This column is almost polar opposite to last month’s where I went through the thoughts I have on a solo ride. This month I’d like to run you through a day of ride support on a training camp.
Back in May Jo and I were lucky enough to be invited over to the Pyrenees by Ian Wright from Pyrenees Multisport to help out on a long distance training camp organised by a Canadian Ironman coach.
On the final day we were riding a stage of this years Tour de France, though, we had to modify it somewhat due to the first two passes not yet being open. As we climbed the first Col –Col De Spandelles –I was keeping an eye on the riders towards the back of the fastest group. I turned to ride back to the last rider and check he was OK and a heard that horrible “fizz” of someone having a blowout.
I stopped to help the rider who was pleased it had happened because he had never had to fix a puncture. I offered words of advice (wisdom?) as he changed the tube but when we inflated it the tube came bulging out the side. Something I’d never seen before (I wish I’d taken a photo). We were now well off the back so I took over and discovered that there was a substantial rip in the tyre. He was pleased that I was able to show him a trick or two. The first taking the valve out of the old inner tube and putting that inside the tyre but that didn’t appear enough, so I used a business card under the tear as well.
We got going only to find the wheel was rubbing. The brake was slightly skew so I fixed that before noticing the wheel was a little out of true requiring it to be placed in the dropouts marginally off line. He was certainly getting a crash course in emergency maintenance. Now a long way off the back we worked hard up the climb soon meeting the support vehicle and agreeing I’d try to help him bridge back up. We hit a sharp descent and then were immediately onto the climb of the Col De Solour where we agreed to really push to try and get back on the group. Seeing just how hard this guy was working I decided to push on and get the group to wait but arrived at the top just after they’d left.
After a discussion with Ian Wright we agreed he would put him in the van and drive him back to the group. I would try and get back on. The next hour felt like I was riding the Tour and trying to bridge to a lead group. I hurtled down the mountain collecting a very appreciative Brit as I pedalled in my top gear down the final 10K of gently descending road. There was still no sign of the group so off I went on the flat valley time-trialling for another 15 minutes before I could finally see them up ahead. Great fun.
It was a super hot day and the next 30K was a long drag up to the start of the Col de Aspin. Ed, another ride leader, and I sat on the front to try and moderate the pace to keep everyone together and to give everyone a little relief. Before the main climb we split into three with a couple of fast riders heading off with Ed. Several riders reckoning they’d not get round without some proper lunch stopped with the coach and I took everyone else who just wanted to keep moving.
The descent off this next col has got to be one of the best I’ve done and luckily my little group were all decent descenders, so we soon found ourselves on the final climb, the Col de Peyresourde. My original plan was to go for a “Strava” placing before heading back down to the final climbers but I was way too tired so I took it a little steadier. Then the support van came by to tell me Cadel Evans was coming up behind. I kept looking back trying to time my arrival for the perfect photo of me summiting with Evans in my wake. Unfortunately, I was too quick and the honour of that photo went to one of the coaches. With Evans over I went back down to the last person of the slow group. He said he was OK on his own at his own pace but I ignored this and just started chatting. Before we knew it he was thanking me for getting him up those final 4K to the top, and we only had 1 7K of downhill standing between us, and the end of camp meal. This was one of the most tiring rides I’ve done, and so satisfying to have had a good workout and helped others to achieve a great day’s riding. I certainly hope to go back.