Trois Etapes 2014 – Part 2 – Suddenly! France!

Sunday, 3 August
My first night in Lourdes was shared in a room with two other Soldier On riders; a tight yet restful night after trying to get sleep the day before without much luck.  After breakfast Adam, Matt, Justin and I met Andy and Jodie for a coffee in down-town Lourdes.  Although we were still down two riders (they were en-route from San Sebastian) a quick walk around the busy square followed before we decided a lazy spin to get the legs moving after all the travel was needed.

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.:Mucho posing:.

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.:The Berm in France:.

The easy 63.5km ride saw us head out to Luz-St. Sauveur for some sight-seeing and a taste of the Pyrenees’ weather.  This was the ride in which it finally sank in that we had actually made it to France and in a few days time would be representing Soldier On in the Trois Etapes.  The ride out was quite an emotional experience for me as it was the culmination of months of training, many set-backs (physically, emotionally and mentally) and a few late minute changes to the travel that threatened to delay our arrival.  The ride was very enjoyable and we all soon found a nice rhythm riding together after a few weeks apart.  Not wanting to push too hard on the first day in France, we headed back to Lourdes to catch up with the other two riders, Dan and Shane, as well as team driver Bruce.

Dinner was a casual affair at a local restaurant (not called a French restaurant in France) which proved challenging for this vegetarian; luckily salads are quite common in most European countries – albeit with an excess of tomato and cheese.

Monday, 4 August
The next day’s ride was a typical coffee ride that would see the entire team, and driver Bruce, explore some of the local countryside over a relatively easy 47km.  There was of course a couple of ugly ramps leading up to a hill-top church including a nice little 28% stretch that left me trying to bite my front wheel!

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.:Not a bad view:.

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.:More posing:.

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.:Cafe time:.

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.:Cafe time:.

For the first time since the Trois Etapes was confirmed, Team Soldier On had it’s full roster and was gearing up for the race in four days time.

Tuesday, 5 August – My 33rd Birthday
The plan was simple…  Breakfast and then an easy ride to the Col du Tourmalet followed by a quick descent back to Lourdes.  But like all simple plans; this one wasn’t.  Not even 10 minutes into this ride and I was separated from the rest of the group thanks to some red lights and me not knowing the route out of Lourdes.

Suddenly I found myself riding alone and heading out of Lourdes towards the airport; definitely not the way to Tourmalet.  After stopping and some back and forth messaging later, I decided I was too far away from the team and went for a solo ride instead.

I spent my 33rd birthday riding the French countryside; not a bad day at all.

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.:Hayley and sunflowers:.

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.:France!:.

Wednesday, 6 August
A very unexciting day of eating, resting and tapering for the three-day race.
Lourdes put on a fantastic day of sun and warmth; the perfect day for a slow and steady ride to spin the legs.

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.:#Euro:.

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.:Fountain lean:.

Thursday, 7 August
With the entire Soldier On team finally in Lourdes, photographer Matthew and manager Clare arriving the night before, it was time for us to have a look at some of the unknown sections of the race; this time in the cars!

We drove up the Col du Soulor, Col de Spandelles and Col du Tourmalet.  I can honestly say after the day-trip I was dreading each of the climbs, especially the goat track that was Spandelles!

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.:Col du Soulor horses:.

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.:Not a bad view on the way down from Col du Soulor:.

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.:Col de Spandelles was intimidating:.

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.:Géant du Tourmalet:.

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.:Team Soldier On and the Géant du Tourmalet:. https://www.facebook.com/matthewconnorsphotography

In the afternoon we set off for another short ride to keep the legs fresh for the first stage of the race the next morning, this time we were joined by coach Scott Sunderland.

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.:For the first time on their bikes, the entire Team Soldier On together with coach Scott Sunderland:. Photo courtesy of Mark Howard

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