Roz and I spent the early part of the next day-a supposed rest day for me-doing absolutely nothing, except sipping on café aulait and mulling over maps. It’s funny how your body, and mind, adjusts to the continual grind of getting up early and riding long distances every day, yet when given the opportunity you go into shut-down mode.
As urban as Royat felt - essentially a suburb of Clermont Ferrand - it sat on the very edge of the Monts Dome, a collection of volcanic domes of which the Puy de Dome, an icon of France's Central Massif is the highest.
Despite its short history, the Puy de Dome holds its own with many of the great Tour de France climbs, including Mont Ventoux, Col du Tourmalet and the Alpe d'Huez. First visited by the Tour in 1952, the Puy was one of three mountain finishes, each introduced to the race for the very first time. But, unlike most of the 'big' climbs in the French Tour, its dead-end summit reduced it to stage finishes only. Nevertheless, its excruciating final five kilometres, which spiral beneath its summit like the lines on a snail shell, have witnessed some of the most epic finishes in the race's history, notably Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor's titanic battle for the 1964 yellow jersey. Despite Poulidor gaining 42 seconds up the climb, Anquetil stayed with his French compatriot to hang on by 14 seconds. Many regard their side-by-side ascent up the Puy de Dome as the most tension-filled moments in Tour history.