Monday, July 8, 2013

Stage Nine

If I'd had a premonition that the contenders would be maxing it out today reaching the finish well ahead of schedule I would have stopped at a bar in Rochefort when I passed through at three rather than pushing on and trying to find a bar an hour later.  If I weren't  in such a tight race to reach Brittany in time for Stage Ten, I most surely would have stopped then, if not sooner, to watch the peloton's final day in the Pyrenees.  If I had, I would have been treated to one of those ultimate days of racing.

Garmin came out swinging from the start pushing the pace.  It was soon too much for Richie Porte, who was so strong yesterday, and made it appear as if Sky had a potent one-two punch equivalent to what they had last year.  Porte used up all his energy yesterday and lost nearly eighteen minutes.  Suddenly Sky is no longer invincible and may be missing Wiggins.  Froome was left on his own against all else, but he was up to the task.

Garmin's American hope Talansky also did not recover so well from his efforts the day before either.   He lost seven minutes and drops from 12th to 22nd and no longer looks like top ten material this year.  But his Irish teammate made up for his struggles and won the stage, a great coup for the Garmin team.  Martin moves up to 8th overall, two minutes and 28 seconds behind Froome, and can have legitimate podium aspirations.

He becomes another English speaker to win a stage or wear the yellow jersey.  There have also been a couple of Brits, an Aussie and a South African.  The cycling dominant nations, France, Italy, Spain and Holland have been shut out so far.  It will make for much rest day fodder in the press.

Unfortunately I had to relive all the day's thrills as I once did in a long ago past, resorting to the minute by minute reports, as by the time I found a bar the stage was completed.  But at least I gained extra mileage and am in a good position to complete the most monstrous transfer between stages in my ten years of following The Tour, from the bottom of the country to the top.

Every year when The Tour route is announced in October I look to see what the transfers will be, just as the racers look at what the mountain stages will offer, and start mentally preparing for that most difficult stage or transfer.  This transfer has been weighing on me for months, enough so that I rode it a month ago to see what it would take to do it.  It's not done yet, as a hostile wind could set me back, but it looks as if I will accomplish it, an achievement equivalent to winning a stage for someone in The Race.

Today was another hot, hot day. With it so hot, I thought the winds would be blowing strongly from the south, making it easy for me, but they were actually mostly from the east with a little northerly thrown in. That the winds can blow from the north this time of the year is encouraging, as I'll have a long slog south to the Alps from Brittany.  

I tried to keep to a tight schedule of an hour on the bike and half an hour off all day, amounting to nine plus hours of riding time, enabling me to rack up 120 miles for the day. The heat was draining and had me worried about my energy, but each rest and dousing revived me.  I was concerned enough about dehydration that I filled my Tupperware bowl with water to go along with my five water bottles before I camped, and I drank nearly all of them.  It seemed like I was waking up every fifteen minutes to take another sip of water.

I had been hoping to meet up with Glenn the Englishman in Brittany, but he reports that the heat and the climbing in the Pyrenees has done him in and that he is flying home, not even wishing to take a couple days of rest and perhaps meeting up in the Alps.  Mont Ventoux and L'Alpe d'Huez lost their allure learning how demanding such climbs can be.  

I rode to just before sunset and camped in a slice of bare ground between a wheat and corn field sixty miles south of Nantes.

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