France, j’arrive! Plus, Win Fabulous Prizes!

I was pretty worried about stage 15. To be honest, I still am. Last night I was ridiculously cold by the time I turned around, and I am sure that had I kept going I wouldn’t have been able to ride today.

It isn’t actually the climbing that is so bad. While you climb you stay warm just because you are working. The problem is the descending (or stopping to look at maps). When you descend you start from up high where it is extra cold, you aren’t keeping yourself warm, and you have the cold wind blowing over you.

At one point during the shortened descent I did do I began shivering so badly that the whole bike including luggage started shaking. As you speed down a steep and winding descent this is a fairly unnerving feeling, so I was very happy to get to a warm hotel.

The problem was that today’s stage went even higher, had more descents, and the weather was looking terrible. So I was worried. But so far, it hasn’t been so bad. As I write (and in case you haven’t noticed I tend to write these posts in stages over the course of about 15 hours) I am at the top of the first climb.

When I woke up the first thing I did was look for notice of a change of course, but there wasn’t one. Then I opened the curtains. Blue sky and sunshine. I cursed myself for not having set my alarm earlier.

It takes a long time for me to get going in the morning. Every morning I have to eat, and with a metabolism as inefficient as mine I have to eat a lot. Just that takes a long time. The last few nights I have been trying to get my stuff dry as well, so I have had to pack it all in the morning. After bagging and double bagging have both failed I am now triple bagging some things, so again, this takes a long time.

And of course this morning there were my brakes. The bike is less than a month old, but already I had to change the brake pads. It is clear that they just don’t make things to last these days. That or I have ridden down from a lot of mountain passes on wet and gritty roads with a ridiculously heavy load. Anyway, I had known this was coming up, had bought new pads, and planned to do it tomorrow on the rest day. Last night though it became clear that it couldn’t wait that long.

So that was another delay this morning, and all up it meant I was leaving later than I should have, again. The first climb though was still beautiful.

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The snow gleaming in morning sun

Climbing up from the valley I gradually approached the snow, and the view got better and better. I was climbing out of Italy and headed for France, and it was a sensational climb. Near the top though I got stopped by a gendarme. These guys are more geared to the Tour de France than the Giro d’Italia, and want to stop traffic much earlier. This was still an hour before the start of the race though! On the way up I had passed an Italian couple, and I was now very glad I had. They arrived and were able to talk the guy into letting us continue at least to the top. There though we still got stopped, and I’ve been here for the last two hours.

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There are worse places to be stopped!

Mind you, there are worse places to be stopped. There is a restaurant here. The service is a bit erratic, but I’m in no hurry. It will be a great place to watch the race pass by. And the view is quite spectacular! The only downside is that the weather could easily turn much worse in the afternoon. I am hoping not, but we will see.

Now I mentioned fabulous prizes, and here they are! One of the most prized souvenirs for any cycling fan is a bidon (drink bottle) used by a pro during a great race. After any race passes by you can see fans scouring the roadside for these bidons, to be taken home and cherished. And I, dear readers, have been working for you!

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A prize any cycling fan would cherish!

That is right, I have collected a limited number of bidons, just for you! This bidon was actually used during stage 10. I’ve washed it and will post it to the lucky winner. And how, you may wonder, do you win? Well, it’s like this. I am doing this ride for charity. There are three different charities that I am raising money for, and you can find details of them on the charities page. I have noticed though that donations are coming steadily, but slowly. I realise most people are waiting until I finish to donate, but I am worried that there will be such a rush then that the servers will crash. So I am trying to spread it out. So this fabulous prize goes to whoever makes the biggest donation before the end of Monday (in Italy). Everyone who has already donated will be entered as well, never fear.

You can do a single donation to one charity, or donations to two or three, just send me a message to let me know the total you donated (and the currency). And then I will let you know if you won, get your address, and send you your prize! Easy. Of course, you can still make a small donation if you prefer, because every donation helps.

I will post this one right now, then head out to watch the race. If you are watching on TV, look for me just after the first climb!

Cheers,
Rowan

Edit: the race just passed, and right on cue, it has started snowing!

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