Yesterday was the most challenging and fantastic days cycling I have ever had. Some very tough climbs and fast descents but the day was marred by me crashing on a downhill and ending up in hospital to be checked over and three stitches in a puncture would just above my right hip. All sounds a bit dramatic and I guess it was. I misjudged a bend and came off the bike – with my right side taking the impact with the concrete gully on the side of the road and the rocks just above it. I was driven the last few kms to our accommodation the Tour doctor decided I needed to go to hospital so an ambulance was summoned and was driven down the mountain.
The French paramedics, medics and nurses were fantastic – and one nurse was particularly attractive and pleasant – I cannot fault them. I was discharged at around 1.30am and am now in a nearby hotel waiting for someone from The Tour de Force to pick me up. The hospital even arranged for a hotel room and one of the staff drove me there. Whatever anyone says about the French and France they do have great humanity and Brexit does not mean they don’t want to know us any more.
Apart from my little drama the day was one of the most enjoyable, tough and exhilarating days of my life. I love mountains and the Pyrenees are spectacular and have an ability to elicit emotions just by being there. On one fast donhill I realised that tears were welling up – no idea why but somehow it felt right – a very special moment.
Back to the start of yesterday – which was a very long day in many respects. A 6.30 alarm call followed by a mad rush to get as much breakfast down me as I could as well as sort bags out and check and retrieve the bike. I had not had a great nights sleep – I asked my room mate if he snores – he will remain nameless – and he responded by saying his girlfriend says he doesn’t. So I did not bother with earplugs – what a mistake! I was a bit if a zombie and was not really ‘with it’ as I got ready to ride but somehow I managed it.
I set off around 7.30 and the first 100km+ were pretty uneventful. The first person I overtook was one of the older cyclists and I was pretty pleased with that until the same cyclist came roaring past me on the next climb. Turns out it was Andrew Wates (William Wates Dad) who admitted that he has a little self-charging ekectric motor fitted to his bike which made me feel much better.
As the day wore on I cycled and chatted with several cyclists as we rode through typically french countryside, towns and villages – all friendly and interesting people keen to chat and pass the time. One highlight was being cheered (I think they were cheering!) by most of the children in a Primary school as we rode past.
The feedstops are something else – roughly 40km apart with all you can eat and water laid out on tables ready for cyclists to stuff faces and pockets before moving on to the next section. A mechanic and physio is also at the ready for any bike or injury problems.
The second half of the day was much much tougher – mountains. I had never cycled up a mountain before and I am really pleased that I managed to get up everything put in front of me. The toughest was the last one – see pic. It seemed to go on for ever and it was a great feeling to finally reach the summit.
The day was very warm and humid and I drank and ate vast quantities of energy drinks, water and food. Thankfully the sun stayed behind the thin clouds and prevented it becoming seriously hot. Today looks like being a hot day and it won’t be easy for the cyclists out in the heat – I would love to out there with them.
Right now, sitting in a hotel waiting to be picked up I have a mix of conflicting emotions – incredibly disappointed that I crashed and injured myself (I know exactly what I did wrong) BUT at the same time I realise I am very very lucky I was not badly injured – if anyone doubts the value of a bike helmet then put them in touch with me. I am also concerned I may be a burden to the Tour de Force and might have to come home early. I hope I will be able to ride again but I will be guided by the Tour organisers and Docs.