Double Challenge. Mountain stages in bike races are inevitably decisive in sorting where riders finish in the race overall. They pose a number of challenges to a team atop the obvious physical barrier of the terrain itself.
The main non-terrain issue on these stages is the weather. When going uphill, the speed drops, and so there is less cooling thanks to the wind, whilst the reverse happens on the descent, which is compounded by the boys having sweated more than normal on the way up. So on hot days, there are issues of overheating on the ascents, and when it’s cold, we worry about them getting too cold on the descents.
Yesterday was another stinking hot day, and I was lucky enough to be sent ahead of the race to give the boys some cooling assistance as they ascended the first major climb of the day (the Col de Ramaz).
The team physiologist, Quody, and I headed up the road after I’d strapped up the boys in preparation for the day, with our first mission to find ice (petrol stations in France don’t sell ice — it’s a complete nightmare).
Our second job was to find a spot on the hill that was flat enough for the boys to be able to take the extra weight we were handing them without a major disadvantage, and not too crowded so the boys could actually see us to be able to take what we were holding for them.
As a result, we “had” to drive slowly up the hill, and got in some wicked people watching again. My highlight was a rotund man standing atop his campervan in a tiny bathing suit. It was reminiscent of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, redone as Everyman’s Column 2010.
The best challenge for Quody and I was the super excited Canadian fans who were out in force to support our man Ryder. They all seemed intent on jumping in front of our car to let us know they were there and were going to roar for Ryder. Very cool.
Thanks to our pedestrian pace up the climb, we found the ideal spot on the hill to hand out our coolers for the boys, and had a great view of the race as it rolled by.
We had Ryder in the front group looking good (he had another great ride yesterday, finishing the day ranked 6th on the overall classification), then Summie a short way behind (having helped Ryder throughout the first 130km), then the rest of our boys trying to conserve energy and minimise the ill-effects of a tough stage on a hot day.
All made it through, all were unscathed, hopefully a little more comfortable thanks to our efforts, and now we have a rest day so the lads can recoup their reserves and battle on.