Our two intrepid team riders had a mixed experience at the Etape. Here’s Adrian’s account, more to follow (check the Forum thread for more)
This was easily the most memorable ride I have ever done. It was my 50th birthday treat (!)
I took a little digital camera in my back pocket, and took loads of snaps on the climbs. With the help of them I can recall the day, but for a while afterwards it was all very hazy.
I enjoyed the Izoard, I avoided going too fast as Guy Swarbrick and I had driven it the day before so I sort of knew what to expect. It was an awesome climb, and in awesome landscape.
Adrian get’s some track time in cooler conditions!
The drink station was a farce, no water, so I took to scavenging from discarded bottles which had some water left. I then met Sarah from my club, just stood next to me!
Once over the top I got into a groove and flew down to Briancon, where I managed to get some more water, but that was a struggle, there wasn’t much left.
The gendarme was shouting that the bus was 20 minutes away, which meant I had been pulling away from it as it was only 5 minutes behind at the start.
The Lauteret was hot and deceptive. I started moving from group to group, sometimes taking riders with me and sometimes latching on to passing groups. I felt good there, and happy to be putting a lot of riders behind me. I started the descent with a 3/4 full bottle which I planned to use to wash down as much gel and energy bar as possible, but I lost it on some bumps, and got dehydrated by the time I got to Bourg D’Oisans, where of course there was no water. I rode up to the first bar in unbelievable heat, but got a bottle filled quite easily, and set off almost unable to pedal forwards. Not much further on I refilled the bottle from a roadside spring, and refilled it regularly for the next 5 miles, riding all the way at about 3 mph, but actually rehydrating a bit.
Once past the chapel I was in a trance, pedal 200 revs sitting down, shift up, stand up pedal 50 revs sit down and repeat. Then I looked up and couldn’t believe how much further to go the climb went. There were so many people on the roadside in all sorts of distress I guessed it was only a matter of time before I keeled over. I doubted I would get to the top, there was nothing that wasn’t screaming in pain. Then I saw the 1 km banner, and I had the presence of mind to take a picture of it. I also realised that nobody had passed me for the last hour, but that I had passed a lot of riders.
When I got to the top I almost wept, and tried to remain British, heading for the tent for water. I lay down on the floor which was covered in pasta and rubbish, and shut my eyes. I then headed of to see if I could find anyone I knew and find my kit. I managed to meet up with a mate from Reading by sheer coincidence, but not my clothes, he gave me a lift back to Gap later that night.
But thinking about it now sends shivers down my spine; How I managed to ride that final climb, given the state I was in at the bottom, how I passed so many riders, how I actually survived, and how I blagged a lift back from the finish, how much I enjoyed the Izoard, and how gutted I am that Guy never finished it.
On top of all that all the grovelling on 200k hilly audaxes in the rain to train.
I can’t wait to go back, etape or no etape.