A disaster to start to the day! As we started packing our car, we noticed the rear right car tyre was punctured and flat from a slow leak. Marg was really valuable here and in her best French arranged to go to a mechanic down the road, who referred us on to a tyre store a few more km along. A screw was the culprit and after a few short issues with wheel nut caps and the space saver, we were back on the road, Annecy bound.
Unfortunately because of the tyre issues, we missed seeing the riders go past as they headed north on the Col du Glandon, but arrived in time to set up at the accommodation and unpack. The apartment was small, really small. The photos and mirrors did made the place look much bigger though… Worst part was, we smuggled Marg in! So we were sharing the pull out single bed on the floor, while Marg got the “top bunk”. A bit too cosy! Marg managed to rip out a tooth (broken earlier) opening a packet of laundry detergent. Mitch was sure he had never heard that language from her before!
The next morning Marg rented her own bike and we all took off towards Semnoz, the final ascent. The gendarme were out in force, stopping riders and encouraging them either off the road or to continue on foot. It became a game of riding several hundred metres, stopping, getting off, walking 50 meters, getting out of sight and getting back on the bike again. Repeat. The caravans throw out much more goodies when you are on your own and not with a big bunch of people. Soon we were loaded with madelines, sausages, lollies and hats. We stopped off in the village of Leshaux to see the riders go past, many jostling for the last points in the climber classification.
Once the riders were past, Mitch had the idea to take a back road to Semnoz, turns out he wasn’t the only one, with the gendarme blocking the route. A bit of offroad cyclocross up a bank got us around the blockade and up the switchback for 700m of vertical climbing over 15km to the summit. Tam made a new friend in a big Bernese Mountain Dog who affectionately leaned up on her bike, almost pushing her flat over.
Getting into the small Semnoz finishing area, we found a good position front and centre, amongst a group of Columbians celebrating their National Independence Day and supporting their rider, Nairo Quintana, currently third in the general classification. Nairo ended up breaking away to win the stage and nudge into second place, also taking the climbers and U23 jersey, which drove our Columbian friends crazy!
On arrival back to the apartment we saw that Marg got on national television French television behind one Columbian supporter, smiling one big smile AND missing a tooth!
A quiet night out in Annecy town and with a nice meal (Mitch somehow accidentally managing to raw beef again) rounded out the day.
Our final day involved traveling back to Geneve to drop off the car and fly back home. This was probably the most stressfull stretch of road as we unfortunately wandered several km onto the Swiss side, at an expense of a 40 Euro road toll! “But it lasts the whole year” the traffic officer happily exclaimed. Mitch burst into a small tirade about pocket knives, watches and chocolate later as we searched for the elusive entry to the airport.
In all, the trip was a great experience and we plan to be back fitter, faster and with more fun next year – quite possibly running our own Tour company! Will keep you posted on that! It was great having Marg along and she was most helpful throughout. Maybe Tam’s Dad Richard will join next time.
Next week, we head off to the Emerald Isles of Ireland with Mitch’s’ parents, who are currently traveling Europe for the first time. Should be great fun!