We had a 5.30 a.m. meet before driving to do a swim race in the Mediterranean off Carry-le-Rouet. It was definitely wetsuit conditions – Adam’s wetsuit hadn’t arrived and 2 strokes in his speedos was enough before turning around and calling it a day.
I feel pretty confident in water and have done a fair bit of ocean swimming but was soon struggling to breathe properly (a mixture of crappy sleep and travel may have caught up with me). About 400 metres from shore I started to have a full-on panic attack (the first I can ever remember having in water) and I was glad that Louis and Rob were swimming near me. I’m not sure why I felt more confident following someone who had been rerouted from London to Marseilles via Madrid (Louis), but it seemed to settle me down. I worked bloody hard to stay with them for the next lap and a half.
A quick breakfast and we were off to Vaison la Romaine via Mont Ventoux (167km with 3,100 m of climbing). John wanted the group to stay together for as long as possible and he set the tempo at the front for the first hour or so. I was right at the back of our group of about 15, yo-yoing up and back with my heart rate still jacked up from the swim. This wasn’t the controlled start I had planned, so dropped off the back after our first stop and made friends with Louis. We had a much more relaxed ride to the bottom of Mt Ventoux, chatting about his adventures and experiences from previous Epic Camps.
Ventoux took me about 2 hours to climb, ticking along just below ironman effort. The final 16km have an average gradient of 8.9%, and when you’re riding them it’s difficult to comprehend the 60-minute ascents of Tour riders. A quick photo at the top and then it was a great descent to our hotel. I didn’t hit the speeds of the 90-100 kph descenders in our group (Phil, John, Julian) but reached 70 kph a few times.
After reaching the hotel I noticed the sting on my arm had blown up during the day. It now looked like I had been doing curls on my right arm only for about 6 months. Tim, our resident physio and medical advisor, recommended a visit to the hospital after dinner. Despite having been on the go all-day looking after us, Ian and Julie still drove me down there to get checked out.
Tim had been worried about a bacterial infection in my arm and I used a mixture of my best pigeon French, pigeon Spanish and shouting to explain what had happened to the doctor (“YOU KNOW – BUZZZZZZZZ”). “Non, non, non, non, non” was his reply to my suggestion about “bactérien”. It was an allergic reaction apparently and so our first day of Alpine cycling ended for me in an appropriate way – with a drip of antihistamine in my arm for 30 minutes.