DAY 5 /// VALDEBLORE - SOSPEL - Distance: 39.61km
Tiredness, attrition, wear and tear - day 5 is where it shows.
A broken rib, smashed knuckles, most people carrying some kind of grazes somewhere, smooth riders pinch-flatting, and other people mysteriously burning through a set of brake pads in a day, where before a pair had lasted all week.
Those stats are telling lies again as well - Day 5 on paper looks like a good gravity deal. Lots of down compared to up but tempered by a whopper of a climb at the beginning and some of the most physical downhills of the week. Depending on your mindset it's either the most amazing on sight trail you’re ever going to ride, or being simultaneously shaken and terrified while you receive dead arms by that bully from school.
The racing is really heating up as well. Jérôme Clementz was the leader this morning after stage one and two, only for it all to be taken away after a small crash this afternoon; 20 seconds now stand between François Bailly-Maitre and Jérôme Clementz.
Ben Cruz was out today with a mechanical. He’s now out of contention for the race overall, but he’ll be back tomorrow to try and pick up some stage wins.
The Women's race is just as hotly contested, just as it has been all week. Ines Thoma is in 20th place overall and Anita Gehrig is in 23rd. There's a couple of minutes between them, easily eroded should Ines have a mechanical.
Tomorrow will be a celebration for everyone regardless of whether they’re here to race to win, or they’re battling for 46th place, or just want to get to Menton and the beach in one piece. To find their last reserves of energy, ride fast but not crash, ride hard but protect the bike; to savour the last col, the last corner, to see the end of a great adventure.