Wednesday, September 02, 2009

GRIMPYS Ride Report

RIDE LE TOUR Sports tour organised via Baxter's
GRIMPYS Ride Report - as specially requested by Peter Horne
Published with a bit of help from Ian for the photos - enjoy!

At the top of Ventoux

The ride covered the route of the 3rd week of TDF, from MARTIGNY in Switzerland to PARIS

The aim was to ride each stage of the third week of the TDF, 2 days in front of the pros

  • Stage 16 MATIGNY to BOURG saint MAURICE 165Km (2 major climbs)
  • Stage 17 BOURG st. MAURICE to Le GRAND BORNARD 169Km (5 climbs)
  • Stage 18 ANNECY Time trial 40Km
  • Stage 19 BOIRGOIN JALLIEU to AUBENAS 195Km (3 minor climbs)
  • Stage 20 MONTELIMAR to MONT VENTOUX 167 Km ( 4 minor climbs + Ventoux)
  • Stage 21 Montereau-Faul-Yonne to PARIS 164Km flat

There were 5 in the party:


Kevin White from Matlock CC in mid 30's

Steve Strange also from Matlock CC similar age

David Robinson (London banker? again in 30's) rides Iron Man events

Kevin Banbury ( from Swansea age 42 had ridden end to end in 5 days prior to this ride and was riding all 3 weeks of the tour)


With the exception of Kevin Banbury we were all collected by Mark (Sports tours rep. later found out in his younger days he raced in Belgium for a season although is favourite sport was running, came from Yorkshire but was living in the midlands) from GENEVA airport

Then driven in the team van to our overnight accommodation in CHAMONIX

Staying at the Hotel Best Western les Aiglons.

First job on arrival was to build bikes which were put in a separate meeting room

Quite plush for bikes – still we were in France?

Had a nice room with the balcony overlooking MONT BLANC ice field.

The weather as all week was hot and clear with awesome scenery

View of ice field

At the evening meal we were introduced to Kevin who had spent all day sleeping and given a book with maps and detailed itinerary for each stage.


Instruction Breakfast at 7.00 a.m.

Breakfast bad sign I was 5 mins. late and these guys were keen and committed, nobody was going to wait for me? Breakfast seemed to be eat everything available.

We loaded the bikes and set off to MARTINY a very pleasant drive.

On arrival bikes were unloaded and before I had fill

ed my water bottles and got gelled up Swansea Kevin was away.

The rest of us set of in a select group (4)

The stage had a profile like a pair of tits, from the start you climbed 40Km to the top

of Col Du Grand St Bernard (2473m) descended to AOSTE at 73 KM, then had a very gradual climb to MORGEX at 100Km, then upwards to Col du Petit St Bernard (2184m) 128 Km and then a decent to the finish in Bourg st. Maurice.

We set of at a reasonable pace with an incline to start having a similar gradient to Cragg Vale.

Going through I think 4 tunnels which had mainly very poor surfaces, eventually we left the main road to attack the summit, mostly at around 10% incline.

Our iron man Dave was dropped and I was attacked by the Matlock twins arriving a few minutes behind them at the first summit thankful to see our rep Mark with refreshments, Dave awarded me the white jersey (or should I say the grey one)

Picture at the top of Grand St Bernard me climbing, the group shot above shows Matlock guys, Dave & me ready to descend note the snow –suspect temp about 5 to 10C was 30C at the start of the climb? Guess which is the banker?

The decent went on forever switch back after switch back, I set off first but I was passed by everyone

Rejoined near the bottom for a flat section of maybe 20Km.

Then I got in front and got lost kept checking but seemed to be heading in the right direction.

The road split and instructions were team van would be at Morgex

Sure enough Mark was there on his own stating rest are in a group which set of 5 mins. ago.

Seem to have heard that on Condor runs before (5mins means anything up to 30)

Anyway off again climbing shallow gradient again similar to Cragg Vale easy?

Then went through a beautiful small town La Thuile, its amazing I found all the old Ski resorts had such character then bang climbing gradient increases (only about 20Km to summit) with lots of great switchbacks all numbered with amazing views (Gower & Lumby will remember similar numbered bends in Italy at worlds?)

Suddenly the bends stop and the scenery changes to open moor land this is where you will remember the Schlecks attacked leaving Armstrong in the group behind he later countered the move to join up with them & Wiggins.

Although this climb is slightly less length than the first of the day, I am getting tired but determined not to use the bottom gear ( 34 x 25) upwards to the top of Petit St Barnend, Marks waiting for final feed.

Its all downhill (30KM) to Bourg St Maurice, I can see the lake at the bottom but it never seems to get any nearer, fatigue is setting in and braking at each switch back is giving my upper back a pounding.

Suddenly the lake looks nearer and I arrive at the finish to find the van parked outside a café. Seems the Matlock guys completed in 6hrs XX mins, I took over 7 hours whilst the pros did the 160Km in just over 4hrs.

Only Mark & Kevin are there the others are in another bar watching the tour.

After a beer everyone else is on soft drinks we collect the rest and head to our overnight stay down the road in La Plagne staying at the family run hotel Tourmaline.

Not as plush this time bikes are in our rooms, but food OK and I managed 2 beers much to the disgust of the real cyclists.

We are all apprehensive about the next day which everyone thinks is/was the hardest of the tour 5 climbs (four 1st cat.).

Early to bed with breakfast at 7.30 can't get 7.00 Ok by me.

Stage 17 Bourg St Maurice to L Grand Bornand

Breakfast I'm sure I was on time but rest had been eating for sometime.

This stage resembled a saw blade all up and down with the last 2 climbs advised to be steep.

At least none of the climbs are as long as yesterday.

Starting at Le Grand Bornand we were immediately into the Col De Roselend (1968m) 20Km long, incidently this climb was featured in last months Pro Cycling magazine.

Again Kevin had pissed off; the climb had signs for each km complete with average km gradient. I seem ok and left the rest catching Kevin near the top.

We regrouped and had a beautiful descent scenery fab even had its own turquoise lake or was it a reservoir.

Then through a great old town Beaufort, swung right up the next climb Col des Saisies.

Similar gradient climb to first mostly less than 10%, the main ski resort was at the summit guess it must be sheltered from prevailing winds? But with all the new buildings to my eyes it was a bit depressing no character.

Anyway collected more refreshment and we had a long descent to San Sallanches (90 Km). I got dropped and lost again rejoined up the cote de Araches (only a 2nd cat?)

More severe than previous climbs but only around 8Km long.

Down to Cluses out of the town then immediately onto the Col De Romme, this was steep (like going up lower edge) within 1Km you could look down through the crash barriers on the town which seems miles away. I felt ok and dropped the rest but had finally to get into my lowest gear.

The climb was relentless very little change in gradients with motor home owners parked on each side sometimes giving encouragement mainly Germans who were getting the best pitches early.

Eventually I stopped to relieve myself to be caught by the Matlock pair who got to the summit about 500m ahead of me.

By this time I was getting exhausted and said to Mark I am not sure I could make the col. de Columbia (final climb) when you pass me up the climb check I can make it?

We didn't wait for Dave but descended about 5km to start the col. de Columbia to my relief having been dropped the climb started at a reasonable gradient guess less than 10% and I was managing OK for the first few Km's.

The support van just went straight passed so I had to make it eventually with around 4Km to go the summit building could be seen and the gradient increased significantly it seemed as bad as the col. de Romme? The road just clung to the mountain with no

space for motor homes. I stopped for a rest to be caught by the matlocks who I assumed were way ahead, seemed they had stopped for a pee. Kept telling them they were taking on too much water?

This was the climb Contador went off causing Kloden to be dropped and where Armstrong blew Wiggo away after Wiggo had led Armstrong all the way up the climb.

Eventually I hit the top and descended into Le Grand Bornand. Arriving with the Matlock duo at a bar for a large beer. Well I did it and in better shape than I thought possible after the previous stage, I thought they were trying to make stages less arduous how do those pros do it being nearly twice as fast as us?

I think today's stage took us around 7 hours compared with pros time around 4.5 hrs

After Dave's arrival we loaded our bikes for the drive to Annecy staying at the Hotel Novotel right in the centre of Town. Nice spot again had a meeting room for our bikes.


Effectively a rest day but we still had breakfast at 7.30 they had some plausible reason

Like traffic had to start at 9.00 so we could set off at 12.00 for the journey to Bourgoin Jallieu.

Not much to report we went around the lake course having a deviation on one side taking the lake cycle track instead of main road to avoid the traffic. Surprised by the hill otherwise a pleasant ride.

Steve had a bike problem with his cassette which they sorted at a local bike shop then it was load up for the drive to Bourgoin Jallieu

Stage 19 Bourgoin –Jallieu to AUBENUS

We stayed overnight at the Hotel de Commanderie de Chamary a local family run hotel with a great restaurant.

Up early again still last I am beginning to think I will have to go down for breakfast before I sleep to beat these guys?

Loaded up with calories and off to the start only two 4th cats and a final 2nd cat climb

nearly flat?

It was up and down all day into the warm mistral headwind no easy day mainly through hill side villages eventually skirting Valence (I think this is close to where Phil lived?) by the time we arrived at PRIVAS I was feeling the mileage but for some reason felt strong enough to push ahead up the col. de l'Escrinet. But I blew and was passed by everyone except Dave.

The climb wasn't severe but fatigue had set in so I just slowed down. It was this climb that Cavendish surprised everyone by staying on to eventually take the stage off the Columbia train.

More water

Stage 20 Momtelimar To Mount Ventoux 167Km

Another family hotel, small room but for the first time our bikes were put in the garage.

Exhausted I had more Beer, persuaded Mark & Welsh Kevin to have one but no more.

Meal ok but others wanted more pasta the owner took the piss and brought in a massive bowl which they were unable to empty.

I went round the town for another beer and to worry about the day ahead.

Up at 7.00 for breakfast others nearly finished dragons drawn.

About 8.15 we are off to complete the same stage as the Etape hoping I had recovered from yesterdays hammering?

Immediately we are into the mistral headwind not on my request list can see Ventoux ahead. We have 3 off 3rd cats, a 4th cat to finish with the HC Ventoux and it's hot.

I am suffering we go through some beautiful province country side, vines (cotes de Rhone) and lavender dim whit initially thought this was heather.

Anyway manage the early climbs ok passed Nyons a great town, market in full swing.

Now a third & a 4th cat climb as a grimpy guide a 3rd cat is a similar gradient to Blackstone edge but at least twice the length the headwind and heat are taking there toll ( a 4th same as 3rd I could never tell the difference)

After Sault we have a 3rd cat climb Col de Notre Dame des ---- , even Dave is in front of me and I'm getting exhausted. Dam climb as 2 false tops and the decent is doggy cross winds making the bike go in different directions.

I arrive at Mormoiron see the van and go into a welcome air con café to find Kevin and mark getting sustiness Dave doesn't stop and goes straight on to Bedoin (start of the Ventoux climb).

It's around 14.00 only about 30Km to the top of Ventoux, I start with coke fed up of water & SIS drinks, cake then coffee do I have to leave?

I'm the last to leave and thankfully the winds behind me to Bedoin.

I arrive at Bedoin and start the climb and the first few Km are easy thank god or whoever.

Was thinking about a prayer mat earlier?

I hit the tree line and we go into 9, 10, 11, 12 % every Km (12 was max I saw) signs give gradient and it seems to get hotter and I go slower with frequent stops. The route is covered on either side with motor homes or tents. There are some riding with mountain bike gears but I can walk as fast. I meet a couple in a tent from the UK who have no coffee but give me some orange juice.

Some entrepreneurs are selling drinks every few Km I stop at each till my small amount of taken euros runs out. It's still hot and my throat is still dry. I'm shot but the stops have given some minor recharge. Suddenly the tree's disappears and immediately the temp cools down, I can see the weather station at the top in the lunar landscape. A switch is turned on and my pace increases I no longer need the bottom gear at this stage the gradient is around 10%

I pass the Tom Simpson memorial with 2Km to go, look at the cans and rubbish but don't climb the stairway to heaven.

Push on and arrive at the top, pass the van and are advised I have to turn right and pass the weather station to complete the stage, they are taking the piss but I do it anyway.

I arrive at about 5.30 pm, I left the café at around 2.45, and it's taken me 2hrs 45 mins. To do 30km, 20 Ventoux, 10 flattish.

I thought they would all be ready to go (turns out Dave and Kevin have only been at the top for 15mins) as we have to drive 4hrs to our nights hotel at Macon. But no they are spread around the top some in the bar anyway after another drink we are on our way.

Stage 21 Montereau-Faul-Yonne to PARIS 164Km flat

We stay overnight at the Hotel Novetel in an industrial estate near Macon, we arrive at 10.15 and manage to get some food.

Breakfast normal but I'm not last its Mark.

We set off about 8.00 to drive passed the start at Montereau--- , the Matlock duo get cocky and think they are in a team time trial, I get to the front with Kevin and we slow it to a sensible pace. We arrive in the suburbs of Paris with a tunnel and horrendous traffic to negotiate, Steve's rear pro 3 tyre punctures new inner tube and immediately punctures again he's worn it through to the canvass?

We ring Mark who explains he's stuck in traffic we wait for the team van and decide it's a stupid exercise to make the Champs Elysees and go straight to our hotel

The hotels in Porte de Versailles, we arrive and pack our bikes in the cases for the flights back tomorrow.

We decide to eat on Baxter at a local taverne had a good meal with some wine


I thought in January when I booked that it was a challenge and something different to do for a week?

The support and accommodation was fine but I suppose for me just riding up those climbs with the views and scenery blew me away.

The toughest day was the 2nd day stage 17 due to the number and severity of the climbs; the ventoux stage was also difficult both from climbing ventoux and the fatigue from the previous stage.

By this time if you have waded through all my scribble you must be as exhausted as me. Have a BEER



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