You vs L’Etape du Tour
You are probably bored of reading Etape articles by now. Fit-For has written an incredible amount of words about the event – including 5 articles for this website in the last 5 weeks. But don’t worry, in 6 days time it will all be over! No more articles about how steep the Marie-Blanque is or how dark the tunnels are coming off the Aubisque. It will simply be about you and your bike.
By now the most of your preparations should be complete. The training ought to be in the bag (see last week’s advice), the bike in tip-top condition, the clothing carefully chosen and your travel arrangements set. You are ready to roll. Once you clip into your pedal and cross that start line in Mourenx, your preparations and plans are all done. You will be riding in the present.
It is always a strange feeling starting a big event or race. There are people everywhere, lots of noise, PA systems and the feeling of nervous tension is everywhere. Yet once you start riding and leave the melee behind, the event becomes all about individuals silently trying to achieve their goals. Noise gets replaced by the whirring of gears and deep breathing, whilst the nervous tension quickly changes into collective physical effort. This is the event you spent months training for, dieting for, sacrificing for. This is what it has all been about.
The Etape is made up of 8000 individual cyclists. What every single rider has in common is the determination to do the very best they can in the event. Irrespective of background or ability, the Etape will be a massive test of will – the head vs the body. And this battle will be raging all day long. Your body will be wanting to rest, telling you to ride slower, telling you that the Etape doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. And this voice will talk loudest when you are struggling to turn the pedals in the mountains.
Be ready for the challenge. Get it in your head that the event is going to be tough and that along the way there will be difficult times. When you are halfway up a mountain and the summit is becoming a fading dream all you have to concentrate on is turning the pedals. It is that simple. Count the revolutions or aim at a roadside mark 100 metres ahead – anything to keep your focus and quieten those voices in your head. Try to keep your form on the bike – don’t let the shoulders sink and the head fall towards the handlebars. Straighten up, lift the head and focus on what’s ahead. There is always a top to every mountain – it’s just not always that easy to get there.
Keep fuelling the body all day long – you’ll soon run out of fight when the energy levels fall. Keep calm and in control of the situation at all times. When you are riding close in a group or descending at 45mph you need a clear head. After the Col D’Aubisque make sure you get in with a good group of other riders – drafting in the final 50km will make a massive mental and physical difference. And by all means sprint for the finish – this is the big one after all.
There is nothing quite as great as the ‘I did it’ feeling immediately after you cross the line, the moment when the grimace turns into a smile and when you realise that the training and the dedication was all worthwhile. The feeling of success post event will dull the tiredness, the pain and cramp you endured will all be forgotten and washed away with a cold drink after the finish. You have just completed the Etape du Tour 2005.
Sounds good doesn’t it?