Who needs a warm up? Our final day's ride went straight in to a 30k climb on the Col de la Cayolle, one of the 20 highest paved cycling climbs in France. And it was amazing! Such a beautiful ride. Despite all the pain of these six days, I am no less in love with mountains and this was a perfect climb to go out on. An undeniably de-mob happy group of cyclists were buoyed by the added adrenaline of it being the last leg. At least to start with.
This last ride was a long one! I was last to summit the Col; just two of the crew and a busload of elderly French tourists to cheer my arrival, everyone else having long since continued on their way. A quick photo stop and it was straight back down the other side. I’d love to say I conquered the steep descent with its sheer drops and endless switchbacks but, about a mile down, I looked right and my nerve went. I hitched a ride in the van for a few miles until the gradient became more reasonable.
Humours remained pleasant throughout a fabulous picnic lunch of bread, cheese and ham at a picturesque mountainside bar; and on through the final descent towards Nice. It felt great to reach the sign announcing we had just 30 miles to go. But this ride was intended as a challenge and those last 30 miles pushed us one last time. Each mile seemed to take an hour, the tanks were empty despite overdosing on snacks and slipstreaming was hard work. Utterly exhausted, we battled the elements along seemingly endless straight roads to reach the final frustration of city roadworks and traffic. Not easy when everyone had pretty much lost their mind, all control of their motor functions and the will to live. Until the last few miles along the promenade came into sight and with huge grins and a few tears we rode to the finish line and a hero’s welcome. Once I’d blinked the champagne from my eyes and the momentary blindness had passed, elation set in. The job was done; Paris to Nice accomplished.
Of course, this post was written after that final day ... on finishing the ride the last thing I was about to do was write the damn blog! No, on finishing the ride, we celebrated. With champagne. And then beer. And then more champagne. And then many, many cocktails and sambuccas. And dancing. Until morning.