The Tourmalet – ‘Blowing my own bellows’

  


192km Pau to Caurets. What a tough day. Just under 4000 metres of elevation, 3 x 3rd cat climbs, 1 x 4th cat climb, the 1st cat ascension of the Aspin and the Hor Cat legendary climb to 2115m of the Tourmalet.

  All in all a proper test on the bike, even more so when you factor in the 35c heat. The climb of the Tourmalet was epic, but descending at speeds of 85-90km behind Frederic on his Moto was exhilarating.

   
 

Apart from the stunning scenery, one of the points of interest was the statue to Eugene Christophe at the foot of the Tourmalet, the stuff of legends! 

Christophe had already been denied one Tour de France victory in cruel and unusual circumstances. After coming second in the 1912 Tour, he had gone into the 1913 event the outstanding favourite. When halfway up the Tourmalet, the reigning champion and race leader abandoned the race in exhaustion (I can completely understand why!). Christophe, who had broken away with another rider was well positioned to seize an unassailable lead.  Then a careless driver clipped him with a race vehicle throwing Christophe across the road. He was unhurt but his front fork had been snapped in two. As Christophe stood over his ruined machine, Thys sped away alone towards the stage win and overall victory.

  
Another man would have given up there and then. Not Christophe. He wept but as he did so he picked up the pieces and set off on foot for eight- and-a-half miles and at Sainte-Marie-de-Campan he found a forge. The race rules forbade outside assistance but Christophe was a skilled mechanic and forged a new fork from 22mm steel. As Christophe gripped the frame in one hand and a hammer in the other he allowed a seven year old boy to work the bellows that supplied air to the fire. For this assistance, the race marshal who policed the operation imposed a 10 minute time penalty. Then Christophe filled his pockets with bread and set off over two more mountains for the stage finish. He arrived three hours and 50 minutes after Thys, remarkably little, all things considered, but the Tour had slipped his grasp again.

   
     Thank goodness the rules have changed for the pros and more importantly for us !

Tomorrow is another epic stage with 4 big mountains…!

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~ by theboxterboy on July 14, 2015.

2 Responses to “The Tourmalet – ‘Blowing my own bellows’”

  1. Wow, what a journey and achievement. I hope you don’t need to perform any DIY, lots of support from us all following you

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