Martyn Jones' Tour de France: Part 4

Blistering heat and freezing rain going into the Pyrenees

On July 3, Martyn Jones, a 34-year-old media director from Hertfordshire, left the starting line of this year’s Tour de France with the aim of completing every stage of the Grande Boucle – 48 hrs ahead of the race itself. 

Martyn is keeping us informed of his progress (when he can locate internet access in rural France) and here's his fourth blog entry for BikeRadar:

Stage 7: Brioude to Aurillac, 159km

The day started with another transfer to the stage start which meant leaving the hotel early (around 07:45) after breakfast. A friend of mine, Nick, met me in Brioude to ride the stage with me. It was good to see and chat with him and it helped pass the first 15km of uphill.

It’s remarkable how much more normal I felt today after yesterday – I guess the sunshine helps too. The countryside in this region is wonderful, a bit like the Lake District without the traffic and much higher up, of course. There are lots of eagles around, soaring above us for long periods of the ride.

We stopped in the town of Saint Flour to wait for Nick, as we'd managed to lose him within the first 50km - he's nowhere near as fit as I thought! One moment he was with us on the climb, the next he wasn't. It was just too much for myself and the crew (in the van) to retrace the route and find him so we relied on mobile texts to direct him to us. We completed the final 100km or so together and it was pretty late by the time we parked up in the hotel.  

There was no post-ride massage for me, as Ed had spent over 9 hours in the car. I was not happy as the massage is one of the things you look forward to all day. The crew too, were unhappy, feeling that the day was unnecessarily long (me waiting for friend plus other delays) so we had a team talk and put the experience behind us.

Calories burned in the saddle: 7,200

Time in the saddle: 8 hrs

Conditions: perfect

Feel good factor: 7/10

Stage 8: Figeac – Toulouse, 172.5km

A very hot stage: it was 42 degrees on the road and 34 in the shade (not that I saw much of it). This was an energy-sapping 180km in wine and sunflower country. We passed though a stunning town called Villefranche-de-Rouergue which looks definitely worth a visit.

It was possibly one of the toughest days given the hot conditions, regardless of the (relatively easy) terrain as it was hard to get a rhythm going, which is all important. Also, I’m still adjusting after the cold and wet weather of the first week.

I really need the rest day soon. After my leg massage I worked on the bike preparing things for an early start tomorrow – a 224km stage into the Pyrenees. I got to bed later than normal at 23:30 after running out of time again.

Calories burned in the saddle: 6,100

Time in the saddle: 6 hrs 20 mins

Conditions: v. hot / sticky (drank 8 litres today and needed more)

Feel good factor: 5/10

Stage 9: Toulouse - Bagnères-de-Bigorre, 224km

Today was another monster stage, taking me in to the Pyrenees. It was a sunny, lukewarm start from the Novotel in the big city that isToulouse. I was a happy bunny as I'd managed to sort my chain out - all clean in blinging gold and thoroughly well-lubed. I also put on my full carbon lightweight wheels – it all helps psychologically as much as anything else.

It was such a long and winding start today.  You know you're in the Tour de France when after 100 miles you still haven't reached the first climb of the day - the first of 2 mountain passes.

I was joined by Graham Baxter on the Col de Peyresourde and kept a good pace going over both it and the Col d’Aspin (the two climbs are close together). At the top of the Aspin we were met by a crowd of locals, farmers mostly, many of whom were there to watch the Tour and were making sure of getting a good spot two days ahead of its arrival. 

As luck would have it the heavens opened again all the way down the valley to the hotel - not the best way to end a ride as the legs get cold. My kit was completely soaked and I had to wear winter gloves for protection from the cold. Overall I did well today, though.

Calories burned in the saddle: 8,200

Time in the saddle: 8 hrs

Conditions: perfect then awful!

Feel good factor: 8/10

Stage 10: Pau – Hautacam, 156km

This year's official 'Etape du Tour' stage was cruel. On paper it was fairly tough but I've certainly done tougher rides, however the inclement weather simply made today one of the hardest I have experienced in a long time. In fact nothing could have prepared me for the amount of freezing cold rain that greeted me at the start and stayed with me all day over each climb and every kilometre.

Rivers of rain were pouring down from the hills onto the roads, cow and sheep bells were rattling away in the distance, the sound of streaming water was all around  everywhere was green, very green and wet - as wet as it gets.

It’s raw here - not as welcoming as the Alps. It reminds me of North Wales but it’s more dramatic of course.

Ascending the Tourmalet was terrible. There was a headwind going through La Mongie and it was so cold near the summit that I can't believe it didn't turn to snow as we were above 2000m by then.

I was soaked through, with puddles in my shoes while my winter tights, Goretex jacket, you name it - were all drenched. By now the chill was getting through to my bones, my skinny torso providing a poor barrier.

One of the worst things today was that out of the hundreds of camper vans parked near the summit there was literally nobody to offer any encouragement. They'd all sought refuge indoors, evidence of which came from the amount of condensation of the car windows.

It then started to thunder, with the noise echoing around the sharp peaks near the summit. It was as though the world was ending.

I had to seek temporary refuge at the top in a small restaurant and wait for my support crew to help. I couldn't even converse with them properly by the time they arrived, it was a case of signals and grunts to ask them to give me dry warm clothes so that I could ride the rest of the day and finish. Within 30 minutes, however, I was dry, re-clothed and relatively human again. 

The rain carried on all the way up the terrible Hautacam - a very tough slog but I was able to find my rhythm and make it through the clouds.

Calories burned in the saddle: 7,600

Time in the saddle: 7 hrs

Conditions: terrible

Feel good factor: 2/10

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