It’s been a challenging day for CW at the Dauphiné. Food deprivation-induced low blood sugar, the usual arguments with gendarmes, and getting stuck on the wrong side of a mountain. The usual stuff.
I decided that just riding to the top of the Joux-Plane from Morzine would deny me the authentic race experience ? if the pros were going to tackle it from the harder southern side, then so was CW. Consequently I rode a 30km loop round the mountain to the base on the other side.
This 30km loop incorporated a ruddy great big hill, not even marked on the map. It also incorporated lunch, in the form of a greasy ham and cheese panini that would be the only solid thing to pass my lips between breakfast and dinner.
10km from the bottom of the Joux-Plane, I encountered my first gendarme of the day. There?s nothing the entire French police force enjoys more than making my life a misery, and he told me in no uncertain terms that I?d not be cycling any further.
So I waved my press pass in his face.
To be fair, he knew when he was beaten, and graciously waved me on my way. When I say ?graciously waved?, I mean ?frowned at me, and remembered my face, in case we ever met on a picket line.?
200 metres down the road, I encountered another gendarme. He said ?non?, I waved the press pass. He let me go.
200 metres later, etc etc etc.
In the end I developed a technique of waving the pass without slowing down. Time was moving on, and I wanted to be close to the top of the Joux-Plane when the race came through. I reckoned it was going to be close.
I reckoned very wrong indeed. No sooner had I crawled up the first three kilometres of the climb, the gendarmerie made it very clear that if I didn?t get off the road, I?d be watching the evening Dauphine highlights through the bars of a prison cell.
I watched the race pass through, and then was condemned to a lonely grind all the way up the Joux-Plane.
Lance Armstrong once called this climb a ?bastard?, but Lance Armstrong knows nothing. Box Hill, in Surrey, is a ?bastard?. Even the climb out of Croydon on CW?s regular lunchtime loop is a bit of a git. But if I accurately described the Joux-Plane, this site would get millions of hits from lonely internet perverts. It?s a pretty outrageous climb.
And then, about five kilometres from the top, it started raining.
Still, the descent was still closed to cars when I went down, which more than made up for the hurty legs I got on the climb. And not a gendarme in sight.