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It was always going to be a struggle hanging in with the big boys. Halfway through today’s stage I found myself in no man’s land, adrift of the front runners but ahead of the four or five guys climbing at my pace.

A kindly motorcycle marshal manned a T-junction, sensibly positioned in the shade. Wearing sunglasses and without the benefit of my prescription lenses, I could discern no noticeable direction being indicated. Right, and more grunting climbing to tackle. Left, and a swooping downhill.

It had to be left. Tucked down low and swooping to the valley below, the relief in my aching legs was bliss. Just a shame it was totally the wrong direction… There were no other cyclists at the foot of the climb, just me.

An utterly depressing retrace to the now abandoned junction, the remainder of the ascent to be tackled, then a short wait for group 2 to poll up and I was back on track.

My phone rang shortly after, one of the organisation concerned that one of their charges has been mislaid (they noticed – so soon!). I assured them I was safely ensconced with the following peloton and was not on the road to Switzerland. One more stiff climb and we hit the lunch stop.

“I hear you’ve been lost,” says one of the group leaders. No, says I. It was merely a brief diversion. All is good. 

Just as we are leaving, my roomie, John, appears at the head of group three, broad grin: “So where have you been? We hear you’ve been lost.” Again: no, I say. It was nothing. Really. News travels fast.

We get back to Annecy at a fair lick, the speed suiting my rapidly atrophying muscles rather better than the keen pace of the morning.

A woman helpfully unloads our musettes from the van, calling out the numbers as she does so. “Number 62,” she hollers. I step forward to collect. She focuses once again on that number. “Oh, you’re the guy that was lost earlier…”

Can we settle this once and for all? At NO time was I lost. It was a simple error that anyone could have made. It just happened to be me. Let us speak no more of the matter.

Ian is the Managing Editor of Rouleur and has a notoriously poor sense of direction.

www.thealpinechallenge.com

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