The day started so well as we ransacked the delights of Espace Gourmand in the Stage 15 Tour village for a second breakfast. After checking out the team paddock, we went back to the car to get on course. As it happened, we either spent one minute too long in the paddock or, more likely, had one donut too many and missed the on course cut-off. As with yesterday’s 14th stage, we were making a bad habit of breaking our first golden rule (from Stage 10) - ‘don’t stuff around at the start’.
I pulled on my navigator’s hat and directed Speedy through the fastest route to get back in front of the riders - however it was Sunday and the blue-rinse brigade were doing their best to block the roads. In the end, all we could do was watch helplessly from behind the barricade as the convoy and riders went past us.
After trying out his broken French, Speedy managed to get us back on course after the riders, before missing a turn. Determined to turn our poor start to Stage 15 around, we managed to bang through the back roads and get in front of the riders for the second climb. This was great but I was hungry for the real pain faces at the top of the 4th climb, an hors-categorie climb - a climb so mean it is without category.
I shut my eyes for a bit while Speedy rocked me to sleep by slinging our little Captur around hairpins and tapping the apexes on the traffic free, closed roads. I awoke to the crowd totally filling the view from the window at the top of the climb. After having some problems finding a park, we once again used the extra clearance and pseudo-4wd capabilities of our little car to improvise.
The last climb was literally just down the road, with the riders descending one side twice and then coming up the backside of the col. In order to get to the area I wanted, I needed to get there in less time that the riders took to descend to the valley, then climb to the spot. It was going to be tight, and the car might not have been able to get there in time.
Fortunately, my Giant Defy was in the boot of the car so I managed to sneak down most of the descent until the Gendarmes caught me amongst the other two-wheeled hooligans. I left Speedy to enjoy the descent in the car as I started running down. He actually passed me while I had been stopped, though after I managed to sneak away, I hopped back on the bike, fanged down the mountain and rode right past him.
Our day was wrapped-up on a deck in the middle of a picturesque town, with a half litre of chilled red wine and a pizza each. Apparently it was the place to be, as three of the local lads paraded their moped, Super Motard and Hyundai Tiburon past the restaurant. To be fair, the moped guy could pull a decent wheelie, but the Motard lacked skill while the Hyundai lacked the fully-sick sound system.