Back riding tomorrow 

Today is a rest day in Puy en Vallee – a lovely town famous for its lentils. Any guesses as to what we had for dinner last night?  A lie in and leisurely breakfast today followed by some bike cleaning and checking. One of the excellent and very patient bike mechanics – Gideon – had my bike repaired in no time. Miraculously, the bike had suffered no lasting damage and with a few adjustments to the front spokes the front wheel ‘wobble’ was sorted out. The bike was checked over and no further damage found.  Not only is my bike now OK but I am now much much better and I have been cleared by the docs and physios to ride again tomorrow – not all of it as I am still sore.

The docs and physios reckon I have had enough Tramadol now (shame!) and the bruising is now coming out nicely from my side and thigh – and there is plenty of it. Right now I am lying flat on my back with my right foot up in the air trying to drain back a lot of swelling which has headed south into my knee, calf and foot. My ankle is bandaged to stop it swelling further and I have a very unsexy stocking over the whole of my right leg to provide added compression.

It may all look a bit dramatic and I did feel a little self-conscious as I hobbled round Puy en Vallee with a flip flop on one foot and an ill-fitting cheap supermarket slipper on the other. I did get a lot of sympathy at pedestrian crossings and had a delicious steak and chips.

As for yesterday it turned out to be another day of ‘mucking in’ starting with setting up and running the second feedstop about 80km into the stage. It was straightforward enough setting it all up but it became much harder when a large number of riders turned up cold, wet and shivering after an unexpected amount of rain and a temperature drop which went as low as 8C (the previous day had been 30C+ all day) so we were kept very busy issuing blankets and hot cups of tea and coffee. 

We were a pretty happy lot in the van as we knew we were warm and many of the riders were having a much tougher day than they had bargained or prepared for. I was particularly happy as I was feeling no pain and the Tramadol was having quite an effect on my personality and I was very uninhibited with my views on the world. Fortunately my companions in the van, which included some very quiet, soggy and cold riders who had to abandon cycling while they warmed up, found it highly amusing and spirits were raised on the back of my drug fuelled rants and comments. I cannot recommend Tramadol highly enough!

The weather was not great for much of the day but as the afternoon wore on the clouds slowly parted and we were treated to some wonderful views of the Massif Central with vistas of domed volcanic mountains.  At the time I was assigned to the ‘sign collecting ‘ van which follows the last rider and collects the marker signs which indicate the route for the day. Inevitably, some of the riders were very tired and the final climb was very steep up the side of a huge valley with stunning views from the top. We drove the van close behind and beside the riders yelling encouragement and playing ‘eye of the tiger’ at full volume as they struggled up. I felt privileged to be able to congratulate them at the top, take pictures and celebrate their achievement in reaching the top as well as pointing out the stunning view some had barely noticed.

The first part of the stage tomorrow is pretty much uphill straight from the hotel. I have been told I must start from the first feedstop which is about 40km into the stage and see if I can ride to the third feedstop which should see me completing around 50 miles of relatively straightforward cycling. The following two days are tough stages in the Alps, and I will play it by ear as to what I attempt.

Looking forward to being back on the horse tomorrow.