I’ve not been doing much other than racing and training a bit since the Etape. With my weird work hours I’ve been feeling knackered so I have laid off training as I’m a firm believer that it’s a good idea to listen to your body when it tells you it’s too tired.
Thinking about it I haven’t done a long ride into the Surrey Hills since I came back but I have been doing shorter one and two hour rides as well as racing. That means the edge has probably gone off my fitness and my season is winding down in terms of the results I can expect. So to make up for this I’m taking me and the bike off the the Massif Central next week to get in a late season refresher and treat.
It’s ten years since I first visited the region to be a teaching assistant in Vichy. Back then I was a utility rider who rode my BMX everywhere but never thought of my bike as anything more than transport and freedom to get places. I’ve been up most of the climbs in the area that mean something to cyclists in cars but somehow I managed never to visit the Puy de Dome, possibly the most iconic mountain in cycling.
It’s where Poulidor and Anquetil rode literally shoulder-to-shoulder in 1964 and where Merckx got punched in the gut in 1975. Despite the repeated calls for it to feature again, the local bureaucrats and the size of the Tour retinue mean that it’s highly unlikely it will ever play a role in the Tour de France, which is a huge shame given how visually spectacular something like a time trial up it from Clermont Ferrand would be.
There’s the slight complication that it’s only open between 7 and 9 am on Wednesday and Sunday between May and September so I’ve been sneaky and managed to make sure my plans allow me to ride it on both days.
I’m also going to ride up to places like La Bourboule and Mont Dore as well as Murol/Lac Chambon to take in some other climbs. In theory I can do a long loop round that would start in Clermont and then follow Puy de Dome > La Bourboule > Mont Dore > Murol/Lac Chambon before returning to Clermont. It would be about a 140km route and would include a lunch stop and refilling in a couple of places. I’m aiming to do that as a big day trip on the Wednesday.
I’m also hoping to the a sentiment trip back to Vichy to retrace my steps and come to terms with some of the ghosts I left there in my youth. I had a fabulous time there, no mistake, perhaps too good a time. That should cover Thursday or Friday daytime.
With a decent forecast for the Saturday I might make a trip over and round to Besse/Superbesse and then back round through Mont Dore. Or alternatively take a longer route through Orcival and then pick up a similar route to the Wednesday ride.
Finally I’ll do a shortish ride out on Sunday morning to Puy de Dome to catch it one more time and have a final stretch of the legs before packing down for the journey back. So now I’m mentally committed I have no excuses for not coming back with all plans ticked.