Today there was a most welcome later start to Stage 2 of the Alpine Challenge, I think it was appreciated by most riders after a tough start yesterday but it didnt stop some very wearing looking riders staring blankly into their cups of coffee over breakfast (including me). After forcing a whole heap of food down me and a few last minute bike adjustments we were again swept through the closed off streets of Annecy by the moto outriders who are looking after us so well. Id quite like to hire them for some of my training rides!
There were a few long drags out of Annecy before we reached the timed climb of the day, Col des Aravis, and a real sense that there was a heightened interest amongst the group to get good times. Everybody seemed to have adjusted to the length and difficulty of the climbs from yesterday and I felt pretty good. I hadnt quite anticipated the stunning view of Mont Blanc at the top of the climb, it just suddenly appeared and made the effort all the more worth it.
A superb descent and then straight into another climb, a tough one and a welcome rest at the top where I was overjoyed to find a Mars bar on offer from one of the support crew. I dont think he will ever know how much I appreciated that at the time. Before lunch we had a 3km climb and the message had come through from the faster groups ahead that it was difficult difficult for them, very difficult for us! A total leg-breaker. The group pushed each other on again and we made it to lunch where I jumped straight on the massage table - those guys deserve a medal for the work they are doing to repair broken bodies.
The final 30km of the day consisted of a downhill section followed by a flat ride into Annecy. Easy. Not into a headwind though. It was more like interval training as a few of us were yo-yo-ing off the back of the group. Big thanks to Ride Captain Rachel and a fellow rider for letting me sit on their wheel for about 20km, have to say I was pretty empty at that point. Coming into Annecy during rush hour we had a full escort through the city-centre, the roads were cleared, traffic stopped at roundabouts and a huge cheer as we arrived at the finish line.
I did a quick interview for TV at the finish line but judging by how I felt (and probably looked) it may only be safe for post-watershed viewing. Tonight we went into the Old Town in Annecy - it truly is a stunning place. Great food, great company and good banter rounded off just another day at the Alpine Challenge
I havent even got time to mention the Wattbike challenge except to say we have a new leader in the mens category and the heat is about to be turned up as many of the Group 1 riders will be doing it at breakfast time. We also have Stephen Roche up for the challenge too which is of course great. Ill be blogging sepaately about the challenge but check our Twitter feed for a few videos.
Number pinned on tomorrows new jersey and Im ready to tackle the last and hardest stage of the 2011 Alpine Challenge!