A loop out from Megève, around the local peaks and back to the start. Three climbs in quick succession, with a break before the last and biggest climb of almost 1000m.

112km – 3,000m – Aravis, Colombière, Romme, Côte 2000
Stage position: 150
GC position: 150

(More photos here)

The start line had that tension of 400 people about to do something they’ve been waiting for all year. Everyone excited, ready to go. The announcer did his announcing and Queen was playing loudly (not the bicycle song, sadly), and suddenly 0730 rolled around and we were off!

From the départ fictif we had a 10km convoy, everyone together with police and motorbike escort. A gentle descent, dodging some bollards and jumping some sleeping policemen, and we reached the départ réel. The timing mats chirped and we were really off. Legs turned on and we started the climb to the Col des Aravis.

The first climb itself was unremarkable, with a water stop and a chance to throw on the gilet at the top for the descent. (Yes, it’s worth stopping for a minute rather than trying to put it on while moving and getting it caught in a wheel!) We crossed into Haute-Savoie for a quick roll down to Le Grand-Bornand before hitting the climb to the Col de la Colombiére, one that I did in 2017 as well, though at a rather more leisurely pace than the riders of the Tour who passed through in July.

Just at the foot of the climb there’s a cliff-sized polka dot jersey painted on the side of the turning into it, showing just how much they go mad for the Tour de France and for cycling around here. You also see that with the sheer quantity of volunteers they have marshalling at roundabouts and junctions, stopping cars with little green/red signs to let the cyclists through. It constantly amazes me how happy they are to wait a minute to see a bunch of amateurs ride past!

The clouds were thich at the top, and it really looked like were going to get drenched at the top or down into the next valley, but the rain held off and the new jacket didn’t need to come out after all! But the roads themselves were pretty damp, with rain earlier in the day. Slippery corners got the better of a few riders today, which was sad to see. I made sure to give plenty of extra time to brake into the turns.

The third, shorter climb up to Romme brought us to another feed stop, this time after the timing stopped. The foods pretty good at these, little bits of pizza, ham, cheese and fruit, as well as the usual energy bars and gels. But the best thing was a pair of alp-horn players! (direct link)

The flat (not much of this) valley section that followed was still untimed, so it wasn’t worth spending too much effort here. I got a good group that shared the work, and we got the foot of the main event of the day having had a bit of relative rest.

The final climb split into three sections with short descents between them, but added up to more than 1000m of elevation gain between them. Again it went pretty well, and I think I made up more than ten places here.

I finished 150th out of 409 starters, which I’m happy with. The power numbers are looking good. For much of the ride I was holding ~20 Watts more than my target pace in 2017. We’ll see over the next few days how well I can continue that, and whether or not it was a good idea to be pushing a little harder on day 1!

I’d have a few places to make up to get the same position in the rankings as in 2017 but it’s hard to compare a completely different set of riders, which I reckon is a good enough excuse.

I had a nice sit down on an unreasonably comfy deck chair in the event village, with one of the alcohol-free (cyclist friendly!) beers they’re giving out and the Vuelta on the big screen.