The itinerary will be something like:
Eurostar Saturday morning to Avignon DIRECT, arrives early afternoon.
Ride 50k to Malaucene (foot of Ventoux), camp in a camp-site (there's one at Mont Serein, 3/4 way up Ventoux,) or rough.
Sunday stand by side of road with 1/2 million spectators and watch stage go by.
Monday head north, 100k of hills to Serres, camp.
Tuesday another 100k, this time with 2 cols over 1200m to Bourg d'Oisans.
Wednesday, ride Alpe d'Huez, maybe camp up high.
Thursday watch stage (see Sunday)
Friday ride 140 downhill to Valence, and either camp near Valence or take train to Avignon and camp near Avignon.
Saturday, have a huge lunch in one of Avignon's excellent restaurant and take direct train at 1600odd back to London.
Gabes did a g map, which I have fiddled with to avoid roads I know to be unpleasant to cycle up. So we may end up doing something like this:
I haven't looked up what the vertical gain is, but there's no more than 2 or 3 sections with double arrows on the Michelin, and none with 3. (2 means +10%, 3 means you're walking), not including Ventoux and A d'H, which are as hard as anything I have ridden.
It's all flexible, especially Ventoux, as it's a bit early to say whether we'll actually go over this hill. I have ridden up it a few times, and it's pretty hard. Very hard, I would say. And if the weather's bad (which it can be, even in July - on the Etape, dozens of competitors were treated for hypothermia), I have no intention of going anywhere near the top.
I have ridden up there, when I was much younger & stronger, into the teeth of the Mistral (notorious wind which sometimes blows from North to South down the Rhone valley), and it pretty unpleasant, temperature at the foot of the climb was +30 at the bottom, but nearer 0 at the top, with the wind chill - and the sun was out that day - not a cloud in the sky.
In that case, I would plan to watch from the lower slopes, and then go around to the north, via Malaucene, probably up the Toulourenc valley.
I have no intention of being the ride leader, but I'd like to it to be sociable & friendly ride, without too much stress, so in my opinion, it'd be good to sort some things out before we go.
I'd like everyone that's planning on coming with to meet at some point in the next couple of months, so that we can agree general protocol for the ride. I would also like to see us all go for a weekend camping ride together sometime in May, possibly, just so that we can try our kit, bikes, and so that I can explain about show-boating, half-wheeling, wheel-sucking, tennis socks etc.
I would also say that I wouldn't stress too much about fitness, but I would try and make sure that you do some long day rides, just so you know you can sit on a bike for long periods without becoming totally uncomfortable. As long as you get in, say, 10 long rides between the end of March and the beginning of July, you should be alright.
And don't worry about riding up hills. There's nothing in England to replicate the Alps, really, and certainly nothing in the South.
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