The penultimate day arrived with an earlier start than usual as we have the extra 20 minute ride to the start today.
I slept well again but still woke feeling groggy. My scrapes and bruises weren't bothering me too much by my left knee was aching a lot, but don't worry we have drugs for that :-)
Ate a good breakfast again: egg, toast, ham & coffee - perfect for the day ahead. It was another cold morning especially on the ride to the start so put a base layer on today which I haven't needed so far.
A short neutralized start covering the first 4 miles was quite fast and dodgy, crazy people everywhere! As soon as we started the timed section we hit a rather unexpected fairly short but steep section, people generally carried the rolling speed and punched up it, it certainly warmed us up after the very cold descent.
Over the top and it was a narrow descent for about 9 miles, the group spread out a bit but there was still a lot of crazy going on. At the bottom of the descent we hit the start of Col de Pallon. This was only about 4 miles long but it was over 11% the whole way. Again people hit the start carrying rolling speed and seemed to go crazy pushing way too hard for this type of climb. I backed off to ~300 watts and set in to a nice rhythm, passing a lot of folks on the way to the top.
The descent on the other side was non-timed for safety reasons - it was a very thin uneven road. I stopped at the top for roadside repairs as my computer mount which we glued the night before became unattached again so I tied it tight with one of my arm warmers and all was good.
I stopped again for a photo and pee on the way down, not rushing as I knew I wasn't loosing time. At the bottom of the hill, just the before the timed section started, there were a group of riders waiting for others to arrive to form a solid group to cover the fairly flat section before hitting the base of Col de Vars.
The group was a bit too big with lots of surging, which is a real pain, so a smaller group decided to breakaway and I jumped on that group. Much better with good rotation and everyone taking their turn.
As we got towards the base of the 12 mile climb up Col de Vars a smaller group decided to add a further break, I went to go with them but I was pushing 400 watts to keep up which isn't where I wanted to be, so I backed off again. The climb was a similar profile to yesterdays ITT, so I'd already decided to take a similar approach. I aimed to be between 280 - 330 watts which worked fairly well. Within the first mile I passed the small group who broke away at the bottom of the climb.
I felt good and was able to dig deep all the way, passing plenty of folks as I went. In the last few miles my lower back started to hurt and my knee started to ache, but nothing to cause me to slow down or reduce power. I put in a big effort for the last mile to take me to the rest stop at the top.
The rest stop was within the timed zone, so a very quick stop for additional water, a quick cup of coke and put my gilet back on for the long descent a head. And what a beautiful descent it was, steep and fast with plenty of technical sections, flying past quite a few riders and cars a like - huge grin :-)
Unfortunately the fun had to end, the descent leveled off to between -2 / -4% with some flat thrown in and of course I was isolated on my own again. I kept pushing so as not to loose time but hoped a group would come past and pick me up and after ~4 miles it did and what a difference.
It was another good group, all taking pulls and rotating nicely, there was a monster Finnish guy who was like a diesel train!
The train was fun but as we hit the bottom of Col de Pra Loup it was time to jump off and go my own way. This was a short 5 mile climb to the finish with a very reasonable incline so my game plan was to push hard all the way. Unfortunately my power meter decided to stop working at that point so I was on Relative Perceived Effort (RPE) only, i.e. push as hard as you feel you can :-)
I continued to pass people and with ~0.5 mile to go, as the gradient kicked up to 9%, I spotted one of the Aussie riders from our group ahead of me, even more motivation so I picked it up again. I was almost on him as we came around what I thought was the last corner so I got out of the saddle and put a sprint in.... not the last corner - doh! I got back in the saddle and pushed harder, as soon as I saw the flags for the finish line I sprinted again and passed him about a meter before the line - small victories :-)
Stage: 106 overall / 38 in age group
GC: 98 overall / 37 in age group
Statistics for whole day, including non-timed sections:
Distance: 64 miles
Avg Speed: 16.7 mph
Elevation Gain: 7,3171 ft
After an 'ok' lunch at the village he headed to the hotel only to find we couldn't book in until 5 pm (it was 12:30 pm when we got there!!!) . Fortunately for us the staff from our tour group were in a different building and were able to check in, so we grabbed some clean kit from our bags and showered in their rooms, where we were also able to get a massage.
Back at the hotel I was lucky enough to grab a big comfy couch to lay down on, read my book and take a nap - winner! I eventually got in to my room at 4 pm for stretching, back sorting and blog writing before dinner.
All in all, another good day on the bike,it was a beautiful route and I was happy with my all round effort. The organizers have decided to try and put the final nail in the coffin on the last day with a leg busting 120 mile ride to Nice.
Anyway, I'm off to bed - good night