Day one so didn’t really know what to expect. Breakfast was inhaled at 530 – the Mericans had no problems making it as they all slept like insomniacs on speed due to jetlag. K-squared and Lesley upgraded to hotels near the start/finish so we didn’t have any wise words from an Haute veteran. All set off for the start en convoi and it was pretty chilled at the start. Couple of pre-start team shots (well it is Team Petro in all but name) and then we were off. Neutralised for the first 20k as it’s illegal to race on anything other than climbs in Switzerland – shame it’s not the other way around really…more of that later.
So as reported yesterday I’ve lost some timber and done a bucketload more biking than ever before. Hopefully not all in vain. Pretty steady start and despite thinking you’re somewhere in the front third when the road pitches up a little you see a sea of helmets and realise you’re not. Nae bother as the first timing mat ensures individual timing – even if it didn’t you got 900k in front of you! They give you a pretty neat top tube sticker for each stage so you can work out what the day’s got in store…or at least you could if you weren’t a halfwit like me. 176k today staring at that sucker and I still haven’t worked out where the measurements are taken (not helped by them being in k and my Garmin being in miles). It is useful though to at least count the climbs and see roughly how long and steep they are. Which pretty much rendered me halfway up the first climb before it had registered. The 5k to the Summit sign was a clue even I couldn’t fail to misinterpret. Took several bucket loads of people and felt nice and strong. Got in a nice group and bridged over to the base of the second climb the top of which would see us back in Switzerland and back to 60k of neutralised riding. Therefore, it was possible to empty a little safe in the knowledge 60k of soft pedalling could be on the menu for the afternoon before the sting in the tail. Found myself on the front as we hit the climb, took a steady pull and pulled over to let someone else have a go. No takers. Okay Plan B. Knock it down the block, crank the music up a notch and the pace up several notches. However much we go around convincing ourselves we don’t have an ego it’s always there. Mine was tickled by never seeing any of those suckers again…until I was literally in another country! Went pretty much voll gas and was pretty happy with the result. Petro rolled in ‘a bit’ after and we decided to spend a bit of Petromance time on the neutralized section. Big E and Jeff came in and it seemed everyone was pretty happy with their morning’s work.
Afternoon started with the most gorgeous descent. Super fast, some lovely sweeping bends and only a couple of hairpins. Magic. Then I went to the front and some Brit and my Merican Cuzzie decided they were allergic to having their nose in a headwind – producing Doctor’s notes and everything. I know Big E’s handwriting when I see it – even if he did sign it Doogie freaking Howser! Cue a monster pull from the hapless Brit. Bridged up to a group and then we were rolling a lot easier (and sharing the work a lot more evenly!) pretty much all the way to the base of the last climb where the timing mat and the torch lighting beckoned. Just had time for Petro to get a bit of relief from the heat at a mountain spring.
The last climb was 21k and then you’re done for the day. The four amigos re-grouped at the base and then we were off. I lit the burners and could see a shadow outline looking very much like Pilsbury Petro. No way was I gonna give him the satisfaction of looking back. Then it disappeared and I was alone. As it was a summit finish it was another opportunity to empty the tank and have time to recover before the morning. And empty the tank I did – unfortunately inside the first 8k. After feeling good all day it turned to sweating like a paedophile at a swimming pool and feeling a bit nauseous. A few dark thoughts about an explosion of seismic proportions and Pilsbury cruising by quoting the story of the tortoise and the hare. 8miles to go and feeling grim. I had a slice of good fortune at this point. Uphill was not good and it coincided with a nice flatter section even with some downhill. Chalking off some distance and giving me some time to recover and enter into a spot of situation management. Then it was back up. Getting a little low on water and still feeling several notches down from perky. Good thing here is with the size of the field there’s always someone for you (or your ego) to focus on. So that’s what I did. One by one. Pedal rev by pedal rev. Until finally it was over and I felt all in all I’d given a pretty good account of myself.
Lesley and K-squared had finished a long time ago. Didn’t stop for long at the aid station at the start of the neutralised zone and presumably gave a better account of themselves in the untimed bridge across. Chapeau. Petro’s obviously got both his brakes rubbing so he’s a way back, followed by the Big E. There’s got to be some advantages to being 6″9′ – at concerts, getting stuff off the top shelf etc – but being pretty lean and still probably 210lbs when you’re doing nigh on 4000m of climbing certainly isn’t one of them. Fair effort big guy. Then there was Jeff. Sound kinda chirpy at the base of the climb. Dude left a crater the size of a small country out there with ‘just 15k to go’. Must of hemorrhaged the best part of an hour on that climb alone. We’ve all been there. I just need to find a way to tactfully inquire if it might be prudent to take lights with him for the rest of the week!
Pretty awesome start to the week and tomorrow it’s all over again with a sting in the tail. The small matter of a 3hour bus transfer to Tuesday’s start!! They don’t go big on that in the promotional videos funnily enough.
Oh and for those of you (Pilsbury I’m looking at you) who didn’t get the lyrical reference yesterday here‘s my vision of Jeff (or Dee-Oh to his mates) back in the day. I wonder if he was rocking the tache back in the day.