Today turned out to be an action packed affair. 7 rolled out, but only 4 rolled home. The plan was to once again head north, but do an anticlockwise loop around Lac Annecy collecting the cols; Tamie, Forclaz, Leschaux and Frene. Before rolling proper though, we dropped by the now-open bike shop so that BT could have his freewheel serviced. The mechanic seemed to know exactly what the problem was, which was a relief. Ham also invested in a new saddle with padding! - a novel concept for the Hamster. Thus, with repairs attended to we headed off direction col de Tamie, which actually constitutes a pair of cols which form a loop. Hence, today we tackled the version we hadn't ticked yesterday. Both are as pretty and pleasant as each other. Le Tour descended down one of them this year, on the stage where numerous Australians succumbed later in the day on the descent of the Roselend. Descending the Tamie direction Faverges, BT complained of braking issues. It seemed that the mechanic who dealt with his freewheel inadvertently managed to deposit some grease on the rear rim, which we attempted to remove whilst stopped to refill bidons. Next on the menu was the Col de la Forclaz. Now this is one of 4 Col de la Forclaz's I know of in the immediate area. On a previous trip whilst heading for Martigny I took a turn onto what turned out to be the wrong one...a painful experience. I am now sure that the one we were to do today, directly adjacent to the edge of Lac Annecy, is the one that features most often in Le Tour. With triple arrows and "13%" adorning both sides of the carte, it was probably going to rate as the steepest climb of our tour - as it turned out to be. I had my climbing legs on today, and was able to distance Nige early on and hold him off till the top, although I was fading at the end. The col affords a great view of the lake, and a birds eye view down the paraponter's take-off ramp - not for the feint-hearted.
Once regrouped, we headed off on what also turned out to be the steepest descent of our trip. Once it got going, there were two particularly steep straights, separated by a chicane involving a cliff face, and culminating in a throw-down-the-anchors hairpin. I ended up carrying too much speed into the chicane, which took me a little off guard and sent a wee shiver up my spine, so I was particularly heavy on the brakes as the following hairpin approached. As I swung around it I heard the sound of a machine travelling too fast to make the corner, and looked back to see BT miss the corner completely and sail over the handlebars! This was not going to be pretty.
Although BT was back on his feet immediately, it quickly became apparent that there was more than just damaged pride at stake, and we feared the worst as he gingerly immobilised his left arm and drifted into shock. I should point out that BT is one of the better descenders in the group, and the incident is probably largely the result of our inability to get his rim and brake pads sorted out when he noticed breaking issues earlier in the day. With brakes responding poorly, and the machine carrying too much speed, he somehow managed to negotiate the chicane, but couldn't rub anywhere near enough speed off on the next straight to make the hairpin, so he picked his dismount/run-off spot, and nailed it!
Ham and I had previously discussed the possibility of something like this happening on a trip, and the likelihood that if we did enough trips with enough people, it was in some respects inevitable. Well, it had just happened. Now that we were in such a predicament, the following events were not only humbling, but make me wonder whether such a speedy extrication would have occured in bloody John Howard's Australia.
The first car that arrived stopped, and Monsieur jumped out and insisted on helping. The back on the car was swiftly folded down, BT (covered in mud, sweat and a little blood) was put into the front passengers seat, Monsieur's daughter was moved to the rear, and squeezed in beside Nige (who among us had the best French). Once the bits of bikes we crammed into the rear, they rolled off direction Annecy Hospital. The rest of us gingerly re-mounted and took the rest of the descent - cautiously. Given the daily traffic jam that plagues Annecy on a Tuesday afternoon, we somehow arrived at the hospital just before the civilian ambo. BT was whisked away for X-rays etc while the rest of us paced the concrete outside, exchanging sombre glances and pondered the frailty of good health and the meaning of it all. In the confusion of the drop-off, and Monsieur's haste to get going to a family function we had made him late for, we failed to even grab his particulars, which was a great shame as he'd been so gracious and it would have been nice to be able to express our gratitude later on. About 2 hours after arriving BT emerged calm and lucid, with X-rays in one hand and the other arm slung. He had broken his humerous and would have his wing in a sling for about 8 weeks! It was now late in the afternoon and a local caffe helped us order an appropriately sized Taxi, such that BT, accompanied by Greggles and 2 bikes, could be chauffeurred back to Albertville. The rest of us were going to do well just to get home before dark, so non-essential cols were scrubbed and we aimed to flat-land it as far as we could. We weren't to know at the time, but we were just about to get on an awesome 40 km bike path, flat-as-a-tack, that would take us nearly all the way back to Albertville (we were dreading having to go back over the Tamie).
However, the excitement wasn't over yet. About 10 down the western side of the lake, Nigel's rear derailleur just ate itself! More accurately, it somehow torqued the rear hanger off the fame before ended up lodging in the wheel between the chainstays, locking up the rear wheel and breaking the chain. Imagine the mess that might have ensued if this had happened on a descent! We were going to need another Taxi. This took a bit or doing and first involved Karel using his custom-made towing device (we had all laughed at him earlier) to drag Nige to the nearest town such that we could source Taxi numbers. Darkness was starting to set in, so we left Nige to fend for himself and the remaining 4 of us assumed time-trial formation and headed for home.
What a day!
Ham and Kev ready for another day of action.
The view from the top of the Forclaz
bombing for home with the odd shower thrown in for good measure
BT, resigned to assuming the position for a few days whilst giving the break time to set before flying out.