Here are my thoughts on Sunday:
“I had met the Cyclist and the Directeur Sportif as arranged at the hotel in Givors and the first thing the DS reminded me of was the need to carb load that night. She also brought a message from the Sports Therapist saying the same thing. After stocking up a Carrefour we set to the mountain of food the DS had available. Despite the fact that I had polished off a large slice of pizza followed by a very large bowl of tagliatelle for lunch the DS kept urging me to eat more. She seemed unimpressed by the salad followed by a large chunk of french bread and brie and finished off with a large slice of Black Forest gateau with cream. And so to bed.
An early start had me wolfing down two bowls of cereal, plus tea and two water bottles kindly supplied by the DS.
By now we were ready for the Grand Depart. At this point the Cyclist told me that he would just ride normally so it was up to me to tell him whether he should ride (a) faster or (b) slower. I pointed out that the chances of (a) were so remote that he could discount them.
A gentle start was followed by a lumpy 40 or 50 miles and knowing the form I was sipping from the water bottles and eating energy bars from the off. I found that the Cyclist could be a bit tetchy first thing as when I pointed out hat we were slightly off the official route I got a “I know what I’m doing etc etc”. Since the DS is his wife and that she was driving the support vehicle with the food, drink and my possessions in it I decided to defer. In the event he was right – about 3 miles down the road we joined the route proper.
From then on it was a question of deciding which of the many delicacies offered to me by the DS should I choose. I even learnt to take food and drink whilst on the move, making me feel a proper member of the 2 man peloton.
We had started early when the temperature was still reasonable – say early 20s – but after the stop at Romans sur L’Isere – the temperature started to climb. The forecast was 30 and no cloud. There was definitely no cloud and the Cyclist’s Garmin recorded a high temperature of 42. OK whilst we were rolling along but you feel it on the climbs, particularly the one out of Bourdeaux mid afternoon.
I had trained reasonably hard for this event, although I knew that I wished I hard started a month earlier. Would 11 weeks be enough? I had climbed steadily up all the intermediate climbs without once getting out of the front big ring, but I knew the moment of truth would come on Mont Ventoux. as the last 16k average about 8 or 9%. Again the first 5k at 3.5% were OK but when at about 16.5k to go we hit 7.5% I was in the small ring and the lowest 2 gears. After 2k of this I knew that the cumulative effect of about 143 miles and about 2,400 metres of climbing was such that I would be foolhardy to try to continue other than by walking the rest of the way, and even that was a daft idea as it would have been dark by the time I had plodded to the summit – another 1,400 metres or so further up. So it was time to admit defeat, strap the bike to the back of the car and be a passenger for the rest of the way. The Cyclist set off again and after a minute when the torrential rain and hail started to come down I didn’t regret my decision. Discretion was, as they say, the better part of valour.
It was chapeau to the Cyclist as he went up the mountain in the most appalling conditions. Although they eased up at Chateau Reynard it still was anything but easy but he powered his way to the summit. I looked forward to see the pro peloton attempt it the following Sunday. I only hoped that the conditions were as bad for them.
If I hadn’t done the training and bailed at say 100 miles in, with 50 to go, I would have felt embarrassed for not taking it seriously and wasting the Cyclist’s and the DS’s time. The Cyclist had ridden anything but his normal ride in order, as he put it, to act as my Super Domestique. Both had given me every chance to conquer the Stage. It was not to be but sincere thanks to both for giving me a day to remember.”