Stage 6 – Mende
In Sisteron I finally met up with my buddy, Lei. He was supposed to make the flight out with me on July 9th, but then he ran into visa issues that set him back a week. Then his flight was delayed and he misses his connection so he has to stay overnight in New York. Then, the NY to Nice flight was delayed, then his train to Sisteron was delayed AND THEN we have to drive 6 hours to Mende. We didn’t get into town until 4 in the morning. We could have made a sequel to Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Lei’s schedule.
We park in a parking lot at 4 and get to bed at 5, only to be woken up at 6 by the Police telling us to get the hell out (I’m guessing at the translation).
We slept a few hours more and then got up and rode around town. I was amazed that Lei was still functioning after all that.
The Mende stage is probably my favorite of the Tour, in terms of profile. It has rolling hills until the finish which is 4 kilometers straight up, with the grades as steep as ten percent. This kind of short, steep hill makes for such an exciting finish, not to mention ideal running grounds for Bottle Boy.
France has been hot this entire trip, and today was no exception. Between the lack of sleep, the heat and my general fatigue I was exhausted. And the waiting doesn’t help. The racers don’t come by until 5, but you have to be out there by 2 so you can get a spot and have free access to the roads before the caravan comes through.
Lei and I both had costumes, but it was his maiden voyage. I told him all the tricks of the trade and then left him about 800 yards down the road. When the riders came by I saw this giant bottle running his ass off. Lei ran so fast and so long he almost caught up to me! We gotta space ourselves out a bit more next time!
No campervan adventure is complete without almost getting stuck in a road that is too tight. And that’s what happened to us. We were trying to get out of town, which is nearly impossible after the Tour given that all the teams are trying to get out and they have priority. So Lei and I start driving down the side roads and I see a sign with a campervan and a red circle. In the back of my mind I know this means ‘don’t go down here’, but as usual I ignored that voice. Ten minutes later we are basically stuck in a turn like the scene from Austin Powers. 8 cars are behind us and it is absolutely pouring rain. I am outside of the car trying to direct Lei. We’ll at least I got my shower and clothes washing in. It was so bad, we had to ask all the cars to back up because we couldn’t drive through the turn but eventually we made it.
Next stop, Revel!