Monday, September 12, 2011

Haute Route Day 7 - Finale into Nice

Best sleep my 6th night! It was now a routine getting ready for the morning starts.
Saint Etienne de Tinee - photo Helena Darvelid
I rode with Gabi 9-km down the hill to Saint Etienne de Tinee for the neutral start. It was a cool shaded 6C for the first 31-km neutral section. Everyone was shivering as we rode in the shaded valley, unbelievably cold. The sunlight was welcomed as it peaked out above the mountain briefly, until we descended deeper into the shaded valley. Sharp right turn and the timed race began up Col Saint Martin. The pace went hard. I clung onto a similar group as the previous day with the Italian woman Dorina leading us out. The grade was a calm 7%. Towards the top I dropped back of the group about 100m, just a little weary at the tough pace.

It was a fast furious descent with twisty corners and then major straight-aways. I finally latched onto a good group of 5 guys. I got cheers of “Go Canada” from a French master racer when I pulled through on the descent. We passed thru a section of canyon similar to the one near Radium Hot Springs though this one went on for many kms.
riding towards Vance - the boys in white shorts!
With 15 km to go, a few new guys came blazing by to the front of our peloton. Yikes, it was #171 leading, no doubt pulling Team SOLO woman up to us. I was impressed with how strong #171 rode. He showed the strength of a Cat 1 racer. Either that or he was so well rested from riding at our woman’s pace the whole week. We stormed around a few round-abouts. Before I knew it, in the middle of nowhere we had crossed the indiscreet finish line, hearing the blips of our time-chips over the timing mat. After the 31-km neutral section this morning, the actual timed section was 72-km. We still had another 37-km of neutral to get to Nice (total 140-km day).
arriving to Vance
After a few hugs and cheers amongst the riders, we rode easy to the next village Vance 14-km away.

Marg telling Dorina from Italy how awesome it was to see her ride! - photo Helena Darvelid
happy! - photo Helena Darvelid
bikes awaiting, with another amazing strong woman Andrea from Germany - photo Helena Darvelid
Marg with amazing photographer and World Class Sailor Helena!!
happy with real food at the Vance Market
There, we received our finisher medals and shirts, and hung out for a couple hours to wait for all the riders to arrive. We finally left as a marshalled group to ride the final 23-km to Nice. The pace was ultra painful at 16 kph downhill! My hands and wrists were aching from braking. Chatting with riders took my mind off the slow descent.

Riding our slow pace to Nice
Gabi by the beach!
Arriving to Nice, the many tanned bodies on the beach stood and cheered as we coasted in. It was a hot day.

My 2nd time with my bike at the Mediterranean - 2011

My first time with my bike at the Mediterranean - 1987!
The finish was chaotic on the beach promenade. It was a rushed atmosphere finding baggage, packing the bike, and taking a moment to jump into the beautiful aquamarine salty Mediterranean (it was wonderful!), before heading to the uneventful awards announcement at the trailer on the promenade.
taking in the water & beach at Nice - photo Helena Darvelid
3rd place woman reacted like she won the lottery! I went up for my 2nd place solo, more out of obligation of being a racer. Enough said about how 1st place was won following a domestique male rider the whole race! Would that not be called a "mixed team" effort?! As an alternative to saying “cheese” for the cameras, I was saying “domes-teeeek” as we were smiling for women’s solo podium.

Gabi was disappointed she came in 4th by 8 seconds over the 7 stages. She was getting stronger the last few stages. One of my prizes was a large package of a French brand of energy food products. I’m happy with Vega products from Canada. I asked Gabi if she’d accept the prize for coming in “3rd place and 8 seconds”! It was awesome to see her smile and we both laughed!

walking towards the Ascenseur du Chateau (the tower in the distance)
Going up up up the many stairs, 90 metres elevation
I eventually walked up towards the edge of town. The final aperitif party was to be at the top of Ascenseur du Chateau. There was an elevator though I was adamant to take the stairs on the side of the cliff. When I saw the sign that said the top was 90m up, I cried a little as I was tired and heat stricken. I trudged up sweating profusely.
view from the top
The party was a welcome sight with a beautifully catered local meal of “real French food”!! Everything was dainty and super appetizing. It was a feast! I had some nice last chats with awesome riders I met during the week.
In the main plaza at night
Gang from Zurich trying to make me feel taller!
Night soon came. Gabi and I walked with two riders from Zurich (Gabi is from the Black Forest in Germany though lives in Zurich). We strolled through the piazza area until we needed to jump on the bus back to Geneva at 10:30 pm. The squeezing of bikes into one storage trailer took time. We got to squeeze our gear into the buses empty space underneath. After a long sporadic unrestful bus ride with many stops, we arrived to Geneva by 8 a.m.
Mary picking me up in a very snazzy sporty Audi
Mary and her orange beetle when she lived in Edmonton - 1988
My friend Mary from my track running days, now living in Geneva, arrived to pick me up. I finally had a nice “holiday” day with Mary. Gosh I must rave... Mary went to the 1987 World Track & Field Champs in Rome and was on the 1988 Olympic team (Seoul) for the 800m. It was awesome to have been one of her training partners!!

We went to the local farmer’s market, drove to France 20 km away to her partner’s renovated barn house for lunch. Dominique apologized for “France” for the race not feeding us well! He certainly whipped up a marvelous meal. It was fun to pick plums, apples, grapes and berries in the yard - a great relaxing day for me!
tart grapes growing beside the dinner table
teeny tree though we picked tons of yummy plums from it
Nigel (now just as tall as me) making a stop for the best Pain au Chocolat
Keep posted for more amazing photos and a synopsis of the event! Lots of riders at home are interested in 2012 Haute Route!

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