The whole day yesterday as people lined the streets and colossal mountain passes, to cheer us on, they kept shouting that beautiful French phrase “Bon Courage”.
You don’t need to speak French to understand it. It resonates perfectly.
Indeed, you needed a lot of courage to even line up at the start of this, but you needed no small amount of craziness to put your body through the necessary to finish it. It took me 11 hours and 40 minutes to complete what the pro cyclists will do in 5.5 hours. They don’t stop. We stopped many, many times. The predicted drop in temperature never arrived. From 10am it ratcheted back up to the mid thirties.
Last year on the Tourmalet, I almost froze to death and had to come off the road. That moment of extreme disappointment made me determined to come back. I wished for sunshine this year. It turned up, in style. The heat cannot be underestimated. You have to stop regularly to get a break from it. It wears you down eventually.
The final climb was up to La Tousuirre. It’s at an altitude of 1770m. At the bottom, I had to spend 10 minutes talking myself into starting up it. It’s a very tough climb, though not as tough as Col du Glandon. Nobody normal would try to cycle up the Glandon. My experience on the Mizen to Malin is what convinced me to start up the last climb. I’d come to know what empty meant and I hadn’t reached it, yet!!
I managed to climb the first thirteen km, taking breaks regularly and climbing very slowly. In the last 5k, there is a 9% gradient section. At this stage in the day, it felt like the side of a wall. I walked it. All around me bodies were on the side of the road. Some taking a break, some exhausted into defeat. Others walked this section, like me. Many vomited from their efforts but then continued. That’s “courage”.
At the 3.5km marker we pass our apartments. Another of my prayers was answered. Two familiar faces, Enda and Gavin, were on the side of the road with Coke for me. It was heaven. I’m talking about the stuff in a red can and not the alternative. Though the second might have had an equal effect.
With this surge of sugar, I cycled up to the finish line, roared on by the crowd. I even managed to accelerate the last 400m. I won’t go as far as “Sprint”
My preparation all week here, helped majorly. For that I thank my team mates, Jackie, Enda and Gavin. You’d never do this on your own, without encouragement, support and familiar faces.
Today is recovery. The body is very sore. Enda knows just the pub …..