In 2011 I did the brutal and almost soul crushing 125 mile "race" which ended up being a survival test. I will never forget ascending the last mountain in the 100 degree heat and seeing the carnage - many people just giving up, waiting for the vans to come pick them up all along the course.
One other thing I remember is toward the top of the last climb in 2011 I had a minor mechanical problem and I had to get off the bike to address something in the front wheel area. As soon as I stopped to work on it, I almost passed out. It is hard to describe when you are working really hard and are in the "zone". It is actually easier to keep going than to stop. This is why when at the end of very high level bike races and runs that you see people collapse - to this day I don't understand why they don't walk around a bit after they are done. I always try to.
But this year, I decided on the "short" version, a 85 mile race through the countryside of southern France. We warm up for 7 miles riding from Vicdessos to the start line in Tarascon.
"Only" three mountains waited for me, but the infamous Plateau de Beille was at the end (summit finish). As you may remember, I had already decided ahead of time that if I didn't feel good at the beginning of the climb that I was going to bail. Of course, I didn't. Here I am with five thousand or so of my closest friends getting ready to go.
Right before the big climb at the end, there is a rest stop at Les Cabannes. Right by the rest stop there are some bars and cafes.
This night, my reward was my favorite meal, the local duck confit.
Over dinner I asked one of the other guys why all the people stay outside and cheer for everyone, not jsut the pros and high level amateurs. He said something I will never forget. He said that those people know that YOU are the real deal. You have a job, family and all the rest and train on the side, not full time. The pros and elite amateurs are the side show. You are the real sport of cycling. My jaw dropped for a bit and then I had that moment of clarity that I sometimes get. A memorable moment.
Not sure if I will ride in the race this year. It is a special event, but I have done it twice now and might be up for something different this year. We shall see.
Here is the link to my Garmin ride route.
Saddle Time: 7 hrs. 31 mins. 22 secs.
Distance: 92.35 miles
12.3 mph average
2280 calories (not)
8750 feet of ascent
118 bpm average