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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.

750 640 Gerard O'Connor

Embrun to Salons la Provence 233km … Longest stage on the tour

All the riders wanted to do was survive and get through this stage.

At 233km (nearly 150 miles) it was going to be a long day in searing temperatures riding through the French Provences.

The stage started with some lumpy ascents which asked more of the legs than they were perepared for at this stage. In no time at all the sun was high in the sky as the heating had been turned up to maximum.

The weather has been a huge factor in the 3 weeks tour and instead of the warm temperatures I had expected throughout,it has gone from extremely cold , torrential downpours, thunderstorms, gale force winds, to crosswinds and tropical heat .. with no 2 days the same.

Today was all about group riding, finding similar standard riders who could share a 5 minute stint in front and the first half of the ride was eaten up  quickly as I found a group of 8 which shared the load.

The second half of the ride was hard work, temperatures soared and the headwinds / crosswinds were so strong that it started throwing bikes side ways in the road … gusts were estimated at about 40km/h…, after over 100 miles of riding this was proving difficult despite the relatively flat Provence region.

There was 1 final Col (Cat 3) which a group of 5 races up as if it wasn’t there , that is one thing I’ve learnt, my climbing skills now have improved dramatically, a look right saw Mount Ventoux and a final look at the Alps … yep I kicked your ass didn’t I ???.

We finally rolled into Surs la Provence drained with the heat and wind, inside feeling quietly emotional that the work was nearly complete… Could I really complete the TOur de France … perhaps the lifetimes ambition was now becoming a distinct possibility.

Food and another early night … Paris was now in touching distance