Puttanesca, 15 seconds & a race to the finish

The history of the Puttanesca sauce recipe is curious. Some say, only because of the Italian translation of the name…

A tenuous link to a day out on the bike and a strange title of a blog post you may think; but the dish was mentioned in despatches out of the blue to Lance as we climbed the drag up to the Col de Vernhette. Why, who cares it just was and I needed a title.

A tough rolling parcour through the Tarn was in prospect finishing up the steep hill to  Mende, renamed Monte Jalabert, after the green jersey winner and favourite of the French Laurent Jalabert who won here.

A strange coincidence as I have just bumped into him while typing this blog in reception, a grumpy looking fella, who just shrugged of my smile, hand shake and scurried off to his room, he must have seen how slow I climbed it on my Strava.

It was Lance’s 2nd and final day. Although the media melee had subsided slightly, the shouts of encouragement and the riders on the roads wanting to join in and give their support hadn’t abated.

The banter from Aspen in May between the two of us continued and the small matter of the ‘15 seconds in Snowmass‘ was still to be addressed on the French roads. Boys will be Boys and Lance ever the racer set me the challenge of riding for 35km at the front with Dom into a headwind along the stunning Tarn valley to lunch, the only sound was him on my wheel chirping away that the best thing about this was ‘those pesky 15 seconds just ain’t gonna happen today’

A simple lunch with a stunning view, then onto the real main course the 2nd category climb of the Cote de Sauveterre, a 9km climb out of the valley in principle it wasn’t too steep, but the heat was incredible, one corner we turned into what could only be described as riding into a hair dryer at full heat. 43C was recorded on my Garmin.

Lance wanted to control the tempo with Mel, every now and then he would try and psych me out ‘Is that your breathing I can hear Hayden?’ ‘nope Simons’ was the stubborn response, I held back knowing that this was a bit of banter to try and force my hand, with 1km to go I was waved through and steadily pressed a little harder on the pedals, a gap had formed and remembering what had gone before in Aspen, pushed on to crest the summit.

We regrouped at the top, Simon, Mel, Lance and myself, with the view to wait for the others, bidons were topped up, and jersey pockets replenished for the final 40km.

The texan had clipped in and gone, choosing not to wait he took a flyer trying to get his time back from the climb, feeling he was going to solo to the finish I urged Mel and Simon, but they were hesitant to leave. Once again the gauntlet had been thrown down and the racer in me from old just had to pick it up. Lance had about 40 seconds already and was going hard, the lactic acid burned in my legs from the climb and it took me a couple of mins to get going fully.

Liz Came past on the Moto, snapping photos with great excitement the chase was on, as she went past I got behind the moto and for 3o seconds rode like it was a sprint at 70km/hr until he was recaptured.

‘What took you so long, heh ?’ after a minute of banter was observerd  I was invited to lead the way on the decent off the plateau, Lance may have lost some of his climbing ability, but that guy goes down hills real fast and after a couple of bends, weaved past leaving me the tiniest of gaps, every corner i would lose a second or two as i tried to follow his line, the guy was trying to drop me on the descent and was going full gas giving a masterclass on descending. Liz was enjoying snapping away and the lead car was trying its hardest to keep a gap, stubborning I wouldn’t let go fully, however I swear at one stage I almost pissed myself.

We stopped for a much needed Coke and full on regroupment at the foot, to hear the news that Geoff had collapsed at the top of the last climb with heat stroke, he was fine but had to spend the last hour or so in the van, which I know was a huge shame for him as he was riding strongly.

We had 20km left a 4th cat climb, and the steep 2nd cat finish to Mende

As we clipped in and the road steepened there was only three of us left, Simon did a strong turn, then left it to the two of us, as we matched pedal strokes this was a day as a child you could only have dreamt of, leading a Tour champion (regardless of your view, if he didn’t win those 7 tours then who did ?)

The fast decent down into town as bunny hoping of curbs and weaving in and out of cars was used by both of us to get a gap before the steep final climb.Higs came past in the car, ‘is this for money fellas’ he shouted, but both of us in unison half grunted back ‘Pride..’ Lance gave his Bidons to one of the french riders we passed on the foot slopes, not as a gift. he didn’t want the extra weight, its probably been snapped up on Ebay.

The necklace inscribed ‘love from your girls’ swung like a pendulum as my laboured pedal strokes made steady progress up the climb, it pushed me on, I envisaged if I beat him it would be the first time I would see them at the finish for over 17 days, that was the pressure I put on myself.

Who won the prime at the top? I’ve too much respect and some stories should just stay just on the road.

at the finish It was also great to meet another Tour Legend Micheal Rasmussen on the bus who looked as fit as ever and would have no doubt made short work of the climb we had just crested.

A hand shake, some words, a momento of the stage and he was gone, no doubt to google that tomato based pasta dish we spoke about some 6 hours earlier…



~ by theboxterboy on July 17, 2015.

One Response to “Puttanesca, 15 seconds & a race to the finish”

  1. […] Mountains are here  Tourmalet  Beyond Honest    The circus has come to town  Lance, me and Those fifteen seconds  Stage 15  GAP   2nd rest day Scrapbook   Birthday soaking   Make Hay   Cut Short   […]

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