Stage 19 was the longest stage of the tour, we rode 236km, and I say we because Robyn’s bike was fixed overnight and she was rearing to go.
We rode from Emburn to Salon-de-Provence, from the Alps down to near Marseille, through Provence. It was hot and windy and given it was the last proper ride of the tour it was suitably challenging. A headwind had us slowly pedalling our way through some beautiful scenery that was frankly wasted on us given the focus we had to get to the end of the stage.
There have been times on tour when the scenery and surroundings have been lost to the challenge and the distance that each stage has offered up. This is what has made the last 3 weeks such an engaging thing to do. Seeing as much of France as we have, doing it with a group of people who have bonded together and also testing ourselves against the elements and some challenging terrain needs a bit of focus and determination at times.
It seemed that my cycle computer had stoped working as the KM’s just didn’t accumulate as they had done so on other stages. But we just kept on going, knowing there would be some relief from a brief decent or change in the wind at some stage.
The final approach to the end of the stage was a wild ride, a strong head wind gusting into a cross wind, had us riding sideways across the road and holding on to the handlebars for dear life. Then we turned a corner and had a tailwind that blew us home like we were sitting in the pro peloton.
This was our last big stage of the tour. Today, stage 20, was a brief spin around Marseille because it is a time trial for the pros. From rural France to being in the middle of a town and cruising along the Med took a bit of adjusting. In all we covered only 22km along the seafront and with a brief but steep climb up to the Notre-Dame de la Grade. Stage 20 and the final stage will be the only stages I will get to see when we are back in Sydney. It will be strange watching it in the middle of the night and actually knowing that I have ridden the exact same roads.
So now we are heading to Paris, we are traveling on the TGV at 300 KMH, retracing some of the 3,480km that we have covered whilst on tour. Tomorrow we have our final ride into Paris, another casual affair to celebrate what we have achieved and to take some final pictures of our 3 week holiday in France.