"Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves" - Confucius (kinda, but not really)

After the L’Etape du Tour, the remaining twenty-two Orwellians depart Moutier for Briançon, and try to get on TV when they were watching the Tour on the Galibier.

After not completing the Etape, Luke GJ Potter details his redemption arc, as he continues to seek the title of “Tropical Weather Ginger”.


Table of Contents

Jump to the various chapters by touching/clicking on these links:

  1. Barry Pöstlberger
  2. I Think I Met a Sports Nutritionist Mid-Ride
  3. I Didn't Try a Leg on the Alpe, but I Chanced my Arm at a Holiday Romance
  4. Nico, Nico, Give Us a Wave
  5. Traumatic Travel Part 2
  6. Tour de Force at the Club League


Media Links

As this article is 7,692 words long, I recorded it in Audio format.

You can listen to it by searching “Breeze Shooting x Luke GJ” in your Podcast Client, or by clicking: BS⤬LGJ #006.

Photos: Alps 2019 - L'Etape Du Tour, Mini-Raid and Le Tour.

Strava Rides:

  1. Rest Day Ride. Barry tried to give me a leadout on the climb, but he Postelbergered me.
  2. Moutier to Briançon: Madeleine, Télégraphe and Galibier.
  3. Briançon to the 2nd bend on Alpe d'Huez via the Lautaret
  4. Watching the Tour on the Galibier


Barry Pöstlberger

The three people who were on the three day trip left us; we said au revoir to Ann Horan, Annemarie Loughrey and Donal Duffy.

A casual breakfast and a totally cazh Croissant preceded a rest day ride. Some little piggies stayed at home. This little piggie avoided roast Beef, but went to Market.

I brought my second waxed chain to the lockup, to replace it after today’s ride. A waxed chain will usually last 400km before starting to make noise. My front mech was making a horrendous rubbing noise since replacing my chainring. John from Sportive Breaks put my bike on the stand. He did some black magic, which is all you can really do on the front derailleur. It stopped making noise.

I had the rest day spin route on my Garmin Edge 830. The Climb Pro feature showed the only climb on today’s route, 8.2km at 7%. It was roasting hot at 11am. Barry Greene suggest that we give me a lead out on the climb. It was kind, after me not completing the Etape the previous day. I hoped that this would start my redemption arc. I felt very uncomfortable sitting on Barry, Taylor and Peter’s wheels, as it was 37°C and they were riding at my Threshold power. Near the top, Peter attacked, it took a 560W effort to keep with him. Then Taylor took it up, he was only pedaling with one leg and I was doing 460W to stay there. Barry was the final lead out at a much more reasonable 415W. I was supposed to tell him when to pull over. But the Climb Pro on the Garmin was saying that the climb was another kilometer longer. We hit the top, with Barry first over the line.

He had Lucas Pöstlbergered me.

This wasn’t the most grievous thing that happened. It turned out the fake Shaun Kelly had Strava Sniped all of us, he started the climb off the back of the group and finished near the front. He has the second fastest Orwell time on Strava. Alan Hickey has the fastest time, he set it a hard stage of the Haute Route Alps August 2019. He had much more pleasant temperatures though, averages of 11ºC. So essentially cheating with that Michele Ferrari Mercury.

The group at the lookout.

At the top, someone mentioned that there was lots of Crickets chirping. I said “Don’t mention Cricket around Taylor”. New Zealand recently lost the Cricket World Cup to England. The Indian lads in the office said it was a total fix of a match.

On the descent of the climb, we found a well with ice cold water. I dumped out my soupy fluid and sang “For the First Time in Forever” from Frozen, as I sipped down the cold water. Shane Phelan got two punctures on the descent. Classic Shane. It was super dangerous for him though. Ian Devlin, Brian Colfer and I waited with him on the second puncture. Phil went in the Van to pick up Shane. We rolled on down the rest of the descent. We descended all the way into Brides-les-Bains for lunch.

Some of the gossip at the lunch was surrounding the finishing numbers in the Etape. A touchy subject for me. Only ten thousand of fifteen thousand signups finished. Out of Sportive Breaks’s 260 attendees, 60 didn’t finish. Numbers that had no effect in making me feel better. I was still in the bottom 33%. The guys also had stories about people who were hilariously underprepared for the Etape. The most concerning gossip was regarding carbon clinchers melting. Five out of the six wheels that folded for Sportive Breaks’s riders were ENVE branded.

The food was super slow in coming out. Most people got Crepes. I was wearing my Vegan Athletic Jersey, so I ordered Sorbet. Taylor told us about some of the other trips that he had been a guide on with Sportive Breaks. He had some insights on the other New Zealanders knocking around the Conti and Pro-Conti Ranks. We had a bit of a laugh about Ryan Mullen and Hayden McCormick’s budding bromance. After being at the lunch spot for the guts of two hours, only because we were waiting for food, we headed back to Moutier, which was five minutes descent away.

I replaced the chain on my bike. A new waxed chain would be slightly better than the current one for the first 100km, and then much better for the next 200km. I put my bike back on the rack, and ensured that it shifted into the 34-32t. I stupidly took off my cycling shoes to do all of this process. The floor of the lockup was covered in slit, so my socks were all black.

The last pizza.

I had a lovely recovery from the ride. I was enjoying being cold in the shower. I wrote my Facebook Photo Blog on the Etape failure. I was late to get pizza for Lunch. Barry Mooney, Nial Kieran, Peter Grelis and Colin Caesar were already finishing up. The guy refused to serve me at first, but then he agreed. He wanted to go home and sleep for the afternoon. I got the last pizza. The other lads were being harassed by a mental Belgian waiter. Niall didn’t finish his food, and the waiter snatched his plate away in disgust. I would be polishing off my plate.

I went to the shop and made the best purchasing decision since the Handlebar Bag. I bought Surfboards, they’re jelly sweets with sugar on the outside. I think that they’re called DipSticks in Ireland. Yes, I know that jelly sweets are not Vegan, but I had very little options.

At dinner, we asked to swap the Welcome Hotel’s restaurant for its sister hotel’s outside restaurant. The other lads were ordering beers like no one’s business. I stayed away from the alcohol. I was already way behind on sleep and alcohol impairs your sleep hygiene. They were served some Lasagne, it looked well presented. Factory Farmed French beef. I don’t recall anyone giving it high scores though. I was served a Sweet Potato Soup. Wow, perfect carb loading for the next day’s monster spin.

Paying for the hotel was another ordeal. They wouldn’t take the price of the dinners that we didn’t eat out of the price. Have you ever paid €40 for a Salad, Soup and plate of Long Grain Rice?

Meanwhile my Facebook Photo Blog had gone viral. Ann posted it in the WhatsApp group, and some else forwarded. By the next morning Colm Cronin told me that his wife’s dog’s best friend’s kennel maker’s widow had read it. It wasn’t exactly Pulitzer Prize winning content, but I at least expected a job offer from The Sun. They do have my phone number, and the last time they called me I was dropping a log.


I Think I Met a Sports Nutritionist Mid-Ride

Only when I was dressed and in the lockup I noticed that I had a loose thread on my Rapha Core Shorts. I needed someone to break the thread, as I didn’t have long nails. I asked someone. But that person’s nails weren’t long enough. That person had to use their teeth. No names will be mentioned. Thank you to this mystery person who bit my ass in an alley. Normally I have to pay for such a service.

The plan was to cycle from Moutier to Briançon, a classic alpine stage. 150km with 4800m of climbing. The route opened with the Col de la Madeleine, then 25km across the valley and up the Col du Télégraphe for lunch, a short descent to Valloire, then the Col du Galibier and a descent into Briançon via the Lautaret.

It was going to be another roaster today, so we started cycling at 07:40. I used the same almost kit as I used for the Etape. I avoided the base layer. The jersey I was wearing, This Is Cambridge Hors Catégorie, was very lightweight, the sleeves can roll up pretty much all the way. I wore it out once in Winter, with two thick layers under it. It was like Lingerie.

Kinda following the signs.

We started the Col de la Madeleine. Helen Horan went full gas at the start. Just 26km at 6% left on this climb which peaks at 2,000m. The start of the Madeleine is a forest with windy roads. The last anyone seen of Helen was her tackling a hairpin. A group formed with Garret Connolly and Niall Kieran in it. I banded together with DOC, Peter Grelis and Colin Caesar. Aisling Ní Neill and Dave Hendron were in the group behind. We were in the laughing group, l’autobus. We were just tapping along at 150 Watts. Our banter included the conspiracy theory about Johnny Ronan’s bikes that were, as the rumour goes, stolen the night before the Etape, other subjects included Housewife’s Heroin aka Codeine, that I had unwittingly been part of feeding an addiction to my previous Landlady.

Peter reckoned that Gar’s group’s pace was too high. He reckoned that we’d catch at least four of them. We quickly picked up three of them. This prompted Peter to revise this estimate to six. Our fourth was Barry Mooney. Barry was taking photos, and he stuck with us. Colin and I had great fun reading the Climb Pro screens on our Garmin 30 series head units.

We had Chris in the Sportive Breaks van with us. He pulled in and offered us Bars, Gels and Electrolytes. This was an awesome feature. On cycling trips, I generally don’t find much value in having a guide. Here on the remoteness of the Madeleine, in this heatwave, we really needed Sportive Breaks support. As the temperature was climbing, I struggled to eat any solid food, so the Gels were a welcome site. The OTE branded Gels do taste a bit rough, as I found that they burnt my throat.

I got dislodged from The Laughing Group on a long 9% stretch. Hugh Butler reeled me in as we got passed by a group of riders who were flying up the hill.

We had an awesome view of Mont Blanc every time that we turned a corner. As names for geographic places go, you really have to respect Mont Blanc. Unlike Iceland, Greenland or Jobstown, Mont Blanc was white, even in the height of summer.

Mont Blanc in the distance.

Near the top, I took some photos with Hugh. It was a good bonding experience. All those bonds were promptly ripped to shreds at the peak. The others were at the Sportive Breaks vans and picnic tables. They cheered us on. I had to give the kids a show. I attacked Hugh, dropped him and had enough time to zip up the jersey and celebrate with a trademark Luke Lasoo.

We took some group photos at the monument at the top of the Madeleine. The picnic was very welcome. I ate loads of crisps. I swapped my bag of Dates for a bag of Surfboards. I positioned the Surfboards in my jersey pocket for ease of access. I topped up my sunscreen, as Sinead Kennedy told me to get a small bottle. It was in my Handlebar Bag.

A faster group took on the descent with Taylor guiding them. Our slower group had James. I don’t have a Palmares for James. But I did hear that he’s raced some CycloCross. James was excellent descending. There were tonnes of hairpins on the descent. The Garmin Map screen was vital for navigating these. My wrist bones were aching on this 20km descent.

At the bottom Padric got a puncture. This took ages to sort out. The town of La Chambre had a sheltered shopping centre and an ice cold fountain. DOC, Aisling, Hugh and I took it easy. Dave and Padric were sorting the wheel. As they went to the fountain for a second of third time, I, being Ginger, choose to stay in the shade. I was approached by a French lady, in her very early forties. She only spoke French. I had no idea what she was saying. I only knew that she was saying “Sucre”, sugar. I kinda presumed that she was hitting on me. I was preparing for her to ask “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?” I would not eagerly say “Oui oui”. I would cooly consider it and check my calendar of other Mistresses. I whipped out the phone, Google Translate and set the input to Microphone. She wasn’t propositioning me. She was telling me that it will be 40ºC and that I should eat tonnes of sugar. I showed her my Surfboards and Gels. She looked very concerned as we parted.

Chris in the Van.

Riding 25km across the valley was brutal. The temperature got up to 46ºC. About 80% of the way across the valley, Hugh and Aisling got into the Van with Chris. Normally on cycling trips, the Van is called “The Van of Shame”. On this ride it was “The Van of Shade”. We were on the Marmotte Route, just after the Col du Glandon. We passed the Lacets de Montvernier and the Col du Chaussy. Taking a break in the town of Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, to refill bottles. Hugh was waiting for us. He and DOC put their heads in the fountain.

Our next quarry was the Col du Télégraphe. It is 12km at 7%. Hugh got back in the Van. I seen Dave Murnane near the Van too with a Bleeding Nose. I rode about two kilometers of it. It was too hot for me. Struggling with hyperventilating, I got into the Van of Shade. This was upsetting to climb off. I had to be sure of my place in the Van. I took the last seat. DOC and Padric were now left with no option. They had both done the Marmotte, and had zero desire to ride the Galibier today. So the Télégraphe was their finish line. Dave Hendron gave me a cold water refill. I had a thousand yard stare. Chris was great craic in the Van. We cheered on James, DOC and Padraic. Four kilometers from the top, Chris dropped us all to the top and he went back to monitor the other three.

My Rose on top of the Van of Shade.

At lunch, we finally found some people who understood Carb loading. We had a Panini and the largest bowl of Chips possible west of the Maginot Line. This went down a treat. We cheered on DOC as he crested. He tried to celebrate by taking his hands off the bars. He wanted to be like me, his hero. He wobbled, and we all worriedly wooooed. DOC tried again, but he wobbled a second time. Donal was both dodgy and dangerous. Padraic arrived later with James. Before setting off again, I changed the contents of my Handlebar Bag. Put all but one bar into my Day Bag, which would stay in the Van. I stocked up on Gels. Six Gels, enough for two hours. I wasn’t overly concerned with having a stomach related accident, as the solid food from the lunch would solidify the gels. Plus I made a tactical bathroom visit in between ordering my panini and receiving it.

We rode downhill to Valloire. It was the first time since TKAS that I got to ride with Shaun Kelly. Over here in France, he couldn’t ride at the same pace as me. The start of the climb in Valloire was cobbled. What lay ahead of us?

The fearsome Col du Galibier, 17km at 7% peaking at 2,700m above sea level. I ended up riding with Aisling and James at the back. I ate a Surfboard every kilometer that ticked down on my Climb Pro. I dropped Aisling when she stopped off to take some pictures. The start of the Glaibier is really nice. This climb, just like the Madeleine, was deserted of civilisation. The Van was pressing on so I didn’t have a chance to get some Electrolytes from Chris. I swallowed a risky gel - a SIS Double Espresso. It tasted rank. After some hairpins, I saw Aisling below me. I was about to take a photo of her cycling, but she stopped taking her own photos. So I ended up with Photos of Aisling taking photos.

Caravans amassing on the Galibier.

I slammed down a few more gels. I got to the second part of the climb. I caught up to Colm Cronin. I tried to drop him, but he wasn’t having it and sped off into the Sunset. Phil came up beside me in the second Van. He offered to refill my bottle. We did so, but Phil didn’t give me a sticky bottle. Terrible DSing on his part. I happened across some Camper vans. They had Danish flags outside. So I shouted “Allez Mikel Mørkøv”.

As I neared the top, the temperature dropped to a cool 19ºC. My shoes felt looser. I was able to push on, the temperature decrease was more of a performance boost than the Altitude was a detractor. The van was waiting at the top. I looked at the road that I would descend. It was very twisty. I decided that I was too fatigued to safely ride it. I took the van as a descent into Briançon.

Brian Colfer was first top the top of the Galibier. Brian didn’t get setup on Strava until two days later. Until he did the Pathways Course during the winter, he was only cycling casually with his mates. He was only a new member when Garret posted about the trip. He backed himself and had a great trip. The Ultra-Endurance Cycling world use the hashtag #BeMoreMike to celebrate Mike Hall’s achievements and contributions. The Pathways people should be tweeting #BeMoreBrian

Niall was in the van wrapped up in a blanket. He was a bit sick. It was a tough day, with the intense heat, and now the intense altitude. Niall rode the Madeleine and Télégraphe at a much higher pace than I, so it was likely a combination of factors.

I took a bunch more photos as we waited for Aisling and James. The camper vans were starting to amass on the Galibier. They were anticipating the Tour de France in two days time. Aisling opted to descent the Galibier and Lautaret. We followed her in the Van. An interesting point of note on the descent was a campervan bedecked in an Irish flag. The Conor McGregor of Campers. Or, the Sonia O’Sullivan of Campers, depending on your age and/or identity politics. The descent of the Lautaret looked class. Just a case of wrap all your fingers around the drops, no braking was required. As I write this, I regret not descending it, as I didn’t get a proper chance on the trip.

The Irish Campervan.

Our hotel in Briançon, Hotel Mont Brison, was a lot better than Moutier. The shower was a godsend. A heavenly showerhead. The Handgroe adverts on The Cycling Podcast’s Kilometer Zero episodes were very honest. The room was still a bit noisy, as there was busy roundabout outside, it didn’t have AirCon either. The dinner was carbillicous. I had a Cucumber Risotto and boatload of Chips. I was a happy Ginger.

I went back to the hotel to prepare for the next day. My Overnight Oats were put in the sink. But the water kept leaking out of the sink. I pushed in the stopper hard to stop this from happening, the stopper got stuck. Meanwhile, Ian Devlin went to a bar with some others where he introduced them to a Negroni, the heir apparent to Gin and Tonic.


I Didn't Try a Leg on the Alpe, but I Chanced my Arm at a Holiday Romance

I was honest when reporting my sink issue, as I’m a grown ass man. The breakfast was pretty much the same content as the previous hotel. Sticking to my Overnight Oats, I was getting used to the taste now. It still almost made me puke though.

Today there would be four options for the ride:

  1. The Charmin option, for triple-quilted super softies, had the option of the Van of Shame to the top of the Lautaret, descend to Bourg-d'Oisans and climb and descent the Alpe d’Huez.

  2. The hardcore crew would ride up the Lautaret, descend to Mizeön, climb the Sarenne to Huez, descend the Alpe and climb it again.

  3. The middle option, which I opted for was the Lautaret, decend to Bourg-d'Oisans and attempt to climb the Alpe d’Huez.

  4. The second Goldilocks option was Lautaret, Sarenne, Picnic. It would be favoured by riders who rode the Marmotte and didn’t fancy the Alpe.

Sportive Breaks had a picnic waiting at the foot of Alpe d’Huez. Chris and Taylor went with the Sarenne climbing sortie. Phil said that “The Sarenne should not be underestimated, it is one of the most difficult climbs in the Alps.” The Sarenne was 12km long averaging 7%. It ends up in the village of Huez.

Today’s first quarry was the Lautaret. It is 26km long, but nice and steady at 3%. My kind of climb. Taylor set a steady pace up the climb. I was third wheel, behind Peadar Corbally and Taylor. We were riding single file, to not annoy traffic. Then something happened. Barry Greene and Darragh attacked. I responded and made it a Menage á Trois. We got a big gap on the rest of the guys. I lost my breakaway companions when I stopped at Phil’s van for a bottle of water. I got back on the road with Shane Phelan and tried to hold of an advance from my Madeleine amigos; Barry, Colin and Peter. Shane dropped me on a rare steep ramp. I stopped off to take a photo of the upcoming tunnel and the permafrost. Peter and Colin thought I had blown up. We were at 2,000 meters now. I had to wait for some cars and slower riders before remounting. I caught up to the trio at the end of the tunnel, which is essentially the top. There are some cafes and hotels up there. Tomorrow we would turn right and ride up the Galibier again, to watch the Tour de France. Today we went straight, towards to Bourg-d'Oisans.


The tunnel and the Permafrost.

Then followed the scariest descent of my life. It was super fast, as we had a cross-tailwind. My glasses were almost blown off my face a few times. We turned on our rear lights for the tunnels. These were horror shows. I kept forgetting to pull my glasses down my nose. All I could see was Niall’s rear light. I gave him loads of room, as I couldn’t see where our wheels were. Terror, is the only emotion I associate with French tunnels. My trip to Monaco in December 2017 scarred me. Monaco’s underground roundabouts are not to be trifled with.

Somehow we got to the bottom in one piece. I was on the front of the group. All of a sudden a Tractor appeared, it was moving slow. I had to slam on the brakes. The other lads went around it. I had to push hard to get back onto the group.

We took a wrong turn and ended up going up a climb. Barry Greene was just in front of me, as he was struggling with a bit of a knee issue. After grinding up the climb for ten minutes, James, our guide, realised that we were on the wrong road. Our current climb would take us onto the fourth bend of Alpe d’Huez.

Today was the second time that Shaun Kelly could ride at the same pace as me. By not riding the Sarenne, Shaun knocked himself out of the running for riding the maximum number of kilometers for the week. Only three men remained in that category. Those three Roadmen were Brian Colfer, Colin Caesar and Peter Grealis. Mark Mulcahy was just thirty kilometers behind them, as he opted for Netflix on the rest day.

We arrived at Phil’s Picnic, location foot of Alpe d’Huez. I carbed up on some OTE Energy Bars. The Charmin group of triple-quilted super softies arrived. Gar and Dave stopped in for a quick chat. Helen and Aisling kept rolling. I steeled myself for the toughest eighty minutes of my life. I mostly knew what to expect from the Alpe. I rode it a few times on Zwift. The difference today would be that it was hot, and I could not lower the Trainer Resistance to virtually increase the size of my cassette

View from the second bend

We set about riding the Alpe d’Huez. It was brutally hot. I realised that I left my climbing legs at the picnic. Barry Greene and I were very far behind before the first bend. I stopped on the first bend to dry heave. It was too hot for this Ginger. I tried to tell myself that I was a genetic abnormality, a medical marvel, I was the Tropical Weather Ginger. A few pedal strokes later and it confirmed that I was a bog-standard run-of-the-mill Ginger. There was a strong smell of Bacon coming from this little piggie. I didn’t want the local cannibals to think that Pork and Ginger was on the menu. Barry Greene pulled in on the second bend. His knee too sore to ride much more. I got my revenge on him for the Rest Day stunt. I dropped him hard. By riding two meters more than him. Dave Hendron and Paraic Morrissey turned back too, although they got to bend four. The heat from the sun reflected off the rocks was too much, my garmin hit 42ºC. I descended to ride up the Col des Sambos, aka the Picnic.

Whilst the others toiled, we were having the time of our lives. Some little piggies are more equal than others. The other group from Sportive Breaks who were staying in Valloire were there. Phil made me a Tomato Baguette. He had Vegetarian Tamtams, which were essentially Samosas with Potato filling. I scoffed a few fist fulls of Salt and Vinegar Crisps. The YouTuber, Rides of Japan, always packs a tin of Pringles for his cycle touring adventures, I can see why. Barry Greene was asleep. Bridget was talking about her clubmates who were part of the InternationalElles. They were one of a few groups of women who were riding the Tour route a day ahead of the Men’s race.

There was a cute American woman sitting beside me. It turned out that her name was Kate. I sarcastically interjected to one of her sentences and we struck up a nice conversation from there. She asked me to guess what part of America she was from, I said “Mexico ...because you’re wearing knee warmers in 40ºC weather.” It took her a few seconds to Farenheit my Celcius. It went on like that for awhile. She moved to Boulder, and we had that in common, as I visited there in May 2018. I enquired about the nutjobs in the store in Ward, the Alpaca shop in Nederland. Kate had not been to Rapha Boulder (#RCCBDR) nor tried the Rice Bowl, for shame.

The Goldilocks group of Shane, Barry Mooney and Peadar got back from their excursion up the Sarenne. They weren’t going to ride the Alpe. Out of nowhere, like an RKO, Bridget just says “You’re all Irish, catholic and can walk on water.” We were all like “WTF”. How could she insinuate that to craic-loving, Shamrock-wearing, jig-dancing, didley-idling folk like us?

The other group were waiting on a mysterious Tom character. He finally appeared. Then Kate and Tom started standing weirdly close to each other. It was hard to discern the body language. This was not the interaction of lovers, and it was too close quarters for platonic friends. Like I said, “weirdly close”.

Once all the Huez crew appeared, we rode into Bourg-d'Oisans to put our bikes into a bus trailer and get transported to Briançon. Four hardcore men from our group stayed out later to complete the long ride by climbing the Alpe d’Huez after descending it from the Sarenne. I wouldn’t see Mark, Peter, Colin or Brian until the Galibier the next day.

The Huez Triathlon was on the following day. The Alpe was sparsely populated with triathletes testing their equipment. Aisling told us that she was riding with some blonde, tanned Dutch women. Some fella gave them a spray of water from his hose. Aisling didn’t want the water, but this fella didn’t give her a choice.

On our Bus-based descent of the Lautaret, we saw that the Campervans had taken over the whole climb. It was an awesome sight to behold. The Tour de France caravan had rolled in to Briançon too. Phil told us to prepare our Day Bags for the Galibier tomorrow. Phil and his crew went to scout a place to set up our spot for the Tour. I’m pretty sure that they slept up the Galibier in the vans. I had one vital thing to put in my Day Bag.

Donal O’Connor didn’t ride today. He instead explored the Old Town roads in Briançon. I checked the Etape Whatsapp group, there was an image of a bottle of Champagne in a sink. Donal, being pure sound, bought it for us to celebrate the successes of the trip. We all shared some before dinner.

We had dinner at the same place as the previous evening. We got to sit outside this time. The proximity to the road reminded me of the picture my brother Mark sent me. There’s a restaurant in Vietnam beside train tracks, where you have to move your table to let a train pass. My dinner was devoid of carbs, Rural France was back to its old tricks. Inside our restaurant, were the Podium Girls from the Tour de France. The whole square was packed with people related to the Tour. After dinner, Padraic, Dave, Aisling, Marie, Ian and I decided to have a drink. Half of us tried Ian’s Negroni concoction. The bar lady was quite confident in her memory skills, until Ian started describing how to make it. She left, and returned with a Pen and Paper. The Negronis possessed a sharp dry taste, I couldn’t see this overtaking Gin and Tonic.


Nico, Nico, Give Us a Wave

There were some early birds this morning. Helen led a group up the Col d’Izoard. 19km at 6%. They set out a 06:15. I had zero desire to get up that early, as I was only getting to sleep at that stage.

Today was the day we were all looking forward to. Watching the Tour on the Galibier. We all agreed to wear our Orwell gear, so that we could get on TV. I missed the slower group setting out to ride the Lautaret. I chased them down. I caught up to Colm, who was suffering from this Alpe exploits. I dropped him and didn’t look back, revenge for the other side of the Galibier.

The group on the Lautaret.

The faster group caught me as I pulled in to take a photo and send it to Louise, as there was no coverage on the Galibier. I got on the back of their group. Helen was hanging out at the back. We hadn’t had a chance to chat all week, so we had some banter. We arranged to sit together at dinner for bonus banter. Then she got dropped. She had cycled one or two more hills than me this week. It was merciless, I rode her off the wheel. I was still nose-breathing at this stage, she was finished. I looked back once to make sure that she was truly dropped. Just like the Passo Gardinier twelve months before, I put her to the sword

All jokes aside, I felt a bit bad about leaving a woman alone on a mountain side. I dangled off the back of the group, hoping that she could recover. She didn’t, but Colm was back there too. There was no real way to ask the group to slow down, as we were all a little anxious to make the time cut to ride up the Galibier, before the road closures.

I eventually got flicked from the group. Even solo, I enjoyed the climb of the Lautaret. I was bantering all the people in the caravans. Shouting the names of their champions. For the Welsh flags, I put on a Welsh accent and said “Come on Geraint, the three valleys love you”. I saw a few Basque flags. For some reason, the Basque people hold a special place in my heart. I shouted “Viva Pías Vasco” at them ...which was dumb, because that was Spanish and not Basque language. Michael from BringMyBike.ie was there, he took my new Tinder Profile Picture. This went on for ages. It was awesome. A pilgrimage I actually enjoyed. Like Croagh Patrick on Reek Sunday, except without the Ingrown Toenails.

My new Tinder profile pic.

I made the time cut at the top of the Lautaret, so I could afford to get visit the shops. I got a Calippo ice cream, my first in nearly seventeen years. I shared a big bottle of bidon refilling water with Dave Murnane.

We set about our final quest. Riding up the Galibier. From the top of the Lautaret, it is 9km at 6%. The banter with bystanders was on another level up here. The craic had exceeded eighty-nine, yes dear reader, the craic was ninety. There were two lads riding old-fashioned single speed bikes, they were kitted out in wool jerseys. Everyone was cheering them on. I stayed with them for a little bit, to get some adulation. I rode past the Irish Campervan, the people were out front. I started chanting “Come on you boys in green.” They loved it. I loved it. There was another group with an Irish flag a bit farther up. We had a similar interaction. I passed the Beefeaters, they were just getting the disco started. I told Colombians “Vamos Egan, Venga Nairoman”. I even told a person from Florida that there were Alligators on the climb. I am a crazy person.

Kneecap going snappy-snap.

At the top of the Galibier, DOC told me to throw my Garmin to get a faster time. I pretended to do this. The Gendarmerie did not like that one bit.

The Sportive Breaks Picnic was set up two kilometers from the top. They had racks for the bikes, a stack of our day bags, two tables and two gazebos. They had a box of Heineken in ice coolers. Phil had prepared me a Tomato Baguette. Life was good.

I got my special item from my Day Bag; an Irish Flag. Seven Euro in the Airport. I wrote on it “Dan Nico Orwell on Tour”. We started waving it at the people cycling by. We cheered on the children especially. Oh man, if I have kids, I’m going to treat them to a hard cycle up the Galibier. Hopefully they can hold my wheel and don’t get unmercifully dropped.

No idea who the lad in the middle is, but he was excited.

We cheered on all my friends from Handlebar Bag Club. That was the funnest part. Gar shouting “HANDLEBAR BAG” and me chanting “Handlebar bag, handlebar baaahg, haaandle-baar bagg”. I had a hoarse voice, as it was just two o’clock in the afternoon. Taylor told me not to peak too soon. So I sat in the trench by the table for a while.

Kate appeared and we got talking again. Mainly about Conor McGregor and how inspirational he was until he beat Eddie Alverez. She didn’t agree with Jorge Masvidal punching Ben Askren after the flying knee. Although those punches were, and I quote, “Super Necessary.” Then Tom appeared and the weirdly close standing resumed.

The Tour team busses came up the road, we cheered extra hard for Sunweb and UAE’s busses for Nico and Dan’s teams.

The Caravan was next to appear. We were diving for all the free stuff. There was a campervan close to us, they threw loads of hats into the campervan’s open door. Apart from a PolkaDot and a Green cycling cap, all the rest of the stuff was tat. I got a BIC biro and some laundry detergent.

Bradley Wiggins passed us for his Brad on a Bike Eurosport segment.

EF Education First set up a feed just after our position. Then Team Ineos set up a feed station before us. No one wanted to be first down to the Ineos car. So we edged down. The lads were really nice. Hugh asked them lots of questions about what was in the bottles.

Playing it cool at the Team Ineos car.

We arranged ourselves in a lineout for the Tour riders. I was at the front with the Irish Flag. I was a bit nervous about taking out a rider. I kept to only drinking two bottles of Heineken to be in near total control of my reflexes. You can drink and brag, but never drink and flag.

Nairo Quintana flew past. I couldn’t believe how close the lead motorbike was to him. I could not jump out in front of him and let him see the Irish flag. It was the same case for the rest of the break. We made it onto TV. Well, everyone else except me made it onto TV. I was too far to the left of the picture to make it into the short of Nairoman and Orwell.

The peloton came by, Egan Bernal just put in an attack in front of us. Geraint Thomas was there, Julian Alaphilippe was bobbing along. Something was missing. Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin were nowhere to be seen.

Dan and Fabio Aru came up later. Dan was talking to the team car. The whole UAE Team had a terrible Tour. They paid the price for using a weird sports drink that made the riders hold water.

Team Ineos fed Wout Poels. A Wanty Groupe Gobert rider dropped a bottle into our group. There was nearly a melee. Garrett Connolly won the Pro-Conti Bottle Battle of 2019.

The next Irish rider to appear was Sorrento’s own Chris Juul Jensen. He was riding with Daryl Impey. When he saw us he took his hands off the bars and said “Oh guys”. We love Chris, top lad.

The Autobus was next on the climb. It was a rather miserable laughing group. Lead by Vincenzo Nibali, it contained Orwell’s own, Nico Roche. We gave him a loud cheer. He rode through us with his hand waving like the queen. He gave us a shout out in his Independent column. He recently told Shane Phelan that it gave him a big boost to Morale. Poor Nico was targeting stage wins, but he crashed that morning and got a big cut on his hip.

Peter Sagan rode up next. We were all shouting “Wheelie, Wheelie, Wheelie”. He put his hands on the tops of the bars, and for a second it looked like he would pop a wheelie. He didn’t. The poor lad is probably sick of being asked to do wheelies.

Hugh Butler won the day though. He got a full bottle from Team Ineos. Word on the street is that Hugh took one mouthful and didn’t sleep for three days.

I bid goodbye to Kate. She wished that I got home safe. I responded "That's kinda out of my hands, I just hope that the Airport Bar stops serving our Pilot before midnight." It elicited a laugh. Funnier than anything Tom had said in the last 45 years. It would never have worked out with Kate, she works in some sort of finance. Girls who make Pivot Tables in Excel aren't my kink. I need a real woman, one who can implement a Publisher-Subscriber Pattern with Lamdas on a Serverless Architecture.

We rode down the Glaibier through the crowds and then down the Lautaret. Michael from BringMyBike was waiting outside our hotel to collect the bikes. We went to a pizzeria for dinner. As agreed, Helen and I sat at the same table with other Kerry people. I shared a bottle of wine with some of the women, I got the extra glass at the end because I’m a tank. I got to recreate Chips on Pizza, twelve months on from its invention in the Dolomites.


I only had one drink at the bar afterwards, an Aperol Spritz. It was the core ingredient in the Negroni, but it was awesome on it’s own. I walked home with Helen and set about packing my suitcase, so I would not be stressed in the morning.


Traumatic Travel Part 2

Some of the lads had slight hangovers at breakfast. They stayed out pretty late. A guy from the bar tried to follow them home. They tried to dodge him by intentionally taking a wrong turn, but he sprinted down a side street to catch up with them. Phil also revealed that he was a ex-professional footballer in Trinidad.

The airport was no craic. It became more of a bad buzz when our airplane was delayed by three hours. We watched the Tour on the now infamous stage nineteen to Tignes. The TV was on mute, so we had no idea what was going on. I opened up my Reddit App. r/peloton is the best place to chat during bike races. I used the Live Comments feature, where it just streams the comments at you. Everyone was banging on about Mudslides and Blocked Roads. I said this to the other lads. I don’t think they initially believed me. Then the camera cut to the Mudslides, and I became like a God to these people.

Our Airplane was delayed for three hours, as the plane that was supposed to fly to Geneva had problems on the landing on its previous leg. Aer Lingus had to source a new plane. I was sat near two babies on the plane. I anticipated loud crying all the way home, but actually they were super quiet. The guy beside me was reading some Maths book about Elliptical Curve Cryptography. Have you ever sat beside a Cypherpunk on a flight?

I was delighted to get home. I got out of the heat. We picked up our bikes from BringMyBike.ie on Sunday. Some of the lads clearly hadn’t had enough of the cycling, they went out with the Sunday Mountains Group.


Tour de Force at the Club League

To complete the redemption arc, I returned home. I loved being cold. I wore shorts into the office just to be cold. I caught up on some sleep. You can not fully undo the brain damage that loss of sleep causes. Read Matthew Walker’s “Why We Sleep”, or listen to his appearance on Joe Rogan #1109 for a breakdown of the research

Barry Greene added me to a Team Time Trial group for the Club League. Peadar Corbally and Colm O’Neill were also on the team. I was only there because all the Limit riders were taken and they wanted my Semi-Limit handicap. They only needed three to cross the line. My goal was to take a few short turns and hold on as long as possible after the roundabout. Peadar had not recovered from this Alps exploits and he suffered. He went round the roundabout like a 50 pence. I dive bombed him and didn’t look back, I was the third man now. It was tough to follow Colm’s pace, but I held on. My calf cramped, but I had to ignore it until it went away. On the final climb I dropped Barry. This year Barry’s team went four minutes faster than the previous year, with a team that had worse riders.

The following week the Club League went to Mondello Park. This venue just does something to me. At the risk of sounding like a sexual deviant, Mondello turns me on. A couple of loose weeks of food and drink had me swollen up to 74kg. The local Chinese was experiencing a Celtic Tiger, now that I had cut loose. The weight didn’t matter as I was up for the race. I gave Semi-Limit a speech at the start of the race. I don’t know what Mondello does to the mind of your average Semi-Limit rider. They just forget everything, every man for himself and then they get caught and lose miserably. They all laughed at my attempts to marshal this band of misfits and delinquents. Only Dave Hendron said “He’s right”. After the first lap, I knew I had a strong performance in me.

I rode very smartly, and lucked into getting the rhythm of the attacks right. I was in moves with Brian Mc, Alan Hickey and later with Aidan Collins. I ended up at the front with two laps to go, Brian Mc pulled over and I just put the head down and drove. I looked back and Luke Ginnell was on my wheel, I thought the whole Peloton was there too. It wasn't. Luke picked it up for the first tailwind and headwind sections. I did the remaining tailwind sections and he took the headwind ones. We built a big gap. Darren Kearney bridged on the last lap. He didn't get back on in the tailwind section. For the last lap, I handled the headwinds. Luke pulled out a slight gap on me, Darren filled it in. Luke was going to out sprint me, given that he could still speak in full sentences and I had tunnel vision. Last corner we got swamped. Bad buzz.

It was good to feel alive, gain the respect of my peers and get some back pats. The redemption arc was complete.


Read More of Luke’s Adventures on OrwellWheelers: #LukePotter.