The Chase

Stage 15 - Mende to Valence

This morning I was trying to decide what my plan was going to be because course and the hors-course were two rather difficult routes. We were already warned that the hors-course was 307km long with major traffic between Nimes and Valence on the A7. I was somewhat of a disbeliver that it would be busy but I forgot to account for the fact it was Sunday. 

Personally, for me whether its the Giro or the Tour I cannot tell what day of the week it is because it's all the same. Within the first few days of the Tour or Giro, you quickly lose track of time. Normality goes out the window and you are contained within this Tour bubble. The morning after Paris the bubble bursts and reality hits you. No more chasing no more hotels and it's hard adjusting to normal way of life. 

Speaking of hotels, last night's hotel was extremely cheap and old. I got to my room and the light switches didn't work then I find out there is only one power socket followed by spending couple of minutes trying to figure out where the light switch for the bathroom was.  Not in the place you would find it easily.  Though the township of Meyrueis was beautiful. I wasn't expecting it at all.  I was more worried about getting good dinner in contrast to two nights ago.

The hardest part was the drive back to the start in Mende for today's stage. Albeit leaving very early, driving up the mountain passes and being stuck behind camper vans and buses would surely negate the benefits of  the early start. I took the same road as yesterday's stage into Mende and I am so envious of the moto-photographers. The view of the gorge out of Meyreis along the D986 road was incredible. 

Today's stage as mentioned earlier was going to be difficult to navigate around. I had an initial idea as to what I wanted to do but the traffic on the auto-route was a concern. Instead I opted to stop just after the first climb of the day and witness an attempt at the formation of the breakaway.  If I had an opportunity to be on the motorbike during the Tour, this would be one of the things I would love to have as part of my collection from the day. That initial surge that sets a chain reaction to be part of the breakaway that may not even succeed to win the stage.

My detour was going to be intersecting back with the race course just before the Sprint Points zone. The roads for the detour was fairly straightforward with the exception of the 12 kilometre descent at an average gradient of 10%.  Some French drivers do not stick to the speed limit and insist on driving 50% slower than the nominated speed limit on the roads. I thought it was a once of occurrence in week one of the Tour but it's a very common occurrence. Eventually, I hit the police blockade and one of the police officers waves me through then i greeted by another three. I had no idea what one of them was saying but I had the look of a stunned mullet. The police officer exasperated said, "GO!!!" and finally back on course.

My second cut off to take the auto-route to Valence was coming and nothing really appealed and I wanted to get to the finish till I stopped at the final climb of the day. It was fantastic but no real attacks were going to happen as the finish line was very far. I bumped into a Dutch photographer, George, who told me that half through the race there was an amazing descent. 

This particular descent on the road book was marked as a series of tightly wound curves which I didn't really make much of it and didn't even bother looking on Google Maps as it was part of a Category 3 climb.  Missing out on something special does make me feel bad and the "what if questions" started playing in my head. Once you make your decisions and are committed to it there is no turning back.

Arriving at the finish line, welcome to parking chaos. I ditched my car somewhere along the road with directions leading to the press centre.  I grabbed my gear and made a dash for the finish line and I heard the 10 kilometres to go bell. I said, "FUCK!!!" I can't be missing out again on the finish with my ankle still sore, I could barely run. Cutting through the broadcast area eventually I found the "Presse Espace" and I had two other photographers following me. I told them don't follow me if I get you lost but glad to be proven wrong for once.  However, after the race was over, I forgot where I had parked my car.  


by Veeral Patel