I set off just before 06:00 on Day 2, aiming for Strasbourg; a McDonald’s breakfast and an anxious wait outside one of the bike shops I’d selected at random. The ride to Strasbourg was pleasant enough in the early morning sun and I saw a couple of other TCR riders.
Strasbourg proved easy enough to navigate and I found myself at McDonald’s with at least an hour before any bike shops were due to open, so I readied myself for multiple McMuffins. I was then faced with the first disappointment of the day. For some reason the main McDonald’s bit was closed, only McCafe is open. A poor mans substitute. I had time to find a bakery but I was already flapping so I ordered a shit baguette and jam. I’m in France and I’ve just bought a baguette from McDonald’s; get a grip mate!
Anyway, coffee and baguette in bag I rolled down to the first bike shop. A fellow competitor is sat outside with a snapped gear cable. I know that isn’t a difficult job for a mechanic but it’ll still take time before he even looks at mine. We chat whilst waiting for the shop to open, which when it does my fellow competitor (whose name and number I’ve forgotten. sorrrryyyy) insists I go first. Very kind. I accept and am met with a belligerent man who refuses to watch me shake the cranks and just says he doesn’t understand. He then decides to understand and tells me no can do, too busy. Cheers. He said the same to the other guy, whose repair was relatively simple. Joker.
Next shop. Nice guy but he’s too busy and wont get it done this week apparently, not much use. The other rider turned up at this point and received the same spiel. He decides to wait in town for another shop. I do not. I’m going to crack on and see what happens, I was wasting a lot of time and it frustrated me. If my bike was getting repaired it would be time well spent, but sadly this is not the case.
I head southish out of Strasbourg towards Offenburg, which is in Germany. I notice a bike shop on the outskirts of town and decide to give it one last go. I walk in and am greeted by an Angel in latex gloves (you can see where this is going). After a quick look he grabs some tools, attempts to tighten, then looks at me, grimaces and says ‘Your bearings are toast’. I’ll never forget that relatively innocuous sentence because my heart sank. I must have looked like I was about to spanner myself to death because the hero of this tale then beckoned me into his workshop. They need replacing he tells me, I’m not sure I have any. He rakes around and finds the last set of bearings. He has a 2 month waiting list and I believe him, the workshop is chocker. He grabs my bike anyway and puts it on the stand. We chat as he works and I learn that he’s followed the race previously so understands my hurry. Twenty minutes later I have a new set of bearings and a machine that will actually make it to Greece. He reassures me it wouldn’t have otherwise. I pay his boss and leave him a tip for a beer. His boss tells me he doesn’t drink but likes ice cream. Fine by me. He later adds me on Instagram after I tell of his kindness when previously id faced stern faces and rebuttals, offering me support. One of many excellent humans I bump into during the race. (He’s since disappeared from Instagram. I’m sure this is a digital detox and not despair at my shit Insta game.)
FUCKING ONWARDSSSSSSSSS! I feel superb at this point and hurtle towards the Black Forest. It is very hot. I stop at a garage for an ice cream and I’m soon joined by Chris (#88) and Lee (#229). We all agree its very hot. Which means we are all delighted when the garage owner asks us to help them push a knackered car; we mustn’t have looked tired enough.
I carry on into the Black Forest and up and over the climb. It’s hotter than the sun. My Wahoo screen is obscured by a pool of sweat, which when removed indicates its 42 degrees in the sun. This is as hot as it got for the entire race and it was somewhat unpleasant. During the climb I met Tom (#135), whose gearing and colour scheme I envied. Tom will show his face again later on in this epic.
After the Black Forest I’m still positively buoyant after this mornings mechanical miracle, and decide I’ll be cracking on for the foreseeable. I’m heading towards Lake Constance in Switzerland and after that CP1. I commit to getting there that evening, it’ll put me ahead of my planned schedule despite the bottom bracket setback.
I use bike paths skirting around the southern side of Lake Constance. As will be the case many more times I question these routing decisions. The paths were nice and quiet. The paths were not direct. In many cases the roads probably would have been more than suitable for riding on, but in my planning I often opted for bike paths close to roads, in the knowledge I could always revert to the road if suitable. This was the case here, where after a while of crossing from one side of the road to the other, I switched on my brain and just stayed on the relatively quiet road.
I stopped at McDonald’s for a chocolate milkshake which is my go to on long rides. It would appear they don’t sell them in Swiss McDonald’s. No chocolate milkshakes in a country that’s renowned for its chocolate, this is an embarrassing oversight Ronald. I did pocket 3 cheeseburgers for my jersey though, and discovered these are an excellent fit and stay warm thanks to my sweaty back. Yum.
After one more supply stop I began heading generally south east towards CP1. Now the Alps which had been in the distance all day came looming as the night drew in. At once both intimidating and exciting, the shadows of this previously unexplored (by me) mountain range drew me in. For me this is what the TCR is all about, riding headlong into a mountain range with the knowledge you cannot finish until you cross it and several others like it.
It was a long and gradual climb to CP1. This long and gradual climb was made longer by my bullish insistence on using bike paths. In the pitch black away from the main roads I became very disorientated, and increasingly frustrated by GPS dropouts as I hit several junctions. At one point I found myself back on the main road, and in hindsight I should have just followed it to the CP. Before the race I’d committed myself to staying on my pre-planned route as much as possible. My logic being I made these routes with a fully operational brain, and that brain should take precedence over my overtired race brain. Now as the race progressed I would be far less strict with myself and common sense would prevail, but for the time being I was still learning the ropes and I dutifully relocated the worlds most indirect bike path. I proceeded to twist and turn for a good while longer before eventually rejoining the main road for the last mile or so to the CP.
I arrived at CP1 and got my Brevet stamped. Another landmark moment, getting that first stamp felt pretty fucking good. I was pretty happy with how the day had gone and wanted to get my head down as soon as possible so I could crack on with day three. I bivvied in the hotels underground car park with quite a few others, and like quite a few others got next to no sleep. Welcome to the TCR my boy.
Day 2 – 232.4 miles. 7,834 feet. 14.9 mph average speed.
130 bpm average HR 7694 calories
Total time: 19:38:22
Active Time: 15:34:12
“Cafe” Time: 4:04:10