After a rather unsatisfactory sleep, due in some part to me spilling metho in the vestibule of my tent and filling the tent with alcohol fumes, we quickly packed up and got on the road just after 8 this morning. We had 90km to cover to get to the next supermarket that we knew was at St Mihiel before the course was closed to traffic. Being stranded on the side of the road in the sun and without much in the way of food would have been disastrous for George’s schedule to keep up with the Tour.
Having done 150km yesterday and then getting a shitty sleep I wasn’t feeling particularly flash on the bike, and it took a long time before I could get into any sort of rhythm. And then it started raining again, and then I got a puncture, etc.
But by some miracle we were blessed with a tailwind for the last twenty km into St Mihiel, and on one slightly downhill stretch I was spinning out my top gear for several km and sitting on almost 40kmh. But as you do when a tailwind hits, I went too hard and by the time we arrived at the Carrefore supermarket I was pretty wasted. I bought a whole chicken, a litre of milk and half a kilo of yoghurt, and drank the milk in one go while sitting in front of the supermarket. I gathered from the looks glanced from old French ladies that this is not the done thing.
We had a chance to do some leisurely eating while waiting for the Tour Caravan to arrive, and when they did I wasn’t overly interested in fighting for the junk they toss to the crowds, though I did score a polka dot hat which isn’t a bad souvenir.
The thumping of helicopters overhead gave advance warning that the race was near, and before long the breakaway appeared through the archway in the centre of town. They were moving quickly, but I managed to get a shot of them and my own gob at the same time.
The peloton was about four minutes behind them and as usual were gone in a flash, followed by an armada of cars and bikes. The last few riders who were hanging on at the end of the pack were looking as wasted as I felt.
Once the last of the Tour vehicles had passed, concluded by a van with Fin de Course written on the front we quickly started riding down the course trying to scavenge course markers. We nabbed two before the cleanup gang arrived. They actually asked us if we wanted the second one, suggesting that they don’t collect them for reuse but just to clean up signs that the Tour has been through.
Half a chicken and a litre of milk were sloshing around in my stomach, making for slow and indigestive progress up the hills leading away from St Mihiel. This triggered an intense desire to snap one off in the bushes (which in turn started a conversation where George and I listed all the different Australian and American terms for defecation – I decided that I was about to engage in Heavy Artillery, an expression used by an old timer he used to know).
After my military engagement, we continued knocking off the 60km to Nancy. George was planning to continue down tomorrow’s tour course from there, but at this stage I knew I was done, kaput, knackered, rooted, stuffed, exhausted. There was no way I could do another huge day tomorrow. Nothing left in the tank, and my digestive system is having trouble keeping up with the supply of calories required by my legs.
I followed George to Nancy and then managed to get a hotel room despite the Tour starting from here tomorrow. George has headed down the road and will camp in a forest. Not sure what I’ll do yet. After some rest I’ll re-evaluate.
Ps the lady in the photo with George caught us using her hose to fill our bottles. She was slightly off her rocker but George managed to pacify her with a polka dot hat souvenir.