Day 16 ? Sunday, July 16
Today was, by far, the worst day of the trip so far and not ? as some have suggested – simply because I missed my breakfast. Oh okay then, that was the reason.
An idea for sister magazine Cycle Sport was to get our resident racer Dan Duguid to ride the full route of the day?s stage from Montelimar to Gap a few hours ahead of the race and see how far down the course he could get before he was hauled off the road by the cops.
It meant alarms were set for 6am so we could drive the 25 kilometres to the start in the centre of Montelimar in time to have breakfast and start the ride at around 8am. Ed and I planned to start the ride and get a couple of hours in before stopping to watch the stage on TV and have an enormous lunch. And possible a beer. We didn?t tell Dan this.
All would have been fine had I not lost the key for one of the locks securing the bikes to the back of the Broomwagon. A half-hour search finally located my jacket and, to my relief, the key was in there, but time had been lost.
The helpful camp site boss said we couldn?t leave until 7.30 because he wasn?t prepared to open the gate until then, so we took matters into our own hands and lifted the bar and drove off. With his electricity adapter. Technically it is not theft as he still has our ten Euro deposit. Tell it to the judge, Jean-Marc, we?ve got the power.
Anyway, the relaxed pre-ride breakfast was missed because we had to get on the road, a task made all the more tricky by the absence of route markers in Montelimar. That cost us half an hour.
We were only just out of the neutralised zone when Dan sprinted off, leaving Ed and I to ride at a reasonably leisurely pace. At least we dropped the woman on a flat-barred mountain bike on the third-category climb. If she?d kept up there I was ready to give up cycling for good.
Ed is recovering from a knee injury and my crank has been, to say the least, cranky. The nagging fear it would fall off and earn my valuables a painful meeting with the top tube meant I didn?t dare get out of the saddle.
It was devilishly hot, something that, ludicrously, took me by surprise. I was quickly out of water ? one bidon was never going to be enough, even for a two-hour spin. By the time we stopped for lunch I felt hot, weak and tetchy. I was hungry and dehydrated ? something that was not helped by a quick stop at a wine-tasting festival en route. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
My attempt to get 20 minutes? sleep to recharge was thwarted because the inside of the van was hotter than the surface of the sun and there was no shade. So, I ordered a big bottle of mineral water and watched the stage.
The twisty drive on to Gap made me feel sick and dizzy and no matter how much water I drank I still felt thirsty. After a stop at the Phonak hotel in the centre of Gap we headed on to our campsite, a messy, crowded sprawling place with too many people and not enough staff.
Time was getting on and dinner was going to be missed unless we were careful. The restaurant at the camp site told us they?d stopped serving and then the on-site manager, who looked like Gerard Depardieu who hadn?t brushed his hair for a week, tried to ring us a taxi, without any luck. He shrugged the shrug of a Frenchman who didn?t care one way or the other whether we ever ate again and that was it. I lost it. I asked loudly and, I?m afraid to say, rather rudely if there was another restaurant nearby. He realised that serving us a bite to eat was a better option than having me collapse on the floor in tears, pretend to be all heavy and throw a big wobbler.
It was my ?Pierrefonds?. For those who are not regular readers of Tales from the Broomwagon two things: firstly, where have you been the past fortnight and secondly, Pierrefonds was the scene of the now infamous ?Night of the Missed Dinner? where we arrived at our base after all the restaurants had shut and dined on processed cheese.
Ed has accused me of having a cob on. He has a point. I was certainly a bit quiet until the starter turned up. It was very nice. A forestiere salad followed by lamb chops.