...the day we held so much hope for...
As we boarded the bus in Vichy, decked out in all the Aussie gear we had, we shared boundless optimism for the day ahead.
While Cadel and co had 55km "race of truth" our ride for the day was either 50k or 100k to the time trial finish in Cerilly. KKB again joined a rebel ride, as Andy had calculated that they could take in both the TT start and finish, still in around 100ks. If I thought I had a hope of keeping up, I would have joined them on this adventure, as I would have loved to check out the excitement of a TT start.
The complete opposite, I dropped off the back of the 50k pack at the first hill. The guide was trying to get me to speed up, even offering to give me a push, to get back on the back. But I was sick of riding at everybody else’s tempo, as I'd been expected to do for the entire tour. I just wanted to ride my bike through the French countryside. That's what I thought I'd signed up for. The tour organisers web site said they catered for cyclists of all abilities. And, I guess they kind of do. They cater for fast cyclists who want to do serious Ks. They cater for slower and less serious cyclists, who just want to ride a bit. In my experience, they don’t really cater for slower cyclists who want to do serious Ks like everybody else.
I've never really minded riding alone, so on this last day, stubbornly, I continued to do so, almost as a bit of a protest.
After not too long, the guide gave in and rode with me at my pace. We got to chatting and I took the opportunity to pick the brains of an ex World Champion, and also to give her a bit of an insight into what it’s like to be a back of the pack athlete.
I asked her what her greatest accomplishment had been as a pro, and also what her favourite memory was – prompting her that quite often, they aren’t the same. She agreed. Her greatest accomplishment was a no-brainer. When you’ve been a world champion, it doesn’t get much better. She said that her best race was one that had a very different result. She hadn’t won, she hadn’t placed. But she’d trained so hard, given so much, and enjoyed the experience in a different way.
We talked about my upcoming attempt at the Alpe d’Huez Triathlon, and she asked me which my favourite leg was. I told her that I preferred training for the bike.
“I know I’m not very good at it, but I just riding my bike. I love the anticipation of a long ride, I love plotting my route and packing up my pockets with goodies. I love the freedom of just being out on the road. And, I’ve learned that life’s too short to not do the things you love to do.”
She didn’t say much at the time, but I hope she took it on board and passed it on to the organisers of our tour, who say on their website they cater for cyclists of all abilities.
I hope if nothing else, the guide at least enjoyed her cruisy ride with me through the French countryside. I did.
Incidentally, KKB loved his "anti" ride as well. He said that the excitement and anticipation at the TT start was great, and they also enjoyed some love from the team cars, who used the same backroad as they did to cut through from the start to the finish. The Silence-Lotto cars all gave them big toots and waves, as they were all decked out in the gear.