Etape du Tour Act 1 2011
The perception of a short 70mile stage (compared to the usual 100plus routes) instills a ferocious appetite for keeping the pace very high and so it transpired from the off. The first 10miles averaged 34.5 mph and then the climbing began. The col de Telegraphe often over looked as it's dwarfed by the Galibier but it's the Telegraphe that makes the Galibier so tough. you have the tackle it to get to it's higher neighbour. Although I had a high pen number I was no where near the front at the start of the climb. Putting my recent good form, acquired by training super hard in the Chilterns, to good use, it took just 37 minutes for the Telegraphe, easily the fastest time for me for this wooded beauty of a climb. By Vallvoire I had found the front of the field, being paced by a very frightening good looking bunch of Keynan riders. Having been a runner for 12 years I immediately gave these athletes the utmost respect. It was deadly quiet in this group as we hoofed up the Galibier at 11mph. Something had to give this was far too fast, and after a few kilometre the lead group fractured, and I settled to a marginally safer 10mph as riders were dropping like flies. The final few miles of this Goliath of a mountain was an almighty battle with cramp, calves and hamstrings complaining like only they know how. Cresting the sommet my split from Vallvoire was another personnel best 59 minutes. Pleased with the performance so far I couldn't help but realise this may all be far too fast to finish in one piece. Despite the super dangerous descent to Col de Laurent having been re surfaced in prep for the TDF, my bike seemed to be rattling and very unstable. I soon twigged this was the frame trying to compensate for the convulsions from my legs and arms that were still reeling for the ascent. 30 miles downhill to Bourg now ensued. A rest? No chance, racing skills, etiquette, safety, food consumption, position awareness and managing layers seem to exude more energy than the climbing. Those 30 miles sped by in just 57 minutes and once in Bourg we now had the small matter of one of the cycling worlds most iconic climbs Alp D'Huez. After such a long descent you really have no idea what state your climbing legs will be in. I knew a trio of best times were out of the question having raced well up the Alp many times in the last few years. Now it was just a case of trying to improve my race position and manage the cramp that was ravaging every muscle. With 4kms to go the pace of the rider I had latched onto had become too much for me, things were going dizzy and dark. I had found my limit, I had to ease off slightly, passing out so close to home would not be clever. Self managing consciousness is a very dangerous game to play in such a depleted state. The last bit is a bit of a blur, having not been overtaken on the Alp I had to concede one place as the lead Kenyan caught and past me in the last kilometre, there was nothing I could do to stay with him. Across the line and straight into the barriers, legs performing some odd spasmy jig. Water and praise from complete strangers followed. A hard morning in the saddle but a massive relief after spending the previous two days convincing myself I was on the brink of injury and breakdown. That I'm sure will come, good form is always only temporary but for now it's celebratory sticky bun time.