To know the good you need to know the bad
I have had some great days on my Tour de France so far, but of course to know the good you need to experience the not so good, and I did today on Semnoz out of Annecy.
Originally, I planned to ride this on Friday, but the all-day rain made that a rest day.
The Saturday forecast showed much improvement. A sunny day with the possibility of a light shower at 4pm.
The early morning sun had lit up the campsite and before venturing off, I did some kit washing so it could dry during the day.
Fuelled by an enormous bowl of porridge, I headed for Annecy and Semnoz.
Annecy, as I discovered, is a well-heeled part of France, which the underground car park confirmed.
It was immaculately clean and even played Mozart. How nice.
With the Brompton unfolded and ready to go, I started the short ride to the start of the climb.
My information was that it was a beautiful climb of 16.7Km rated 7/10 climb and with magnificent views across the lakes and mountains. Certainly, ticks a lot of boxes.
After 1Km I was out of the busy town and into the forest.
A dream becomes a nightmare.
The temperature was distinctly cooler than it had been of late, which was a welcome change after many recent climbs.
After 3Km, light spots of rain sporadically fell.
No problem, I thought. In fact, it seemed quite pleasant.
At 6Km the rain became heavier.
At 8Km the rain eased, and I thought great, that’s over with.
After pushing up an 11% rise, there was a short 4% plateau where white cloud drifted across the road.
As I rode further up the climb, the thin white cloud now became thicker and wet.
I was now riding in the cloud, and it was raining and cold.
My varifocal sunglasses were now redundant as the rain took away what little clear vision I had.
Now at least I could see out of focus clearly.
The expected dream of a climb had now become a nightmare.
I was now thinking the unthinkable. Turn back and return another day.
I knew I was well over halfway up the climb, but not exactly how far.
I looked at the Garmin to check the distance left etc. but it was no good.
The rain covered screen and the lack of glasses meant I wouldn’t have been able to read it, anyway.
I pedalled on.
You can only get wet once
A French lady rider further up the climb was sheltering under a tree.
My philosophy is you can only get wet once, but I guess she was taking some comfort.
I was now getting colder, but I kept on believing that things would improve once I reached the top.
The Garmin now joined in the fun by repeatedly losing signal, only to instruct me to make a U turn when it reconnected.
Again, I pressed on. There was only one road, and I was on it.
Where’d he go?
With the thicker cloud came a silence. The cloud, however, did not muffle the sound of a car engine racing up behind me.
Within seconds, a grey Porsche without lights flew past me, and within 20 metres, it was invisible.
Only two cars out of 9 that went past me were using lights. Nightmare.
I am not sure how effective my flashing lights were, but I was glad that I had them.
A final cold wet push up a 9% gradient and it was the Semnoz summit.
Oddly, I was the only cyclist at the top, so just a photo of the faultless Brompton was possible.
No beautiful views over the town or across the lake, just wet cloud.
I unfurled my descending jacket and made my way down.
Shaking all over
My descent was a very cautious affair.
The road was trying to roll you at over 50Kph, but my faith in Swiss Stop pads reigned that in. (They are the best I think).
I was now beginning to shiver uncontrollably as the chill wind of the descent hot me.
Even my steering was shaking.
Just rolling was taking faster than I wanted to go so there was no need to pedal, but 5Km from the bottom I spun.
My left knee, which had been straight for most of the descent, was reluctant to bend with the cold.
I hoped that the rain would have cleared, and the temperature increased on my descent, but it wasn’t until the final 1Km that it did.
Like a drowned shivering rat, I arrived in the underground car park where it was warm and dry.
Thankfully, it was quiet and so, with as much discretion as I could muster; I changed out of my cold, wet cycling kit.
Above the car park was a shopping mall, so a warm coffee and something to eat was my ambition.
Next to the restaurant was a toilet with a hand dryer.
To any observers, I must have cut a suspect figure as I held my hands under an age trying to get some colour back in them.
After draining out all the heat from a large coffee with my hands, I made the drive back to my campsite.
The clothes I had washed and hung to dry earlier in the day were, of course, dry.
No rain, marvellous.