Saturday, July 23, 2011

Final Race report Part 2- L'Etape du Tour: Bringing it home

So where was I.... oh yea, heading into Murat.  It was downhill into Murat with beautiful sweeping turns on smoothly-paved roads.  A cyclists' dream. I think I was going 43 mph. Things started to dry up a bit now. Again, all the town's people were out and about and cheering all the riders on. From there, it was a long slog up and down and up and down. Then I climbed up to the highest point of the route, where they thankfully set up a fuel/feed station.  I quickly dumped my 2 bottles, filled both bottles with new drink.  Had a banana and some type of of hot liquid they had waiting for us.  Knowing that this was the last push, I took on this last 50km with the knowledge that if I didn't crash out, I was going to finish this bad boy.  Most of this last section was downhill but for 2 climbs- one with this great castle on top of the hillside, and then the final 2km into the town of Saint-Flour.  An uphill finish, of course...

The Finish.
By the time I got to this last 2km, I was spent.  Completely done, toast.  Several riders were passing me with energy as if they were fresh.  I didn't let it get me down, as all I wanted to do was cross that finish line.  Countering my slow speed though, were the hundreds of fans lining the final run up to the finish line.  As I passed the 1km sign, the cheering became louder and louder.  At around 500m left, you take your last hairpin turn to the right (like a u-turn) to bring it home.  (I specifically remember watching the pros only a week earlier on TV- Contador, Shleck, Evans, etc., take this same turn and make the final uphill push to the line.) At this point, it really felt as if all of those lining the course were coaxing me to give it one last push.  With that, I gathered up all of the energy I had left, dropped the bike into a big gear, got out of my saddle and pushed it as hard as I could to the line.  With no one else around me, I could hear the announcer calling my number out over the loud speaker and pushing me on for the last 30 meters.  As I crossed the line, so many emotions came over me. Finis!!  The final carnage?  Approximately 1850 finishers of the 6000+ that started this event.

If you ask me today if I'd come back and do another L'Etape, I would say absolutely. The experience certainly lived up to the expectation, and then some. Not sure if I'd be saying that if it were a beautiful sunny day, but I'd like to think so.  It can't go without saying how much my wife's "support" in this endeavor has meant to me over the last 6 months. It all culminated with hearing Melisa's voice somewhere near the 30 mile marker yelling "Go Ed!!". Amidst all the general cheering going on, I could clearly pick out her voice. Those few words of encouragement cut through the air and gave me the needed push to carry on for the rest of the day's event. I love my wife.  (Melisa tells me that the little one inside her was kicking away in excitement too.  I'll have to ask him when he's a bit older if he remembers that day...)

Thanks to all of my friends, family and readers of this blog for your supportive emails, tweets, and general comments. This whole L'Etape blog idea started as an additional way to guilt me into keeping up with my training, and if nothing else, a way to diary my thoughts over the last 6 months. It's turned into much more than that for me, and I hope it's been entertaining for you.  Maybe I'll be back with another blog for my next adventure.  Until then, train hard, be safe and most of all, show your support for your family and friends in everything they do.

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