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Tour de Force Cycling

768 1024 Gerard O'Connor

Stage 20 Marseille TT 22km

TOUR DE FRANCE

An amateur should think long and hard before attempting one of these stages, 2 would probably necessitate a visit to a doctor, 3 would require a psychiatrist – anymore and you should be checking that person has written a will.
Bernard Hinault, 5 times Tour de France winner

Kind of sums it up really …20 stages complete, 1 gentle ride into Paris tomorrow

Could I really fulfill a lifetimes ambition and complete the 21 stages of the TDF … really ??

Paris is in touching distance…

It wasn’t really a TIme Trial it was a gentle ride around the port of Marseille and a sharp ramp up to the city’s beautiful basilica. It will be a technical ride for the PROS as it winds it way around the streets at the speeds they travel , for us it was a ride to savour , it was an opportunity to just turn the legs ?

Now it’s a TGV ride up to Paris… full of excitement at the thought of this epic  journey coming to an end.

677 920 Gerard O'Connor

Briacon to Briacon 202km Final Alps stage

This was a ride that was feared by a lot of riders and was ‘get round in any shape’ mentality. Follwiing immediately in from yesterday’s gruelling stage 17, the ride included a cat3 climb, cat 1 Col de Vars and the infamous HC climb Col d’Izoard the final col (mountain climb) if the tour.

It was warm from the off as we set out at a gentle pace. I promised myself to set in the main group and try and keep as much energy for the climbing which didn’t start until 120 km.

The scenery was breathtaking, the best all tour, and legs didn’t seem in too much discomfort at the gentle pace.

Huges lakes, gorges,Valleys and treelined mountains this stage wins for pure beauty.

We were able to admire it all as the ride was a mixture of rolling hills and flats,very much easier than what  was ahead.

I spent the most of the ride with Gav who has kept me entertained throughout these last 3 weeks… it’s been a ‘bubble’ existence that quite frankly has flown over from the riding perspective.

The Cols came soon enough,I’m not sure whether it’s because we have have y led so much harder but we glided over first Col and plunged down the mountain heading for the’ easy’ that was Izoard.

The temperatures were now in the high 30s and climb gavea scent of pine as we cycled up through the pine tree lined roads. The road then became exposed to the full heat and almost a desert like landscape and elevations ofup to 12%… but it was my day … the final 5 km of the averaged 10%but became I had ridden gently early on I seemed to cruise up the top without difficulty and the raced down the20 km descent with a great deal of satisfaction.

TheAlps are over … it’s been amazing first time experience riding these mountains,one that will live in the mind for years to come.

Early start in the morning as we head South for the longest stage of the tour … it’s not all over yet !!!!

750 523 Gerard O'Connor

Le Puy en Velay to Romans sur isere 168km

Today was all about getting through the day and conserving as much energy as possible for the demanding next 2 stages in the Alps. Stages that stand between me completing the Tour de France. Following stages are difficult (one in length) but by reputation alone the Alps will prove a huge challeng.The rest day was gratefully received and a bit to early start, 8am we rolled out of the lovely  Le Puy en Velay in glorious sunshine., within 20 minutes  the weather changed again and we were caught in another torrential downpour, a permanent feature of this years tour.

A couple of catergorised climbs in the first half of the ride didn’t cause too many issues as we nipped along at a fair pace.

The reward for the morning part of the ride was a very long descent on wide open roads and great tarmac and we are into the miles through the Ardeche area of France.

The final 50km ran alongside the Rhone and in the distance the group could see what was ahead in the distance, the Alps… the do look huge …totally different, obviously, to my skiing experiences when the snow capped mountains are replaced by lush greenery, I may not feel the same about their beauty over the few days.

Group riding got us to the finish all in tact and fairly generally fresh, amazing to think that riding over 100 miles in day is now part of the recovery process….

16 stages complete … dare not look to far ahead, but a sense of achievement to be this far …. the next days will no doubt shape the outcome.

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 ?.