First started in 2010, Tour de Force is a unique event for those people that have ever wanted to ride the entire route of the Tour de France (without needing a pro contract!).
Riding the 3497km route one week ahead of the race, the riders will roll up the Champs Elysees on 15 July. Lead cyclist Phil Deeker (who also organises the Rapha Cent Cols Challenge), is sending us daily blogs from each stage, which will service as a interesting preview of the stages before the pros ride them a week later.
It's all about the Grand Colombier today. The sun was on our backs and spirits were higher following a well deserved and even essential rest day for the riders.
The first 140 km flew by for everyone, by now quite used to knocking the kms by the 100 at a time! One straightforward category 4 climb interrupted an otherwise flat part of the stage. After a fast 20km downhill section and a refreshing lunch, we were as ready as we were going to be to face the infamous Colombier The Great.
We battled up the first 5kms in the blistering early afternoon heat on the exposed southern slope of the escarpment. The few minutes it took us to gain superb views over the valley below were explained not by our speed, but by the severe gradients we were dealing with. But once through this section we were in the lush woodland of the Forest of Anglemort and a brief section of relative flat provided a welcome interlude before the 10% gradients were back with a venegeance and the heart rates jumped up again! But the pure beauty of this climb meant that everyone said they loved the experience.
Great news! What was less good news was that after a harsh, technical descent, the road took another upward tilt towards the Col de Richemond, 9km away. This has an average tilt of 4%, but was enough to prove to be harder than the “main climb” of the day…. Tomorrow, after the 26km of the Madeleine, and the following descent, we take on the Glandon/Croix de Fer, all 25kms of it at an average overall gradient of roughly 7%! And there is lots more to follow after that...
All “my” riders will be sound asleep as I write this in the early hours of the morning, hopefully still unaware if just how hard tomorrow’s stage could prove to be. To cap it all, they forecast storms coming in during the afternoon... It will be interesting to see what I have to write about this time tomorrow!”