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.
Stage 15 was most notable for being the day before the rest day and the last stage before stage 16. nevertheless, riders were able to focus on this glorious stage. The riding was almost fun! Several riders actually said this, and they were right.
Hill after hill ("Bumples" in my language) hit us but we took all the punches and then swooped down each well-earned descent with boy-smiles all over our chops! no-one was in a rush; the sunflower fields provided backdrops for photo moments galore; the sky stayed dry but cloudy, which suited us all very well. Of course this is a 'Baroudeur' stage for a well-deserved stay-away breakaway win...please!
We just enjoyed the rolling hills, the beautiful towns and villages we crossed, and the relaxed banter that serves so well to keep us going through yet another 10 hours from door-to-door. Our lunch was set up for us under the medival Market hall in Bassoues - quite an extraordinary place that the Tour will scream through in a weeks' time without even stopping for a coffee! they know not what they will be missing.
One thing: it really has been noticeable how not ALL French motorists are willing to simply let cyclists on "their" roads, let alone share them with us. We have been insulted, cut-up and honked nearly as much as we have been applauded. Even when riding single-file. A warning to other cyclists.
The second 'Rest day' in Pau has flown by as quickly as the first did, for me anyway, but i had no illusions of anything different. the weather is not forecast to give us great views tomorrow, but if we can get away with mountain drizzle rather than torrential rain, we will all arrive in Luchon without any feelings of being short-changed, I am sure. Bring On The Circle of Death!