Photos: Franck & Herve
Everything started nicely after the Vençoise sportive, "Shall we do the Mercan’tour [Bonette sportive] too guys?" And, since we’re at it, why not the Turini? "
"Ha, sorry I'm not here, but I would do the 180 of the Bonnette sportive (bold as a cock !!! [French expression] and not even afraid)..." At first there were plenty of candidates, bike enthusiasts and commuters that we cross every day; great I will not be alone!!! And then, time passes and the big day starts approaching… ok guys great, send us photos and videos… sure yeah, but where are they? In the end we were only two (all a band of p… gang of cowards).
Whatever, it is early morning, together with other climbing lovers and adventure seekers we're in Guillaumes on a Sunday morning at 7:30am on the starting line (it's not even warm, we must be bonkers to do this instead of a long sleep...). A second later and we're on our way to the Col de la Cayolle. After 2 hours of climbing we are at 2300m at the top of the Cayolle. I've got pretty warm in the climb, even gearing it all to the left I missed having an extra gear, which of course made me even warmer. Once up there, obviously, a small photo was needed and we went for the descent, where I'm suddenly cold and hungry... about twenty kilometers down we encounter the first fuel station... Coca-Cola, Energy drinks, eating and replenishing our bottles and there we go. Go ahead my little bold little fellow, the road is ours!
With the choice in our hands, shall we go for 120 km or 180 km? I hesitate... but heck, when it's two of us, the choices are crazier. Going right, 180 it is... it's all flat (or almost) until Jausiers. But watch out, the first section is full with uneven roads and some new asphalt brand, with a turn to the right and there's the sign: Col de la Bonnette, 23 kms 2802 meters up. Pfff that's gonna be long. With the first 10 kms gone, the next 6 before the refueling are quite hard with more than 7% average. After refueling another panel just kills us... 9.4% average and with at least 6 kms. Hell climbs the mountain in the last km with slopes at 12%! At the top of the Bonnette, a magnificent landscape, a well-heated body, a very oxygenated brain, a kiss for the summit's pebble, a little water and a piece of banana and left we were again!
Hauling down the descent for more than 50 kms before the next climb, it feels pretty good with the fresh air, which finally dries us. We quickly reach Sainte Etienne de Tinée with a short stop at the refuel station. The road continues downhill, we catch up with a small group and there on the right, direction Roubion, another refuel and a sign that gives us hope: arrival at 30 kms. But beware, what isn't written are the 1600m of heights that we still must climb... After another short supply we jump back in the saddle, and there starts yet another climb, not harder than the others, but with much fatigue hitting our muscles, this last descent is quite a painful one. We grab our last forces to quench our teeth and try to keep smiling. Sorry, no forces to think about picturing at this point. After one hour, here we are in Roubion for one last refueling and a very needed rest stop and... water, water, water!
C'mon guys just 5 kms and we summit the Col de la Couillole (funny name for a Pass!!! [ask a French what it sounds to him...]) everything went rather good when just 300 m before the top pcchhhhh... And f... rear tire punctured, oh really? This is not the time but, what can we do, it's like that. I step down and go for the usual tube change, with a forced smile while all the last riders of the race double me and technical support car stops and asks me "Are you okay? Do you need help?" "Thanks for the bike it's ok, however, if you got some legs to lend me I'd take them gladly..." So it was, up on the saddle again for the last 300m. These last climbing meters and the 15 kms return to Valberg seem to never finish... The last effort is served for the Valberg climb, one has to keep going and save MC Bike2Work's honor and not finish last! Said and done, when crossing I finally cross the finish line in 9h39 of racing!
You may guess, indeed, tired, but with memories filled by amazing landscapes and the greatest satisfaction to have completed this unique challenge.
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