Italy, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg…Belgium

Since I last posted we have stayed in, possibly, the most beautiful area of the entire tour (and that really is saying something), had one of the longest car journeys we could stomach and we have witnessed the greatest event of the cycling calendar.

The mountainous area surrounding Bolzano is stunning and the campsite we stayed at, Camping Catinaccio Rosengarten, was fantastic even for someone who isn’t keen on camping, like me. We arrived at the campsite mid-late afternoon; set up camp and did some laundry before heading out on a ‘make-it-up-as-you-go’ ride (or so I am led to believe). The ride took us up a mountain pass to a lake. The climb was tough; hot and longer than expected, particularly when undertaken on very little food. But we got there, looked at the lake and began the extremely chilly descent, stopping mid way down for dinner.

Teeth chattering, we continued back to the campsite, for what turned out to be another late night. However, having seen the amazing views around the area I got up early and took my camera out for a ride so that I could catch some of them in photographic form (I will share photos once home). Bonus: whilst I was out, the boys packed up camp!

We then embarked on an INCREDIBLY long day! Just short of 12 hours in the car, driving from Italy, through Austria and Germany and finally arriving in Luxembourg, where we stayed in the Campanile Lux Airport. Luckily they had some computers, so we did some overdue Strava and Garmin admin, which meant we had yet another late night!

Refreshed, we continued on to Namur, Belgium and immediately set out from the hotel, on our bikes to watch Stage Three of the Tour de France. At roughly ten miles into our ride, we became part of the parade, riding directly behind the ‘caravan’; cheered on by the waiting crowds we embarked on the first categorised climb of the tour; Cote du Bohisseau, which seemed relatively easy due to the atmosphere. We pulled in at the top, just past the climb finish line and began what was likely to be an hour or so wait for the riders to come through.

After sometime a motorbike pulled in, and it had a Radio Broadcasting in English… From which we were able to hear about the crash. Twitter went mental; Simon Warren stating that it was the worst cycling crash he had ever seen. And then the radio saying that the race had been neutralised. Texts from the Grandbeings who were watching on TV. The crash had happened just before the hill, and the riders were stopped at the bottom of the hill. The race wasn’t able to be restarted as there were not enough ambulances. All random information being fed to us from various channels.

And then they came past, relatively slowly. The race was restarted at the top of the hill. The hill no longer counted.

Once they had passed, we jumped on our bikes and legged it down to the next spot, just outside of Huy, where we were able to see them again. They did not look happy, it had been a hard day; ripped jerseys, exposed flesh, tears and frustration. This was in contrast to the party atmosphere which we then found in Huy. If you are into that sort of thing, then I think the party in Huy last night must have been amazing!

A quick snack of frites energised us to try the Mur de Huy, which had hosted the finish line, a few hours before. It was hard! It seems mean to put such a hard climb right at the end of over 100 miles of racing! But I managed it, much to the surprise of the boys. There was no way that I was going to give up, with all the people along the sides cheering me on “Allez Allez”.

The boys are riding today but I am having a day off. Now I have to go and get ready so we can catch the Tour coming through Namur and maybe get some free Haribo from the caravan.

Laura

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“Shall I call an ambulance?”

Saturday’s adventures…

As planned we headed out to attempt three of the TdF hills. The planned route of around 80 miles, had an elevation of about 8,000 ft, but we managed 27 miles of it and just under 2,400 ft.

Despite keenly watching the changing weather forecast regularly throughout the week, and realising that it would be wet and windy, we underestimated the effect of being up north and being up a big hill. It’s cold up there, and the weather is unpredictable.

We decided on quite different kit, but that is fairly normal as I feel the cold. I decided upon bib tights, waterproof socks, jersey, arm warmers, a waterproof and my Sealskin mitts. Ollie chose a Jersey, shorts, arm warmers and fingerless gloves.

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The first 20 miles were okay. It was rainy on and off, my arm warmers were off, my raincoat was on, off, on…and Ollie was happy with his choice of kit. However, after the 20 mile point we began to struggle. Ollie’s fingers were too exposed to the headwind and driving rain which was battering us, which meant that he had to keep them warm by putting them into his mouth. I was okay kit wise but the wind was sapping my energy. But the 20 mile point coincided with the first of the three major hills, between Buckden and Hawes, which went on and on and on. Ollie was kindly either waiting for me, or racing up the hill and then coming back to get me – so that he kept warm- whilst also keeping his hands warm, one at a time.

The 20 mile point was like entering a time warp, the hill lasted forever, there was nothing; no civilisation – just moors – grass – water – sheep. I think it even got to the point where there weren’t even any sheep. And then there was snow. Not just sleet – snow. Snow and wind. Still I was okay, but Ollie’s fingers were increasingly cold and painful.We got to a steep downhill section, which frightened me so we had to get off and walk for a little way. After that though, my fingers also became cold, even though they had been wrapped up in my Sealskin mitts. I began to compare the ride to that of Boxing Day and Ride 100, in terms of miserableness. But then it got a little worse;  a passing Landrover splashed me, and I was soaked through.

 

We carried on, miserably, shivering and desperately looking for a pub to warm up in…and eventually came to the cobbled streets of Hawes. We blindly followed the streets until we came across a Coffee shop – Herriot’s – where we dumped the bikes and went straight inside to a friendly welcome. We perched on seats and ordered hot chocolates, which I downed almost in one. We pretty much immediately decided that we would terminate the ride and that one of us would get a taxi back to the camp site to pick up the car. As we sat waiting for lunch, drinking the hot chocolate Ollie’s fingers warmed up nice and quickly, but I continued to shiver uncontrollably in my wet clothes.

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Ollie and the Cafe owner, Glenn, were increasingly concerned about my inability to warm up – Glenn and his wife Liz tried to find me a hot water bottle but decided to offer me the use of one of their Bed and Breakfast rooms, so that I could have a hot shower. He gave me a walkie-talkie and instructed me not to collapse. The shower, on its hottest setting did the job, but I was back to shivering once I got out. However Liz kindly let me borrow some clothes so that I wouldn’t have to put my cold wet Lycra back on, and I spent some time under a hair-drier.

 

In the meantime, another kind couple offered Ollie a lift back to the camp-site, and Glenn ‘sold’ Ollie a room for the night – so Ollie headed off to get the car and Glenn gave me a key to a new room. The end of our camping adventure  – I didn’t even manage two nights!!

 

While Ollie was away I ate my lunch soup, chatted to some other cyclists and fully recovered.

 

We finished off our route on Sunday – so still managed to do all of the hills that we’d planned to do. Photos below…

 

Buttertubs Pass

Buttertubs Pass

Climbing Buttertubs

Climbing Buttertubs

Posing on Buttertubs

Posing on Buttertubs

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Buttertubs

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Buttertubs Pass

 

“At least you’ve got something to blog about”

Isn’t camping dreadful!
We arrived in Yorkshire yesterday afternoon and proceeded to put up Ollie’s parents large tent, before realising that we had forgotten the groundsheet and the internal compartments. So we put up the small tent inside it.

The bikes are happy because they have space ‘inside’.

However despite being in a tent within a tent, and it being about 5-9 degrees last night, it was SO cold. When PJs, a beanie hat and sleeping bag weren’t enough I brought in the ‘bike duvet’; an old duvet which is used to protect the bikes when they are inside the car. It’s covered in chain oil.
When that wasn’t enough, I wore my jacket and big fluffy gilet with hood. That was better.
Pretty restless night though; rain and gales throughout.
However, on the plus side. The food has been very nice. Pasta warmed up on the stove last night , followed by pancakes, and we have just finished breakfast of veggie sausages, eggs and beans.
  
  
And, amazingly we were able to watch a film on Netflix last night. A tent with all the mod cons and a campsite with enough bandwidth to stream a film!

Anyway, we had better go and wash up. We came up here to cycle, and despite heavy rain and gales we are still going to try and attempt 80 miles and 8000ft of climbing today.

We managed ‘Cote de Cray’ yesterday a which was 32 miles and just under 3,000ft of climbing and that was hard enough, especially with the wind. I don’t think there are any flat bits in Yorkshire.
Wish us luck. We are going to need it.
Wish the Ribble luck – it’s getting wet for the first time. Poor thing. (Slightly odd sentence since the Ribble is actually a river).

A steep and eggy learning curve

Each evening recently Ollie opens up WordPress and tuts with disappointment. So here’s a post, from lectures! The lecturer is struggling to work the IT, which is a little worrying for an Information capability course, so we have an extra 20 minute break. I can’t really be bothered to leave the room anyway, so I may as well spend the time productively.

So, what’s been going on?

I have discovered that the winter is incredibly frustrating! If it isn’t for rain, wind and the threat of snow then there’s the ice. The day can look lovely, with the sun out and no wind but the temperature won’t have risen high enough to melt the ice. Just in case anyone was wondering darkness and ice aren’t a good mix, particularly when you’ve not eaten enough carrots and can not see in the dark. Despite the frustrations, I have managed a decent amount of miles so far, though the interval training is suffering from my aversion to my turbo trainer.

Talking of discoveries, I found this eggcellent breakfast idea on several blogs recently:

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And I have further developed them into little cheese omelettes. Really quick and easy to make and they provide you with a week of breakfasts.

That’s not to say that the first few attempts were without problems! It was a bit of a learning curve to begin with; the oil must be the spray version – a pool of oil in the bottom does not combat against extreme egg sticking on the sides and much scrubbing to return the tin to a reasonable state. Furthermore, some eggs are volatile; 35 seconds into being microwaved it is possible that they will explode and coat the microwave in eggy goo. This is not what anyone wants at 0700 in the morning!

We’ve also been planning! A trip to the bike show, a bike purchase, a weekend in Yorkshire and a two week trip to the Alps and the TdF.

The bike show, in London during the (long) weekend of 12-15 February will be the serious start point of my carbon bike procurement process! A process which needs to be complete by our long weekend of hill climbing in Yorkshire and the Peak District. The bike show also combines with the Triathlon show, which will be of interest to Ollie as he is about to begin training for triathlons (crazy if you ask me). The weekend t’up North is preparation for the big European trip, to try and get me used to camping!

During the weekend, just gone, Chris, Ollie and I held a holiday summit, which was rather more successful than any of us imagined it would be. We now have a plan for all but the last two days, and as an added bonus we should see the TdF on three consecutive days. Even better is that out of the 8 nights accommodation that we have booked, seven of them are in hotels. 😊

Next post soon, with a selection of possible bikes and their plus and minus points.

Laura