Stage 7 - 205.5km
Leaving Montpellier was a challenge - we have to get 60 - 70 riders out of the city at rush hour, in the most efficient way.
This means that we all line up and on each junction, the lead person then stops and directs the others if they get split up. Once out on the open road, the crew are amazing. Let me give you a snapshot of what happens, although I really won't do it justice. They are up way before us, lining up every bike, they move all our bags, they head out and put signs up along the whole route, they jump ahead 25 miles and set up a food camp with brilliant refreshments, loud music, coffee etc. The vehicle here will carry our day bags with any kit we want in for Stops 1 and 3. Another vehicle goes ahead and sets up for Stops 2 and 4. This means we stop every 25 - 30 miles on average to eat and refuel, topping up on suncream or clothing etc. I worked out today that I'm having 7 meals a day! Breakfast, 4 fuel stops, lots of food at each. Then when we finish, we eat. Then our evening meal at 8pm every night. We also graze while on the bikes.
So once out on the open road today, we faced the wind. Remember from yesterday that I said there was various types of wind, what do you think we had today? Yes, head wind and very strong again. Working in groups was the key thing to do. We had a couple of really long climbs with the hardest being a category 2. Climbs range from 4 being the easiest through to 1 and then HC is effectively too damned big to have a category so it's classed as being out of category (seems a bit of a stupid system!). We have some HC mountains coming soon to look forward to....
The climbs were warm, not too hot, but about half way through the day the temperature started to drop, so much so that at the 3rd stop of the day, within a few minutes of stopping, the temperatures dropped drastically and riders were shivering and getting their extra kit on. I got arm warmers on, then a long sleeved top, then a race cape, then a hat and finally my knee warmers. I would have put a duffle coat on if i had one and in fact, one of the guys went off to find a shop to buy more clothes. It was so cold.
After the food (eating a local delicay with our rice - we thought it was a pork pie but instead it was mega sweet dessert, so I had two more, just to check) accompanied by lashings of Latte. I say lashings because Sarah boiled it in a big pan - being fair, it looked like dishwater, but it was actually spot on. We then headed off, pedaling quick to warm up.
Not sure if it's the weather change or having some very tired legs now, but people are getting injured. We have a number of people getting niggles, and pains in their legs, which get strapped up to release the pressure of the nerves, by the Physios. Some were really struggling to ride, so I took the view that it's better to get them home, rather than just ride my own ride. This meant a lot slower ride for me, but I certainly used up as much energy pushing a few up the hills where needed. I don't say this for any heroics, it's not that at all, I say it because very fit cyclists are now getting tired at times through the large mileage. But still pressing on, I am in so much awe of anyone going through that much pain, let alone still cycling. One guy was taken to floor 4 tonight to See Dr Col. (he's a nice doctor, also riding every stage with us) and we know a boil and knife were being discussed over the evening meal, related to saddle sores. Urmmmmm............the less said about that the better.
So, all back in one piece - massages done, bikes cleaned, washing sorted, and now off to bed. Tomorrow is only a 5.45am start, then two massive mountains - we are told it's the hardest climb of the tour but it's supposed to be beautiful.
Today's thank you goes to CDD Design who have sponsored stage 7 - thanks for your support!