Dark Dog Moto-Tour in France

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by fredgilb, Jan 26, 2013.

?

If there was an inexpensive way to get your bike there and back would you enter?

  1. Yes, In a heartbeat

  2. Looks to dangerous, no thanks

  3. Sure, but only if the roadbooks list McDonalds too.

Multiple votes are allowed.
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  1. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    When we got to Montluçon it was the third straight day of rain. Now EVERYTHING is WET. There's condensation dripping off the ceiling in the barracks, the floor is wet. The bathrooms are soaked. I notice there is a cheap hotel right next to the paddock area. Before I even get out of my riding gear I trudge over to see about a room. "Non, monsieur, nous sons complet" I'm half way back to the paddock feeling like the dirty dog, she comes running out after me. Wait we have one room but the TV is broken. Even better I reply. Ahh, nice shower, dry bed and a blow dryer for my boots and gloves. I even got the wifi to work! No, I'm not feeling the slightest bit guilty leaving my pals behind.
    Here's the view from my "dry" room!
    [​IMG]

    Now we're into the fourth day, Wednesday. Montluçon - Belleville (334km)I've had my baptisms by fire, learned my limits, figured out it's the same if you ride fast and end up riding in circles to figure out where you missed a turn as slow and not. You know, the old tortoise and hare routine. Save the speed for the special stages, oh, but it's so hard to resist temptation.
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    So I decide to ride with Oliver who I met in the sweep truck. We are both close to being on the same minute because of our previous misfortunes. He's ridden the event before and is very good with navigation and has a better feel for a good pace to maintain. We are supposed to maintain an average speed of 55 - 60 kmh and adhere to the speed limits of 90kmh and 30 kmh thru all the little villages. I know you're all thinking, why, that's nothing! But I'm here to tell you, get lost, stop for gas, thread thru tiny villages, get lost, and next thing you know you're having to crank along at 9/10ths. Always amazes me how easy it is to lose time and how hard it is to make up.

    Once in a while I get to grab my camera and take a few pictures. The funny thing was, for me the scenery was amazing and I was always wanting to stop and have a quick look around. But if I was hooked up with a good riding partner I'd loose him if I did. They'd look at me, like, what's the big deal, haven't you seen a 14th century chateau before? We are heading into the Beaujolais wine country. Every village has a terrifying crucifix at it's border and a simple church. Here's an example I found striking in it's simplicity.
    [​IMG]
    #21
  2. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    Today's first special stage and it is tasty!
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    Some special stages, you're glad when their over. There's some you wish you could go back and do them twice more.
    Still got that rain suit on.........not very photogenic!
    [​IMG]
    Gave up on the visor too.
    #22
  3. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    [​IMG]
    And then the SUN came out!! The rain gear came off, the visor stayed clean and the Beaujolais vineyards offered up a sweet special stage.
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    The dude from Team Alcatraz (who's ridden all ten editions!) and Francesco a tent mate before the start of the special stage.
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    This was one of the Special stages you'd wish you could go back and do again. Beautiful area. After the special stage the roads were dry and fast. Well, dry if they had sunlight on them! Had a couple of "oh Sh_t" moments in the middle of a blind turn in shade and still very wet. OK, so it's (mostly) dry and we're cooking along windy roads and the scenery is so beautiful and I'm trying to take it all in and I think I might be lost and I almost don't care I'm having so much fun until I almost ride off the side of the mountain as a result of combining the sightseeing and unawares speed. Whoa........ easy my boy, let's try and not fall off the mountain, eh?
    #23
  4. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    When we reached the days village in Belleville, we were greeted by a hoard of eager people running around giving all the riders vouchers for welcome packages that included a bottle of Beaujolais. Things were settling down, I hadn't had any major outbreaks of stupidity to rectify so I could relax and enjoy the evening which included a wine tasting avec fromage. Nice. I was a little worried about how I was going to manage holding on to the wine for the duration........so, I handed it to Marc Sanchez, the main man of the support crew. "Ohh, merci, un Brouilly!"
    Hmm it's raining again. I think I may be getting used to it. Tomorrow we head for the Alps. 400 km. with 3 Special stages. One of which we do twice. Here's what the route looks like
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    Day 5 we head out of Bellevlle in the densest fog I've ever experienced. Forget the visor. What's worse, looking through what looks like a frosted shower door or unfocused vision with no glasses?
    First special stage, Chemin de la Guerre, translated = War Path ! Hmm..sounds promising. You know when you get to the start and there's a yellow and orange stripped flag, there's gonna be trouble! Through the forest, super damp, and super bumpy. No thanks, I'll pass, just get me to the end....... in one piece. Two of the front runners "bin it" but manage to keep going. Here I am tip toeing around the "war path".........
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    That's Laurent Cochet. I'm telling him that he's to blame for my being here. He's a journalist with Moto-Journal. They produced the video's that hooked me into entering. This was his first time piloting a sidecar rig. I think he picked a good year to try it. It's a whole lot easier to slide on 3 wheels. In fact there we're some stages where the sidecars set the fastest times if it was wet. He let me use a lot of his footage in my video after my GoPro mount disintegrated.
    #24
  5. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    This just in! The route for 2013

    BC= Base Chrono = Ride a section at exactly a certain kph average but you don't know where the end is.
    ES= Special stage = Closed road. Against the clock. Don't try this at home!
    circuit en nocturne = Ride racetrack, at night!
    façon Pikes Peak = My understanding is this is a mining road that starts out paved then dirt and you could also fall off the mountain?

    Dimanche après-midi : Saverne/Saverne - 150km - 2 ES route
    Lundi : Saverne/Thonon - 760km (!) étape marathon - 2 ES route - 1 BC
    Mardi : Thonon/Langeac - 450km étape marathon - 3 ES route
    Mercredi : Langeac/Boulazac - 450km - 3 ES route
    Jeudi : Boulazac/Alès - 550km - 1 ES sur route - 1 ES piste rallye - 1 ES circuit en nocturne
    Vendredi : Alès/Toulon - 400km - 1 ES circuit - 1 ES façon Pikes Peak - 1 ES route
    Samedi : Toulon/Toulon - 200 km - 1 BC - 1 ES route
    Samedi nuit : Toulon/Toulon - 50km - 1 ES route (Mont-Faron)
    Dimanche : remise des prix à 10h

    http://goo.gl/maps/tJWV8
    #25
  6. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    Sorry for the delay..........
    OK, day six. MARATHON 511 Km. Just to spice things up a little, we are given the printed route sheets for the marathon only the night before. Which means everyone has a big cutting and taping job to do.....
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    And then you get to rip it all out to make room for tomorrow.......

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    OK, time to rip the 510km. of roadbook out, it was gettin' pretty tight in there.

    Thonon les Bains to Alès and just so we're not faced with something unfamiliar, it's raining. It's 60 Km. to the first special stage; l'Observatoire. It's cold and slippy. During the wait for the start some nice people have set up a table offering everyone coffee. But a thick fog settles in and the special stage is cancelled. Super challenging road coming down the mountain.
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    I'm trying to stay with the father and son team from Switzerland who have the luxury of being able to slide on three wheels.
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    I can't for the life of me keep up with them. Wow!

    And when their not sliding they might be doing this! Looks like fun, doesn't it?

    [​IMG]

    As we head further south the weather improves and the sun starts to shine! I join up with Oliver again and we steadily work our way across the south. Then we come across a crash. Rider is down sprawled across the road lying flat on his back not moving. The protocol is to stay until the rider is rescued. Just let the timers know and they adjust your time. Fatigue is now weighing on everyone's abilities. Opinion was this unfortunate was either looking at his roadbook and missed seeing the traffic island while trying to pass a car. His BMW launched him a considerable distance down the road. He apparently was not seriously hurt. By the time we left the scene it was getting late. Much navigation needed, still a long way to go. Good pace, nice and steady, intersection, look left see if anyone's coming and BAM, next thing I know I'm lying on the ground, stunned. Shit, what happened, oh damn, I didn't realize Oliver had stopped to take a look at some road signs and I had slammed into the back of his bike. What the hell! You'd never stopped like that before, umm, about that fatigue I mentioned........Everyone was alright but I was minus a clutch lever. Hmm.......this is gonna be interesting, still about 100km. to go. Oliver looks at me, like, what are you gonna do? I say, come on lets GO! Engage first gear press the starter button and chugga, chugga, chugg and we're off. Timing the lights and traffic in villages is tricky but it's working. And then we hit the forest, it's starting to get dark. Tiny broken up fire roads, tight steep switch backs. Just the sort of situation you'd need a clutch for. We come up behind one of the wonders of the Moto-Tour. They have a vintage class. They have a 125cc class. This guy is riding a bone stock 125cc two stroke Suzuki twin from the 70's. And we can barely keep up with him! He's going around all the little bumps and divots like a mouse being chased by a cat. Amazing to watch. OK, now things are getting dicey. The road/path is tightening up. I absolutely have to make it around the tight steep switchbacks with no clutch, without stalling it or conversely dropping it. One of the mistakes of inexperience I made going into this was with the gearing I had chosen. I underestimated how much tight slow stuff there is. aa..AA..nn..NN..dd..DD.....STALL. Damn, now I have to turn around and coast back down to a flat section so I get started again and try it again. The road was so narrow there wasn't any point bump starting it going downhill, as you'd never be able to make a U turn anyway. Now this really has turned into a enduro! This went on for about 45 min. The starter motor is getting a massive work out! When I finally made it to the finish I still had to thread my way thru the crowds without stopping. The guys with the Japanese bikes couldn't get over it. They nicknamed the Monster "The Tank". Anyway, between sticking around the big crash and my slow clutch-less progress I missed out on the last special stage of the day. It's in the video. You know, the one that looks sort of like a paved motocross track! We're staying over night at the racetrack in Alès. Seems like a nice place except for the squat (yeah, there's still a few lurking around) toilets!
    #26
  7. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    [​IMG]
    Day Six. Ales - Toulon With a breakfast special stage on the race track. This part of France is known for having scores of extinct volcanoes, like the one in this picture. Corection: that's a pile of mine tailings! I'm told that the track was built on the site of a closed mine.
    #27
  8. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    [​IMG]
    That's Barbara Collet and I don't think you could keep up with her! She was seventh overall last year. It might have something to do with the fact that she's married to the guy that's won it seven (!) times. Or maybe it's the other way around?
    #28
  9. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    [​IMG]
    Here we goooooo! Start the day with a special stage on the Alès racetrack. The sun is shinning the air is crisp....I'm excited. We get one sighting lap and one warmup lap before I line up for the start at the back of the grid. The red lights go out and the Ducati (and me) gets a great start..... I'm thru the whole grid by the first turn! Wow! It rattles me a little, makes me doubt my judgement of my speed and half the field goes flying past me. I love this track! But the Ducati has a weird problem. I discover it at the end of the straight when I grab the brakes and the front end starts to chatter violently. I almost miss the turn, ouf, what the hell? OK so I guess I'm going to have to brake earlier. Meanwhile more riders are catching me, oh man this just won't do. I guess I'm going to have to corner faster to make up for my loss of braking! I'm getting the hang of the track and except for the issue with the brakes I'm having a BLAST!
    [​IMG]
    At the end of the day in Toulon at the service pavilion I discover the cause of the chatter. It seems a result of putting the frame slider's to use on the second day, has caused the top engine mounting bolt to come loose! And since the engine is part of the rear suspension and part of the frame too, well, you get the picture!

    [​IMG]

    After the racetrack fun it's direction Toulon on the coast of the Mediterranean. Beautiful super windy roads lots of little villages and then we start climbing up a spectacular mountain. It looks vaguely familiar almost lunar like. Completely swept clean of any vegetation. It dawns on me from my interest in the Tour de France, hey, this is the famed Mont Ventoux!
    [​IMG]
    #29
  10. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    [​IMG]
    Where am I?

    We're into the sixth day now. I'm a Ducati riding machine. This really is an endurance event. You may like riding, but 7 to 11 hours a day on all sorts of road surfaces in all sorts of weather, well, all I can say is, stay loose, stay FOCUSED!
    #30
  11. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    The end is near! We pull into Toulon. A big city....... with traffic! Whoa. I feel like a visitor from a different dimension. Our paddock village is right on the water.
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    Jean-Philiipe getting a little mouth to mouth resuscitation, we are in France after all.

    So we have a few hours to relax, eat, fix, wander then it's the infamous Mont Faron hill climb at night. My start time is 23:20. I was asked when my start time was, I replied "almost tomorrow". This is a stage they use every year. But it's the first time they've run it at night. The other little bit of trivia is that it's the only stage you can't reckie beforehand because it's a one lane road run backwards from the everyday direction.
    Here's a great video of Alex Busquets setting the second fastest time in 2010 in daylight. I wish I had seen this before we had to do it at night.


    Time to get those mangled LED cornering lights pointed in the right direction.
    I'm biting my tongue. I built this bike myself so it was hard for me to step back and let the students do their thing. OK guys, I trust you to get those lights working so I don't drive off the mountain tonight. I asked a rider who had ridden last year if he didn't think it was a little crazy to do the Mont Faron at night.
    "Oh no, it's much better, you won't be able to see how far down the drop might be!"

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #31
  12. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    [​IMG]

    Hanging out at the start............. overlooking Toulon.
    #32
  13. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    [​IMG]

    I'm trying not to look at the light. Gotta keep my night vision ready! Oh man, I can't imagine what I'm in for.
    #33
  14. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    [​IMG]

    Pretty much what I'm thinking!

    [​IMG]
    #34
  15. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    [​IMG]

    OK, My turn.........
    #35
  16. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    GOooooo!

    [​IMG]

    Note to self, next time you have a hillclimb at night, don't aim your lights on flat ground! They'll be aimed to low! Damn, it's dark out here.
    #36
  17. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    [​IMG]

    Looks like fun, eh?
    #37
  18. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    Off I went charging into the blackest night. Tentative at first since I had stupidly aimed my lights too low. I realized that they were much better if I accelerated really hard. Hey, now there's the incentive I need! Once the course started zig-zaging around hairpins it got easier. Just pin it and wait till you see the pads with the arrows and you know where the next hairpin is. Am I crazy or what? Verdict is still out on that one. I'm vaguely aware of cheering spectators which I must admit I found motivating. I'm still in one piece at the finish, we have a wild descent off the mountain then have to navigate back to the paddock village.

    [​IMG]
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    We pass through Toulon which seems like a pleasant city that still has a languid summer feel to it. I can now take in the views which are spectacular. What a night! Tomorrow is the last day. Every one is feeling like we can take anything at this point.....bring it on! I had to marvel at some of the lighting set-ups I saw. I thought I was prepared but I had to laugh after seeing some of the setups that could light a stadium with banks of LED's.
    [​IMG]
    We're back!
    #38
  19. fritzcoinc

    fritzcoinc Enjoying my last V8

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    WOW! Thanks for sharing. I would rather do that rally than make out with the girl in the Mercury commercials. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    Anything like this in the states?<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    #39
  20. fredgilb

    fredgilb Been here awhile

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    In the States? I wish. I've thought a lot about the the way roads are laid out in France. Even in farming area's there are tons of little roads cris-crossing in every direction. I think this must have had to do with the fact that this farmland was settled so long before the advent of motorized travel. Also farms tended to be much smaller. There just isn't that kind of history in the USA. Even in New England.

    As far the rally is concerned, in France there is there is a culture of letting people take responsibility for their own risks (thou that seems to slowly be changing, 100hp max ?).

    Most people I spoke with are surprised that in this day and age it's still possible. They wonder how much longer they'll be able to run this event. It really is unique. The next closest thing is the IOM. But that's pure racing.

    I figured, you only live once! As a M/C fanatic I couldn't resist!
    #40