Several months ago my boyfriend signed me up for the Etape without telling me. That’s a lot of climbing for this Florida girl.
Then, in February, I got in a serious bike accident. As I started to recover, I got in another stupid, self-imposed bike accident in May. My fitness had declined exponentially. When Ged told me he signed us up for the Etape, I was excited, then I looked at the route and my excitement faded.
The Etape was on Sunday. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to dark skies and a light rain. I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish because I wasn’t in form. I told Ged I wasn’t doing it and wished him good luck. He insisted I at least try, so I put on my big-girl pants and kitted up.
Once we rode the 10k from our campsite to the start, we waited 20 minutes before it was our corral’s turn to go.
I loved the first 18km. I was checking out people’s bikes and chatting to everyone. It was lovely. I did have one water bottle fall out when I crossed over some train tracks, but I couldn’t turn around as there was a sea of cyclists all around me.
Once the Madeleine climb started, I stopped talking. I’ve never been a climber and Sunday was no exception. The climb is about 24-25km long, and I only stopped once to shove some food in my mouth. I hated the 11% parts, but then again, who doesn’t. For me, I felt like I was doing really well.
Once I reached the top, I topped up my one bidon and put on my wind jacket. The sun had finally come out and the once wet roads were now dry.
The descent was fast. I haven’t looked at my stats yet, but I’m sure it was the fastest I’ve ever gone on a bike.
Once I got to the bottom (the 65km mark), I grabbed some more food at a rest stop and headed toward the base of the Glandon. I knew I was pretty close to the cut-off time (about one hour in front of it), but I thought I’d just keep going and make the most of the day.
As I rode away from the rest stop, I heard a loud noise coming from my bike. It sounded like rocks in a dryer. I got off the bike and turned the crank slowly and heard the noise again. I had a sinking feeling that my bottom bracket was toast (my old Bianchi has taken some abuse as a former rental bike).
I headed back to the rest station and a French mechanic confirmed my suspicion and said he didn’t have the tool to open it up and try to compress the bearings. By this point, the sweep car was making its way toward me.
The mechanic motioned for me to just go before I get disqualified, so I hopped on and rode away. The noise seemed louder.
I think sometimes I tend to be overly cautious about my bike, especially if there’s a noise coming from it. Maybe I should learn to just suck it up and let go of my paranoia, but I didn’t feel that way on Sunday. I felt that I was making the right decision to not attempt any more climbs. Plus, I was going to be cut off soon.
I decided to just ride the flat 9km to the town below the last climb (St. Jean de Maurienne), where we had left the car. I put my bike in the car, changed clothes and headed to the start of the last climb. I stuck around for a couple of hours and finally saw Ged. He looked so happy to see me but I didn’t want him to lose momentum, so I gave him a push and sent him on his way. He managed to finish in 10.5 hours, not too much in front of the cut-off time himself.
I almost didn’t want to post this because I thought it might make me look like a $hitty rider, but I know that some people would enjoy the report and pictures.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a pain au chocolate to attend to.