I’ve been through emotional turmoil in my life, but the things going through my mind on the final climb of this years Étape up to La Toussuire are not things I’ve commonly encountered before, my brain was in utter meltdown. In truth I don’t know how I found the mental strength to get up that last climb, I think I knew it was the quickest way to get it over and done with, although certainly the most difficult.
It was either that or sit on a French hillside for hours in the blazing sun cursing myself whilst waiting for the broom wagon to scape me up off the tarmac.
That wasn’t the only difficulty I encountered; heavy rain at the start, blazing sun towards the finish and two punctures en route all took their toll in some way. The second puncture was also a slow one and I couldn’t find the source of the leak to patch it up so I had to cycle up most of the Croix de Fer with a spongy tyre that I had to keep pumping up. Luckily the Mavic guys helped me out at the top.
I was a physical mess by the time I finally crossed the line after 10 hours in the sadle and felt no elation whatsoever. Never again.
I have to admit though that my training wasn’t great. It was undone by a few things, contracting Campylobacter last November which put in bed for 3 weeks and really took it out of me, trying to train too hard after recovering, pulling a calf muscle just before Easter which prevented me from training for 3 weeks and going to China for a fortnight only 5 weeks before the race which meant almost no training. The weather in the UK didn’t help much either, I even had a sportive cancelled because of flooding on the route.
Still, in some ways I got off likely, one of my companions had an inner tube blow out going downhill after around 100km and stacked big time. Fortunately he just had some cuts and bruises but his bike didn’t fair so well and he had to abandon.