Le 1000 du Sud 2013
By Hugh Kimball
Again I was the only U.S. finisher in le Mille du Sud, the same result as in 2011. One of the reasons I’m writing about this ride is the hope that some more SIR riders will ride this spectacular ride. True, there was about 55,000 feet of gain. But also true is that SIR has riders that routinely go faster than I. Another way to look at it is that doing the ride in the time limit is not important. The challenge and effort are more important. If you find yourself not going fast enough, you can slow down even more and enjoy France.
On Monday 2 September I left the apartment in Sisteron for Carcès. The ride is about 120K and I had all day. So I did not need to push it. I arrived at the hotel about 6pm and stayed there two nights prior to the ride. On Tuesday 3 September I took it easy and ate a lot. People were arriving and it was good to see old friends. That evening was a pre-ride banquet with lots of good food.
The ride started at 8am Wednesday 4 September. Leaving Carcès I was excited and stayed with a large group of riders who were going pretty fast. In the afternoon I was riding with Guy Bouillot and others. Guy and I finished together in 2011. Guy, Robert Kérautret, Michel Bailleul, and I had dinner in Crest. There were also other riders at that restaurant. I especially remember a German speaking group. I was not hungry: a sign that I nearly bonked in the hot afternoon. I drank a great deal of ice water and nibbled at my pizza. But after dinner I felt better and the four of us headed into the night.
About 23:00 Wednesday we got to Pont-en-Royans (313km) where we all had un cola. Guy and Robert decided to get some sleep at a hotel while Michel and I continued. A little before first light at a stop on the outskirts of Grenoble (388km) we stopped for a one hour rest. We were on asphalt and in spite of the warmth of my space blanket I did not sleep. Michel and I found a bar for coffee and pastries. Food stops are always welcome but especially after a long night. At Valbonnais (437km) we stopped for a good meal. After the meal I continued on as Michel wanted to wait for Guy and Robert. A few km from Valbonnais is the start of the climb of Col de Parquetout. The climb is only 7km but it has continuously steep sections. Fortunately, I had the company of Henry Rijkenberg a Dutchman who speaks very good English. He stayed a little longer at the secret control as I continued on. Christian Handler was also at that control. Christian and I would play leapfrog on the course that day. I saw him at la Maison du Col du Festre, at Ancelle, and the secret control before Embrun.
It turned out that there were five secret controls. These controls were staffed by the excellent volunteers from Provence Randonneurs. The last one I passed on Friday afternoon was manned by Joseph Maurer, who must have spent a long time there.
As it was getting dark on Thursday I came upon the secret control before Embrun. I asked the control workers (Bruno and Maria) if there was a hotel near by. They said that they did not know of one, but I could use the tent. So I slept for 3 hours and was much better for it. I left the secret control about 22:30 and proceeded down a very poorly paved road to Embrun and to the control at Guillestre . I left Guillestre a little after midnight and climbed the Col de Vars. At first some sections were quite steep but it eased and the road was brightly lit as this is a ski resort. Descending Col de Vars was like a bobsled run. The road was truly amazing. I did this at first light. It was now Friday. Thirty hours and 400K to go. That should be easy, but then I was tired and there were hills to climb.
I continued through the day keeping a steady pace. I was with no other riders and was glad to see Joseph Maurer at his secret control.
Then came the third night, I found myself very tired and my pace was slowing to a crawl. When I get tired I cannot steer straight. So I needed some rest. I found a comfortable place in grass on the side of the road. I wanted to sleep only an hour at most so I did not use the space blanket. I was asleep immediately and woke up in 45 minutes, as I was cold. At this point I knew I was behind. So I reacted by being mad at myself and pedaling hard to get my endorphins going and wake myself up. It worked! I woke up and I felt better that about my forward progress. And I was not having trouble steering.
At 886.5 km I miss read the cue sheet. I thought that I had missed a turn so I returned on my route to the last junction that I knew was correct. It had only cost me a couple of km. When I came to that junction there were Philippe Chassagne, Alain Séverin, and Patrice Courel looking at a map. I was so glad to see them! They cheered me up! We started off together and I was so glad I promptly picked up the pace. Well I slowed down a bit. Then Patrice got going. Patrice had Schemer’s neck, but his legs were still strong. So it was decided that Patrice and I would go on ahead. We were not much ahead for when we got to Castellane, Philippe and Alain were soon there. Philippe and Alain took a short nap in Castellane while Patrice and I proceeded to La Palud-sur-Verdon. There, Patrice took a 5 minute nap while I found a bakery. After waking Patrice up and giving him a croissant we finished the ride. I had a hard time keeping up with him at times. Shortly after we finished, Philippe and Alain finished. We all made it in under 75 hours.
A week after I got back from France I noticed a rash on my arm. I did not think much about it, thinking it a spider bite. But twhen it did not go away for 3 weeks I became concerned. My wife Janet suggested I look up Lyme disease on Google. I did and one of the pictures on the web looked like my rash. The rash comes up about 8 days after being bit by a tick infected with the parasite. Eight days before the rash appeared I was on the last night of le Mille du Sud. I slept in grass at the side of the road with no tent, bivy sack, or even space blanket. I had been bitten by a tick and got Lyme disease. So I started antibiotic treatment and I am as cured as I am going to be. Next time I plan to bivy on the side of the road I will take my bivy sack, which weighs a little less than a pound.
What did I learn from this ride?
- Keep going! Yet a short rest can be good.
- One way to wake up is to pedal very hard.
- Use a bivy.
Davidson titanium bike, 28mmX700mm tires, front tire 80psi, rear tire 100psi, triple crank 52-30, cassette 12-28.
Small front bag and large Caradice rear bag to carry: wool jersey, raincoat, wool leg warmers, wool mittens, and extra food. 2- 28oz water bottles. There are many public water basins with good water, especially in the mountains.
Stores are usually open in the morning, closed around noon, and open again in the afternoon. So plan accordingly. Have a way to carry food.
Bakeries are often open early and supply bread, pastries, pizza, quiche, and flan. Grocery stores have yogurt, cheese, sausage, juice, etc. The old French grocery stores are fantastic. Unfortunately they are being replaced by Super-U’s.