There’s been a lot of concern expressed in the press about the form of certain riders, such as the Schlecks, ahead of this year’s Tour de France. Opinion seems to be divided as to whether they’re where they should be with just over two months to go. To be honest, when it comes to my own form, I’m not too sure what a peak looks like. That said a couple of key markers were established in Saturday’s La Louis Caput.
I had ridden strongly earlier in the week with my beloved who had even remarked upon it. While my Garmin faithfully records all the details, for me it’s often about how much time and distance my beloved puts into me on our rides. He’ll typically ride off up an incline, turn, ride back down and remount with me. The point at which our paths cross is always telling and it says far more about my form than his. I’d ridden the rest of the week on my own, faithfully following the training program. But it’s been so windy and I find riding into a constant headwind, praying that the wind’ll change direction, to be rather tiring. It’s like wading through treacle.
Saturday, my beloved expressed a desire to ride on without me. He’ll often ride all or part of one of these courses with me. After all it’s not about time as we’re merely collecting points for the club with our participation. Although, on my return, I will compare how I did the previous year. I reminded him about the route (there’s no arrows) and we set off quite late, leaving directly from home as I’d collected our frame numbers the day before. As I headed toward Vence, I was aware that I was about to do my best ever ascent, time-wise. Strange as I wasn’t feeling particularly on-song and I’d stopped twice to blow my nose. The wind had stirred the pollen from the trees and aggravated my allergy.
As I headed toward the base of Col de Vence, I was overtaken by the broom wagon. Never before seen on any of my previous participations in this event. Clearly, I was usually so far behind that no one had noticed that I was behind rather than in front of said wagon. The thought did cross my mind that we might be keeping one another company, again not an uncommon occurrence for me. Even stranger was the thought that I might not actually be last.
Some of my clubmates run a bike shop at the base of the climb, I waived as I sailed past. The first bit is steep so I shifted into my lowest gear and churned away. I’m particularly fond of this climb, know it well, ride it frequently and am aiming to peak for a race up it in September. It’s also one of my favourite descents largely because you can see the on-coming traffic and therefore make use of the entire road with a fair amount of impunity.
This was my maiden ascent of the year and I was keen to check out progress on a modern house which had been built on one of its early switchbacks. I was surprised to see that they still hadn’t landscaped the garden. When you ride at my speed you’ve time to make quite an inventory of the area. The view back down to the coast was unusually spectacular. Later in the season it tends to be obscured by a heat haze.
I was going well. So well that I never even noticed my bete noire, the two kilometre stretch between 6km and 4km to go. I wouldn’t say I was motoring but the splits were looking promising. I’d even overtaken a number of people. I was overtaken by a group from one of the neighbouring clubs who invited me to ride the longer course (150km rather than 100km) with them. They were, of course, joking. I replied that I would if they pushed me. That’ll be a “No” then!
I had my photograph taken as I wound my way up the climb. Another first, he’s normally long gone by the time I reach this point. I said hello again to the boys in the broomwagon who confirmed there were plenty of riders behind me. Must have left it very late to start! I passed the sign telling me it was only two kilometres to the horse-ranch which is 500km from the summit. I was feeling good, I picked up the pace. I was on target to better my best-ever time by over 5 minutes: what an incentive. I got out of the saddle and as I did so I noticed the rider descending and about to cross my path was none other than my beloved. Damm, I was going to have to stop.
It would appear that my beloved wasn’t feeling too well. The combined effects of a late night, a busy week and the side-effects of the medicaments taken to fight off his gout. Now he didn’t necessarily expect me to stop, but I could tell by the look on his face that he was hoping I would. Ah well, my record breaking climb would have to be postponed!