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Gerard O'Connor

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Stage 7 Troyes to Nuit Saint George Stormy Day 222km

Beast of a day … strong headwinds and driving rain for most of the 222km. That has got to be the hardest and gruelling days riding I’ve done.

we started as a 10 man group but by the end of the day we had whittled down to 5 weary riders taking only a 2 minute turn on the front to keep exposure to the wind to a minimum.

Some great views as we continued through Champagne country with sweeping valleys and gorges, views would of been far more spectacular on a clearer day.

This has certainly given all the riders an insight into how the pro riders have to deal with TDF, I suppose the difference being that those guys get back to their hotels some 4 hours earlier than us.

so a typical day is breakfast at 7am start riding at around 8am, with feed stops (generally 4 in all) and over 200km in riding we arrive at our new hotel around 6ish , shower, massage then dinner, sort wet gear out and what you’re riding in the following day then sleep … some days there is a bus transfer to the start of the ride… so no real time to chill after the ride … not yet anyways !

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Vesoul to Troyes 225km

What a day … the longest ride I’ve ever completed in probably the toughest conditions. Crosswinds , headwinds and torrential rain throughout made the ride hugely difficult even though there was only a peppering of climbs.

We spent 9 hours cycling through what has to be said was some very bland countryside until we entered the Champagne region, an area full of vineyards, thoughnot much enthusiasm to stop and admire the views due to the heavy rain.

A lot of riders (including me) in the group were starting to feel tired, with over 1000 km of riding already… the good news …. there is none !! Tomorrow same distance, into more headwinds so a ride of attrition appears to be on the cards.

All that said,the banter and chat in the groups is always good…and riders always willing to help other riders struggling.

Nit many highlights today, Charles de Gaulles cemetery ..?? Kind of sums up the day really.

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Stage 5 Vittel to La Planche des belle Filles 170km

Today saw the first introduction to the mountains and an iconic finish at LaPlanche belle Filles. Shorter in distance at 170km was balanced by a finishing climb of 18km and the final 6km at a brutal average 9% !

Weather was really good despite the forecasted thunder storms and the final 2 hours was climbing in scorching hot conditions.

Early changes were quick as groups fought for positions on the road but the latter stages were splintered due to the severity of the climbs.

I finished well … but certainly the legs were aware of the hard days work.

Some incredible views of small French towns and villages that are preparing for the ‘real’ tour …. whilst riding today, and highlights the real privilege it is to ride tbis event.

On a bus now transferring to the next stage tomorrow, sure is trashing round and everyone trying to grab some rest and recovery.

Until tomorrow……

 

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Day 4 Mondorf des Bain to Villet 207km

An early 5.30am transfer from our overnight hotel , the worst so far …Geez !!…to breakfast in Mondorf where we were greeted by Frank Schelk the TDF pro rider who has riden the event 9 times for breakfast and a Q&A …

Suitably motivated we set out from Luxembourg on a 207 km fairly flat stage.

Riders took plenty of turns on the front throughout the day… to keep energy levels as high as possible, as tomorrow sees the first real testing climbs. It’s a feature that you are always looking a day ahead assessing effort levels throughout the current days ride.

we eventually rode in some 7 hours after starting to a decent hotel … massage, shower, dinner and pack your bags for a start tomorrow which is a little kinder at 7am.

weather forecast tomorrow  is thunderstorms so a lot to contend with, still a great days riding today and a good steady pace.

Off to kip now !!

 

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Verviers to Longwy 217km

The 3rd stage took us through 3 countries. We strayed in Belgium ??, travelled from North to South through beautiful Luxembourg and ended up in a French town Longwy.

Toughest and longest day so far, saw much smaller groups forming as the climbs had a big impact on the largest groups sticking together.

Luxembourg was certainly a highlight the roads were perfect to cycle on and villages and countryside and views were amazing, it almost took the pain of the hills away … well almost.

A lot of tired legs today in very hot conditions, sadly the weather is due to turn very wet tomorrow for another 200km plus ride

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Stage 2 Düsseldorf to Liege

Well we finally got underway….Nearly 100 riders set off into damp and windy conditions.

The first 40km is relatively controlled and all riders The enjoyed the benefits of a gentle pace. After the first feed station things jotted up a little as groups formed and everyone was obliged to do their bit at the front … including me obviously ?

The ride itself was quite bland leaving Germany along the flats and eventually riding into Belgium which had a bit more picture postcard villages. The day was dominated by a stiff south westerly which took its tole by the end of the day.

A great ride nonetheless, and certainly an opportunity to find out whose who in the peloton ???.

Tomorrow ; longer and hillier !!

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Prologue 14km Düsseldorf

Well that was harder and more tedious than it should of been !!

14km through Dusseldorf in a group of over 80 cyclists hitting every red light is a recipe for a long slow ride …it’s done now,got the legs spinning and certainly learnt how to ride in a big group … slowly.

Tomorrow will be different,over 200km rolling into Liege Belgium ??  … must remember to cycle well within myself and not get carried away with any pace setting .. as if !!

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First day Tour de Force

After breakfast spent the morning in Dusseldorf city again.

Cooler and windier today which is probably better riding conditions, which shouldn’t cause any issues for today’s ride which is riding along the River Rhine through the city’s busiest roads. At briefing we have be warned not to race and ride as a group, about 70 riders for the first day. City full of TDF advertising ?????

 

 

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Arrived in Düsseldorf

Arrived in Düsseldorf, beautiful city. Have taken in the atmosphere and sampled the city’s culture.

The city is all set up for the start of next weeks TDF commencing although our start is tomorrow with a 14km time trial.

Met a number of other riders who all look lean, mean and professional… obviously everybody quietly sizing each other up even though it’s a challenge.

The months of training, hard work and sacrifices are over, nothing else can be done but wait until tomorrow.

Nerves and trepidation as well as excitement…

the time has arrived ????