Again, It's Not About the Bike
? or how three amateur riders experienced the 2002 Tour de France
challenging but manageable. It was my first ever hors categorie climb. Except for Peter, we had all calculated we had done some category 3 and 4 climbs but never even a category 1, much less an HC. Typically, Peter had a French pastry with whipped cream and bottle of water. I had an energy bar and water. At the local brasserie, the bartender refilled our water bottles like it was something he did every day. Such is the life for a biker in the ethos of the Tour. Riders are everywhere; cyclists are welcome and they rule. A few minutes later, Hervey pulled up and seemed in good shape. His foray into his own zone pulled him through again. We all started to say how well we thought we had done but were sure that the other two Dunk Rock Roadies, Don and Bob were not going to make it. Just as I concluded emphatically, ? No way those two other old guys will make it up here,? around the corner came the two missing old guys. The partnering had worked perfectly and they were grinding in tandem, taking comfort and energy off each other. Don Anderson and Bob White were two of the more recent Dunk Rock Roadies. They were less experienced and admittedly were at lower levels of conditioning. However, they were dauntless and persistent. Don is a former marathoner who spins early in the morning year round. Bob is a world-class worrier with naturally strong legs. We chatted about gradients, the frequent lift the roadside crowd provided, and the dropping temperature. The lead trio was starting to seize up and get stiff so we cheered the trailers, dubbed them ? lantern rouge ,? in good Tour tradition, and remounted our steeds.
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Now, with just four kilometers to go I was sure we were going to make it to the top. The whole team seemed stoked and in good position-no bonkers here. I suffered some with the 9% gradient, but again got a lift as I came above tree line and the orange flags and orange jerseys of the Basques surrounded the road. Peter told me that whenever the Tour route goes high into the mountains, you would find crowds of Basques, dotting the hillsides like California poppies, partying and waiting for their favorite riders to come up. They saw my hat and colors and I became Lance by proxy. They all gave me a sustained Basque cheer I didn?t need translated and I upped the cadence to 90 plus for 30 seconds until I went around the corner out of sight of my new Euskatel Basque friends. I paid dearly for the spurt and, again, began to labor. I stood up and mashed my 39-32 gearing for all I could. I have often said and my riding partners all agree, ?On every great ride, there is a time when you wished you were not on