Seventh day’s ride

Today included two major climbs, both with over 1300 metres of climbing, and finishing at over 2000 metres. We would also need to ride about 150 kms.

The first part of the ride was dogged by cars and the Italian curse, motorbikes. It seems that most of Italy owns a motorbike and chose this day to see how close they could ride to this merry band of cyclists. We also had to ride through a couple of long tunnels. The scenery though, was beautiful and dramatic. Richard drove up the hill, and then rode down to meet us near the bottom.



We had lunch at the top of the first climb, fighting with leather clad biker types to get served. Sweaty lycra tends to win out in the scrum for the Panini.

The top of the first climb , the Maddalena, was also the border with France.


It is quite historically significant. It is believed this where Hannibal crossed the alps. He was probably quicker on a elephant than I was on a bike.

The descent was excellent; a lovely fresh french road.

We rode past the sign for Pra Loup, where the MTB world championships are to be held. Our thoughts were with George.


Isabel was driving, and Geoff and I were also feeling tired, but we decided that we ought to ride the last major climb of the tour. It would be bad form to have 3 in the car!

The next climb, Coll D Allos, was much quieter, and we rode up through a beautiful gorge. The french thoughtfully document details of the climb on the milestones. Name, current altitude, distance to the top, and average gradient for the next kilometre. This is about as much information as I can take in. (There is some software design message here somewhere, but I’m on holiday.)


Here is Geoff, attacking the climb with gusto.


The coll never really got steep, and there was good shade for most of it. But it was long. I used the soundtrack on the ipod, and I really pushed the last bit, surprising everyone with a nifty turn of speed, even if I say so myself. The climb peaked at 2250 metres. The descent was super, lovely road with some nice straight bits.

I attached my N95 to the handlebars with cable ties and filmed part of the descent. Heath Robinson would have loved cable ties. The noise makes it seem a bit faster than it is. I think the top speed I reached in the video was about 65 km/h. I’ve not edited the video, so there is a almost stationary parking near miss crash and a pause while I do up my helmet. Quentin Tarantino can rest easy.

(I tried loading to youtube first, but it fell over, hence the google video)

The 50 kms to the finish along the valley was into the wind. Richard did almost all the work on the front, Geoff and I clinging on his wheel with increasingly 6 year old in a car whining are we there yet sentiments. There wasn’t much left in my legs by the end.

We finished the day at the lovely, if slightly worn Hotel Lac & Foret in St Andre Les Alps. Recovery food was a beer and a plate of chips, later followed by a smart dinner. The hotel had wireless, but I was too tired to post.

4102 Kcals, 149 KMs, 2915 metres of climbing.

As with most days, thanks to Geoff for the pictures.


Fifth day’s ride

22nd August.

I decided to drive the car for the first part of today’s ride, as I was tired. For the first few days we didn’t need the car, as we had  hugged the coast  we could use the train to fetch the car at the end of the stage.  Today though, we were heading inland to Garessio.

Geoff and George, Aka the men in black.





About 50 kms into the ride, disaster struck. George crashed.  Badly.  With the help of a local Italian cyclist, we called the ambulance. 

Richard reckoned that the brakes had locked due to a faulty cable. George hit the road hard. He had broken his leg, badly.  His tour was over, and so was his World Championship participation. 

Eventually George was loaded into the ambulance and taken to Savonna hospital.  Geoff went with the Ambulance, and we took the bikes to the hotel and then headed to see George in the hospital.  Geoff was able to get on the phone to George’s medical aid, and make all the arrangements.  He also spoke with some surgeon friends back in South Africa to try and understand the implications of the injury.  The language gap made it doubly tough in the hospital.

After a while at the hospital  we headed back, subdued.   George, we wish you a safe and rapid recovery.

Anyone wishing to pass on good wishes to George can of course do so here and I’ll pass them on,  or drop me an email and I will send you his SMS contacts.