It’s hard to believe that Le Tour and our tour are over. The final parade around Paris was as grand as always – the weather, the people, and the race were terrific. We’re now back at the hotel getting changed before heading out for our final dinner together. Tomorrow morning we’ll be up early and headed for the airport by 8am along with most of the others on our tour. It’s been a blast.
Got up early after a late night. Dinner at excellent pizza place. The only downer was that they were out of their famous chocolate lava cake by time we were ready for dessert.
Up at 5:30
Breakfast at 6
Bus at 6:30
To unnamed town. Only later did we discover it was the outskirts of Toulouse.
Ride bike path “30k” to see Le Tour in Verdun-sur-Garonne. This turned out to be a terrific bike path – almost dead-straight with very little in the way of elevation changes. It was a 40k ride instead of 30k – OK with a few of us but not everyone. The bike path flanks a canal complete with house-barges! A few of us rode at a fairly brisk pace for no real reason other than we could. The only negative of this brisk pace was the amount of road debris that was being thrown up by our tires. The trail was littered with sand and bits of tree bark!
After Le Tour passed we were told to ride back to the “bike path” for another “10k or so” to train station in Montauban. The 10k turned out to be more than 25k – not an issue for some of us but definitely a problem for those who left the bus in the morning prepared solely for a total of 40k of riding. The bike path proper ended about 6k down the canal from where we started. At this point the path disintegrated into a terrible road suitable for four-wheelers and tractors; not carbon fibre road bikes! Three folks had flats which resulted in our group having to rush to catch the train instead of being able to take it leisurely.
Ride leader didn’t know route. Multiple flats because of terrible condition of trail surface.
Once at train station there wasn’t space for all bikes in vans do some had to take them in the train. Train is packed, no seats despite prepaid tickets. Standing room only meant some folks had to leave their bikes on platform with other ride leaders.
The “plan” was to take the 1:56 train from Montauban to Souillac to see the stage go by again. Dumb plan with small benefit at best. The train arrived late and the Tour had already passed. So we walked 2km into town to stand around while a new “plan” was made up on the spot. Contingency is a foreign word.
After disembarking the train – which arrived about 20 minutes late – we walked into town. Had we been on time we would have seen the Tour ride past again. But we didn’t. So we grabbed a couple beers and some food. Back onto our bikes for a scenic 28km ride to Sarlat. A few kilometres into the ride I found myself about 200 metres in front of the group. A couple from Colorado were at the front of the peleton and I thought they would give chase. (All week they had been trying to go hard with us so seeing me out front I thought would definitely elicit a chase.)
Instead a strong rider from Montreal, Robert, bridged the gap and told me he wanted to ride. He said, “We go fast now, yes?!?” So I dropped a couple gears and hammered it. We worked like a perfect breakaway and before we knew it the peleton was out of sight. We followed the route on my Garmin to Sarlat and climbed another 1500 metres or so, tackled a triple series of hills at 24%, 16% and 19% back-to-back-back, before slogging up a 2.8km 7% climb. It was amazing. This part of France is stunning and one that I was completely unfamiliar with – definitely deserves a return trip.
We arrived in town much earlier than the rest of the tour – so early that Robert and I were able to check-in, get the luggage to the rooms, change into our swimsuits and go for a swim. All that time over a 29km stretch. Robert and I were smokin’ fast!
Steve rode with the peleton and finished his week of riding on a high note. The scenery along the route was impressive – castles, chateaux, historic towns, abbeys, etc. And a 100+ year old rail right-of-way turned bike path – complete with 20 foot rock walls overgrown with a century of ivy, moss and more.
It was a day of highs and lows as we had some great riding but we also had to pack up our bikes. The tour is almost of over – for us and the riders.
After packing up our bikes and getting cleaned up we met for dinner at an absolutely amazing restaurant. The dining room was an old cellar with an arched ceiling and iron gates – surely it was a room used to keep people in, or out of back in its heyday.
Post-dinner we hit the town for a drink with some folks from the US group on our tour and then rolled into the hotel at the ridiculously late 1:45am!
Day 1: Every time I’ve been through Pearson it’s been a chaotic mess of humanity. Except for yesterday. We arrived the requisite three hours before our flight to find a nearly deserted departures counter. There were three Air Canada reps and the two of us. That’s it! Baggage checked, bike boxes dropped at the oversize counter, through security, and into the Maple Leaf Lounge in about 15 minutes. It was epic!
Killing more than two hours is easy in the Maple Leaf Lounge: free beer, WiFi and food. Nuff said.
The plane was a shiny and new 777. It is a huge plane. Huge. And it is VERY quiet. The in-flight noise is significantly less than any other plane I’ve been on. So much so that I almost felt like my noise cancelling headphones were unnecessary.
Day 2: We arrived in Frankfurt to a chilly 12 Celsius as we sprinted from the plane to the terminal. We had clear Customs, and then go back through security and board our flight to Toulouse in less than 50 minutes. Surprisingly this was a snap! Once on the plane we verified with the baggage handler that he had loaded our bikes, which put our minds at ease for the final 90 minute flight. Breakfast on this flight was a terrific selection of meats, cheeses and muesli with honey and milk. I could eat this breakfast everyday.
Upon arrival in Toulouse we collected our baggage and sussed out the city bus system. Unfortunately the bus we wanted to take was on diversion because of construction at the stop we needed. This meant a longer walk for us through the city. It was a long walk made extra long by towing our bike boxes and luggage. Steve and I chatted with locals in our broken French asking for directions and made it almost the entire way without resorting the the GPS in my iPhone!
Once checked in we quickly unpacked out bikes and assembled them before heading out for a late lunch. Steve’s bike was packed by a pro. Instructions, photos, and a couple pairs of surgical gloves to keep your hands clean. He rented his bike box from BikeBoxRentals.ca – Efraim hooked him up with a wicked Thule box and did a terrific job packing it up. If you’re on the hunt for a bike box get in touch with him today!
Now we’re off to meet the rest of the group and discuss the plans for the week. I’m also planning on sizing up the competition!