Mike Simpson

Hazing Hurts

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CCC2013 Stage One

Carros-Nice to Valberg

203km 5770m of climbing

To gain access to fraternities and exclusive clubs you need to go through a certain level of discomfort and pain. The Cent Cols Challenge always throws up moments of intensity that, if endured, produces a truly accomplished rider. For the newbies this year it cruelly occurred on day one. Europe has had fairly freaky weather in May and June (The Giro D’Italia was heavily effected), and as we left Nice on the first stage we were unsure about the conditions we would come across.

It wasn’t long before I realised I’d made a school boy error. I had, despite numerous reminders, forgotten to return my room key. In my defence I had handed two in but forgot that, due to my first school boy error of the trip the day before (when I locked myself out of the room), I had a third. Oh well, we’ll be back in 10 days, I shall kept quiet and return it then. The stage was huge, 19 cols and a serious profile to get over. We started off in convoy down to the coast, not directly of course but by the meandering hilly way. Up the classic Col D’Eze (the final TT in this years Paris-Nice), but the coastal views were obscured by fog. Great views soon appeared on the Col de Braus with its beautiful hairpins.

On the climb of the Col de Turini, the weather turned nasty with heavy rain. Climbing up to 1589 metres, it was a push to get to the lunch stop at the top, where we all huddled together and scrabbled for dry kit. Brilliant, I thought, only midway through stage one and it’s a classic Cent Cols moment. Under a blanket in a tent I chuckled with roomie (and three time CCCer) Dave Ward, as we watched out and checked that the newbies were ok. A dry base layer and I was fine as we then sheltered in a café for hot drinks. I don’t think the café owners have ever produced as many hot chocolates as they did the day.

Then there was a commotion as one rider was in trouble. Despite a blanket and hot drink, he was going into shock. We unceremoniously stripped him and put dry kit on him, and he was whisked away in a warm car to recover. Things were not going to improve much so we headed off down the mountain in heavy rain and up the St Martin. An hour or so later the rain stopped and we had the wonderful Col de Coulliole to climb, very pretty. Earlier on in the climb I had seen a village way off in the distance up high. I wondered if that was where we were going, not realising the top with another 5km further on.

Nice to climb but due to the conditions I had forgotten to eat and drink enough (school boy error three I think). I tried to tough it out until the end but the uphill road into Valberg went on a bit and comically I needed to take a gel within the last kilometre of the stage. Luckily our hotel that night with well equipped with a massive drying room (designed for skiers), although it did end up smelling pretty cheesy! A long day and precious little time for preparing kit for the following day, as everything we had was soaked through, but as we settled down in our room at 11pm with bedtime milk (our traditional CCC routine), me and roomie were happy as Larry to be back on another Cent Cols journey.



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