Kevin Mills has sent this brilliant report about his time participating in the Tour De Mont Blanc.
Tour De Mont Blanc 2020
The Covid 19 crisis has had some positives such as, very few excuses not to go cycling. So I’ve done more cycling this year than ever, and many of them with Killa (thanks for the company!) Set against this the roller coaster of, will we be going to France for our annual Tour de Mont Blanc or not? Booking hotels, insurance, flights etc has been a pain and a number of our party dropped out, not to mention all the additional paperwork to complete (none of which was checked at the borders)
So it was a huge relief to set off from Chamonix for the transfer through the Mont Blanc tunnel, but this was tempered by the torrential rain on the Italian side. The descent through Courmayeur to the foot of Petit St Bernard pass was cold and wet, but the sun came out on the ascent, although I did have an annoying click on the right pedal, which I put down to a loose cleat. A quick tweak at the Col seemed to resolve the problem and then the superb descent to Bourg St Maurice for the long climb to Col De L’Iseran.
After climbing for 10k or so I was settling into a nice rhythm and the sun was very welcome, but the click came back with a vengeance and I was just thinking, not sure I can put up with this for another 3 days when the crank on the chain ring side broke clean in half and I was left with a pedal and half a crank hanging off my shoe (note this was a dura ace chain set with probably less than 3000 miles on it). Total disaster – on a previous TDMB one rider had a bottom bracket failure and spent 2 days scouring the Alps for a fix. There are surprisingly few bike shops in the Alps and many businesses are closed due to Covid 19.
So I dropped back to our support car, trying to see the funny side (which was a struggle) put the bike on the roof and got on the phone. There was 1 bike shop open in Bourg St Maurice and he had 1 large road bike for hire. Our wonderful DS and support car driver, Amanda, drove me down to the shop and the owner showed me his hire bike – it was a monster and I think the bike shop owner could tell that I wasn’t relishing the thought of riding his bike for the next 3 days as he asked had we tried Intersport at the other end of town, as they had a repair shop. So with increasing despondency we drove to Intersport. Against all the odds, the mechanic had a semi compact Dura ace crank set. He told us to get a coffee and he would fix it there and then, so we did, and 20 mins later I had a fixed bike sat on the roof of the car.
We had originally agreed that we would catch the rest of the party up at the top of the Col but I couldn’t face the ribbing of not completing the whole route, so I got Amanda to drop me off before Val d’-Isere with 3 bottles and gels to get me to the hotel unsupported. Off I set, maybe 2 hrs after disaster struck, for the spectacular climb to the top. It rained on the way, but I didn’t really care, I was delighted to be back on my bike.
It’s another awesome descent down to a small village – Bonneval-sur-Arc and I was really pushing it through the village and on to the valley road when I came across the rest of my party, who had very graciously decided to wait for me to catch up so that we could ride together to the hotel at Assois – I suspect that the warm sunshine might have been a factor here!
I’m glad to say that the rest of the trip was less eventful. We crossed Col du Telegraphe, Col du Galibier and Alpe-d’Huez on day 2 and stayed at a cracking hotel that night just below the Barrage Du Verney – a cycling friendly hotel where a lot of pro teams stay. Day 3 took us over Col du Glandon and Col de La Madeleine and day 4, Cormet de Roselend and finally Col Des Saises – where we tried to identify the spot where Hirshi crashed on the Tour a few days earlier.
All in all a fantastic trip – and the numbers are: 310 miles, 12,637m ascent, 1 new crank set and 14 days quarantine.