Guess where I am?
I, thanks to the help of the Dave Rayner Fund, have been spending the season in Belgium. Flat roads, death ridges, bike paths, cobbles and cross winds. Mostly I get spat out the back rather unceremoniously, but every now and again I manage to hang in there until the end. Hay fever has played a bit too much of a part in my season than I'd have liked. Once, the day after it rained (so no pollen/wheezing/nose bleeds) I attacked and was away on my own for a whole lap. Don't really know what I was thinking. Grace Verbeke came flying past me in the tale wind and I was back in the bunch. I've been flying the Moulin flag as much as I can, but team jersey in most races.
I also went to France to do the Trophee de l'Oisan. Wow. It was an amazing week of suffering, after which I had post-Oisan induced blues which I'm not sure I'm over yet. Ali and I were camping, which most other people doing the event seemed to think was insanity. We started thinking that mid-week, but hey, better than not being there at all which the costs of a hotel would have meant.
We met some really cool people out there. The racing was awesome, so hard. Grown men admitted to crying on the Galibier, during the Marmotte. Ali was in the lead group but still got beaten by a girl in La Vaujany. My front brake came loose and was wobbling around during the Vaujnay, including descent of the Sarenne, a goat track down the side of a mountain they had us race down. My gear cable got mangled and was poking out of my lever so for the whole Marmotte I thought I was on limited gear changes as it was going to unattach from the mangle-age at some point, and it was stabbling me in the hand. Ali was in the lead group in the Marmotte, and on the descent of the Lauteret, a massive fat guy in black stealth kit came bombing past them to sit on the front of the group and towed them all the way down. I rode a faster time in the Grimpee de l'Alpe the day after the Marmotte this year than I did two years ago when I hadn't done the Marmotte the day before. All of this = awesome.
Oh, and I was about to publish without saying - I won the freaking Trophee de l'Oisan! How cool is that? I was pretty psyched, almost wet myself when I found out. I was in third place after the second event, hadn't seen the results until after the last event. It was crazy because the girl who came second was less than a minute faster than me in the Marmotte. Less than a minute. Over 110 miles with over 5000 metres of climbing. Mental. Then I beat her by 3 minutes over 8 miles the next day. My bunch of flowers came with a free massive green catepillar, the almost see through kind. Bonus. As we were riding down the Alpe after all events were finished Ali said to me 'You just won the f****** Trophee de Oisan!!', and some guy riding up the other side shouted 'Congratulations!'. It's things like that that make it.
The entire event had 12400 metres of climbing, over four events within a week. There were 400 women doing the Marmotte. 7450 starters overall, out of whom I was 2000 and something-th. I was 19th female. My aim was to finish, which I was proud of myself for doing.
One of my favourite parts was riding back down Alpe d'Huez after the Marmotte, just riding slowly and yelling at all the people riding up, 'Bon Courage! Welld done! Keep going! Venga, venga! Allez!'. I just thought they were all so awesome for being there. I didn't want anyone to be feeling rubbish because they weren't fast enough/whatever. They had just ridden the Marmotte! That's so crazy. Some of them looked like they were suffering so much, I just wanted to do anything to give them a bit more of a push, get them to the top. I felt so proud of them all! It was so nice to get a smile out of some of the people. I saw one guy riding next to his girlfriend pushing her...pushing her up Alpe D'Huez.
It is horrible, yet what it is all about, that during that moment of suffering you are completely on your own. No one can help you, because to succeed you have to keep riding to the finish, and until you cross that line you are in a world of your own. No one can say anything or do anything to alleviate the pain. You've got to do it for yourself. Giving up is not an option, because all it means is an eternity of knowing you quit.
Do these people look at the Tour de France champions and wonder how they do it? It's no different. They suffered just as much, if not more, during the Marmotte. Those pros are just people sitting on bikes, pushing at the pedals, they've just been doing it longer so they can push them harder. It's just the same thing.