This coming week-end we have once again a combined pointage and cyclosportif. I took part in this last year because, having already completed my maiden trip up Col D’Eze during Paris-Nice, I knew exactly what to expect. This, you may recall, was the year Astana were banned from the Tour de France as a consequence of events at the previous year’s Tour. The club had planned to cycle up to the summit of the Col wearing “Astana au Tour” t-shirts, thoughtfully provided by Vino (Astana rider Alexandre Vinokourov), to highlight the team’s plight to one Christian Prudhomme.
Having refueled at Vino’s restaurant in Nice over lunchtime, we split into groups to head off up the Col. I was partnered with a much younger couple who promised to take it slowly on my account. It took us some time to find our way onto the Grande Corniche and I therefore anticipated that my club mates would arrive at the summit well ahead of me. The first few kilometres are quite tough (10% average) and it was a very warm afternoon in early March. The younger couple started to flag, so I left them behind.
I ascended at my pace (painfully slow), stopping every so often for a quick drink. As I reached the last kilometre, there were a number of club mates watching from the roadside who gave me plenty of verbal encouragement. Soon others had joined in and I felt emboldened to go as fast as I could: still pretty slow. At the summit there was no sign of the other club riders.
A quick call to M le President confirmed they’d been delayed by a puncture and could no longer ascend to the summit, as the road had been closed by the police. This was going to be a one woman protest: probably not so visually forceful. However, I did manage to attract the eye of M Prudhomme (Race Director Tour de France) as he was driven past and I featured prominently in the television coverage – my few seconds of fame!