Stage Three: Thu 1st Oct: 165km, 3,650m
Aurillac to La Bourboule (Massif Central): 165km * 3,650m
Main climbs: Cols : Croizet, Croix de Cheules, Bruel, Legal, St Georges, Neronne, Pas de Peyrol (Puy Mary), Redondet, Eylac, Serre, Vendeix
Description: Puy Mary is a famous climb and a point to aim for. By now, we’ll all be settling into the riding, surrounded by stunning scenery and very little else – this is the least populated area of France: wild, barren, remote.
Phil Deeker says: “From the austere rocky Lozere region we now discover the greenery of the volcanic Monts d’Auvergne as our route takes us into the volcanic Puy wonderland. The Puy Mary is the highest point of this stage (1,600m). The rounded hills offer less aggressive roads: the tranquility and the views make this area a real treat for cyclists. After a choppy ride for the first half of the stage, roads chill mid-stage (after lunch) before some steep, wooded climbs bring riders back into the Pain Zone in the latter part. The thermal town of La Bourboule is quite fascinating.”
5.55am: alarm, too early, slept poorly. Deep sigh. Everything hurts.
7.33am: roll out. Pre-dawn, 4 degrees C, so cold. But everyone is back on their bikes for another day of highs and lows. Everyone is wearing loom band bracelets in Team LMT colours, each with a little silver elephant attached. Thank you to Lucy’s niece, Annie (10) for all her hard work in making these. We LOVE them 🙂
7.33am: And Phil Deeker, Cent Cols legend is wearing OUR team kit 🙂 We can imagine what Lucy would have thought of that!!! 🙂
7.45am: 17% on the first climb and 14% on the second. Feels really hard for all, in the cold. Sunrise. Which helps!
10.30am: finally warming up on the long climb up to the Col de Neronne. So beautiful. Everyone riding well now and settling into the day.
12.15pm: Puy Mary aka Pas de Peyrol. Utter scenic overload. Leg overload too: it’s nudging 20% and our front wheels are struggling to stay on the road.
13.10pm: Lunch: pasta, cheese and tomatoes. Nico calls it a day, with a swollen ankle causing concern for the days ahead.
4.15pm: a technical descent is one that requires complete concentration and a little luck: it can be steep, suddenly shaded, with bends covered in gravel, narrow roads. One of these catches Allan out and he crashes, removing a fair degree of skin from arm, hip and ankle. Being a Kiwi and tough as nails, he of course is more worried about his bike. Buster is thankfully fine – he’ll need a new rear wheel, but that’s OK – we have plenty of spare wheels with us. But bear in mind this man slipped a disc in his back just three weeks ago and is already riding with pain. Now his body will divert it’s attention into healing his fresh wounds, but that only slows the general overnight recovery.
8.30pm: Allan’s awarded the Rider of the Day award for finishing the stage, despite his injuries.
9.30pm: Just another 201km and 3,500m tomorrow. Cough. But we’re still in the game.