First off, I have to thank teammate Patric for having the presence of mind to bring along his GoPro and actually use it for photos, otherwise you’d be doing a lot of reading over the next few posts.
Stage 2 was billed as the Queen Stage this year. It was probably the hardest for most of us, but not necessarily because of the distance and climbing. They were bad enough – the stage climbed the Col de la Bonette, Col de Vars and Col d’Izoard, before descending into Briançon and finishing uphill in the ski station of Serre Chevalier. It’s a lot of climbing to cram into the 2nd day on the road.
Everyone knew that bad weather was forecast and everyone was worried about it, I imagine. I went through all the things I had to wear and did a great deal of humming and hawing before finally landing on ‘nearly everything’. So, even though it wasn’t raining at the start line in Auron, I had my usual vest and arm warmers, plus skull cap, long gloves, winter booties and, most essentially, my winter legs. Even then, I nearly froze at the end of the day.
The Bonette was luckily a known quantity to me, having climbed it 3 times from the north and once from the side we did it from last week. The legs felt reasonably spinny and I got up there in a good time for the middleweight that I was (moving up to cruiser this week).
Vars was slower, but still dry, then at Izoard the engine conked out on me and I crawled up those long, torturous 11% gradients, barely noticing the brewing thunderstorm coming in from the west. About 3 km from the top it was raining hard, blowing hard and freezing hard. I think it was 2 at the top, but I can’t be sure because I couldn’t see my Garmin anymore. The descent was neutralized, of course, which meant ‘the race’ was over, but most of us (riders further back got bused back) still had to freewheel down 19 km in the soaking wet cold. This is when I thank my lucky stars for growing up in Quebec, where you sometimes have to shovel yourself out of your house. I handle the cold pretty well. But I was still numb when I hit the bottom and never really warmed up till Patrick The Masseuse worked his magic on me after lunch.
The one saving grace of this awful day was that the weather forecast was calling for beautiful sunny skies the rest of the week. The only one unhappy about that on the team was Henry, from Edinburgh, who enjoyed the Scottish summer we were having on Day Two.
I finished in the 180s today.