Quick author note: I didn’t write much about my Tour experience and rather than bore everyone with a 14-page account, I’ll be posting vignettes over the next several days. Stay tuned. — Arlyn
I looked at the guide as if he was crazy. Was he trying to start a fight? Get in the van? I tell him, “You’ll have to carry me into the van. I’m not getting in.” He shrugged and I cycled on.
Now it’s 6:30pm and I have half a bottle of water. There are 141km on my odometer with 3,218m of climbing in my legs. I’m standing motionless at the bottom of Alpe d’Huez, right where the road pitches up and there is a storm raging in my heart.
The Croix de Fer had really taken it out of me. My legs hurt but screw that. I’ll chew my legs off before I let the pain stop me. Getting lost sucked but at least I bagged the Col du Mollard. Shit, I’ve wasted a lot of time getting back on course.
The van. Screw the van. Death is in the van. I’m low on energy. It’ll take me 2 hours to climb L’Alpe. That puts me at 8:30pm if I don’t stop to refill my bottles. Maybe I can ask a fan for water.
They’ve painted every square inch of road on L’Alpe. They line the road, even here at the bottom. Some of them are eyeballing me to see if they should cheer for me. Will I start up the hill? Death is in the van. You can’t get in the van. The fans wait for me to make my decision.
Sweat drips off me and onto my bike. I’m part of a group, a team. My actions affect others. This is not a one-man operation today. If I go on an epic, the guides are responsible for me. But, it doesn’t get really dark until 9pm.
Cyclists and cars stream by me. The party has begun on L’Alpe. It’s 14km to the top with another 1,100m of climbing on 21 legendary switchbacks. The van is death. No one knows where I am. They’ll worry and it’ll cause a problem for the guides. They’ll have to look for me.
Oh crap, how am I going to live with this? Maybe I should just go. Screw them, they’ll find me. Pain is temporary – quitting is forever. How am I going to live with this?
I take one last look up that beautiful, crazy, epic mountain and turn away. I ride slowly back to the group and without saying a word, rack up my bike and get into the van.
The storm in my heart rages on.