Stage 15: Mende – Valence
Stage 15: Mende – Valence
Sunday, 19th July 2015
Sunday, 19th July 2015

After yesterday's long commute I was really happy to be starting a little later this morning. Shooting 14 stages with one day's break has been taking it's toll.

 

Still, the view was amazing. We descended into the gorge on our way to the hotel, and I'd imagined how great it would be to ride this road.

 

This morning it was a 20km ascent up and out of the gorge to meet up with the stage 15 course, and saw lots of people riding up. I even managed to take a few non-race photos. It was definitely a place I'd like to come back and ride.

 

The last time I rode my bike was up Stelvio, over 3 weeks ago. I was planning a ride on the upcoming rest day, but am now feeling so exhausted I might need to rest instead. As I ride most days in my 'normal life', it is probably one aspect of tour chasing that has taken some time to adjust to.

 

Days now largely consist of hours in the car, averaging 250kms for each stage. It is so frustrating to drive along these amazing roads, through all these interesting towns and natural wonders of this incredible country, without being being able to stop, ride and take it all in.

 

It's going to be tough heading to Alpe du'Huez and not being able to ride. I might try and sneak a ride in the evening before - stay tuned.

We joined up with the course just below the 3rd climb of the day, with about 2.5 hours to kill. It was a category 4 called the Col de la Croix de Bauzon, but it wasn’t the summit we wanted – it was the awesome, twisting descent. Complete with hairpins, sweeping bends and views of the road beneath including the expansive valley.

 

We pulled up quickly at the first spot with a good outlook. We’d stopped in front of an older couple sitting on their outdoor chairs. They looked a bit worried that we might be going to stay and block their well-thought-out position to watch the riders. I reassured them it was just for a minute.

The last thing we wanted to do, especially as we had the luxury of so much time, was to rush down the descent only to realise we’d gone way past the best spots. Remembering the golden rule – absolutely no going backwards on the course – we slowly snaked our way down to the next outlook.

 

When that spot wasn’t quite right we slowly went a bit further and parked again. I walked for about a kilometre down scoping spots then walked back up just in time for the publicity caravan.

 

I leaped around catching a few things but I was mainly after the edible stuff, mini salamis, lollies and baked madeleines.

After they’d all driven past, we drove down a bit further to the spot I’d walked to. I could hear a helicopter and all the photo-moto guys were starting to buzz past – a sure sign the riders were close. But I had no mobile internet, so I didn’t know what was happening in the race. Was there a break-away? This vital information would help me decide on my shots. Luckily at that point I heard an Aussie accent from the road below that an Aussie was in the breakaway. Thank you Michael Rogers.

 

There was just a few minutes between the leading group and the main bunch. The road even allowed a shot with them both in the frame.

After they’d come through we ran back to the car and sped off as it was going to be another very close call to make the finish. We’d driven only a few hundred metres down the road when a speeding ‘course information’ car with flashing lights said to pull over as there were more riders coming. We later found out this was the Cavendish group, 7 minutes behind the main bunch.

 

Once the course was clear we sped off for the finish. It was over 100kms, but we were making good time on the closed roads.

 

Stress levels rose at a crowded toll exit near the finish town but we got through OK. Then, at the main roundabout outside the town we somehow took the wrong exit and drove away from the finish. Once we realised our mistake we drove back but the off-route entry had been closed.

 

We had raced all that way and missed the finish because of a wrong turn (it wasn’t helped by the fact that the riders rode full-throttle today, at a blistering 46km average). We sat in the car wondering what to do, before deciding to head to the next hotel, get some rest and reload for tomorrow.

See beardy’s coverage of previous stages below.

Stage 19: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne - La Toussuire - Les Sybelles
Stage 14: Rodez - Mende

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