Martyn Jones' Tour de France: Part 5

With the Pyrenees behind him, the Alps are now looming

Rest Day

I was given a VIP pass to watch the stage finish in Bagnerres de Bigorre today - the Tour visited the same town that I was staying in for another night. Great win by the young Ricco (yes - now we know why, though - ed)- very impressive to see live in the Espace Izoard with French and other celebs. I enjoyed myself and managed to get a few minutes with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen to update them in person before heading back for my evening meal in the hotel. It was a great buffet, all home-made and just what I needed.

Stage 11: Lannemezan – Foix, 167km

We’re into the Ariege region now - left Bagnerres de Bigorre and for the first time, thanks to a clear day, we were able to look back and get a good view of the Pyreneean panorama. Impressive. Once again, as we followed the Tour route the countryside changed, along with the style of houses...more Spanish in appearance while the land itself appears more chalky.

This is a beautiful unspoilt part of France, ideally positioned to enjoy winter and summer sports and very close to Andorra.

There were plenty of eagles around today - a few flying only 10 metres or so above me as I descended the first Col of the day. Just as things seemed relatively easy I began the ascent of the Col de Portel. It’s a real country backroad that you couldn’t imagine being able to accommodate Le Tour given that it’s very narrow and steep.

There was a another climb near to the finish which provided a real sting in the tail, taking those extra calories from me just as I thought I was home and dry. But at least today I was literally home and dry for a change. Foix is a wonderful, historic little town. We had booked into a quirky hotel and I stayed in room 101 which looked like Dot Cotton’s living room!

Time - under 6.5 hrs

Calories - 5900

Feelgood factor: 6/10

ipod tune: Oxygene – Jean-Michel Jarre

Stage 12: Lavelanet – Narbonne, 168.5km

I felt good today as I zipped through to Narbonne with the support crew following behind.  It was good, solid ride and I was spinning really well in the heat. It kept the legs supple and we arrived in a decent Novotel with pool to finish the day. Before I knew it, it was time for a massage then bed – it’s incredible how little personal off the bike time you have.

Time: 5 hrs 10 mins

Calories: 4,900

Feelgood factor: 7/10

ipod tune: Poison - The Prodigy

Stage 13: NarbonneNimes, 182km

On paper this may look like another flattish stage to you folks back home, but the reality is different when you’re riding alone on these heavy, hot roads which seem to twist and turn endlessly through vineyards and Mistral valleys.

It was another case of being as efficient as I could within my race pace today, which is somewhere between a good pace to finish the day without spending an unnecessary amount of time in the saddle and having the spare capacity at the end for another day, and then another day etc.

Time: 5 hrs 59 mins

Calories: 6200

Feelgood factor: 7/10

ipod tune: I’m so tired - Adele 19

Stage 14 – Nimes - Digne les Bains, 194km

Today’s ride took place in a glorious 32 degrees, a lovely day to be out cycling in Provence.

I crossed the massive Rhone river relatively soon into the ride, taking me into big country: the Rhone Alpes region which opens up with a magnificent pre-amble before heading into the high French Alps. Amidst the many fresh lavender fields it was easy to spot the ‘Giant of Provence’, as it is known or the MountVentoux by its correct name. It’s a majestic peak with a lunar landscape summit that’s Unesco protected apparently.

This is where the film by Ridley Scott, A Good Year was filmed and there are plenty of hillside villages and fortress towns amongst rolling meadows.

I did a great ride today considering the fatigue which is creeping in now. I finished with an average speed of 32kmph - really pleased.

After the stage I quickly drank my post-ride recovery drink then put the bike in the van and the crew drove us to the next town for tomorrow’s monster mountain stage. The next few days see me take on the highest, longest passes in Europe. The transfer time was  almost two hours in a hot, sticky van. It was tiring stuff after a 194km ride but that’s Le Tour. We’re staying in a great place near to Embrun within a huge Alpine valley - the biggest I’ve ever seen.

Time: 5 hrs 55 mins

Calories: 6500

Feelgood factor : 8/10

ipod tune: This is the sea - Waterboys

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