Tour of the high mountains of Portugal


Destination Porto…. sadly easyjet and seemingly every other airline serving Europe couldn’t function as a result of the weather and a new ticketing system at Luton and Stansted so after a nearly 2 hr delay (for an hour 40 min flight)

we arrived to a deserted customs hall… well devoid of working ground crew anyway…50 min later we have our gear and meet up with Pedro our guide for the week.

Its a small group and there is a definite feeling that it’s all a bit new to our host but he supplies us with home made quiche and some local points of interest as we work our way into central Porto(a near on impossible task as a result of the complicated one way system)

Andrew an intrepid cyclo-tourer regaled us with his memoirs of when he was last in Porto and mentioned how he stayed at a hotel that stuck in his mind as close to the most appauling he’d had to endure on his many and varied travels… as we drew up at the exact same venue which was to be our base for the next 2 nights… it didn’t bode well

We were allocated twin rooms which Andrew and I were convinced was incorrect as we had assumed we had singles but let it slide as we wanted to build our bikes and shake off the travel gremlins. Our chosen venue for bike assembly was the dining room (obviously) which wasn’t quite what the proprietor had had in mind so when he arrived all hell broke loose in Portuguese and we had to decamp to the garage…. handily located on the other side of the main square up a side street.

Pedro then took Andrew and I on a port (the drink) tour which was quite fascinating although the guides English was delivered with a strange lilt that made her quite hard to fully understand…

despite this we had a good time and took in the waterfront charm that is emphatically Porto.

The rain had returned with a vengeance as we set off for our dinner in a strange almost fast food type restaurant where we had the local delicacy frachescino….. . which I can firmly say must be an acquired taste, one I shaltn’t be acquiring any time soon☹ and then back to Porto’s answer to faulty towers.

The joys of which were only just beginning to reveal themselves as the rest of the hotel had been taken by a group of Italian students who came in from the various clubs in dribs and drabs from 02.30 to 04.15 making so much noise in the process that none of us got any real sleep at all, this they repeated the following night just for good measure😡🤔😲


Despite the rain and wind the following day we set off for a flat shake down ride along the coast.

Firstly riding to a local bike shop for a bit of brake maintenance on Ian’s bike.

We then had to ride back down the wet cobbled streets to cross the river which was an unwelcome wake up call for us all🤤

Once on the route it quickly became apparent that my rear mech hanger had been bent in transit which meant I only had a handful of gears to play with but as it was flat that wasn’t too much of an issue…. one of group Owen, called it a day and did his own thing after an hour or so which we all felt was the right decision and frankly as the rain got worse and the wind a little more emphatic we rather envied his choice

Anyway we got to the end of this sand spit that was our chosen coffee/ lunch spot and then repeated the desolate ride back finishing with a traffic enhanced sprint up the cobble stones to our garage/ hotel

Fortunately dinner that night was epic and we all had a fantastic meal regardless of what we chose which picked up the mood of the group no end. We also popped our heads in to the train station which has the most stunning tiled depictions of Porto’s past.

All was good until our Italian contingent repeated the previous nights onslaught with similar enthusiasm and sadly almost identical timing😣


Despite the breakfast being totally in keeping with our surroundings we packed our bags and left the hotel from hell for putt next destination Villa Real which is situated 3/4 asking the durro valley. Being all equipped with the latest gps tracking device (mines a Wahoo elemnt👍😚) we endeavoured to start the ride… only to be told by Pedro that the ride with GPS file didn’t begin at the hotel but rather on the river bank outside the city which left us riding a quickly devised route on Andrew’s Garmin up and down the cobbled foggy streets of Porto at rush hour…. things could only get better🤤

things did get better although not totally dry the ride along the river was in places stunning with fabulous vistas and sinuous descents followed by gentle climbs.

Pedro stopped several times along the route to give us water and food and take a few pictures for his site.

After lunch which was windy and rather cold I changed the rear hanger and was then able to use all the gears sram had intended…. timing is everything as we had a rapid trundle along the rivers edge to Pinouh

and then up into the foot hills that led to our final destination… we were all worried about the demands of this final section of the ride but our concerts were for nothing as it wasn’t that hard and finished the ride off very nicely in Vila Real… although true to form the route failed to take us to the hotel but we were at least in sight of it when the route terminated.


Rest day and Andrew who like us all had had very little sleep the previous two nights ducked out of the ride which left the three of us to head out with Pedro meeting us at the finish to bring us home again.

Much hillier that one might expect from a recovery ride but living in the mountains does tend to mean you’re gonna climb something which ever direction you take.

The rain was early in the ride and although over cast it didn’t ruin the ride bringing us eventually back to the venue of our lunch stop the previous day., from which Pedro drove us home… all happy to have got out and stayed fairly dry in the process👍

From a very shaky first night food wise the restaurant choices have been excellent with all of us enjoying something on the menu

(I’m piscatarian and Andrew is gluten free) …..having said that , the following day saw the lack of Owen as part of the team , having been up most of the night(less said about that the better)😲


This was the queen stage of the week with three sizable climbs…. not wanting to be put off too much I don’t think any of us looked at the ride in much detail… I’m still unsure if had I done is have been any better off but the magical mystery tour began as w e’re quickly becoming accustomed to some way from out leaving point on the other side of town and we were straight into the first climb…. which we were all unprepared for as it wound it’s way up and over the mountains(snow was seen in the distance for the second time on the trip😨

Over zealous local dogs became an increasing feature with one dog in particular guarding his corner with much enthusiasm.

Andrew was in his element climbing much line Alberto contador (out of the saddle) for long stretches…i was struggling but that’s why I’m here to do more and hopefully get a little stronger as a result

and Ian was taking his own time but cresting both the climbs we did… Andrew and I suggested they Pedro ride with him instead of challenge us to a climb fest as essentially he was the tour guide and guide was his role… we both thought it odd that we needed to even mention this but having done so he sheperded his remaining client to the summits

Having descended climb 2 we had lunch and then meandered towards the final climb of the day .

Along the way my drive train got stiffer and stiffer and finally refused to turn….i thought the bottom bracket had gone but after Andrew gave it a close examination it appeared that the locking nut on the cassette had come undone(this is almost impossible to achieve… in fact loosening them can take several attempts from even the hardiest mechanics)…. needless to say we didn’t have the tool to fix it with us. After a little cajoling we managed to convince Pedro it was his responsibility to source a solution to this problem, which eventually he did having erroneously set off in the wrong direction initially.

This search and rescue took well over an hour and when we had tightened the offending nut it was obvious that Pedro had had enough and wanted to call time on the days ride.

I for one was not at all happy about this….especially as it was my bike that had caused the disruption 🙈but both Andrew and Ian were happy enough to go along with Pedro’s rescue plan of getting his mum to drive out and pick us up…. so that was what we did, Ian and I both making sure we topped the days kms up to at least a century(Andrew is a Miles man so couldn’t see the point🤣)

The cavalry arrived with the rain and I don’t think any of us were too upset about the foreshortened ride as we wound our way up the final climb in the van. It went on forever and ever and in the driving rain resembled the Scottish highlands to me at least. 😲

The call to finish early was certainly the right one but it was a true test of Pedro’s character to carry it off…. again failing to plan etc…. he seems rather to reactionary and not forward thinking enough to deal with these issues but this was a very unlikely scenario so I guess we can forgive him that. 🤔🤔🤔 it was Friday the thirteenth after all😲

One of the discussions in the van on the way home involved the sign on procedure for the Grand Fondo on Sunday… Pedro’s initial intention was to drive us all there so we could register….. Andrew and I quickly nixed that ad he elected to take out documentation with him instead freeing us up to do another recovery ride.


Sunshine……. they first sighting of the golden orb and we rode off to a view point

This was far more what we had all expected both ride wise but more importantly weather wise….. had my legs wanted to play ball it would have been prefect.

Preceding this we took the temperamental Italian

to the bike shop for a final check over which the charming owner did for nothing after Andrew explained the finer details of the problem….. not sure I would have managed the same result without him… in fact his presence on this tour is undoubtedly the reason I remained on it and didn’t just get back on a plane home so thank you sir for making up for so many of the gaps in this week’s itinerary 👍😉

On our return we grabbed a which shower and then went out for a pizza at a place Ian had discovered whilst having the morning off the bike…. hugely popular with the locals we had to wait for a table but standing in the sunshine really wasnt much to ask.

Later we had our pre race dinner at another local vila real restaurant where the speciality was meat…i guess it was inevitable so I had the staple choice on these occasions… an omelette

Early start meant early bed


Montemuro gran fondo

We left the hotel at just after six for the torturous drive to the race venue in Cinfaes…. it rained the whole way but at least the snow that had been sighted at the top of the climbs had been washed away🤔as a result

Visibility was poor but there was a certain sinking feeling as we drive down one of the many climbs of the day.

Initially Pedro parked in a carpark on the outskirts of town but with a little encouragement from Andrew and I he reluctantly drove closer too the action and more importantly the coffee and toilet options.

We got ready and the rain fell less heavily but as we made our way to the final pen it stopped so it wasn’t long before race capes were stowed away and we began to wonder if our clothing choices were going to work .

Eventually our pen crossed the start line and a quick whip around the town, over speed bumps and the obligatory cobbles left a sea of bidons and mechanicals right from the off

We all ….bar Owen managed to avoid these , he sadly had one of several mishaps which finally resulted in him walking the final 2 km with his bike on his shoulder having swapped a wheel, had several punctures and as a result missed the cut-off for the gran fondo ; had done the medio fondo instead…. Poor guy , seemed to have all the bad luck going which he cheerfully shrugged off…. not sure I’d have managed such a l’aise fair attitude had that been my day so chapeau matey…… it’s a real shame because Owen is one of those lucky buggers who has bags of natural talent….a real souplesse on the pedals and he never really got a chance to use it….. keep at it mate this is your sport … no doubt👍

Back to the race…. as the pace began to settle down and groups began too form I found myself ding a riding interview with one of the motorbike photographers for about 3 mins which was quite an effort… sadly it was heavily cut but I appear in the final video chatting briefly and riding(if you look carefully) in 2/3 other clips so that was exciting

The locals were out in force to support the race and those in cars were all prepared to wait as the rolling road closure swept through

The food stops were very well appointed and mostly in the right places, the signage was very clear and the standard of the marshalling was also top drawer

The hills……. these were extreme both in their frequency and their steepness…. with many a seasoned campaigner having to result to shank’s pony for the final ascents….i like Andrew am of the ‘ you never get off you only fall off attitude’ so managed all the climbs aboard the pin 🚵‍♂️

There was a slight smattering of rainfall on one of the descents but that came to nothing and I now rode with a very strong rider called Hugo

who had been there or there abouts on the last couple of climbs but stunned me most of all by catching me on a down hill…… that very rarely happens ad I like to think it’s the pine thing I do well on a bike…. anyway we helped each other out as we kept the pace up and really started reeling in a few of the small groups that were masking they’re way towards the finish…..

The final 6 kms was up hill back tip the city streets we had started in with the final 2 kms on the cobbles again…i lost a couple of places on the climb but came in just under 5 hrs which I was pleased with….. it was all I had on the day and that is all you want to feel. Pedro eclipsed that time by 40 mins which gave him an ave speed of 29kmh which was super speedy

My effort put me 10 th in the old gits category and 106 th overall … can’t complain about that.

Andrew had a more measured day coming in 20 mins later and Ian a while after that but he’s a massive bloke and new to this lark so double chapeau to him(in his outcast cycleclub kit👌)

We drove back and agreed to meet up at 1900 for dinner which wad at a venue new to Pedro but had been recommended to him…. the food once it all arrived(they forgot to order Ian’s) was great the service worthy of several P45’s ….. the icing on the cake was Pedro treated us👍👍👍👍

We said our farewells as Ian and I were riding back to Porto in the morning but Andrew had to go in the van and Owen was driving himself back to Gibraltar with his disgraced colnago in the boot


After the now routine breakfast Andrew disassembled his bike and ian and I set ours up for what looked life the best weather day of the whole trip 😎

Not wanting to rub that in any further we said our goodbyes and headed off… up hill of course😂

The route planner for the first time on this trip actually started at the hotel…. we couldn’t believe it and we were soon whizzing along back to the durro valley and along the river back to Porto….

it was a lovely day …exactly what we had all imagined the whole trip was going to be like so we both enjoyed an easy pace with plenty of photo opportunities to maximize the positive vibe to the end of a rather mixed week.

Once in Porto the sing in the satnavs tail was a hideous climb in traffic which then put us on a diversion …. over cobbles obviously….. as if this wasn’t bad enough we couldn’t locate Ian’s hotel…. this was the closest I saw him get to losing his shit but we got there in the end.

I then set off in search of the appropriate metro station(yes you can take bikes on the underground)

After mastering the ticket machine I waited on the platform for ever until the appropriate train came along but at lest thus gave me time to figure lout where to be when the doors opened so I could get the pin in the best place for the 16 stops to the airport😲😲😲😲

My phone had died….. 😡on which was the email regarding my intended hotel for the night…..i got of the train and rode around eventually deciding to just wing it and ask at reception in the most likely looking place….. bingo I lucked out and my first choice was infact the right one…. Pedro had left my bike box and luggage and it was time for a shower and to put the pin in her travel box.

That done I had dinner and despite my very best efforts to get an early night I’m writing this blog as I can’t bloody sleep…. might have caught a bit too much sun I think 😎😎😎😎😲

Early flight and back to work by 11.00…. if all goes to plan…. so til next month Portugal that’s a wrap thank you and good night…. what’s left of it☹


The ride of the falling leaves Il Lombardia GF 

For the first time and slightly unusually , the day after the pros , we get to do the final 110 km of the last monument on my and many other cyclists bucket list ‘Il Lombardia’. 
The weather was fantastic for the whole weekend with the wind on Fri blowing itself out ; leaving us with the perfect weather to one of the most stunning back drops to a cycle event one could possibly envisage (if Carlsberg did grand fondos)
Saturday we rode the back side of the murro to watch the pros demolish it with the sort of irreverence that illustrates the enormous gap between them and us mere mortals!
And then descended it , which was horrific on the hands and the brake pads/ carbon wheels and rode home via the Ghissallo 
Coming back to a private viewing of the museum that evening 
before dinner which was…. unusual and typically local apparently… we’ll leave it there!!


Up early on race day for the drive to como , We had a Taxi/bus and trailer brilliantly pilot us around the sketchy roads on the lake side to the start in como town center.
Once in our pen i noticed the ONE and only visible portaloo by the start so shinned up the barriers and made a beeline for it … the queue afterwards was epic with many people not making the start on time I’m sure!!
From the gun the pace was mental with scant regard for the gradient changes or the’neutralised’ nature of the first 30km i found myself in the red far more than i would have liked but kept up ….just , and regained many places on the decents luckily

Once on the Ghissallo i got into my pace and gradually clawed back a few more places meeting Marco the brother of Matteo from Passoni/ashmei (small world) and my old friend Mark Bennett from Kingston wheelers who told me the tragic story to their trip involving their organiser Maria dying of a brain anurism 10 days before the trip…. they took a team photo in her honour at the top by the chapel 
I caught Eric (from our group) on the way to the murro and we rode it and the following descent together with me narrowing missing repeating the crash from the pro race the previous day
Along the lake side I did my best to smash it home assuming that como was the end of the race… it was ; just not this time , as no sooner had we entered the town then we were up a horrid hill out of the centre which climbed for 4.5 km causing Eric to ‘spit his dummy’ big time leaving me to climb it solo … it went on and on but eventually I got over it and down the other side on some sketchy roads into town where the organisers , having failed to secure a lane closure for the final route left us to fight our way through the lunchtime traffic… bonkers but strangely exhilarating 

Then boom …it  was over !!!
After a few photos I rode back along the lake to catch the ferry back to belagio
 and back up the foot hills of the ghissallo to finish at the hotel… epic and worth waiting all this time to finally do 

A fantastic place with epic roads and a big day out despite the modest distance…a must

A wonderful synopsis of the event by Jered Gruber ; who along with his wife , Ashley I had the pleasure of spending time with a couple of l’eroicas ago
 . Both take amazing shots and really live the events as you will fully appreciate having read their review above .

I am still struggling with the whole concept of having completed the tour….a sort of dream/nightmare come true but far from feeling a reality…. my legs are so hopeless it’s as if I’d never ridden a bike before… the body and mind are so surprising you think you’ve harnessed them and then they leave the room…. 
Brilliant lol (I May be suffering from a rather  tragic bout of Man flu btw )


Ok so it’s now Wednesday…. I’ve been back at work for 2 days now .

I Rode there on Tuesday ; the legs felt like lead on the way in and less so on the sunny ride home, in total I rode 55 kms ….or to the first feed stop on some of the tours’ longer days and I felt totally unable to repeat the ride this morning .!!!… what the hell? 

Standing all day is proving very painful as it always does after a break so there’s that to consider but I’ve really struggled to find the energy to do anything else after the day job🤤

As I had imagined I’ve been asked the same sort of questions in a variety of guises and come up with a few different ways of conveying the same answers…. mainly to try and keep my work mates from going mad😂 but at least I’m  in an environment that actively allows me to look back on the past 3 weeks and helps to remind me of what has gone before …….although some of the time lines are already hard to pin down. 

I’ve spoken to the bike shop ‘ on your bike ‘ and they’ve agreed to hold the Pin until Mon and do a mini service on her (paid for obviously) by way of a thank you for the free storage. I’ve filled in the questionnaire that Kate asked us to do and I’ve been very clear to anyone who asks that NO i won’t be doing it again. 🤣🤣🤣

The other  favourite question which at this point I have no answer to is ‘ what are you going to do next… you can’t loose the fitness now ….surely ; etc ‘ 

The Tour of Lombardy is what I’d  really like to do but so far thingy is quite clear that isn’t on the agenda so we’ll  put that into the ‘work in progress’ category and hope I can change her mind…. I’m so indebted to her good nature already I feel that this might be the proverbial ‘straw'(as in camels back) so it needs very careful planning….. Any positve suggestions greatly received btw 😉

Watching the tour highlights tonight brought back some vivid memories of the epic climbs towards the end of the tour and I think if I’m correct that I descended marginally quicker than the pros did although I might have had a bit of wind assistance 🚴‍♀️🌬🌬🌬 😁

Lastly thank you all for persevering with this mindless missive it’s been very interesting to do on many levels and more than a wee bit of a challenge at times…. as I’m sure reading it has been too 

I greatly appreciate the comments and thank you for those although I never did work out how to reply to them… so sorry about that and finally thank you for working through what , to be honest , is a 50/50 split between the phones spell checker and my terrible spelling and grammar you’ve all been brilliant🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗

For the final time ..  regarding this epic event at least  ; I wish you adieu 

Neil x #lifertourdeforce2017

The final push

For the first time on this tour I arrived at breakfast in ‘civies’ and not cycling kit…. all felt a bit weird (another example of how institutionalised we have all become without realising) 🤤not the best , but by far from the worst showing food wise ; I managed to employ my marmite sachets effectively much to the envy of many of the other TDF ers 😁

The tour stage begins where the first tour started ….we begin a little further away and do a very different route as we’re ‘only’ doing one full circuit of the the champs Elise (most are disappointed at this news but having done it before i know it’s a shit fest and one that most will find more than a little alarming!!!

We stop for our normal (not needed today) food stop and then ride to Versaiilles for the first chance for the friends and family to connect with the group. We are early but most are there including Andrew’s wife Penny with champagne and cannapes…fabulous:-)

Then we ride into Paris proper which is a lot quieter than usual as a result of it being the bank holiday weekend after Bastille day ,which is a blessing😏 

more family and photos at the tour Eiffel and then up the champs Elise for pictures at the L’arc de triomphe ….a select few, me included….obviously , 

then went hell for leather on a single circuit with the traffic which made it a mental critirium ride smashing massive efforts then stopping for lights then smashing it again … brilliant and even over the cobbles the pin never missed a beat … it’s behaved perfectly throughout … the perfect companion …merci pinerello finally je t’aime 🙂

Having worked relatively well the WiFi or my ability to master it has vanished so I’m stuck in visual limbo with pictures I want to upload freezing the screen…. nothing else for it I’m afraid than to write more…. sorry folks😄

The final evening was spent aboard a bataux mouche which I’ve never done and as we drew up to the quay i felt an ominous sense of just why that was… however having semi boarded the wrong boat we did eventually embark on our rivet cruise with champagne and a warm evening which meant we were above deck drinking to our collective achievement. 

Many of the family and friends that had appeared during the day were with us and the evident tenseness indelibly etched into our faces was easing along with our  general demeanour which could only mean the journey was very nearly at an end. 

Round tables… strangely a rarity on this trip (The second appearance I think) were the order of the evening and somehow despite feeling that I had managed to irritate many of the riders with my incessant need to win I was in the unique position of having places reserved on 2 separate tables…. not without its potential issues. I plumped for the non ‘Andrew and Penny’ table as I will see them next weekend for his 50 th birthday celebrations . the food and service were also better than expected with the added entertainment of pouring your own Leffe(strong Belgian beer that requires the glass to be cooled prior to pouring so that you don’t end up with a head and no beer)….we were given plastic glasses and no cooling mechanism….. it was frothy man!!!

Rick Wates gave a thank you speech which was very polished managing to touch all aspects of the tour despite only being present at the start and finish….a practised art me thinks😏.Alarmingly he chose to quote a lengthy passage from my blog mid speech which came out of the blue and to ram the sense of embarrassment home he even attributed it to me🤤🤤🤤😉

A series of mini thank you speeches followed ; all well received and then the fantastic ‘Travis’ stood(as best he could with his knackered achillies) and presented by far the most enigmatic speech of the evening , culminating in our collective presentation of cards and wine to the full time staff who have made this odessey possible . just as we thought he’d finished he, as only he could, he causally dropped in that he had arranged signed tour de france team shirts from AG2R (Romain Bardets’ team ; who is a podium contender) for each of them…a real money can’t buy gift…. the man just gets more awesome the longer you’re around him😊😊😊

After our ‘ lifers ‘ plaque presentation it was out on deck to  take in the full beauty of Paris at night (clearly the captain is extremely adept at hovering in just the right place on the river long enough to enable us all to capture the essence of ‘le joie de vie’…. Parisian style🗼🗼🗼🗼

On deck I met a variety of wives and girlfriends, which was lovely and helped ’round the circle’ of some of the riders personalities I’d come to know so well over the previous month. 

Back at the hotel it all got a bit crazy as we ‘locust like’ hoovered all the available alcohol in the bar …. I managed a sublimely timed exit only to hear and witness (at breakfast the following morning) in the faces of some of those who were left behind how festivities continued well after 04:00 with singing and dancing taking over from drinking as there really wasn’t any drink left to consume….. an apt way to complete the marathon that is by far and away the most demanding physical and mental episode I’ve ever voluntarily taken part in . 

Uber was the next challenge , Zoe uses it all the time so I’ve never needed to sign up but now seemed as good a time as any….. first uber and it’s in Paris , in French what could possibly go wrong? 

I picked a shared ride(when I say picked I mean I blundered into that option) so my trip to gare de nord went via the hospital to pick up a heavily pregnant black woman who it turned out wasn’t going any where near the station but we got there eventually via some back streets i never need to visit again😨

Last time I was at the gare de nord was after I’d  ridden to Paris over night (london/paris24) and had mistakenly  packed my passport away with my bike which the organisers shipped home in a truck… leaving me watching the wonderful Mark Cavendish winning  on the champs Elise with the mayor but no clear idea of how I was going to get back to blighty….i did , thanks to a very statuesque black French girl at Eurostar first class who walked me through the whole process about 20 mins faster  than my mate who had his documentation. 

Spurred on by this experience I assumed the air of business traveller and went  unchallenged through the first class section leap frogging (pun intended) the poor heaving mass of humanity all queuing and paying miserably for being English in France… oh did anyone mention brexit????

Final leg now … the terminably slow section of the train journey from Dover to St Pancras. 


Bastille day stage 19 233km

After the last 2 days we were all looking forward to an easy stage flat, down hill and gentle….quel surprise it was really none of the above so by the time the first feed stop came up we’d done 2 categorised climbs and had 55 km under our belts.

My legs were somewhere having a  ‘lie in’ so being the neutralized section suited them just fine. Soon after the break they cane to life and I pulled Gerrard Rich Mark and Quintus(yes that really is his name) along at white a lick….i love to do this for Gerrard as he genuinely gets a kick out of it which somehow makes it all worth while

Second feed station and I’ve had words with one of our tour taster riders who wears earphones , rides in the middle of the road and is generally a liability to all about this behaviour… rather fell on deaf ears and i was told to ride with others if i didn’t like it….proverbial red rag 😠😠😠

So after the stop I could see said rider in the distance(on his own) and rode at a measured distance long enough to get a feel for his strengths and weaknesses before passing him… he then tried to latch on to my wheel which given his previous comments wasn’t on…red mist time 

I rode the rest of the stage like I was a Bastille day firework missing both the following feed stops and smashing it home nearly an hour ahead of the next rider home. The wind was bonkers with me doing over 300 watts into it at one stage and getting 19kmh in return…. worse than the £/€ exchange rate lol

I grabbed water at a fountain in one of the town squares before making the effort to turn to see the magnificent mount ventoux ‘rising like and empress above the seranghetee’.(no idea how to spell that!)… oh no hang on wrong mountain , wrong song sorry…. the wind and 38° will do that to you!!!

Having a beer with Gavin whilst he sits for dinner… he doesn’t do waiting so this was quite a unique occasion !!! He said he thought I was the strongest , most consistant all round cyclist at the event which made me feel a great sense of pride and it was a little more elegantly put than my Aussie mates comments earlier in the event lol

With at least half of the field still out there the fact I’ve been back for 3 and half hrs isn’t sitting well with everyone…….😏

Time trial (of sorts)in Marseille ;-)

The wind whistled around our campagnille  hotel all night making sleep a bit of an anathema , plus the heat exhaustion and sunburn meant we all turned up for ought bus transition looking decidedly perky…. of course it could have been the celebratory beers…….

Sarah had ordered a 60 person coach….. in typical French indifference the driver arrived with a 48 seater …. first issue of the day for Sarah to  handle… which in true form became a non issue immediately; any misgivings i might have had prior to the trip regarding logistics were more than answered with her cool efficiency… chapeau ; as we are now all very used to saying 😎

An hour or so on the coach to the port of Marseilles where the time trial is scheduled to take place. 

The orange velodrome is quite something and is the venue for the start and finish. 

We head off following the now ubiquitous arrows until Mark and I miss one and do an extra trip along the corniche…. no matter as it’s not being timed due to the roads being open. 

A stop for coffee and a few photos and then the climb to the citadel….. holy hilly hell…. straight up then straight up again then down then straight up again… all over 18% … Lord knows how the  pros will manage it on a TT bike ad the descent is just as technical…. worth watching as the normal winners may well come unstuck here!!!

Back to the velodrome a striptease in the car park so as not to travel in sweaty lycra and then on the metro for lunch before the train to Paris…. superb food and beer with Ian , Chris and Roland(who very kindly paid the bill) and then the very hot and semi torcherous TGV to Paris 

once At the terminus we got on a coach eventually… The diver wasn’t clear as to where we had to meet him so Sarah marched us around holding a cycling helmet aloft….hysterical (clearly any ability to think for ourselves has been removed over the past 4 weeks)

The bus driver continued the theme by over shooting the turning to out Novotel and them having to reverse up the dual carriageway to rectify his mistake whist remonstrating with Sarah as to how this wasn’t his error…a pattern forming I feel!

Room to myself…. it feels rather odd  but the Wi-Fi works Rik Wates had returned and all is right with the world. Tmrw we ride the final leg of what i can scarcely believe has been my life for the past month and then it will be a memory; one that in many ways i will treasure forever as the less glamorous aspects recede and the sense of achievement begins to form but for now there’s still another 100kms to ride … lead on mcduff and try and remember ‘you’ve got to cross the finish line to finish’

Dinner ; with a strange air of it being the end of something…. there is a tangible sense of panic beginning to form in my fellow riders ‘ eyes as the reality of being told where to go , when and for how long is shortly and seemingly very abruptly about to come to an end.

Sarah has that look of a woman very close to the edge, who can almost taste the last drop of responsibility leaving her glass….. it’s almost gone unnoticed just how many times and in how many ways she has apparently effortlessly kept the levitation that is this enormously disperate group of semi like minded individuals from going astray and instead forming a peculiar bond that is very hard to describe 

Many of our preconceptions have been proved wrong , some very right , but the diversity of ages, professions, financial status and general outlook not to mention ethnic diversity has surprised all of us. (In a good way)….people are remarkable and what we’ve done individually and as a collective is one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever experienced. 

With the end so close you can almost stick your tongue out and taste it a time for reflection needs to be made … not to mention I have to figure out a way of communicating this to a variety of interested and less interested people at work and at home hhhmmm …. back to my poor work mates who regardless of how many ways I devise to tell the stories they will get very bored of hearing them ; very quickly…. sorry in advanceguys😣😣😣😣….inevitable I’m
 afraid but you’ve had a month of peace and quite so it’s swings and roundabouts 😂…. nice tan lines😎😎😎😎😎

A bientot