Thursday, February 14, 2013

France 2012, Part Seven

Saturday, 6-30-12

Race Day 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.
The race was pretty uneventful, with one glaring exception. At one rest area, there were grade school cheerleaders cheering on the riders. A woman had wandered into the road to take photos of them, and a group of about 20 riders blazed by and absolutely mowed her down. I will never forget the sound and fury of that woman hitting the ground, and 6 or 7 cyclists going ass over tea kettle in the air. It was like a bomb went off. The poor woman was really messed up. She was unconscious and they had to get an ambulance right away for her. Terrible stuff.

 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.
I was having such a great day I stopped and had a beer with the natives before ascending Plateu de Beille. It was refreshing.
At the top, there was also beer, and of course free wine and food for everyone.
I had such a great day. In France, the people all along the route cheer for everyone, even those in one thousandth place like me. I spent the day on my bike smiling, waving, screaming Viva Wisconsin and all sorts of other nonsense. I did have a minor crash on Plateau de Beille toward the end, but it wasn't my fault. Someone rubbed my rear wheel and before I knew it I was staring up at the sky. Some road rash and a few bruises later I was OK and got my crap together and finished. Hotter than hell. Again.

This night, my reward was my favorite meal, the local duck confit.
This dish is not made any better in any part of the world and is a local specialty. I have looked forward to this meal since the last time I had it.

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
78rpm average
2280 calories (not)
8750 feet of ascent
118 bpm average

1 comment:

Carl from Chicago said...

I always enjoy these France posts. It is an amazing trip that you go on every year.

They do know how to live in France (and Italy). The food and drink is fantastic.