Doing it all the hard way...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

France Stage Six KLM lost my suitcase of courage

It looks like I'm going to DIE today...
As you might have guessed, the road to hell isn't straight and while we are all going to DIE, the road there can be pretty cool along the way.
After my strong finish yesterday, my legs were sore and I tried something I will repeat in the future (since I can't repeat things in the past).  I filled my metal water bottle with cold water and rubbed it over my sore legs.  The resulting sensation was a combination of "The Stick" and an ice pack.  It helped and I started the day ready to roll.
This may look like someone's driveway, but the road went on for twenty kilometers. We played leapfrog and let our legs share their happiness.
We passed fields of poppys. 
The road turned up and atop a small rise we found the van and filled our bellies, our pockets and our bottles.  The day was getting warmer and we unzipped our jerseys. I hooked up with El Hefe, 2020 John, Brad, McWoodie, Feral Dave and Matthew.  We slowly ramped up the speed and began a double pace line. It was time to fly.  No pics above 40k/hour..
Horst was feeling strong (as always).
We passed through Luzerland, but didn't want to hang out with Luzers, so we kept rolling.
El Hefe and company departing Luzerland.  Now we were going to DIE for sure.
If you're going to DIE, it is good to know they are a welcoming bunch.
Without getting all Melville on you, let me just say sometimes there is more to a name than you expect. Leaving DIE it was warm, no it was HOT. I was unzipped and the water in my bottles was dwindling.  I had chosen a white jersey and for the first time in my life, I wished I had a pair of white bib shorts. The road kept getting steeper and we were headed up a canyon that didn't seem to have any obvious exit.
I climbed past this lovely lavender field and enjoyed the smell. 
I can see some cuts in the mountain, but not sure which of these will be on my route.
The climb is long and my Garmin tells me there a still a lot of climbing. The heat is getting to me. I recall saying before we left that we had trained in everything except altitude and heat. I could hear Paul Sherwin commentating, "Davo looks to be in a spot of bother." I was certainly uncomfortable. I had vowed to myself not to ruin my trip by killing myself on a climb, yet I was feeling cooked.

El Hefe and crew had stopped for a Coke, but I had opted to get out of DIE quickly and complete the climb. Just out of DIE Feral Dave and Tom passed me and Scott had started ahead of me. Marc blew past me early on while I was shooting a photo. Katrina had started well ahead of me and I wasn't catching her anytime soon.

I had almost decided that if the van passed me I would wave and try to get a ride. I hadn't done that on the trip and wasn't sure I would take the chance if it came up, but it was on my mind. The heat was making it hard. This was the low point of the trip on the bike.

El Hefe pulled up as we rounded the first switchback. I told him the heat was killing me. He asked if I was out of water and I said I was. He didn't have any either, so it turned out to be an academic question. Once we made the turn there was a breeze and the temperature of my skin dropped ten degrees (Fahrenheit). I rode with El Hefe for a minute and he said the rest of the crew was coming behind him. As he rode away I saw 2020 John coming up next. Twenty meters behind John I saw Matthew churning away. Big John was sweating but looked strong. The breeze felt good and my legs had been feeling strong the whole day.  John and I exchanged kind words and then when I looked over, I had dropped John. Dropping John has been a dream of mine for years and I decided to keep pushing. At the next switchback I could see I had seventy meters on John. Matthew was even further behind.

I got out of the saddle and started drilling it. I could see the meters ticking up as I flew up the road. I thought about the dark mornings I had ridden to work in the cold rain. I remembered the Medina Marge ride (also known as the gross socks ride).  I had done my weight training every Monday of 2012 as regular as going to Mass is in Ireland. Long rides most every Saturday morning rain or shine (mostly rain). I thought about the deserts I had politely declined to eat. I had paid the price to prepare for this trip. I caught Marc and blew past him. I caught Katrina and when I came up alongside Tom, he started cheering me on, "Allez, Allez, way to go Davo!" His words made my arms tingle and I blasted on and caught Scott going past so fast I didn't have time to say anything. I felt like superman. I didn't let up. I wasn't hurting, I was flying.  Phil would have said I was, "dancing on the pedals."

As I neared the top I could see El Hefe leaning over his bike, spent from his effort. "You didn't expect to see THIS GUY coming up next," I shouted with excitement pointing to myself. We shook hands and I stepped off my bike and pulled off my shoes as the soles of my feet were burning. I tried to catch my breath as Scott, and then others pulled up. This was one of those climbs where you stop pedaling and you only roll another ten feet. I received congratulations on my strong climb. I felt good.  I stood tall.
That was one HOT climb!!
Marc, Tom, Matthew and Katrina all trying to believe they made it..
I was trying to look retro French, note the bandana, empty bottles and quivering legs.  
A keen eye would spot the taillight for the long (770m) tunnel.
The afternoon yielded a stark contrast. I had my worst moments of the trip and my best on the same climb.  The tunnel was cooler and we enjoyed our time inside.  You can see the sweat on Matthew.
I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.  I am sooo cooked. (In the tunnel by the way)
One of the benefits of climbing a pass is the descent that follows. We zipped along and let the miracle of wind chill make our afternoon more better.  Soon we came upon a town and looked the the fountain of potable water that most small hamlets have.
My bike looking at home in a French village.
We found the fountain, filled our bottles and headed for the last few kilometers to the hotel.
After a long day it was time for a snack, a shower and another big meal.
We ate dinner outside as the light faded. Cheese was a specialty of the locale and it was spectacular. With only one stage left we were trying to savor the experience. Someone remarked that he could do this not just for a week, but he could do this for a month and then...."well, let's see what the options are at that point."

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