Yesterday was a rest day and the whole group felt different. We got up and had breakfast at a leisurely pace, normally it’s like feeding time at the zoo - we pile in and it's like a fight to get as much food down your neck as possible. The hotel staff must be gob smacked, they always run out of everything so quickly. We don't even mind using bowls for coffee; in fact, anything is used to help get us fed. The rest day though was different, very different, especially after the big day previously. So what is the best thing to do on a rest day during a 3-week tour? I know, let's go for a bike ride. Serious. We did. We did about 30km, just quite steady, just to turn the legs over, and then back for a long massage to get the legs ready for the next day.
We have a new masseur, Paul; ex chef (although we do say butcher), he's pretty fierce with those hands. Some of the riders have pretty much been in tears as he gets those knots out of the legs. I’m serious. I've not had the pleasure yet, been a bit gentler with the others… However it is quite humorous lying next to another guy who is squealing with pain, while I'm quite fortunate not to have the pain. I've had a massage every night and this has helped to keep the legs clear of blockages. Cyclists are notorious for getting knots in their legs, which restricts blood flow and therefore reduces performance. Thankfully mine are pretty clear.
So a gentle rest day . The desire for finding WiFi was high. Here is what I don't get; France seems to run out of WiFi, every hotel we to go - it crashes. This hotel had none. We went into town and explored as many places as possible, but no reliable source was to be found! Hence the delay on blogs and videos. Sorry.
Stage 16 was beautiful. We rolled out, no I mean it, we did, we rolled out gently. It was like the calm after the storm. There was almost a "we've done it" across the peloton. No stress, no high pace, very very relaxed, even up to the lunch stop after passing through some unbelievable scenery, all the way around Mont Ventoux. It was such a beautiful road, I will never forget, maybe it’s due to the experience of the mountain that it calmed us all.
Later that day though we hit a busy road, long and straight, single file riding on a dead road, a road that just takes it out of your legs, and you feel like it's uphill. Honestly, I nearly fell asleep at one stage. It got so boring and dead, that a few of us all had the same idea; let's stop for a coffee.
The next town found 13 of us sat in a coffee shop, drinking coffee and eating magnums, then coke, then more coffee, all watching the Tour De France at the same time. We heard that a big storm was happening at the next stop, so we stayed even longer :-)
Well it won't get it done on its own, so we headed out. We passed the next stop OK, and into Gap where the clouds were rumbling. We needed to do the final climb - 7km and then descend the other side. As we started, flashes of lightning hit and the road flooded again for the second time. We got hammered with torrential weather, so quickly hid in a holiday camp, where we found table tennis facilities hidden under a verandah and we engaged in matches to keep warm. Eventually though, the indoors appealed more, and so after more coffee and watching the Tour de France, we warmed up a little.
Lightning hit the field next to us, it didn't ease up for ages, and of course the temperature again plummeted. Let's get a taxi, let's stay here, lots of wise ideas, but in the end we headed out after the weather had backed off a bit. We headed off to finish the mountain and the descent back into Gap. Past the famous bend where Beloki fell off and ended his career, and Armstrong cut across the field to miss the accident, clambering over the ditch lower down the road.
Hotel found. Hot bath. But no WiFi.