Day 5 update
A better day for Lee yesterday but he’s still suffering some problems and is now amid the challenging terrain of the Massif Central. An hour or so out to fix his gears in the morning didn’t hurt him too much and by lunch time he had covered around 80km, putting him in Chantereine nr Thiers. In the afternoon he took a Pizza stop, probably in the town of Le Puy and reported on his Facebook page that he’d had his quickest 100 miles (160km) so far, though I’m not sure whether that’s moving time or total time as that was 130km further down the road. Nevertheless for that kind of terrain, loaded as he is now and in winter it’s a decent average and shows that he has the legs for good mileage if things start to go his way. His hotel was apparently another 90 miles away, most likely in Ales and potentially achievable by the early hours. However when he hit the town of Langogne he’d seen enough snow and ice that he didn’t fancy a trip over the mountain at night in sub-zero temperatures. The cold played a big part in the start of the 2012 race as the whole of Europe was experiencing one of the harshest winters for many years and the start date was another 2 weeks earlier. This prompted many riders to change from an Eastern heading route to head West instead in the months leading up to the race. I headed East as planned but was keen to reach the Mediterranean coast in via low ground as quickly as possible. The temperatures still plummeted over night and on day three heading out of Montauban both of my bottles froze solid leaving me with dead weight and no drink for about 50 miles. Ice on the road was also a concern as it was crossing inland to Ovado over the mountains from the Italian coast, the climb putting me from the warm sea front to the snow line at 2000ft in a little over 5 miles. Be careful and observant though and anything less than large amounts of sheet ice are navigable at lower speeds, but one has to get the miles while one can.
Lee is no doubt seeing some fantastic cycling in that region but it won’t be easy miles. He has pledged a massive breakfast and a mammoth session today on his Facebook page but that means he didn’t get away at the crack of dawn. At least he’ll be well fed. In order to get the miles he wants today we can probably expect to see Lee stopping very little, if at all. The next challenge he will face are the larger centers of population as he gets closer to the coast, and the increasing temptation of stopping at the many eating outlets he’ll pass. Lee covered approximately 255km yesterday putting him just a little shy of the 1000km mark by my estimates. This puts him so far on a 275km/day average. Bon Route Lee.
Breifne: Lost (only a little bit)
Breifne appeared to have a hard but nice birthday on the road yesterday, his support team presenting him with cards and presents from friends and followers, and is still enjoying the ride and putting in plenty of effort. He passed through Luxembourg yesterday and is now crossing briefly into France before heading on to Germany. He ended yesterday on 615km which puts him at a touch over 380 miles in three and a half days, approximately 109 miles per day on average. That is decent miles for anyone but will be a little less than he hoped for. Like the other competitors, the mechanicals and conditions have probably set the Irishman back around 24hrs. Breifne had a brief outage from tracking yesterday afternoon but put new batteries in this morning and we picked him up again on our radar just south of Luxembourg City. Breifne got on the wrong side of his navigational devices this morning when he went for a wander in some fields and had to re-trace his tracks back to the road. All competitors now have had some navigational issues too to add to their woes and it appears that some of them might be letting the devices navigate them to a given point, rather than having pre-programmed them with a route. Letting the devices determine the routing is, to be honest, rather asking for trouble over distances like these. GPS devices and data is mainly collected for motor vehicles up until recently and what bike routing data there is likes to send you off route to pick up what might only be a few hundred yards of bike path. They aren’t up to the task of picking the most expedient yet safe route for a cyclist with somewhere to be in a hurry. This is a judgement best left to the rider and this is a race that rewards good judgement in that respect. If they didn’t choose the roads themselves at home when they were doing their research, then they will be best to pick up a map and choose them on the fly. Other than that I routed on the fly extensively using Google maps on iOS when I threw away my route in the US due to Google Maps (beta) routing for bikes (which my gpx files were created with) leading me down some suspect routes. That wasn’t really up to the task of judgement either. Stopping to choose roads however will cause them to lose little bits of time all day as it did for me in the US. Nevertheless Breifne is back on track and has just made a swift pit stop at a petrol station in Siersburg. 15 minutes later he was rolling again. If that was lunch he’s getting to be nice and efficient with his stops, which will serve him well. Breifne has racked up around 60km since he appeared on the tracking map again this morning.
Fran: Sore (possibly quite a bit)
It seems Fran has been giving things quite a bit of thought recently. She did appear to be the least up-beat of our competitors it would seem and during her time spent in Amiens she has at least pondered her route choice, which is a big deal to be making changes at this early stage. Lets remember she is the only one who has been alone from the start also. What has been a difficult time for all riders is doubly so if you have no-one to lean on or talk to. If morale takes a dive, there’s only yourself to pick you up. Those who are the sociable type can also struggle with the solitude. Fortunately I never had that trouble but a few on the Transcontinental last year found it wasn’t for them.
Her latest update says she’s been re-thinking her route and is now going to head East (that might be due East from here, rather than East generally – which I believe was always the intended direction of her circumnavigation) That might put her into her native Germany also and would probably make for a route around the Alps to their North, rather than going coastal. Fran is experiencing sore tendons by the sounds of it. Whether that has anything to do with her seatpost position experiment I don’t know, but I did find that to be the biggest source of my Achilles troubles on my ride, I have since found that running my seat about 5mm lower than I would normally and using Kensiology tape (though a lot of other types of tape is just as effective) is the secret to keeping tendons sweet over distances like these.
As of half past four Fran had 90km on the clock but some of her latest SPOT locations are down to only a few hundred meters apart at 10 minute intervals. This could mean she is suffering. Sore tendons can do this to a ride, as can many things and maybe she is diagnosing on the go with a few minutes stopped every now an then to try something new or stretch. The anxiety that is brought about by such soft tissue injuries and ailments is very troubling, especially if experiencing them acutely for the first time. When I first got tendonitis of the Achilles in the Great Basin in Wyoming during the 2011 Tour Divide, I had no idea what to do – instead of taping it along the tendon to lift it away under relaxation, I bound straps around my ankle thinking I was giving it support and made it much worse. The belief that it would continue to get worse all the way to Antelope Wells also worried me greatly – it was too early in the race to just grin and bear it and ride it home in pain and I really thought I faced causing myself permanent physical damage.
These may be the things that are going through Fran’s mind at the moment. Lets hope she diagnoses whatever trouble she is experiencing and catches a break too. What I didn’t know back then was that it is really the body reacting to a sudden increase in demand on it and that in the first days and weeks of a tour like this things grow and stretch and our precisely fit bikes can become ill-fitting quite quickly. Once we reach an equilibrium however we are robust and once we alleviate the problem by finding the right mechanism we can go from a lot of pain to a lot of miles literally over night.
Whatever it is though, we need to remember Fran is a Hero for doing this ride unsupported and for that, Chapeau from me, hope things improve soon.