Again, It's Not About the Bike
? or how three amateur riders experienced the 2002 Tour de France
We were all at the base of the Col d? Aubisque. It was July 17 th, the day before the riders in the 2002 Tour de France were scheduled to make their way up this 16-kilometer ascent with a total vertical rise of nearly 1,400 meters. The question rumbling through the heads of the Dunk Rock Roadies was: Could we climb it today and thereby, somehow, help Lance tomorrow? The gradient averaged just over 8% and would take us over two tough hours of strong riding to attain the top. We had already descended 30 kilometers that morning from the Col du Portalet, on the border between Spain and France. Starting above the tree line, amidst buffeting clouds, the five of us had dropped gratefully down out of the chill, skirting milling flocks of sheep tended by dogs that kept them off the narrow road. We swept down at over 60 kilometers an hour. It had been hard to hold the bikes back; at times they wanted to run faster then their masters. In yet another perfect small French village, Laruns, we had gathered our bread, cheese, and ungodly sausages and replenished our water. We finally had nothing left to do but flip out one more nervous joke and start climbing. I saw a rider who appeared to be in his 70s rolling by on an old steel Peugeot, so I knew we weren?t going to be the oldest riders on the climb today. Maybe he was just going 2-3 km up to visit his girlfriend. Or maybe he was going to the spa at Eaux-Bonnes (literally, Good Water) to take the waters just halfway up the pass.
As we started, it was great to see some huge friendly redwood looking trees at the first switchback. I hadn?t known there were redwoods outside of California. As the climb started to bite and my breathing deepened, it was good to set my mind to thinking about problems like that. I thought the redwoods needed fresh ocean fog, and here we were 200 miles from any seaside. How did these big trees do it? Maybe they were just a large species of cedar, the Port Orford cedar, like in Oregon? I kept mulling and the 2 nd kilometer was gone. The third km was mild at 5.2% grade. Pretty soon it was gone. Only 13 kilometers more to go. I was starting to heat up and took off my helmet, attached it to my handlebars, and zipped down my Dunk Rock Road jersey a tad. I was along side Peter Thomson , our tour leader, and Hervey Townsend, a fellow Dunk Rocker. Hervey started to breath heavily and dropped back a bit saying typically, ? I gotta get into my own zone.? I knew this refrain; I have ridden thousands of miles with Hervey and he says the same thing on most difficult climbs. Peter and