Friday, June 7, 2013

Valmorel Froome Special

Unfortunately we missed this actual finish by ten minutes – but arrived just in time to see Chris Froome receiving his yellow jersey on the podium for the 5th stage of the Critérium Dauphiné. That’s Alberto Contador in second place behind him. I think our own battle getting to the this location was definitely more difficult than his!


6 kilometers from the finish line – with about an hour in hand before the arrival of the racers – we were stopped by a brutish looking policeman who insisted that we couldn’t cycle but could only walk the rest of the way. When one disgruntled French cyclist asked why the policeman responded “Because I say so"!” in typical celebration of the abuse of public authority.

Chris, and the others walked a bit and then tried to proceed on their bikes – but getting to the end was never going to happen. Lesley decided to follow my suggestion of crossing the valley and finishing the climb on the other side of the valley using my GPS. The only snag was that it was a deep valley and there was only a dirt path on the map for the crossing. When Lesley stopped to debate the point about walking with another policeman she ended up having to let him lift her bike to feel the weight and to discus her own weight. I was shouting for her to get a move on, knowing that time was limited. We had to cut through a field to find the path and go through an electric fence. I’d thought that was our main obstacle but instead the occupants of the field turned out to be a rather belligerent herd of cattle who stampeded over to us and gave us a rather nasty eyeballing. Lesley pretended to be an even noisier cow (literally – mooing etc) and psyching out the main aggressor, while I hid motionless behind my 6.3kg bike. Eventually it was clear that we could move on and through the fence again – but this time I managed to get zapped while squeezing beneath it. Then is was a disconcertingly long hike down into the valley through mud and gravel in our cycling shoes and cleats! Perhaps this is a good introduction to the sport of cyclo-cross? The hike back up the other side was tiring as it was steep and long again. In all it took 25 minutes from the time we were stopped by the police to completing the crossing so that wasn’t too bad. Chris was frantically calling on the phone to find out what was happening with us but we were past the point of return. They had abandoned their efforts and settled down at a roadside bar to wait for the racers to appear.

We resumed the climb on the bike and had some challenging climbs to negotiate – reaching 35% gradient at one point. It was more of a climb than we had bargained for really. Eventually Lesley noticed the sound of the helicopter approaching so we knew we weren’t going to make it to the top in time though we pushed on. Suddenly the road evaporated into a dirt trail again and got steeper so we stopped to look across the valley and watch the leaders of the race passing in the distance. Having come this far we really had to continue so we walked about another three or four hundred meters uphill and eventually could get back on the bikes again – dismounting only to walk over a muddy construction site in Valmorel itself – it was endless! A brief descent and then walk with the bikes on the main road alongside some racers arriving and then up a few staircases through the village and we made it to the finish line – just a minute before Chris Froome stepped up to the podium to collect his famous yellow jersey for taking the overall lead in the competition having just won the stage from Alberto Contador in second. I was amazed how skinny his legs are! The vast bulk of the racers were still to arrive and did so in three or four large pelotons well behind the winners.

After a rest and a Coke on a suitable terrace we raced the team busses back down the main road and it was probably the only time ever that we will have had the opportunity to overtake all the top cycling teams in the world on our bikes. The sun stayed out all afternoon and it was boiling when climbing – a sharp contrast to the consistently cold Spring that we have suffered this year.

No comments:

Post a Comment