T2MC – day 5

11 Sep

Having completed the most challenging day, it was all going to be plain sailing from here, right?

Wrong.

Each day so far, leaving the hotel at 7am it had been light. Today, emerging from breakfast (best croissants so far), it was still dark and there storm clouds were ominous. The rain started coming down the moment my foot hit the pedals and by the time I rejoined the main road a km from the hotel, I was soaked to the skin (last year’s rain jacket – untested to this point – turned out to be as waterproof as a tea bag).

Mark Allitt and I descended through the cold and wet – gradually getting some confidence going through the rivers of water on the road, and passing through tunnels that were warm and dry before emerging back into maelstrom at the other end.

Feeling very cold, we both felt relieved when one of the Classic Tours yellow signs pointed us off the main road to the first climb of the day. After a few turns, the effort of climbing warmed us up and we fell into our pace – me slightly faster that Mark today.  It was short climb of only 600m vertical (to around 900m) and so we were not overtaken until quite near the top (except by Lionel – who as usual caught us early on).  The top of the Col was undramatic….

DCIM100GOPRO

….and soon after, when Mark emerged with Jason, Mark Booth, and Alastair Robson, we started the descent together.

By now we were getting more confident in the rain and, warmed up, it was actually becoming enjoyable. We were passed on the down by a fantastic early 80s Renault 5 Turbo Gp 2 rally car (mid-engine, huge air scoops each side) – worth the risk on letting for with one hand for a thumbs up, which was reciprocated.

During the 20km descent to the start of the next climb, the group stopped on the road (it was early and only one bus passed the whole way down) to get a shot in the rain:

DCIM100GOPRO

There were rock falls all the way down which required some care coming around the corners but thankfully there were no accidents.

Before the start of the next climb – from the village at 400m to 800m – we had to warm up in a coffee shop (that doubled as a Thai restaurant in the evening).  Mark Davison even needed a brandy to take away the chill!

Mark Allitt and I again set out into the pouring rain to start the second climb, which was quite gentle but gave the opportunity to generate some heat to keep warm.  In due course, some of the faster riders caught us up – Markus blasted past us like a man possessed – though it wasn’t long before we reached the Col, which was in fact a tunnel through the top of the hill – we had done the last Col of the trip! 

There was then a descent down to Menton, to the East of Monte Carlo near the France / Italy border.  From there we went up and down on minor roads around the coast, including a very steep section of road that required a few of us (me included) to take a second run up to get it right.  By now, the temperature was getting much warmer and the rain turned to drizzle before stopping altogether.

It took rather longer than expected, winding through the suburbs and up/down one valley after another, to get to our lunch stop.  It was fantastic finally to climb up to the village in the cliffs above the coast and get off the bikes. 

Tired but happy - final lunch stop in fancy dress village

When we arrived, all the locals were walking round dressed in what looked like pirate gear.   After a while, it became apparent that the village was celebrating the planting of a tree (in 1713, it turns out) and everyone was dressed in period costumes.

DCIM100GOPRO The tree hugging ceremony…..

DCIM100GOPRO Me and the ‘angman!

We set our bikes up against the railings and houses in the village square and draped sodden clothes over the frames in an effort to get them dry in the sun, which was now making a proper appearance.

The lunch was another belter – duck gizzards to start (or cod mousse), then wild boar stew. 

Duck gizzards Gizzards….

Gizzardsgone …..Gizzards gone!

DCIM100GOPRO Selfie – me and Mark

I skipped dessert to watch the fun and frolics outside, and to sit in the lovely sunshine and finish off the glass of rose someone had poured me.  I could start to feel that I really had done it!

Others came outside to do likewise until pretty much the whole group was enjoying the changed weather and starting to get drier clothes back on for the final 5km into Monte Carlo.  We eventually waved goodbye to the revellers in the village square and headed off.

I stopped to take a couple of shots looking back towards the hill top village….

DCIM100GOPRO

…..(not very good, sorry) and was soon in my traditional last place spot. 

I took my time making my way around the high level coast road that leads to Monte Carlo – rather too much time as Rich O’Connell came back to look for me.  He escorted me to the group, who were waiting in a layby – for me and also because Jonah was collecting himself after a minor tumble.

The group gave me the honour of leading them the last km to La Turbie – a village with a viewing platform over Monte Carlo which was to be our official finish line.   We then had the first “on the bike” puncture of the whole trip – difficult to believe given what we’d been over – but Olli had one on the finish line! 

We looked a great sight as we filed down through the garden to the platform and opened celebratory beers prior to taking photos of the finishers.  Hooooorrrraaaaaayyyy!!!!!

 Hoooorrrraaaayyyy Proud finishers….

The only puncture of the trip …..after which Olli repaired the one puncture if the trip.

That evening, KPMG hosted us at the traditional Sunday night cocktails that mark the start of the Reinsurance Rendezvous, and afterwards we had our celebration meal.  Rich O’Connell was a great master of ceremonies – handing out the kudos awards and penalties for a host of reasons – all of which seemed to attract a shot of grappa.

Richie hands out the prizes and punishment      Richie handing out the prizes and punishments….

The group then dispersed with hugs and best wishes for the coming year – and promises to return to support the next event, wherever that may be.

So, that’s it for another year.  Here are the stats from my Garmin

– distance: 465km (288 miles)

– climbed: 12,507m (38,773ft)

And a link to the whole route…..

http://geo.gillcouto.com/uploads/5212612c17/T2MC_course-1.html

In closing, I would like to make a few thank yous.

Thanks to Classic Tours for organising us so effectively – they are diligent, efficient, friendly and highly recommended.  Thanks also to our kit sponsors: Axis, Oakley Capital, Montpelier Re, Blue Capital, XL, Natixis, Conyers Dill & Pearman, KPMG and Jonah Jones.  Thanks to Ruth Costello of Timothy Everest for the wonderful kit design and PaddyOs for providing our supercharged granola bars and breakfast cereal for the trip.

Finally, this ride is dedicated to my wonderful mother in law Jo Daniels – who lost her courageous fight against cancer this year.  In honour of her memory, I am collecting donations for the UK Marie Curie nurses, who did such a fantastic job in nursing Jo in her last days, and their Bermuda equivilent, PALS.  If you would like to make a pledge, please email me at charlesthresh@kpmg.bm – anything, no matter how small, is appreciated and 100% of your donation will go to these charities, divided equally.

All the best.   CT

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