Mike Simpson

A Few Less Demons To Worry About

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Etape du Tour Act 1 2012

I'm lying on my back in the mud, the rain is lashing down and stinging my eyes as it mixes with sweat. I'm cold but smiling, I've just completed my best training session ever. 15x1km around the rugby pitches and river path in Marlow. In five days I have the world cross country trials and I'm in the form of my life. Last year I was 30 seconds from making the team, this year I am so much stronger, I am ready, it's February 1995. Three days later I wake up to find the room is spinning, I try to stand but immediately I fall to the floor. I spend the next week in bed unable to move. An ear infection has temporarily rendered my coordination useless, it feels like I am permanently drunk. I'm only 25 there should be other races but I have a horrible feeling that I have missed my chance. An instinct that is subsequently present in my mind for the following years. I tried too hard and over trained, and injuries meant that by 1999 I had to walk away from the sport that had dominated my life for 12 years. To walk away was tough I had to turn my back on not only running, but also a girlfriend and best mates, who were all runners. A clean break was my only option and for many years I had a nagging doubt in my head that I was a failure.

It's now July 2012 and I'm in trouble. On the final climb of the Etape from Albertville to La Toussuire I am fading fast. The combination of the previous climbs, Le Madeleine, Glandon, Croix de Fer and Le Col du Mollard have turned my legs to concrete and as the baking heat envelopes the mountain side, a cerebral oedema seems to be festering in my head. I had already consumed my emergency 10 sugar cubes a few kilometres earlier and my bidon only has a few sips left. I am in danger of losing the 5 riders I had caught on the Glandon and thus slipping outside the top 20 placing that I had worked for over the previous 6 hours. They pull away from me as my body's reserves have all gone. Within moments they are a few hundred metres up the climb and I'm going backwards. At this rate I will be consumed by the string of riders battling up this agonising last 17 km climb. I need something to transform my pace, I'm close to falling off into the side of the road . Then the anguish of the winter of 95 for some reason popped into my head. I recalled the anger I felt at the time, my body now desperate for anything transferred that rage into power and I became obsessed with reclaiming the places I had lost a few kilometres back. 30 minutes later I am sitting on the grass at the finish, in a ballistic last 3 km I tore pass those riders, in cycling I have found the satisfaction and the results of the last year or so have justified my commitment, but my mind is still back in 1995, that young boy lying in his bed thinking the world is against him, I wish I could send a message to myself back then. Just a simple message....."don't worry lad, everything will be just fine"


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