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SQNLDR Paul Connor

SQNLDR Paul Connor

SQUADRON Leader Paul Connor discovered the highs and lows of the Tour de France when he participated in the Tour d’Etape in France.

SQNLDR Connor is posted to RAF Base Wyton as a Technical Liaison Offi cer. The Tour provides an opportunity for non-competing cyclists to experience a section of the Tour de France.

This year the stage chosen was Stage 11 from Limoges to St Flour, which covered 238km and was the most diffi cult stage of the 2004 Tour.

“I had race number 7716. I was in the fi nal group, which meant there were about 8000 riders in front of me at the start,” SQNLDR Connor said.

“A few got away on time, but it was another 10 minutes before we even started to move and nearly 20 minutes before we crossed the start line.

Our times were corrected for this. Luckily I only had one near miss, collecting wheels when a gap suddenly closed.”

The fi rst climb, a 10 per cent gradient over 6km, came at the 80km mark.

“I managed that OK, and was going well until the third climb at the 150km mark, where I found that my training in [the relatively fl at conditions of] Cambridgeshire had been inadequate.

I had fi tted a larger rear sprocket as an emergency gear and now employed it, although I was worried about the climb ahead at the 180km mark. I took it relatively easy and started up the Pu de Mary, the highest point on the course at 1576m. I was determined to ride the complete ascent and I fi nally made it over.”

He crossed the line 8hrs 50 mins after his offi cial start time. He was 1553rd over the line and had overtaken some 6500 riders.

“The Tour d’Etape was a fantastic experience for any cycling enthusiast. You get a taste of what it must be like for the actual Tour riders, with thousands camping out on the summit and cheering you on. I highly recommend it,” he said.



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