficulty all three of these climbs  are uncategorised as they are considered so difficult.

In order Col de la Biche rides for 20km at an average gradient of 7%, nice to get the legs warmed up first thing ?,

Gran Colombier is a monster… a brute of a climb, 10km at average of 10%, it rises to a wall of 20% for a kilometre in the middle , the steepest mountain so far of the tour.

Mont du Chat is just their to finish you off !!

Another 10km of climbing at an average of 11% at the end of a gruelling day.

I felt the biggest sense of achievement so far as I rolled in some 9 hours after starting. The hardest day so far after the worst day ever of riding, 2 differing back to back days.

The day had more casualties with injuries to a number of riders and some simply finding the climbs to much and calling it a day or early or taking a easier route to avoid the monster! not a bad idea for some guys considering there are still another 12 days of riding …Geez !!

The weather was kinder today and some of the views were spectacular from the very top of the  mountains.

On a technical note my front carbon wheel  delaminated (buckled) on a descent which had I continued on it could of had pretty serious consequences.. A quick change of wheel by the mechanics got me back in the saddle and a lot safer !

Hotel was great and riders were in good spirits as tomorrow is a rest day.!! Never have I looked forward to a 6 hour transfer on a bus so much ?

750 842 Gerard O'Connor

Worst day ever on a bike ?? Stage 8 Dole to Station des Rousses 197kmes

The worst day ever on a bike ?? ??

Im writing this 2 days after the ride due to late finishes early starts transfer oh and tiredness, but I can still have those painful feelings from this ride.

The start was from a lovely town called Dole where we transferred at 6.30am from our previous nights stop over. It was overcast when we arrived… however within 15 minutes of straying the ride the heavens opened.

It was constant, a mix between light and torrential downpours and at to that this was the first real climbing day it was torturous.

There were a number of casualties, riders who simply were to cold to continue and were packed in the back of the support vans wrapped in foil waiting for a lift back to the hotel.

It was a real shame as the views from the mountains would of been spectacular on another day, instead it was a real focus just to concentrate on what you had to do as all your cycling gear was drenched. Add to that riders were given an option to due a shorter route, reducing the ride by 40km, and as we set off from feedstation 3 I left with a group of 4 other riders not realising that they were doing the shorter route. I ask one of the guys when the split in routes was and he said we split 4km ago… Damn !! For a moment I thought of continuing, only for a moment , I turned my bike and headed back to find the longer route. It was only an extra 8km but it seemed a hell of a lot  longer and I had to ride the next 2 hours on my own cold wet and wondering had a done the right thing … not a good place to be at the time.

Finally arrived still raining to the ski resort of Stauin des Rousses, not much about on a cold wet evening.

Shower, food and bed and trying to get warmth back into me. Yes it was the worst day ever on a bike !!

 

150 150 Gerard O'Connor

Nantua to Chambery 182 km First Mountain Stage

Toughest stage of the Tour ??

Col de la Biche…Grand Colombier…Mont du Chat…..3 of the most feared climbs on tour. Add to that a number of other catergorised climbs this stage is arguably the toughest stage of the whole tour… Not to say that there are other tough days ahead.

Concentraing on the 3 uncategorised climbs … (they are rated 1 to 4 based on their difficulty),

these 3 climbs are rated so difficult they don’t get categorised!!

Col de la Biche was 20km long … not horrendously steep, average 8% but going on for an eternity, the Colombier is a monster 10km long ,rising to a wall of 20% gradient for a full kilometre half way through, that was the steepest part of any climb and at the time had the legs screaming for a rest… no such luck the  remaining  5 km averaged out at 8% and to an altitude of 1501m. The views were spectacular and a 10 km descent followed. I struggled on the descent as the front wheel seem to wobble, at the feed station mechanics told me I had buckled the front carbon wheel due to severe breaking.  A quick wheel change and I was back on the road.

The weather was a lot better today but the severity of the climbs reduced the number of riders able to complete the stage…a number simply failed to finish and a number were re routes to a shorter route avoiding some of The uncategorised climbs.

From the worst day on a bike to one of the toughest on a bike… 2 incredible stages back to back.