01 Jul Le Loop Stage 5 and 6: More Cobble
Day 6: Stage 5: 160km LILLE MÉTROPOLE-ARENBERG with 20km bone-rattling, brain-busting, hand-hurting COBBLES!
Thank goodness the 20km of cobbles wasn’t in one go. Today consisted of 11 cobble sections from the famous Paris-Roubaix race. One word: OUCH!!! We were given advice pre-stage: ride them as fast as possible, ride the side gutter with a higher risk of a flat from the stones, ride lower psi–again, with a higher risk of a pinch flat, and relax. I decided to go for the less risk of a flat way, so bounced my way across the 20k of bricks in the road in agony. I had to remove my watch as it was digging into my wrist with every jarring metre! As I was bumping along, I was imagining a massive peloton of pros riding these “roads” at 70km/hr which was unbelievable to me! I made it, and now I can say I’ve ridden the cobbles, but hopefully, I NEVER have to do that again! There are smooth roads alongside which seems like a much smarter choice.
Day 7: Stage 6: 223k BINCHE-LONGWY. This is the longest stage of the Tour. I pulled out and the start was on cobbles! This felt so punishing after yesterday. Unfortunately, I had a mechanical consisting of a stuck dropped chain that required a pretty lengthy derailleur adjustment. Mechanic Andy saved the day and aside from having to stop one more time as my water bottle cage bolt sheered off, I was off at a full time-trial effort, knowing I was going to be the last rider in to feed stop 1, where everyone had to wait for me to roll out and get on with what was going to be a very long and hard day of riding.
The day WAS long! It came with winds (fortunately some of the final climbing was with a tail wind), a torrential downpour, and an 800m kicker at 15% at 220km into the ride! My new riding buddy and now hero, Windy, and I, had a scary incident with an angry car driver who brushed me and sent Windy off the side of the road into a rough shoulder ‘field’ where I watched him chop wood as he stayed calm and eventually came to a stop. How he did not go down is amazing to me and I was so relieved I didn’t have to administer my first aid knowledge or worse CPR which is what went through my mind as our lives flashed before my eyes. Fortunately, this aggression from drivers is rare and I am feeling very lucky. I pulled in after 7:54 of hard riding and was very happy this stage was DONE! Tomorrow’s stage has as much climbing as today but over 50k less distance, and it should be much better weather. Allez, allez, allez, and goodnight!