Saturday, 29 June 2013


COLS CLIMBED: Col du Glandon at 1924 metres and Col de la Croix de Fer at 2067 metres


Distance: 173 km's
Average: 23.1 km/h
Climbing: 2422 metres
Descending: 3550 metres
Riding time: 7hr 30min
Temp Min: 6 degrees (Top of Col de la Croix de Fer)
Temp Max: 15 degrees
Number of punctures by Daniel Salter: 19
Number of falls by Daniel Salter: 1 (Low speed and back up in the blink of an eye)
Number of times riders paid out on Daniel Salter for puncturing so frequently: Infinite
Number of times Daniel Salter got a fright over dinner when the hiss of opening a bottle of coke sounded like a puncture: 1 and that would be tonight.
Number of Smiddy riders that can fit in a one-person-phone-box while waiting for yet another Salty puncture to be repaired: 5
Number of times I have paid out on Salty in tonights blog: Coincidentally that would be 5.
Number of times JJ gets up at 3:30am precisely to use the loo before anyone else: 5
Number of Smiddy riders who left their overnight bag at Alp D'Huez, meaning Graeme making a trip back up there to retrieve it? 1 and I believe it was Marky De"Angelis.
Number of loads of washing done when the riders finished due to everything they own being wet from a day in the rain; 15
Number of falls today? 2, First Jimmy, who stopped to help Rowan (who dropped his water bottle) to get back to the peloton and slid out on a slippery roundabout. And Salty of course, when he side-swiped a gutter at low speed, which resulted in a puncture for something different.

For tonights blog I am getting straight into my top list, it is late, I am tired and I think this will capture the day just as well as anything else I write. Hope you enjoy.

Sharky's top observations from a very wet and cold day in the French Alps today:

. The rain started to fall from the time we descended down Alp D'Huez and did not let up for the entire day. We rolled out dressed in our winter gear at 7:50am and finished in our winter gear at 6:50pm.

. The only time I have seen a group of 16 riders do a 28 kilometre climb decked out in all their winter gear, plus rain jackets and still complaining about being cold.

. I have to keep reminding myself that it is actually summer here in the French Alps. I have never been so cold in my life while riding in summer weather.

. So many times in the past seven years have I witnessed Smiddy riders and their determination to get the job done. Today was one of those days. It would have been so easy just to say bugger climbing a col that goes up to 2067 metres in the sleeting body numbing icy frigid conditions. Instead we all stuck to the plan, suffered like a dog with no hind legs and got on with the job at hand. But boy did we suffer - See my next observation.

. The climb up the Col de la Croix de Fer is as tough as they come with pitches from 6% to 15% gradient. The first five unrelenting kilometres averages out at 10%. Then you descend for a couple of kilometres before you hit this virtual wall that rises up, an up, as far as the eye can see. It crushes the spirit if you let it, the legs burn so bad that to turn each pedal stroke is torture and your lungs are screaming out with every stroke to bloody well stop this stupid nonsense! Now on a good day, when it is warm and the blood is actually getting to your legs, it is a slow torture. Now throw in a day where the wind chill factor brings the temperature down to a couple of degrees and this is what happens. The blood is going to those parts of your body where it is needed most, namely the heart, the respiratory system and a small portion is left for those pathetic chicken wing legs we were born with. As for the feet, the hands, your gorgeous face and your private parts, it is as if they fail to exist. No blood means massive shrinkage and pain bordering on frostbite proportions. But besides that we had nothing to complain about!

. As each rider made it to the top, Rowan and JJ had another battle royal for the King of the Mountain with JJ just missing out again, only this time by less than 100 metres. Both of these guys are in no way competitive but boy they sure like showing one another how non-competitive they are by smashing each other into the next universe. I think Marky, Mikey and Jimmy were next, followed by Neil and Graham. Over a two hour period we all finished immensely proud of ourselves for the effort required to get to the top. Graeme, who was driving the van, did an awesome job getting each rider to strip out of their kit, put their dry kit on and civvies over the top and get them in the one and only cafe that is situated exactly on top of the Col to stay warm until all had crossed the line.

. The entire past four days I have been telling the lads just wait until you see the view from the top of the Col de la Croix de Fer. World class, best in the galaxy, very pretty, majestic, that sort of thing. What they got to see was a blanket of thick fog!

. The descent back down the way we had just climbed would normally be a time for celebration for those that like descending. But even Jimmy, Neil, Mark Anthony, Ad's and myself were dreading it. The roads were saturated with running sheets of water at various points and mini rock slides spew rocks and debri out onto the roads. On the way up I would stop and throw any rocks that had fallen onto the road off to the side, as I knew we were coming back down the same way. The entire down section was clear, yet by the time we descended an hour later there was crap all over the road yet again. It scared me to think that if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time when they come tumbling down then it is lights out! But I am so extremely pleased to say that all arrived in one piece, but the skinny amongst us, including your's truly, were a uncontrollable shivering mess. We then had a further 40 kilometres of descending down towards Grenoble to get through in the unrelenting rain and not once, not ever, did I and quite a few others, ever feel a whisper of warmth in our flesh.

. Today once we got down the majority of the descents the priority was to keep moving as fast as possible but without burning anyone. To ride too slow meant the coldness would creep back in. Every stop for a traffic light, for the one puncture suffered by none other than Salty, for a call of nature stop, was enough to start shivering as we were all wet to the skin. I had four layers on and I was soaked from the bottom layer to the top and no matter what the pace was I just could not stop shivering. Anyway the team pulled together as they do in situations like this and I really need to make mention of the huge amount of work done by Ad's, Jimmy and Rowan in putting a hand on the back of Mark Anthony and Smythey and helping them to stay with the group on any of the many climbs to get home. Mark was once again lost for words when he was telling me how much he appreciated their help, as I know Smythey was as well.

. The buzz that went though the group when Neil and Eric turned us onto the road that we knew meant five kilometres to home, was like a jolt of electricity connecting us all to each other's life-force. The pace picked up, spirits lifted considerably and we rode that last section faster than any other of the 173 kilometres that we covered on this toughest of tough days.

. The day for the Smiddy huddle honour was passed over to Eric, who has earned his Aussie monica as 'Uncle Eric', due to his caring nature towards the other riders. Anyway old Unc, at 46 years of age, delivered a bottler of a speech that was welcomed by all the lads. We especially roared with laughter when he commented; "Boys I would go to a strip club with anyone of you!" In Australia speak we would have said; "go to war", but I guess that is how it is done in the States...

. Row read out the excellent blog that he wrote on the Alp D'Huez day and of course the lads all laughed long and hard at the mention he made with regards to my new love in Alyssa.

. One very important thing Row left out of yesterday blog was the 'Shark Attack and Hide Project'. It was successful on day two last year in the Pyrenees', and once again I caught them unaware when at the base of Alp D'Huez I pushed off ahead of the group by a scant 60 seconds, and before even getting to the first part of the climb, hid in the garden of a house, watch the Smiddy peloton float by, then started the climb in last place, which is pretty much where I stayed. Actually I caught Boof and we rode together for 16 switchbacks. Anyway Rowan and JJ were chasing me down but Row said he finally realised half way up the climb that I had done it again. Done deal! Will they fall for it when we run the next tour in Italy in 2015?

. Tonight was pizza night and Eric made his secret recipe of spicy garlic bread that he will not share with anyone unless we accompany him to a strip club. Which translates to that we must ride with him for just one more day -as in going to war- and then all will be revealed. Please cast your mind back to the first tour and do you remember the day we climbed a 14 kilometre wall that I nicknamed 'The Nothing'? Well that is our final day and I am not sure it is worth doing in exchange for a stupid recipe...

Well that is all from me. I am bone dead tired, it is now 11:30pm and my eyes feel as if someone has squirted them with vinegar. I would like to say a huge thank you to Marky Anthony for looking after me, not only tonight, but each night he has done something to help me out. He knows these blogs take me a few hours and has kindly not only done my washing and hung it out, but has made me a cup of tea. It has been an immense pleasure sharing a room with him. Not sure he will say the same of me due to 1. I talk in my sleep. 2. I have been known to pass -only on the odd occasion- a tiny tad of wind from my bottom. and 3. I keep him awake as I tap, tap, tap on this keypad with the light on until midnight. Sorry champ!

Anyway final words from me are I just wish that you could have seen what these lads did today. The guts and determination they displayed was legendary. They not only did themselves proud, but let me assure you they have earned every single solitary donor dollar anyone out there has donated on their behalf. My oh my they did good today and Rowan, Matt and I could not be prouder of their efforts!

Take care my friends.


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