N2A – day 1 – Carros to Valberg

18 Sep

Here’s what we had in store for us: CH THRESH 2014 MAP DAY 1

Total distance: 98.2 Km

Total elevation: 3351 m

Total descent: 1743 m

The alarm went off at 6.45am immediately, it seemed, after my head hit the pillow (courtesy of half a sleeping pill). Will Peckett and I had a quick shower, got our gear together and dropped it off with Pete the van man, before heading to breakfast.

Those that have read prior blogs will know that it is hard to stoke up an appetite before a big ride, because the nerves and trepidation tend to suppress the appetite. This morning, however, everyone – me included – tucked in to croissants and fruit. The atmosphere definitely felt a little more laid back than prior years, despite some new faces.

A slightly early start for me and the others who kindly decided to keep me company had been agreed for 7.30, a 30 minute head start on the stronger riders. We posed for a group shot in our team issue gear (thanks VOmax) – not everyone in the group had mustered, so there are a couple missing from the shot below. I’ll remedy that in another blog.

N2A group photo

Without further ado, off we went. The first hill started immediately, though it was a gentle incline winding its way North through the valley Carros sits in. The road was wet after overnight rain but the air was cool and it was overcast – which was a blessing as we soon warmed up and the riding temperature was perfect.

We climbed around 600m before the road dipped between valleys and gave us some spectacular views back to the Mediterranean coast. On the descent before the first food stop, we had our first hardware failures – punctures for Hank and Dennis, and a broken spoke for Adam – and our first “offs”, with Jason and Tim coming a cropper on the wet roads. Jason’s tumble happened right in front of me on a muddy hairpin when his front wheel slid away – he has some road rash to take home with him but otherwise is ok. Tim went over on a newly painted zebra crossing and also copped some road rash, plus he split his new bib shorts (I think I have a spare pair somewhere). Lee, the paramedic, looked rather pleased that he had seen some action on the first day!

For me, I was delighted that the slow warm up appeared to have worked and there was no sign of AF.

After another 400m climb, we descended through some beautiful forests on good roads into Puget-Theniers and crossed the valley to the main road. We continued on that road slightly South East (which felt a little odd, as we had been going North East to that point), riding in a line to shelter from the headwind, and then a further food stop before the first “proper” climb of the day.

The support team had laid out a good spread, so everyone filled up and chatted about the fantastic scenery so far in the first 65km of riding. Opposite the layby where we stopped, the road was signposted 29km to Valberg, our overnight stop.

The dark clouds were gathering ahead and the road disappeared up and road the corner into the gloom. We set off up the road, knowing that Valberg is a ski resort and we were quite low in a river valley, so it was going to get tough. We weren’t disappointed.

After the first few turns, the road started to climb steeply up the valley side – around 7-8%, which is quite tough for a sustained climb. I maintained a steady pace and felt reasonably strong, passing a few riders working at their own pace. I stopped for water about half way up and then, in a tunnel ahead, Adam was sat down, suffering with bad cramp. I tried my best to massage it away before carrying on.

After around 700 metres of climbing, the slope leveled out to 4-5%. However, after the steep section, it looked deceptively flat (even downhill) and many of us wondered why it was taking so much effort. It was only from the hairpins above you could see that it was very much up hill.

After the hairpins and 22km of solid climbing, just when I was starting to notice the growing pain in my knees, the road opened out to a village square and the group had assembled for lunch at a small former gas station. Lentil and onion starter, chicken and veg and (the highlight) ice cream sundae. Strictly speaking, the highlight was the Thai waitress who bought an exotic feel to an otherwise very French country village and quite a coincidence, given we had another well-qualified Thai waitress in Carros (didn’t I mention that?). Altogether, very satisfactory – and some of the rouleurs took up the rose option!

There was a definite feeling of achievement across the group over lunch. The hardest climb of the day over and only 7km left to get up to the hotel and everyone had made it pretty much intact.

N2A day 1 lunch

When we emerged after lunch, the warmth had definitely left the muscles and most people donned the rain jackets as spots of rain fell outside.   My goodness it was painful to start with, particularly as the road was quite steep almost immediately and there was no chance to warm up. I slowed almost to walking pace as stabbing pains shot through my knees and most of the group went past me, some looking indecently fresh! I was drawing big deep breaths because it was so painful.

Over the next 7km, the pain never quite left the legs, though they did warm up and eventually Claude clapped me in from outside the hotel (thanks Claude!) – 99km and 2,598m of climbing in the bag.

I washed the tour kit in the traditional way – by having a bath in it – and settled down to write up the blog. Legs are tired but not in pain, though my backside is a little sore – more to come of that, I’m sure.

As I began typing this, there was a downpour outside, so the next job is for me to check the weather forecast for tomorrow – as tomorrow is the longest day of the trip – nearly 150km. Gideon said earlier that it was best not to look!

Thank you to all for your good wishes and messages of support, through the blog and otherwise. It’s really appreciated and very motivational to know you are following our progress.

Finally, sorry there aren’t more shots of us cycling.  I was too focused on getting to the top to stop – but I will take more tomorrow and/or post others’ shots.

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9 Responses to “N2A – day 1 – Carros to Valberg”

  1. LizzieP September 18, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

    Well done guys – great to hear the news. LizzieP xxx

  2. Chikashi September 18, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

    Did you really need to mention you and Will took a shower together?! 🙂

  3. Chikashi September 18, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

    And, why is Jonah wearing hiking boots?

  4. Milan September 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

    Brilliant report! Serious envy from this end. Holding thumbs for the weather gods to be kind tomorrow!
    Milan

  5. MarkD September 19, 2014 at 9:15 am #

    Am really missing the fun this year, collarbone mending too slowly, but will follow you all on this blog and on Strava.
    Well done, I know it ain’t easy!!

  6. Jason P September 19, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

    Sounds like a pretty epic start , but a little disappointed there was no off-roading this year. Please do keep us updated on any further ‘notable’ sights such as the Thai waitress. (It’s clearly a bit of a theme after our Thai/French bistro last year in the rain.) All the best and keep the rubber on the road… – Jason P

  7. Erwan September 19, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

    Congratulations Charlie !!!
    Erwan (Mike Boles’ brother in law)

  8. Pat Thresh September 21, 2014 at 7:54 am #

    Well done .looking forward to your next blog xxx

  9. Jayne September 21, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    Great going Bro, hope that knee holds out!! Looking forward to following the rest of the blog!

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