View Full Version : My Tour De France 2014...

28-07-2014, 08:20 PM
This may not have universal appeal on here, but given the sparsity of Trip Reports on here of late, I thought I’d put this together for any of you interested…

During a get-together last Christmas with some of my oldest friends, 4 of us decided to take a trip to France this Summer, to tackle the toughest Tour de France climbs and to catch some of the TdeF action and atmosphere… just another experience to tick off the bucket-list. Myself and John (who a few of you may know as he joined us on Team Northloop for our Rad am ‘Ring 24hr Race 2011) would be flying from Cork, Alan would be flying from Boston, USA and John would be flying from San Diego, USA, all with our bikes and requisite gear in tow.

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5376_zpsc333c44c.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5376_zpsc333c44c.jpg.html)

Saturday 19th July

Early morning 2hr flight from Cork to Carcassone, which is a diminutive 4-gate airport, so suitably user-friendly. Picked up our rental-cars which, originally were supposed to be Renault MPVs but because of some confusion at Europcar’s end, turned out be 2 brand new Citroen & Peugeot vans (as it happened, they were perfect for the job). We hit the road SW and, after a bit of tricky navigation (forgot our Garmin SatNavs, of course) got to our destination after a 3hr drive.

The house we rented for the week was in a townland called Boo-Silhen (around 30km South of Toulouse), just a few kms from the town of Argeles-Gazost. It was at a rural yet obscure crossroads, unlike the usual + format, the roads went off in curious directions...

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5284_zps4c58f02b.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5284_zps4c58f02b.jpg.html)

Just outside (and under) our house-gate was a stream, in which we walked each evening to cool our feet & legs after our days cycling…

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5287_zps43418b32.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5287_zps43418b32.jpg.html)

And just across the road was a beautiful little Church…

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5286_zpsc223a595.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5286_zpsc223a595.jpg.html)

which looked particularly nice after dark, when it was flood-lit…

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5373_zpsf0d171e8.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5373_zpsf0d171e8.jpg.html)

After settling in the house, we headed to the local Supermarché in Argeles, to drop a few hundred € in stocking up the house with grub and consumables for the the next few days… Then, with all that lot packed away, we drove up the nearest mountain, which was the Hautacam climb, a mere 2kms from the house. Even driving up that was a surreal experience. We started the climb, but before long, we were looking out the window at the view below thinking “bloody hell, we’re getting quite high now…”, and we were only a fraction of the way to the summit. It’s quite deceptive how quickly one gains altitude on these climbs, up into the clouds, and then some… To be honest, I personally would have preferred not seeing it before I cycled it, but it was still a breath-taking view at the top…

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5243_zpsd464248c.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5243_zpsd464248c.jpg.html)

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5244_zps0a165046.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5244_zps0a165046.jpg.html)

* more to come, probably tomorrow eve, when I’ll next have a chance to do more…

28-07-2014, 08:28 PM
Popcorn at the ready :thumb: I know what you mean about not driving up first. Nice (and difficult) climbs should be a total surprise.

28-07-2014, 08:40 PM
:happy: Nice surprise this Rory :thumb: more please

Popcorn at the ready :thumb: I know what you mean about not driving up first. Nice (and difficult) climbs should be a total surprise.

I once did the joux plan back over to Morzine on my 35lb 6"travel bike clad in 2.5" super tacky tires - it took quite a while:lol::loser:

Dave B
28-07-2014, 09:08 PM
Good stuff Rory, looking forward to part 2,3,4..... :thumb:

28-07-2014, 09:19 PM
Excellent, a trip report :veryhappy:

We`re waiting for the rest of it now...:wave:

28-07-2014, 09:34 PM
Taps fingers, looking forward to this :thumb:

31-07-2014, 10:13 PM
Great report. Keep it coming. Very jealous.

01-08-2014, 12:41 PM
You drove up the Hautacam before cycling up it? Rookie error :lol:

I'm looking forward to following in your footsteps in 4 weeks and cycling these climbs:rave:

01-08-2014, 03:06 PM
Always look forward to reading your stuff on here Rory.

04-08-2014, 04:15 PM
Thanks for the comments lads :thumb:
and really sorry for the delay in continuing this..
have had quite a crazy week since I got back and haven't had a chance to keeep this going...
back on track now though -

Sunday 20th July

Had a crappy night’s sleep, because of the heat and humidity. After breakfast, we un-packed and re-assembled our bikes, with the hope that nothing was damaged during transit. Once done, we did a short local spin on the flat, to loosen out the legs and make sure that everything mechanical worked ok… it did.

Our plans for today were unexpectedly thrown into disarray. We 3 had planned to drive up to Pau to collect our 4th man from the Airport there, he having flown from Boston, USA to Paris and a short feeder flight from Paris to Pau… but the Etape (amateur Tour de France stage) was on today so there were a lot of road closures, both in our location and in Pau (the Etape started in Pau, went up over Tourmalet and came down near us to go up over Hautacam)… I won’t bore you with the logistic computations, but it rather threw a spanner in our works! Last evening we mulled over the options and restrictions (despite our travel-frazzled minds) and, having spoken to a local Gendarmerie today, reckoned we had mapped a route from us to Pau and back which avoided all the closures and prevented one of us wasting many hours waiting for roads to be re-opened. It was to be a 1-man job, and that man was John. It went as we’d hoped and the lads arrived back to find myself and the other John in the stream -

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMG_5327_zps98cba126.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMG_5327_zps98cba126.jpg.html)

While he was gone, the other John and I cycled to the junction 1km up the road to watch the Etape participants come form the Tourmalet and start the Hautecam climb. Apparently there were 13,000 participants taking part and there was a steady stream of cyclist passing us, going up the mountain and coming down, they were of all shapes & sizes, and on all manners of machinery… Hmm, reckon that’s a do-able challenge for next year. :thumb:

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5264_zps58eeb16f.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5264_zps58eeb16f.jpg.html)

Back to the gaff, had a stream-walk, cooked and ate,
and chilled for the evening in preparation for our 1st day of work on the bike tomorrow…

Monday 21st July

After another crappy and sweaty night’s sleep, we got ourselves + bikes + necessary gear & supplies ready to take on the French hills. Today would be Hautacam, a legendary climb of the Tour de France (for those who follow it), and the closest one to where our house was (1.5km). It’s summit is at 1,520m, with 1,200m of climbing from it’s base and is 10.4miles in length.

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5274_zps13addfe5.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5274_zps13addfe5.jpg.html)

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMG_5337_zps79e78c13.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMG_5337_zps79e78c13.jpg.html)

Being of slighter build and of less weight (69kilos) than my colleagues is of some considerable advantage to me in the hills… we started the climb together, but before long, I was up ahead on my own. The Hautacam climb is gruelling, as the gradient keeps changing (from 7% to 13%) so it’s very difficult to set and keep a rhythm. Added to which, I had an issue with gear selection on my rear-derailleur… the chain was jumping all over the shop on the top 3 cogs. Each time that happens, it gives the legs an energy-zapping jolt and is quite draining. Nonetheless, I kept turning them as I watched the local town of Argeles-Gasozt become more visably distant below me. At one point (maybe ½ way up the climb approx.), I stopped to take a few photos…

With zoom -

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5275_zps23e3cdf5.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5275_zps23e3cdf5.jpg.html)

Without zoom -

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5276_zps364ea48e.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5276_zps364ea48e.jpg.html)

Looking up that hill -

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5277_zps64b95ca2.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5277_zps64b95ca2.jpg.html)

After 1hr11m58s of grind, I reached the summit. My bike-computer told me I’d had a 7.0mph average-speed for the climb. The view was spectacular, and I was amazed at the number of camper-vans already positioned in anticipation of the Tour de France race, which wasn’t due there for another 3 days… I chilled out, and waited for the lads, who arrived up there 40mins later.

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5278_zps9a530204.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5278_zps9a530204.jpg.html)

After celebrating and enjoying our moment at the top, it was time for our descent. Because of the altitude, it was a bit nippy up there but I refused to put on a jacket as I knew I would feel warmer as we dropped altitude… So off we went, and it proved to be a memorable descent for me personally… At around 3kms from the top, there was a cattle-grid in the road, which I slowed the bike for. When I went to accelerate once over it, there was resistance and then none… bike-chain had snapped. Despite going at speed, I looked down and could see that the chain had tied itself in a rather neat ball around the rear-cogs so I kept going… but after another few kms, I heard a metallic twang of the chain off one of the rear-wheel spokes so I pulled in immediately. Pulled the chain off the bike and put it in a bag in my jersey pocket, saddled back up and let gravity take me the rest of the way down.

Alan had a Go-Pro camera on his helmet which captured it all -
> me pulled in to extract the chain @ 5m40s
> me overtaking Alan at silly speed (with no chain on the bike, so no propulsion..) @ 9m35s
> and some other stuff...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDt-DQqXpRM (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDt-DQqXpRM%5b/video)

That evening, we had our stream-walk and kicked back in the house, having a few beers and laughs while reviewing our GoPro footage from the day…

> Tomorrow – Col du Tourmalet!

Dave B
04-08-2014, 08:23 PM
Stop slacking man ! Get the rest typed up.

I did an etape in 2004, Limoges to St Flour. It was a proper barstad.
149 miles and about 5500m of climbing. Well worth doing one (or more than 1) as the organisation is great and being cheered on for the best part of a full day of cycling byt the great French public is amazing. :thumb:

05-08-2014, 09:51 AM
Stop slacking man ! Get the rest typed up.

Allez, allez, Rory.

05-08-2014, 11:03 AM
Enjoying this Rory :thumb: Encore!

05-08-2014, 12:36 PM
Loved the bit where you overtook Alan just after the 30kmh limit sign :lol: Great write up so far, Rory:thumb:

06-08-2014, 09:01 PM
I did an etape in 2004, Limoges to St Flour. It was a proper barstad... 149 miles and about 5500m of climbing. Well worth doing one (or more than 1) as the organisation is great and being cheered on for the best part of a full day of cycling by the great French public is amazing. That sounds great Dave, well done! :thumb:
One of the lads and I are already planning on doing the one next year,
think it would be a great challenge and good achievement to have in the bag.

Loved the bit where you overtook Alan just after the 30kmh limit sign It was only when I watched the video that I heard him shout the “Speed-bump!” warning to me as I flew past, at the time I was going too fast to hear it and, by the look of it, was around 20 yards ahead of him by the time he got the words out… :lol: still had the sped-bump well clocked though. :wink:

Tuesday 22nd July

After my busted-chain and jumping gears issues on the Hautacam yesterday, I went to the local bike-shop in Argeles-Gazost in late afternoon to get them sorted. I had a new Shimano 105 chain with me in my spares-kit, which I gave them to fit and also asked for the gears to be tuned.. It wouldn’t be ready until this morning so I duly arrived at their door at 9am and, in fairness to them, everything was done and looked to be sorted – sweet!

Back to the gaff to shower, power-munch and gear-up for today’s challenge – le Col du Tourmalet. At it’s base is a lovely town called Luz-St. Sauveur, which was around a 30min drive from the house, through a stunningly-picturesque gorge with a rushing-river raging through it. We parked our 2 Team-Europcar Vans in the only public car-park in the town, unloaded the bikes and our climbing started immediately as we headed out of the town…

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5291_zps30664915.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5291_zps30664915.jpg.html)

As with yesterday, we each had different paces of climbing so the lads set their rhythm and I set mine… before long I was up ahead and out of sight. That’s the only bugger about being comparatively light & quicker in the hills – you spend most of your time on your own, with no-one for company but yourself.. at least that’s how it was for me. The weather today was clear, sunny and hot (30ºC+) but, unlike on the Hautacam yesterday, today’s gradient was nicely consistent (the initial number of miles was between 7-9%) so conducive to a solid rhythm. Again, unlike yesterday, today’s roads were wide and smooth, with big sweeping corners and very good visibility ahead. I stopped at this point to take a few photos looking down the valley I’d just come up… nice eh?!

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5293_zpsaf1cd389.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5293_zpsaf1cd389.jpg.html)

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5294_zps3479c904.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5294_zps3479c904.jpg.html)

From here on, the gradients ramped up a bit (to between 10% and 13%..) and the roads became less-wide as we climbed up into the hills.. still solid and consistent though so I could maintain a steady rhythm. The further up you go, the more gruelling it becomes, with continuous steep sections lasting miles which really take their toll on the legs. One point is reached where you look up and get your first glimpse of the ski-station way above at the summit.. I found that momentarily demoralising, as I surveyed the landscape wondering where the hell the roads were that were going to take me up there.. Ah well, head down and onwards and upwards..

More miles and into the higher sections, where the sheer drops off the side of the road are increasingly un-nerving. A lot of sections of the road had no negligible verge on the downhill side, so, a wobble off the tarmac and down you go a near-vertical face.. In the latter stages, the drops of the road were positively butt-clenching to look down, to the point that I was favouring the middle of the narrow road when there was no on-coming traffic… As I neared the top, I glanced down once or twice but just had to look back at the tarmac in front of me and think about nothing else…

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5295_zps1c10730e.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5295_zps1c10730e.jpg.html)

With a few Kms to go, I stopped at a spring-stream that was running down the mountain-rocks and re-filled my 2 water-bottles with the fresh water. It’s cool purity and freshness really gave me a kick for the last bit. More grind, more not looking down.. and soon the gradient flattened out for a bit and I could see the final hairpin-left.. that flattening was just a tease though because around that last hairpin the road really ramped up to around 15% for the final slog to the summit, that was an absolute b@st@rd on tired legs!!

Sod it though, ground it out and got to the Restaurant at the summit – completed the 11.95miles and 1400m climbing of Tourmalet in 1hr 38m35s with a 7.2mph avg speed.

I knew I had some time to wait there for the lads (45mins as it happens) so I sat on the grass, chilling out in the sunshine and took a few photos of what spread out below me. These photos only show the top sections with the last few kms of road, there is soo much more out-of sight further down… note the cloud-level, and the snow still on the mountains up on the left... :wink:

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5297_zps947e28f4.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5297_zps947e28f4.jpg.html)

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5296_zpsbe49f158.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5296_zpsbe49f158.jpg.html)

The lads arrived and, after congratulating ourselves and discussing the brutality of the climb just done, we did the necessary photos for the album…

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5298_zpsf7b40b30.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5298_zpsf7b40b30.jpg.html)

http://i709.photobucket.com/albums/ww96/sizzle_01/IMGP5300_zps5ad83a3e.jpg (http://s709.photobucket.com/user/sizzle_01/media/IMGP5300_zps5ad83a3e.jpg.html)

And now, the down-hill, the fun-prize after all the work… :thumb:
I won’t bother describing that, as I’ve a video which give a much better account.
It’s quite a long one - @ 25mins - but I think it will give a good respresentation of the landscape (including perhaps some of the drops), the gradient, our rather high speeds and the huge fun it was…

Just a few things of note –
> @ 1m50s – you’ll see there was a Road-Sweeper truck on the road (which was cleaning the road for the Tour de France boys who were due up and down here in 2 days time) with a line of cars behind it.. The chap in the last car kindly waved us on, but, as the camera-bike passes the truck on it’s Lhs, you may note the itsy bit of kerb and absence of verge on the left side of the road.. beyond that lack of protection, there is a massive and frightening sheer drop… it still makes my knees knock watching the vid and thinking back... :shock:
> @ 13m30s – I particularly love this bit. The camera for this bit was on Alan’s bike and he was a bit more tentative than the rest of us on the downhills for the first few days. Here you’ll see us 3 overtake him on his left at a proper lick.. within 2 corners we’re as good as out of sight.. by midweek though, he’d gained a lot more confidence in both himself and his bike and he was as committed on the downhills as the rest of us.

Anyway, here it is, enjoy -


Tomorrow – Col du Soular…

* apologies if I’m boring you with laborious details,
just trying to give as full an account of the climbs and the biking as I can.. :wink:

14-08-2014, 01:14 PM
Rory, Rory, tell us the rest of the story :lol::thumb:

Dave B
14-08-2014, 03:35 PM
Quite. Come on yer slacker

14-08-2014, 04:08 PM
Sorry guys, I just haven't had the spare time to keep up with this... but I will!
It takes a bit o' work (thinking, reflecting, typing, uploading & copying) to produce what I have so far...
more to come, will do the rest as soon as I have the time..
Sorry for the delay, hope y'all are enjoying it so far..? :shame:

15-08-2014, 11:00 AM
...hope y'all are enjoying it so far..? :shame:

Very muchly thanks, Rory, :veryhappy: